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Cleveland and the Tariff

Grover Cleveland was a true conservative. He opposed unnecessary government meddling in the nation's economy, arguing that a high tariff was an interfering factor in the natural economic order of things. Cleveland also was embarrassed by the continued growth of the government surplus. Convinced that a change was needed, the president used his annual message to Congress in 1887 to argue for meaningful reductions in tariff duties. Congress refused to follow the president's lead. The maintenance of a large Treasury surplus was damaging to the farmer and debtor elements of the South and West. Since the excess revenue was simply locked away in government vaults, the currency supply was restricted. This set the stage for a national discussion on related issues of the tariff and the money supply; the forum would be the campaign leading to the Election of 1888.