Lessons From A Guardian

In many ways, the election of 2016 looks similar to the election of 1892 with a primary difference: a man was running that you’d be proud to vote for, Grover Cleveland. One of the lesser known Presidents in our history and one that is treated like a footnote in many school curriculums, has plenty of relevant wisdom to impart during this turbulent campaign season. Grover Cleveland was a president with strong principles and a distinct understanding of his place in the government.
Grover Cleveland earned the nickname The Guardian President because of his unprecedented use of the veto; Cleveland, over his two terms would use the veto more than twice as often as all of his predecessors combined. Cleveland didn’t view his job, as the president, as one that should advocate for specific legislation but, to protect the American people from bad legislation. This conviction caused a significant amount of controversy over the course of his presidency during which he vetoed legislation such as several pension bills for Civil War Veterans. His most famous veto however, was exercised on the Texas Seed Bill. During the drought of 1887, legislation was sent to Cleveland’s desk to approve the purchase of seed grain to be distributed to farmers as relief. He vetoed this bill and offered the following observation:
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.
Grover Cleveland was one of the last president’s to display, through his actions as the executive, a real disdain and suspicion for a powerful central government. At a time when our candidates are promising everything from free child care to free college; from expanded nationalized health care to jobs sponsored by government it would be prudent to look to the Guardian and remember his restraint. His preference for Constitutionally limited government over the easy, and politically expedient, answer of using the government to solve problems that it was never designed to address, seems to speak directly to our time where we don’t have a single candidate willing to acknowledge the true and intended scope of the federal government. We have, for many decades, eschewed the kind of restraint practiced by Grover Cleveland, and many of his forebears; we should be considering the lessons of their actions, and begin to take measured actions to reign in our out of control government spending and priorities.
As in matters of domestic policy Grover Cleveland was equally reserved in foreign matters. In his foreign policy, Grover Cleveland was a non-interventionist and is duly credited for reestablishing the Monroe doctrine during the boundary dispute between Britain and Venezuela.
Two events dominate the portrait of Cleveland’s foreign policy during his time as President: the annexation of Hawaii and boundary dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. These two events standout prominently against the backdrop of our current election and the foreign policy being offered by every single one of the major candidates in 2016. From Grover Cleveland’s perspective, territorial expansion was a relic of a bygone era and he supported free trade with the nation of Hawaii. However, in the four years during which Cleveland was out of office, unrest grew among the sugar growers on the islands and, without the approval of the Commander in Chief, marines stormed the island and overthrew Queen Liliuokalani. Immediately after returning to office for his second term, Cleveland withdrew a treaty for annexation that had been sent to the Senate by his predecessor. Later in the same year, Cleveland would address the Congress with his thoughts on the annexation:
I suppose that right and justice should determine the path to be followed in treating this subject. If national honesty is to be disregarded and a desire for territorial expansion or dissatisfaction with a form of government not our own ought to regulate our conduct, I have entirely misapprehended the mission and character of our government and the behavior which the conscience of the people demands of their public servants.
Although this is a battle that Cleveland would ultimately lose, his wisdom is prescient in a time when regime change and humanitarian wars are not only norm but, the expectation of our leaders. Of the three candidates that will be on the ballot in all 50 states in November they all believe in some adulteration of our military forces, whether it be: humanitarian wars, regime change, or simply aggressive displays of America’s military might where our interests aren’t explicitly served; we are being offered three bad options when it comes to the future of the United States military.
On the other side of the military coin: Grover Cleveland was not against a show of force where, as defined by the Monroe Doctrine, it was critical to our national interest. When Britain and Venezuela fell into dispute over the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, Cleveland asserted the United States right to intervene and cited the Monroe Doctrine as justification. Although Britain was resistant to US involvement, Venezuela had long been imploring the US government for assistance in the dispute. While Venezuela had been referencing the Monroe Doctrine as justification for US involvement, Britain did not recognize its legitimacy, and they made their position clearly known. However, Cleveland acted with strength and purpose and would ultimately go on to win this battle. The arbitration played out primarily in favor of British Guiana but, American arbitration of the dispute established the United States as a world power. In the time between then and the election of 2016, we have strayed far and wide from the Monroe Doctrine’s limited and specific scope of American interest. It seems, there is no dispute too petty, too uninteresting, or too expensive that in which the United States is currently unwilling to involve itself. We fight the wars of other countries and have established ourselves as the policemen of the world. If we were to, instead, reassign our predominately offensive military strategies to defensive ends, we would be better served financially, as well as defensively.
Grover Cleveland rose to prominence in a time of great change in our nation. There were those, many of whom were in his own party, that would have like to see him take on a more activist role in government. There were also many that found his adherence to the Constitution and his restraint in use of government to be antiquated and damaging. In a time when we find ourselves electing politicians who promise to fix all of our problems; ensure our happiness; and guarantee our safety, at the expense of our liberty, we would be well advised to look to the example of The Guardian President, one of the last men to occupy the office and faithfully execute the oath in which he swore to uphold the Constitution. Cleveland’s Presidency was marked by an admirable restraint and an appreciation for the limited power of the federal government and, specifically the executive branch. Grover Cleveland was far from a perfect man, but he was a man that is all too often overlooked in history as an “also ran” when he has a great deal of wisdom to impart today.
By Nicholas James

Why Was Coffee Drinking Once Scandalous

In 18th century Europe, many products and services reached a newly emergent middle class for the first time in human history. The capitalist age was maturing, and that meant that average people had money for the first time and lots of choices on how to spend it. One of the new products they could buy was coffee. With that came a great deal of social suspicion and even dread.

None other than Johann Sebastian Bach satirized the puritanical fear of coffee in his delightful and witty “Coffee Cantata.” It was one of the few times he ever tried his hand at pure pop entertainment. Of course he succeeded brilliantly; he was Bach after all!

The “Coffee Cantata” tells the story of a daughter who scandalized her father due to her devotion to coffee. She couldn’t stop singing about how wonderful it is, while her father corrected her constantly.

“You naughty child, you wild girl, ah!” the father yells at his daughter. “When will I achieve my goal: get rid of the coffee for my sake!”

“Father sir, but do not be so harsh!” she responds. “If I couldn’t, three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat.”

She happily agrees to do everything he says in every area of life except one: she will not give up coffee.

And then follows a beautiful tribute to coffee: “How sweet coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, milder than muscatel wine. Coffee, I have to have coffee, and, if someone wants to pamper me, ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!”

The father threatens her: “If you don’t give up coffee for me, you won’t go to any wedding parties, or even go out for walks.”

She still refuses.

Then the daughter plays a little game. She has a husband in mind and extracts from him a promise that if she marries him, he must allow her to drink coffee. He agrees. Then she goes to her father, who opposes the marriage, and makes a deal: if she is permitted to marry him, she will give up coffee. The father is delighted, and agrees.

Thus does the daughter gain a new husband, and, much more importantly, a permanent right to drink coffee whenever she wants!

What was this fear of coffee? Why was this such a big deal? It does have some narcotic properties to it, as we all know so well. It can give you a delightful lift.

But that alone does not account for the early opprobrium with which coffee-drinking, particularly for young girls, was greeted. For a fuller account, we need to understand something larger and more socially transformative: the advent of the coffee house itself.

The coffee house was one of the earliest public institutions, operating on a purely commercial basis, that brought a wide variety of social classes, not to mention a mixture between men and women, in a market-based social setting. In the 18th century, coffee houses spread all over Europe and the UK, attracting young people who would sit and drink together and discuss politics, religion, and business, and exchange any manner of ideas.

What the father in the Cantata is actually objecting to is not coffee as such but unapproved, unchaperoned social wanderings.

The Loss of Control

This was a huge departure from the tradition that entitled parents and other social authorities, including governments, to determine what kind of associations their children would have. Coffee houses introduced a kind of anarchy to the social structure, and introduced new risks of randomized contact with ideas and people that parents could no longer control. Coffee represented freedom itself – the freedom to mix, mingle, and consume what one wanted.

Indeed, coffee houses became a great source of public controversy. In England, in the 17th Century, Charles II tried to ban them all on grounds that they were “places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers.” Even a century later, women were banned from attending them, and this was true in France as well. Germany had more liberal laws concerning women and coffee but public suspicion was still high, as the “Coffee Cantata” suggests.

Women who were banned from coffee houses developed a very clever response. In the famous “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” of 1674, women said that coffee was responsible for the “enfeeblement” of men. Historians say the campaign contributed to the gender integration of coffee houses.

We see, then, that the commercial availability of coffee actually contributed to the advance of women’s rights!

Looking back at the astonishing success of Starbucks in our own time, it doesn’t seem surprising. They too serve as gathering spots, social mixers, places of business, and centers of conversation and ideas. We are more accustomed to it now than centuries ago, and yet even today, how much political controversy is engendered by access to products and services of which social authorities disapprove?

War on pot anyone?

As the “Coffee Cantata” concludes:

Cats do not give up mousing,
girls remain coffee-sisters.
The mother adores her coffee-habit,
and grandma also drank it,
so who can blame the daughters!

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.