Plotting to Kill the President: Assassination Attempts from Washington to Hoover

By Mel Ayton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Plots to Kill Grover Cleveland

Nobody will ever know the extent of my efforts to protect President Cleveland
unless he should be assassinated.

—Henry Thurber, private secretary to Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve a split pair of terms, after losing the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison, despite garnering more popular votes than his opponent. He was a Democrat in a largely Republican nation and his opponents had held the White House since the time of Lincoln.

Cleveland’s election to office was partly a protest against the waste and graft that had plagued preceding Republican administrations following the Civil War. He was considered an honest man and gained the public’s confidence in both himself and the government in general. However, it was a time of unrest in America—farmers wanted a fairer deal from the railroads and cheaper money, veterans wanted pensions, and reformers wanted better government.

After losing the election of 1888 to Harrison, Cleveland returned to his law practice and lived in New York City, taking the streetcar to work. During this four-year interregnum, the president’s friend, New York Police Superintendent Thomas Byrnes, took it upon himself to provide low-level police security, but the former president did not have a personal bodyguard.

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