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Courage in the Face of Political Correctness

August 11, 2015

When Grover Cleveland became President on March 4, 1885, he was the first Democrat elected to the office since the Civil War. He was under intense pressure to replace Republican office-holders with loyal Democrats, but he delayed replacing Frederick Douglass until 1886.

Douglass, a black Republican who had been born into slavery, later characterized Cleveland as “one having the courage to act upon his convictions.” Douglass explained what he meant by Cleveland’s courage.

“He never failed while I held office under him, to invite myself and wife to his grand receptions, and we never failed to attend them. Surrounded by distinguished men and women from all parts of the country and by diplomatic representatives from all parts of the world, and under the gaze of the late slaveholders, there was nothing in the bearing of Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland toward Mrs. Douglass and myself less cordial and courteous than that extended to the other ladies and gentlemen present.”

Douglass’s next sentence asserts that Cleveland stood up to the “political correctness” of his day: “This manly defiance, by a Democratic President, of a malignant and time-honored prejudice, won my respect for the courage of Mr. Cleveland.”

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