“Many strangers were drawn to the city yesterday by the ceremonies attending the inauguration of Governor Grover Cleveland, and the early trains brought many additional members of the Legislature,” The Argus of Albany reported on January 2nd, 1883.
The man of the hour was inconspicuous.
“Governor-elect Cleveland walked over from the executive residence, on Eagle Street, very few in the throng recognizing him.”
To the contemporary mind, this seems unfathomable.
But it must be remembered that at least some New Yorkers may have voted for Cleveland without having seen a clear photographic or sketched likeness of the Buffalo mayor and former Erie County sheriff.
The Inauguration was a simple ceremony with to-the-point speeches.
Outgoing Gov. Alonzo B. Cornell, a Republican who had reached term limits, wished Cleveland well.
“To you, Governor Cleveland, God speed you in every endeavor to secure to this people the richest blessings of beneficent government,” he said. “It is your good fortune to come to these important duties by an expression of the public will almost unprecedented in this state.”
Cleveland had won the four-way governor’s race with 58.47 percent of the vote, while Republican candidate Charles J. Folger received 37.41 percent of the vote. There also were Prohibition and Greenback party candidates.
Cornell said Cleveland had a mandate to carry on good government in New York.
“The emphasis thus given to your election is clearly indicative of public expectation in the discharge of your official duties,” he said.
Cleveland’s speech was just six paragraphs long, and did not include any policy statements.
Turning to Cornell, Cleveland said praise should be withheld until he accumulated a record of accomplishment.
“I cannot be unmindful of the difficulties that beset the path upon which I enter, and I shall be quite content if, when the end is reached, I may, like you, look back upon an official career honorable to myself and useful to the people of the state.”
Turning to the audience, Cleveland said, “This ceremony, simple and unostentatious, as becomes the spirit of our institutions, is yet of vast importance to you and all the people of this great Commonwealth. The interests now transferred to new hands are yours, and the duties here newly assumed should be performed for your benefit and your good.”
Cleveland said good government is a partnership between elected officials and engaged constituents.
“This vigilance on the part of the citizen, and an active interest and participation in political concerns, are the safeguard of his rights; but sluggish indifference to political privileges invited the machinations of those who wish to betray the people’s trust,” he said. “Thus, when the conduct of public affairs receives your attention, you not only perform your duty as citizens, but protect your own best interests.”
The Argus reporter noted the intensity of applause.
“The impression made by the new Executive was unmistakably a favorable one,” the reporter wrote.
Illustrations, from above: newly elected Governor Grover Cleveland taking the oath of office; and newly elected Governor Grover Cleveland receiving friends in the Executive Chamber at the new State Capital building courtesy Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine, January 13th, 1883.