March 23, 1909

President William Howard Taft Praises President Grover Cleveland To Mrs. Cleveland

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 1615
Grover Cleveland was as completely American in his character as Lincoln. Without a college education, he prepared himself for the bar. His life was confined to western New York. His vision of government and of society was not widened by foreign travel.  He was a pure product of village and town life of the Middle States… His chief characteristics were simplicity and directness of thought, sturdy honesty, courage of his convictions, and plainness of speech, with a sense of public duty that has been exceeded by no statesman within my knowledge

-President Taft’s eulogy of Grover Cleveland, delivered at Carnegie Hall, New York City, March 19, 1909, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of Cleveland’s birth

The crowd, the New York Times reported, came in a reverent spirit and filled every seat and box in Carnegie Hall; President Grover Cleveland, eight months dead, was to be publicly commemorated on what would have been his 72nd birthday. The President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Governor of New York were there to eulogize Cleveland, and such luminaries as Andrew Carnegie, Woodrow Wilson, and the Cleveland family came to hear the 22nd and 24th president praised as an ideal American. Adding a note of the spectacular to the event were the New York Symphony Orchestra (Walter Damrosch conducting) and 120 singers of the German Liederkrantz, to perform a funeral march, music by Handel, and part of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
 
Later that night, Taft attended a second memorialization of Cleveland’s anniversary held at City College. In this letter to Mrs. Cleveland, replying to her note of thanks, he mentions both events and assures her that he meant what he said: Cleveland’s courage and steadfast sense of duty, which would ultimately earn him the utmost public confidence, made him an inspiration to every president to follow…

But Taft’s experience of the presidency, when he was writing this letter, was nascent: he had been in office only two weeks. The next two hundred or so would prove the unhappiest of his life.
Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 2 pages, octavo, The White House, Washington, March 23, 1909. To the newly-widowed Mrs. Grover Cleveland.

 
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