Frequent warnings against using the government to redistribute income were characteristic of President Grover Cleveland. He considered Government Welfare a “serious danger”. Grover despised the principle that government should dispense favors and advantages to individuals or their businesses. He vetoed a record number of bills – 414 in his first term and 170 in his second – far more than the previous 21 presidents combined.
“I ought to have a monument over me when I die,” he once said, “not for anything I have ever done, but for the foolishness I have put a stop to.”
In 1887 he vetoed a bill to pay $10,000 in aid for any Texas farmer who was struggling through a drought, Cleveland wrote:
“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 steadfastly 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.”
Cleveland saw the notion of taking from some to give to others as a violation of the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, which warn against theft and envy. He noticed what 20th century welfare statists did not, namely, that there was a period after the word “steal” in the Eighth Commandment, with no added qualifications. It does not say, “Thou shalt not steal unless the other guy has more than you do, or unless a government representative does it for you, or unless you can’t find anyone who will give it to you freely, or unless you’re totally convinced you can spend it better than the guy to whom it belongs.”
Cleveland had been faithful to the Founders and to what he believed was common sense and historical experience. I can’t say the same for certain of his successors who, in more recent times, cast wisdom to the winds and set America on a very different course.