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Cleveland, Wilson, and Bryan

January 14, 2016

Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson did not get along. Cleveland was a conservative Democrat, and Wilson was a progressive Democrat. He was not so progressive that he supported women’s suffrage, but he did have an activist theory of presidential leadership. Cleveland did actively try to improve the lot of the people, but he was very careful to follow established protocols.

However, the big disagreement between Cleveland and Wilson occurred when the latter was president of Princeton University and the former was on the board of trustees. Wilson had unilaterally decided to abolish the eating clubs at Princeton. The board of trustees, although somewhat open to the idea, had wanted to consider the matter further before making such a sweeping change.

Between the Civil War and the Great Depression there were only two Democrat Presidents, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. Both were elected twice. Neither received a majority of the popular vote in either of their elections. At the end of Cleveland’s second term in 1896 the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan to succeed him. Cleveland was not happy with their choice. Even though Bryan lost, he was nominated again in 1900 and 1908. He lost three times altogether. When Woodrow Wilson became President, he chose Bryan as Secretary of State.

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