Thursday, December 19, 2019

1884 Grover Cleveland & 19C Politics of Personal Destruction

Grover Cleveland was rumored to have had a few skeletons in his closet, or at least there were a lot of tales during his first presidential campaign. He was accused of consorting with prostitutes, and it was revealed that in 1874, a young widow had named her son Oscar Folsom Cleveland, after both Cleveland and Oscar Folsom, his law partner. Cleveland, a bachelor, refused to deny paternity and supported the child, but he might have been covering for his married partner. The revelation inspired a famous campaign ditty: “Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa! Gone to the White House, Ha! Ha! Ha!” Grover Cleveland’s extraordinary dignity under fire during the campaign was said to be a factor in his election.

Daily Gazette, The (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Nov 1, 1884

The Unfortunate Woman Tells the Story of Her Acquaintance With Cleveland.

New York

During the last three months the story of Governor Cleveland and Maria Halpin has occupied much public attention, but until now no public word has been heard from the unfortunate woman, whose name has been on every tongue. The following is furnished as her sworn statement, witnessed by her son, who urged her to “tell the truth” regarding the points which bore hardest upon her in the defense of the Governors furnished by the latter’s friends:

“State of New York, county of Westchester. Maria B. Halpin, being duly sworn, says: I reside at New Rochelle, in the county of Westchester, state aforesaid. I am the person whose name has been published in connection with that of Grover Cleveland as the mother of his son. I have been induced to remain silent while the disgrace and sufferings brought upon my by Grover Cleveland have been discussed and criticised by the public and the press, and I would most gladly remain silent even now but for the duty which I owe to my aged and afflicted father, my children, and my sister, to whom my troubles were unknown until made public by a publication a few months ago. My duty to these relatives and to those friends who knew me before my acquaintance with Grover Cleveland, whose kind assurances of love and sympathy and confidence have reached me, compels me to make a public statement and denial of many of the statements which have been made public concerning me and my character and actions while in Buffalo.

“I would gladly avoid further publicity of this terrible misfortune if I could do so without appearing to admit the foul and false statements concerning my character and habits, especially those made by Mr. Horatio C. King and published with the alleged approval of Grover Cleveland himself.”

In reference to the introduction to Mr. Cleveland, she says:

“I deny that there was anything in my actions or against my character at any time or any place up to the hour I formed the acquaintance of Grover Cleveland on account of which he or any other person can cast the slightest suspicion over me. Up to that hour my life was pure and spotless as that of any lady in the city of Buffalo — a fact which Grover Cleveland should be man enough and just enough to admit, and I defy him or any of his friends to state a single fact or give a single incident or action of mine to which any one could take exception. I always felt that I had the confidence and esteem of my employers, Messrs. Hinman & Best and Flint & Kent, and this I could not maintain if I had been the vile wretch his friends would have the world believe. He sought my acquaintance and obtained an introduction to me from a person in whom I had every confidence, and he paid me very marked attention. His character, so far as I then knew, was good, and his attentions, I believed, were pure and honorable.

“The circumstances under which my ruin was accomplished are too revolting on the part of Grover Cleveland to be made public. I did not see Grover Cleveland for five or six weeks after my ruin, and I was obliged to send for him, he being the proper person to whom I could tell my trouble. I will not at this time detail my subsequent sufferings, and the birth of our boy, September 14, 1874. But I will say that the statement published in the Buffalo Telegram, in the main, is true. There is not, and never was, a doubt as to the paternity of our child, and the attempt of Grover Cleveland, or his friends, to couple the name of Oscar Folsom, or any one else, with that boy, for that purpose is simply infamous and false. Attached hereto is a statement prepared and to me submitted by the friend of Grover Cleveland to sign. But I declined to do so, because the statemtns therein contained are not true.

“Signed and sworn before me this 28th day of October, 1884.

“Notoary Public, Westchester county, N.Y.


The statement alluded to, and which she did not sign, is as follows:

“I have read the statement published in the Buffalo Telegram, of the date of ____, concerning myself and Mr. Cleveland, a statement which is largely false and malicious. Shortly after the death of my husband, some twelve years ago, I removed to Buffalo with my children. Some time after that I met Mr. Cleveland, and made his acquaintance, which acquaintance extended over a period of some months. During that time I received from Mr. Cleveland uniform kindness and courtesy. I have now and always had a hight esteem for Mr. Cleveland. I have not seen him in sever or eight years.”

Daily Gazette, The (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Nov 1, 1884