Cleveland (left), Roosevelt (center), and D.R. Francis

Cleveland (left), Roosevelt (center), and David R. Francis, 1903

The Roosevelts knew many important and influential people. One person we don’t associate with the Roosevelts, probably because we don’t associate him with much of anything, is Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president (twice) between Buchanan in 1856 and Woodrow Wilson in 1912. He had been the mayor of Buffalo and was governor of New York when Theodore was in the state assembly. In 1883 Governor Cleveland vetoed young Roosevelt’s cigar bill on legal principle. Five ears later President Cleveland appointed Robert Roosevelt U.S. Minister to the Netherlands. This makes sense as the Roosevelts were old Knickerbockers.

On the other side of the family James Roosevelt, FDR’s father, was also a friend of Cleveland’s, which makes sense as they were both Democrats. James’s older son, the kindly but ineffectual James “Rosy” Roosevelt, held some mid-level posts in Vienna and London during the Cleveland years. James Sr. was elated when Cleveland gained the Executive Mansion because  he wanted help in building a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific through Nicaragua. Of course a Nicaraguan waterway did not come to pass; a few decades later Theodore built the isthmian canal through Panama that opened a few days prior to the start of the Great War. James Roosevelt did not live to see that. He died in 1900.

Grover Cleveland once had some advice for James Roosevelt’s much younger son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When Franklin was five his father took him to meet the outgoing president. Cleveland looked down and gravely said, “My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be president of the United States.”

(image/Library of Congress)