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Grover Cleveland and the Texas Seed Bill Veto

50 min
  • Why would the President adhere to the Constitution during a crisis?

Students will:

  • Understand Grover Cleveland’s philosophy of limited government.
  • Analyze Cleveland’s actions as President in light of the Constitution.
  • Evaluate the prudence of Cleveland’s veto of the Texas Seed Bill.
  • Assess whether Cleveland deserved the “homage” or the “enmity” of the nation.

  • Handout A: Grover Cleveland and the Texas Seed Bill Veto
  • Handout B: Cleveland’s Veto Message
  • Handout C: Document Guide

To create a context for this lesson, have students complete Constitutional Connection: The President and Federal Power.

Have students read Handout A: Grover Cleveland and the Texas Seed Bill Veto and answer the questions.

Ask students to brainstorm wide-scale crises and disasters in American history such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2001 terrorist attacks, floods, earthquakes, etc.

Next, brainstorm private and public ways that our society has responded to disasters, e.g. individuals offering assistance, private charities and organizations like the Red Cross, state or federal National Guard mobilization, etc.

Ask students to recall the purpose of the Texas Seed Bill.

  • What did they think when they learned that Cleveland had vetoed it?
  • Was Cleveland choosing between adhering to the Constitution and relieving human suffering? Why or why not?

Divide the class into pairs and have students read Handout B: Cleveland’s Veto Message. They should complete Handout C: Document Guide as they read.

After students have had time to read the document and answer the vocabulary, context, and comprehension questions on Handout C, read the document aloud one paragraph at a time. For each paragraph, ask students to summarize Cleveland’s ideas in their own words.

As a large group, discuss the following questions:

  • What was Cleveland’s constitutional objection to the Texas Seed Bill?
  • What was his other major objection to it?
  • Should Cleveland be admired for this veto? Why or why not?

Have students discuss the critical thinking questions on Handout C in their pairs before reconvening the class for large group sharing.

  • How much more involved in direct assistance has the government become since Grover Cleveland was President?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
  • Are there some situations where government assistance not only discourages private assistance, but actually forbids it?

Have students write a newspaper obituary for President Cleveland in which they reference some of the major events of his Presidency and his responses to them.