About to Marry, President Grover Cleveland Longs to Live Away from the White House "Like Other People"

December 13, 1885

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About to Marry, President Grover Cleveland Longs to Live Away from the White House "Like Other People"
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 1162

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      Background

      With his huge bulk, walrus mustache and pasty complexion, Cleveland looked an unlikely Lothario; but in love with, and about to be married to, his ward, the beautiful twenty-two year old “Frank,” Cleveland was like any other man - he wanted her to be proud of him, he was proud of her, and he couldn't wait to live together in their own private world: a tall order, as this letter reveals, for a sitting president.

      Here the 48 year-old President writes a love letter, in which he discusses; how his Annual Message to Congress – long, hard to write, endlessly interrupted, and well received – would make his bride-to-be proud of her “old man”; his unhappiness with Washington socializing and Cabinet wives; the terrible French chef at the White House; their wedding, her role as First Lady and, most poignantly, his desire to live with her away from the White House in “a little house…where the President and his family could live like other people.”

      ...My message went to Congress last Tuesday. Its a pretty long one but if you could see all the papers say about it and hear all the people talk of it, I honestly think you would be proud of your "old man."  I guess there never was one so generally read and affirmed… I had a pretty tough time writing it in the midst of numerous interruptions but it was a relief to get if off my hands. I had to put a table in my bed room to have an opportunity to do anything. And now that Congress is in Session the rush has begun again and I don't have much rest or peace. The Cabinet ladies are beginning to caucus about what they will do and will not do during the coming Session and I suppose we shall not be entirely free from the troubles among the women of the administration which usually infests a "Season" at the seat of government… Ladies always make trouble - that is when there are a lot of them together all bent on the same thing. If I can get one of them all alone, then I am all right. I dread the social part of this thing very much. I think it a regular nuisance and I keep wondering how my Darling will get along with this dreadful, dreadful bother and the constant boring and vexation. I shall give as few State dinners as possible... I've had a Chef now since the first of November and I often wish I had the old negro woman Carla again…


      I have been thinking a good deal about lately how nice it would be to have a little house a few miles away and live there - Coming into the White House at regular times and having all the official dinners here, but have a place where it should not enter, and where the President and his family could live like other people.


      While I love you Frank as dearly as I can, it pleases me very much to read what you what you write about your improvements and all that. I am glad to believe that you appreciate something that is before you as the wife of the President and Lady of the White House. I guess there never was anyone so young and so unused to such responsibilities, who occupied the place before; and my anxiety is my darling Child, that you should be as well prepared as it is possible... Of course the more other people admire and praise you the more proud I should be, but I love you just exactly as you are and for just what you are; and that Darling you must never doubt…

      …Lizzie and I have been walking in the East Room and have talked a good deal about you and the marriage... She thinks it would be wise to have no one at the wedding but relatives… Perhaps they [the Cabinet] could well come after the ceremony. But I'll tell you what I think… we will find some way to get married so that we can't get away from each other very easy… I've warned you "time and time again" and as nearly as I can make out you seemed bound to rush to your fate... I am glad you contemplate paying a little attention to the science of hen raising - for I don't know what else we can do when we quit here... We must be very frugal and saving because I suppose there is no way for an Ex-President to earn money…

      Write me all the time Darling and tell me just exactly how much you love me and if you love me better and better or less and less
       
      President Cleveland had initially wanted to be married in a quiet private ceremony, but he believed every bride was entitled to a beautiful wedding, and so, for the first and only time, a serving president married in the White House, in front of a couple dozen friends and the Cabinet. The newlyweds did buy a little house in Washington, living in the White House only during “the Season” – December through March – and their own seemingly improbably union, with Cleveland more than twice “Frank’s” age, turned out to be among the happiest in presidential history.


      Autograph Letter Signed (“G.C.”), as President, 4 pages, recto and verso, Executive Mansion, Washington, Sunday, December 13, 1885. To his fiancée, the future First Lady, Frances Folsom.
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      EXECUTIVE MANSION,
      WASHINGTON.

      Sunday Dec 13. 1885

      My darling Frank
       
      You see I begin pretty near the top of the paper. I should not at all wonder if I manage to write you a pretty long letter, though I cannot tell anything about it.  I have nearly an hour before dinner and I expect the P.M. General here to-day sometime and he may drop in any minute and interrupt me - in which case I'll struggle with this again after he has gone. I think I have been a little mean with you about writing, but it dont [sic] hardly seem possible that anyone can care much for my uninteresting letters. Hereafter I shall try to write to you every Sunday. How will that do?

      We did not attend Church to-day. The streets were covered with sleet and it was hard getting about. But I went to the mass said for the soul of King Alphonso of Spain last Thursday, and that helped some. My message went to Congress last Tuesday. Its [sic] a pretty long one but if you could see all the papers say about it and hear all the people talk of it, I honestly think you would be proud of your "old man".  I guess there never was one so generally read and affirmed; and maybe I'll send you one by the same mail that takes this letter. I had a pretty tough time writing it in the midst of numerous interruptions but it was a relief to get if off my hands. I had to put a table in my bed room to have an opportunity to do anything. And now that Congress is in Session the rush has begun again and I dont [sic] have much rest or peace. The Cabinet ladies are beginning to caucus about what they will do and will not do during the coming Season and

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      I suppose we shall not be entirely free from the troubles among the women of the administration which usually infests a "Season" at the seat of government. There is no indication of it yet but my theory is that ladies always make trouble - that is when there are a lot of them together all bent on the same thing. If I can get one of them all alone, then I am all right. I dread the social part of this thing very much. I think it a regular nuisance. And I keep wondering how my Darling will get along with this dreadful, dreadful bother and the constant boring and vexation. I shall have just as few State dinners as possible but try to have all that do take place [text is crossed out] as fine and nice as possible. Ive [sic] had a Chef now since the first of November and I often wish I had the old negro woman Carla again. I dont [sic] enjoy these French fix ups much.

      I have been thinking a good deal lately how nice it would be to have a little house a few miles away and live there  - Coming into the White house [sic] at regular times and having all the official dinners here, but having a place where it should not enter, and where the President and his family could live like other people.

      While I love you Pet as dearly as I can, it pleases me very much to read what you write about your improvements and all that. I am glad to believe that you appreciate something that is before you as the wife of the President and Lady of the White House. I guess there never was anyone so young and so unused to such responsibilities, who occupied the place before; and my anxiety is my darling Child, that you should be as well prepared as it is possible to meet and carry with the least trouble and annoyance all that is before you. Of course the more other people admire and praise you the more proud I should be, [text is crossed out] but I love you just exactly as you are and for just what you are; and that Darling you

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      must never doubt. So I hope you will study all you can conveniently with the full enjoyment of your trip and if the next Lady of the White House is able to talk French and German, I think in this respect she will be able to do what her predecessors could not. I'll watch all this winter Darling and see how I can study and [...] for you. William has just put his head in with his "All ready Sir” and I must go to dinner. + + +

      Well! There's another job done. And since dinner Lizzie and I have been walking in the East Room and have talked a good deal about you and the marriage and all that kind of thing. She thinks it would be wise to have no one at the wedding but relatives but that it would be a very wonderful thing to invite the Cabinet. Perhaps they could well come after the ceremony. But I'll tell you what I think: we have plenty of time to arrange this matter and I think if we continue (that is if you continue) in the same mind as at present we will find some way to get married so that we can't get away from each other very easy.  And I'll just tell you that the "chance is" that you'll get into a very bad scrape. And yet I don't see why I should fret about you any more. I've warned you "time and time again" and as nearly as I can make out you seemed bound to rush to your fate.

      I am glad you contemplate paying a little attention to the science of hen raising - for I don't know what else we can do when we quit here and it’s only a little over three years more. We must be very frugal and saving because I suppose there is no way for an Ex-President to earn money. I suggested to Speaker Carlisle who lunched with me to-day

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      that he and I take a farm when we get through here, in partnership. He said I'd have to furnish all the Capital - so I guess I'll have to look up a better partner.

      I expect another letter from you very soon. The last one I received was dated Nov 24th. I received one from Ben dated about the same time.
       
      Write me all the time Darling and tell me just exactly how much you love me and if you love me better and better or less and less. Give my love to your mother and regards to Ben, and believe me
       
      Always your old love

      G. C.


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      WASHINGTON
      DEC13
      11 PM
      D. C.

      LONDON
      C
      8 JA
      86
      P

      Miss Frank Folsom
      Care of Brown Shipley & Co
      Founders Court - Lothbury
      London E.C.
      England


      Hotel Bellevue
      Munich