Grover Cleveland Complains of an Avalanche of Unwelcome Invitations, As He Plans a Pleasure Trip Out of Town

August 18, 1887

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Grover Cleveland Complains of an Avalanche of Unwelcome Invitations, As He Plans a Pleasure Trip Out of Town
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 1622

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      Everyone wants to live in the White House, except of course, those who to live there. They can't wait to get out. This, as true of the first occupant, as among the last - and no doubt, current. John Adams once went home to Quincy, Massachusetts, for seven whole months; George W. Bush, over two terms, racked up 879 vacation days -  including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. Every president in between, save one, got away from Washington as often as possible. Only James Polk stayed put: he could barely bring himself, poor man, to leave town for a week - and so died of exhaustion, a cautionary tale, three months after his term had ended.  But presidents really don't get vacations; as the wife of the 40th, Nancy Reagan,  noted, they just get a change of scenery. Grover Cleveland, facing just such prospect, writes here of his frustration - for although he's getting out of town, he's not going anyplace he wants to be...  

      Cleveland liked to work. What he didn't like was the ceremony and socializing that went along with being president. Washington's fabled political hostesses, with their "Season", flummoxed and annoyed him; public dinners, with their postprandial orations, bored him senseless; anything, in fact that intruded on his family life with his young bride and family, or his work, drove him to distraction. Having then, to plan to leave Washington, to visit 18 western and southern states in the Fall, "with invitations to go everywhere and delegations urging such invitations" made him, he writes, here, "cross as a bear" and ready to "give the whole thing up and 'take to the woods.'" Writing to a hunting and fishing companion, already happily vacationing, he complains of his lot:

      I suppose by this time – that is by the time this reaches you – you will be nicely settled in the woods. I wish I was there too, but there is positively no hope for me I can see.  I am having a dreadful time with invitations to go everywhere and delegations urging such invitations. I feel sometimes as if I would like to give the whole trip up and “take to the woods.” I am getting as cross as a bear which is a very bad sign I think.  But I must stick it through...

      The trip, it's worth noting, was strictly for pleasure, and not politics - and yet the idea that he might even have to think about "invitations" to socialize with strangers, made him bearish. He had, however, at the family home he kept away from the White House - Oak View - where he  determinedly choose to live like other people, another animal entirely on his mind. Fawns, and not bears, were his concern: one in particular, named Nelly, had just arrived as a pet for his animal-loving wife....

      Nelly arrived safely yesterday (Wednesday) morning as expected, and was received by a delegation from the White House and taken immediately to Oak View [Cleveland’s estate].  Pending the completion of her yard she is in a large hen yard where she can be quite comfortable for a few days. I hope to have her in the new quarters as a surprise for Mrs. Cleveland. She (the fawn I mean) has I think been pretty well stuffed today with milk and ---- and carrots.  She is a beautiful little thing and I hope that no misfortune will overtake her. Don’t you think I could keep two or three as well as one in an enclosure fifty feet square?... Dave Cronk [an Adirondack guide] promised to get me a couple of fawns.  If you think Nelly’s enclosure would do for more than she, I hope you will tell Dave I have not forgotten his promise.

      He closes his faux-curmudgeonly missive on a typically fond and teasing note: "Do try Doctor in the midst of bad surroundings, to bear aloft the hatchet of truth.   Let us see if we cannot extirpate this Adirondack lying." Cleveland, in the presence of his friends and family, out of the office, was a happy man.

      Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 4 pages, octavo, Executive Mansion, August 18, 1887. To Dr. John G. Rosman at the Saranac Inn, New York. With autograph envelope.
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