From Dean G. Acheson: "A Democrat Looks at His Party":
At the end of the [nineteenth] century there was a lesser, but serious, missed opportunity for Democratic leadership in President Cleveleand's failure to grasp the significance of the Populist and labor unrest... and in his cautious and unimaginative approach to economic depression. The unrest... did not spring from a radical movement directed against the established order... or the constitutional system. It grew out of conditions increasingly distressing... on the farms and in the factories. Its purposes were the historic purposes of the Democratic party... to keep opportunity open, opportunity not merely to rise from barefoot boy to President but for people to find in their accustomed environments useful, respected, and satisfying lives.... The conditions and popular response had many points of similarity to those of the 1930s.
Grover Cleveland... followed the right as he saw it... through a conservative and conventional cast of mind. The agitation seemed to him... a threat to law and order.... Coxey's Army was met with a barrage of injunctions and... the Capitol police.... The Pullman strike was smashed by federal troops who kept the mails moving, the union leaders imprisoned, and the union crushed. And the financial panic was dealt with through the highly orthodox and [highly] compensated assistance of Mr. Morgan.
The underlying causes... were neither understood nor dealt with... an opportunity was missed.... If, to take one of them, the problems arising out of the concentration of industrial ownership had been tackled when they were still malleable and subject to effective treatment, we might have been spared some aches and pains that are still with us.
But with all this, Grover Cleveland holds an honored place.... When the Congress showed signs... of declaring war on Spain, Cleveland put an end to the business for the duration of his administration by saying... that, if the Congress did declare war, he would refuse to direct it as commander in chief...