Roosevelt the Reformer: Theodore Roosevelt as Civil Service Commissioner, 1889-1895

By Richard D. White Jr. | Go to book overview
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5
1893
Reappointment by the Democrats

A FIERCE, BITTERLY cold northwest wind hurled snowflakes against Grover Cleveland's cheek as he spoke, hatless, to the shivering crowd. The new president stood on an open stage extending out from the east portico of the Capitol and delivered his inaugural address. On the night before, a blizzard struck Washington with late-winter fury and dumped a thick cover of snow at the rate of more than an inch an hour. By the time Cleveland spoke that afternoon, March 4, 1893, the snow had tapered off but the temperature dipped below freezing and the winds blew violently. The weather discouraged many from attending the inaugural parade, and the remaining brave souls filled only half of the stands along Pennsylvania Avenue.1

President Cleveland, like Harrison before, campaigned on a mild reform platform and, at least in his rhetoric, favored an attack on the spoils system. He knew Theodore Roosevelt well. The two New Yorkers maintained a guarded friendship, and despite different party loyalties, their politics were not far apart. The journalist Lincoln Steffens once wrote that "Roosevelt was so much of a Democrat and Cleveland so much of a Republican that they meet in the middle."2 In 1882, Cleveland became governor of New York at the same time Roosevelt ran for his second term in the state legislature. During the next year they worked closely together to pass the first state civil service legislation and other reform measures.

Despite their amiable past, Roosevelt criticized the new president viciously during the 1892 presidential campaign. Derisively described by

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