A President less wise and patriotic than Cleveland would have yielded to the temptation to tackle the tariff at once. He and his Congress had been elected on that issue and on it his party was better united than on any other. He was the new apostle of a reduction of the tariff: to recommend that his doctrine be put in practice was easy and natural. But from his point of view, the continued purchase of silver was so at variance with sound economic doctrine and so harmful to business and finance that it must first be considered and stopped. With the repeal of the silver purchase clause of the Act of 1890 the way was made clear to grapple with the question he had made his own. In his annual message to Congress of December 4, he declared, "After a hard struggle tariff reform is directly before us."
The President spoke truly. The elections of 1890 and 1892 had been unmistakable indications that the country demanded urgently a substantial downward revision of the tariff. The President and the House of Representatives were eager to carry out the will of the country, and the House, under the leadership of William L. Wilson and with Cleveland's sympathetic coöperation, passed on February 1, 1894 by a vote of 204 to 140 a bill which though defective in certain details supplied, on the whole, an honest and consistent programme for the reduction of the tariff, but in no radical manner, and deserved a fair