CLEVELAND, Grover. Thirteen autograph letters signed, four as President, to L. Clarke Davis, New York City, Washington, D.C., Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Lakewood, New Jersey, 29 December 1889-11 July 1895. Together 41 pages, 4to and various 8vo, two on White House stationery, 12 original envelopes, in fine condition.
"PUSHED AND HOUNDED AND IMPORTUNED DAILY AND HOURLY"
A revealing correspondence, commencing a few months after the end of Cleveland's first term and ending in the third year of his second term. The unusually personal, witty and conversational letters were written to L. Clarke Davis, editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a personal friend and political supporter. The correspondence ranges widely, including discussions of the state of journalism, the tariff issue and their shared passion for fishing. A continuining theme is Cleveland's disapproval of the low tone of many newspapers, which he contrasts with his praise of Davis's Public Ledger. In a letter of 29 December 1889, he thanks Davis for his support: "I thank you for it and for all that you have done for me at other times and in other places." Cleveland comments on a recent complimentary newspaper account: "Sometimes when I see such things from such sources -- far removed from any suspicion of party bias or selfish motive, I feel that it is a solemn thing to bear the confidence of many thousand patriotic good men and my fellow countrymen." In a letter of 9 March 1891, Cleveland bemoans his return to private life after the completion of his first term: "I am in a miserable condition -- a private citizen without political ambition trying to do private work and yet pushed and hounded and importuned daily and hourly to do things in a public and semi-public way... I am afraid you will suspect me of cant when I say to you that I am honestly trying to do some good in the world -- within political lines and otherwise... I often have a pretty blue time of it and confess to frequent spells of resentment, but I shall get on in a fashion." A recurrent political theme is the tariff issue: "I think the tariff question... involves something more than mere 'business policy.' It seems to me that it has a decided moral aspect and cannot be separated from the kind of morality which a great and just government ought to teach its people by example..." Numerous personal matters are raised, especially fishing. A letter from the White House of 22 November 1893 states: "I must give up all idea of sporting between now and Dec 4th unless I get on with my work better than I am doing at present. If I could go it would be only a 'steal off' for a day..."
L. Clarke Davis was a loyal friend to Cleveland. They were neighbors in Buzzard's Bay, had an equal zeal for angling and, as this correspondence attests, developed a close relationship. While Cleveland was distrustful of journalists and protective of his private life, Davis clearly gained the President's confidence. When Cleveland had a minor operation in 1893, speculation raged in the papers about his health. Davis published a letter in the Public Ledger testifying: "I have seen the President at intervals since he first came to Buzzards Bay this summer, passing hours and days in his company and in the boat fishing with him. I passed all of last Monday with him, fishing, and I have never seen him in better health, never stronger, physically or mentally, and I consider him in both respects the healthiest man I know of" (quoted in H. Paul Jeffers, An Honest President: The Life of Presidencies of Grover Cleveland, p. 273). (13)