Omaha, NE Speech 1, 1896-07-21

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, July 21, 1896 at 7:45pm
15th and Douglas St., Omaha, NE

Source: BRYAN’S RETURN TO OMAHA , Welcomed to the Metropolis of the State of Nebraska by Fifteen Thousand People Who Show Their Admiration for the Nominee, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, July 22, 1896

"Mr. Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen (prolonged cheers): The phrase which was used a moment ago by a gentleman in the distance is a phrase that has been quite common, and it testifies to the interest which people are feeling in the campaign upon which we are entering.

I need not say to you that I am deeply touched by the manifestations of good will which have been exhibited here and elsewhere since the nomination fell to me. I understand that this is not altogether a personal feeling, but it testifies as well to this one great fact that among the American people, without regard to party, and without regard to creed, there is a love for American institutions and a respect for those who for the time being stand as the representatives of government. (Loud cheers.) I appreciate the fact that I am a candidate before the American people for the highest honor it is in the power of man to bestow upon a fellow man. (Cheers.) I am impressed by the sense of responsibility, and I am supported by the consciousness that if elected I shall have the support of 70,000,000 of people. (Great applause.)


This is not a partisan occasion. The mayor of your city is a Republican. I see before me Republicans, Populists, Prohibitionists, as well as Democrats, and I can bespeak you my friends, without regard to party, to testify that in every contest through which I have passed I have conceded to my opponents the same honest of purpose that I have demanded that you should admit for myself. (Great cheering.) And so in this great and memorable campaign upon which we are entering for you people any complimentary terms that you may use toward myself, I say to you, that every good word that you can use toward me I can repeat of my opponent, Major McKinley. (Applause.) If you tell me that I honestly indorse the sentiments written in the platform upon which I stand I tell you that I know that you who oppose me are just as sincere in your desire for good government. The man who charges the American people of any party with being anarchists or disturbers of peace, or men disloyal to the welfare of the people, slanders the greatest people on earth. (Prolonged applause and cries of "Repeat that again.")

We are not dismayed at the use of abuse, because we know that the great majority of Republicans and Populists, as well as Democrats, regard the use of abusive terms as an indication that argument is feared. (Loud cheers.) We are going out in this campaign vying with each other in the enthusiasm with which we support our respective views, and this campaign shall be determined by the sober sense of the American people, and they shall register their verdict in favor of that policy which they believe will be best for the American people.

We know not, my friends, what that verdict shall be. We have our ideas, we have our hopes, we have our desires and in our earnestness we express ourselves with emphasis, but we all know this: that no matter what may be the result of this campaign, that that which is right cannot be defeated. We know that truth even if it is defeated for the time cannot be defeated except temporarily. We know that there is nothing omnipotent but truth, and we rejoice to know, if in error, that our error will be defeated, and that truth shall come to us for our enjoyment, even if it goes against our will. Anything that we have advocated and in which we believe, we ought to submit it to the American people, and we must abide by that decision until that decision can be opened up at another election.

I thank you for your presence on this occasion. I thank you for the great kindnesses which you have shown me in the years when as a stranger among you I have struggled with you by your side. I thank you for all the cordial support that you have given me when I have been a candidate before you. I thank you for the kind words that you have spoken so often, words more kind than I have merited, and I come back to you bearing this nomination, but assuring you that I am the same person who went from you, as interested today as I was then in what I believed to be the public good. And I can assure you that no matter what may be the result of this campaign I shall still stand for what I believe, let come what will of good or ill." (Prolonged applause.)


"There is one sense in which you can rejoice at this nomination—a sense in which you can rejoice at it which is not at all connected with myself. Nebraska has been considered a far western state—away beyond the center of population. It has been considered a small state, with but a little more than 1,000,000 people within its borders. It is a new state, new among the sisterhood of states, and there are those who have thought that it would be a long time before a presidential nomination would be made from a man across the Missouri river. (Laughter and cheers.)

In the sense that the nomination for this year is a compliment to the state you can rejoice, although you may not agree in the political opinions of the man who presents the nomination to you. I attended the St. Louis convention and as a Nebraska citizen I was proud of the distinguished ability with which the junior senator from this state presided as the permanent chairman of that convention. (Applause.) He reflected honor upon the people of Nebraska, and as I shared in the pride which representatives felt at the honor of their chieftain, and at the ability which he manifested in that convention, so I can understand how representatives in Nebraska, although they may oppose everything I believe in, may rejoice in the honor that has come to a citizen of your state. I can also understand how some young men who appear before me may well feel proud that so distinguished an honor has fallen upon one of the young men. (Cries of "That's right" and cheers.) With nothing but zeal for a cause to commend me I have at least demonstrated that age is not a necessity in politics in the United States. (Great cheering.) I say that young men may feel a pride that a young man has been nominated, although they may go to the polls and in the exercise of their sovereign rights may cast their votes against me.

My friends, for all that you have done, for all that you have said, for all that you have felt, I beg to thank you and assure you that whatever may come, it shall be my desire, and I shall prize it, to know that I have obtained your respect, your confidence and your esteem; and it shall be the saddest day of my life if any word or act of mine shall make any person in this vast throng to regret a single kindly thought that he has felt toward me. I thank you for your attention. (A pause, then cheers.)

My friends, I don't know how long my right arm will last; but so long as it does last, I shall be glad to greet those who have been so kind to me in Omaha."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: July 21, 1896