Columbus, OH Speech, 1896-09-01

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, September 1, 1896
Great Capitol Square, Columbus, OH

Source: ACRES OF HUMANITY, Great Capitol Square at Columbus, O., Jammed with Enthusiasts., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, September 2, 1896; The Evening News, Thursday, September 3, 1896


"Ladies and Gentlemen: This is the largest audience to which I ever tried to speak. I have had occasions to speak where the audience filled the house, but I never had occasion to talk where the audience filled all outdoors. (Laughter.) If you all vote as you are now shouting (voices, "We will!") I do not see how there can be any question about the triumph of free silver in this state. (Cheers.)

We have entered on a campaign which means much to the American people. If our opponents speak truly, when they describe what will, in their judgment, be the effect of free coinage, then the success of the Chicago ticket will surely be a calamity to the country. If, on the other hand, we speak the truth when we describe to you the effects of a gold standard, then the maintenance of a gold standard until foreign nations come to our relief is an evil which cannot be contemplated by those who love their country. We have begun an unceasing warfare against the gold standard. The Republican party, without declaring that the gold standard is a good thing, has declared that the gold standard must be maintained. I call your attention to the fact that no party in the history of the country has ever in a national convention commended the gold standard. It effects are so bad that no party has dared to uphold it."

(Mr. Bryan, who had been facing west, now turned to the south front of the platform to address the people on that side.)


"The enemy whom we are fighting in this campaign is an enemy who has never gone into an open battle. The advocates of a gold standard have never dared to submit the gold standard to the arbitrament of a ballot. (Cheers.) Every step that has been taken has been taken by stealth and without the approval of the American people. (Applause.) When silver was demonetized in 1873, the people had not discussed it, and persons who were members of congress, and who voted on the measure, testified that they did not know that the bill demonetized silver.

When the crime was discovered and the American people attempted to restore silver to its ancient place by the side of gold, the opponents to free coinage forced the Bland act upon congress, as a compromise, and as soon as the Bland act went into force the enemies sought to repeal the Bland act and leave nothing in its place. But the silver sentiment grew until 1890; and in that year the opponents of free coinage, being afraid of the passage of a free coinage bill, secured another compromise which was known as the Sherman law. Let me call your attention for a moment to that law. In the support of that measure Senator Sherman made a speech; and in the course of that speech he went to show that we required $40,000,000 new money every year to keep pace with population and industries and he defended that measure on the ground that it gave the people more money."


"And yet in his 'Recollections,' published only a few months ago, you will find that Senator Sherman says he was in favor of the Sherman law simply to prevent free coinage and that he was willing to vote for its repeal the day after it was enacted if he could prevent the substitution of free coinage. (Applause.) There you will find the chief supporter of the gold standard policy in the United States supporting a bill because it gave money to the American people and then declaring that he would have voted for the repeal of it the very next day. (Applause.)

They secured the repeal of the Sherman law and pretended they would restore silver to its former place. There were some who said the trend of the Sherman law was to that end and that we had to clear away the rubbish before we could build up a good system; and then there were others who said that if we stood for free silver we would drive Europe to bimetallism. But those who made this argument have proven that they were not sincere and that their purpose was to deceive the American people. (Applause.) In this campaign every party in its platform, so far has declared that the principle of bimetallism is better than a gold standard, and yet in spite of these declarations you know that there is a party in the United States which under cover of friendliness to bimetallism, is seeking to fasten a gold standard upon the American people.

(Mr. Bryan now went to the north end of the platform to address the people on that side. Great cheering.)


"I do not know whether you have been able to hear anything I have been saying on the other side or not. I was telling them that no party in the United States had ever made fight for the gold standard—I mean an open fight, and put that declaration in a platform. I do not know what the convention tomorrow will do, but I do know that the men who are in chare of the convention which meets tomorrow, when they were in Chicago a few weeks ago, opposed the free coinage of silver on the ground that it would prevent international bimetallism, towards which all the efforts of this government should be directed. (Cheers.) If tomorrow they declare the gold standard is a good thing, they will have to take back the minority report which they submitted to the Chicago convention. They will have to take that report back and confess that in Chicago, instead of expressing their sentiments, they attempted to perpetrate a deliberate fraud on the American people. (Cheers.) The convention tomorrow will be unique in one respect. It will be the most remarkable convention ever held in the United States, because it will be a convention which will nominate a candidate, not for the purpose of electing him, but for the express purpose of electing another candidate whom it dare not nominate. (Cheers.) I simply speak of this to show you what kind of a fight we are engaged in. We are fighting enemies who will not declare to the American people what they want. (Great applause.) As against the foes who strike in the dark; as against enemies who, like the owl, flies best at night (laughter), we propose a platform which means what it says, and says what it means, and takes the American people into its confidence." (Cheers.)

(Mr. Bryan then turned to the people on the east side of the platform to address the people there. Loud applause.)


"The free coinage of silver is not a new doctrine. One of the more prominent Republicans said the other day that it had flashed upon the country like the lightning flash out of a clear sky. Oh, no, my friends, the free coinage of silver is not a sudden idea sprung into life. The free coinage of silver is an ancient doctrine. When we ask for the free coinage of silver we simply ask that it shall receive the same treatment at the mint that gold now receives. That is all. (Great applause.) We have the free coinage of gold now. All we ask is to just add the word 'silver' to the law, so it will mean free coinage to both gold and silver. When we ask for unlimited coinage we simply want the mint open to silver as it is to gold.

Because there is unlimited coinage of gold, you can take to the mint all the gold you like, from any place you like, and it will be coined into money, and the money handed back to you. We want to amend the law by making it true of silver, too, so there will not be one ounce of silver in all the world that will be excluded from the mints of the United States. We want to say if there is a man in the world who has an ounce of silver bullion that he cannot use fully somewhere else, he can bring that bullion to our mint and have it converted into $1.29 and employ that $1.29 in buying the products of the labor the American citizens. (Great applause.) We want the ratio of 16 to 1. That simply means that the silver dollar shall be of the same size it is now, that is, a 16 to 1 silver dollar. They call it a 50-cent dollar, but there is not one of them that will sell it for less than 100 cents. (Great applause.)


"We want the same kind of dollars, only we want more of them, so that when we go to sell our products there will be more of these dollars to buy those products with. (Great applause.) We want more of these dollars so that when a man is out of employment and wants work there will be more people with dollars to hire that man to work. (Great applause.) Excuse me now, and I will talk to the people on the other side, and I will come back." (Laughter.)

(Mr. Bryan went to the other side of the platform.)

"A gentleman asked me last night how money could be put into circulation. Well now, my friends, that to my mind is one of the most simple of processes. You put the question to yourself. Do you ever have any trouble in getting your money into circulation? (Applause.) Now, here is the process. We have the free coinage of gold. If any man produces gold from the earth he can take the at gold to the mint and have it converted into gold coin and then he can use the gold coin to buy anything he wants. But he does not spend a dollar of that gold coin without putting the money into circulation. It is not worth anything to him unless he puts it into circulation and the moment he does it, it is a part of the country's money to use in buying all the products of toil. (Applause.) How about silver? The process is just the same as with gold. Now that is where the money gets into circulation. I will be back in a little while."

(Mr. Bryan went to the other side of the platform.)


"Now, my friends, just a word as to money. There are some people who have an idea that gold has some divine attribute that makes it staple while other things fluctuate, that makes it good while all other things may be bad. I want to say that a dollar is a creature of the law. There is no such thing as a dollar unless the laborer creates a dollar. If you owe a dollar you cannot ay it with a lump of gold unless the man who holds your note is willing to accept that gold, while you can pay your debt with a hog or a steer, if the man who holds your note is willing to accept them. But money is that with which you can discharge your debt whether the man want to accept it or not. Money is that which the law creates and which the law makes a use for. Now, my friends, how are you going to increase the volume of your money? There is only one way and that is by legislation. (A voice: "Right you are!") If you need more corn, you go out and raise corn. If you need more wheat, you go out and produce wheat. If you need more potatoes, you go out with your labor and bring them into existence. But suppose the people need more money? You have to secure it by legislation. You have got to make provisions for an increase in your currency.

Senator Sherman said in 1870 that we needed about $40,000,000 added annually simply to keep pace with population and industry. If we needed it then we need it now and yet, my friends, the Republican party is not offering you a means by which you can bring into existence the money that the people need to do business with." (Applause.)


"I believe that the platform adopted by the Republican party at St. Louis was written by the men who are interested in making money scarce. (Renewed applause.) I believe that platform is in the interest of the capitalistic class and the money changing class; and if you ask me why I think so, I tell you I have not only reasoned it out, but that I can prove it in another way. You can always tell a man by the company he keeps; and when I find that all the great financiers and all the brokers and all the syndicates and all the stock exchanges and all the money grabbers are running into the Republican party, I think I know why they are running to it and they know and you know why they are going there, too. (Continued applause.)

No, my friends, of course we always hate to lose anybody, but if we have to lose anybody I do not know of a set of men on earth I would rather lose than those we have lost. (Great laughter and applause.) All the people we have lost have been called by themselves 'big people.' (Renewed laughter and applause.) But there is one great advantage about losing that kind of people, because every time one of these big Democrats breaks into the Republican party he makes a hole so big that about sixteen little Republicans get out and into the Democratic party." (Applause.)

(Mr. Bryan then moved to the East side of the platform.)

"Now, my fellow citizens, I want to tell you very briefly, or rather present to you in a very few words, the foundation for our faith. We are opposed to the gold standard because the gold standard means a rising dollar. A rising dollar means falling prices; falling prices means hard times; (cheers) that is all that falling prices mean, and the party that tries to make by raising the value of a dollar, lower prices for the general produces of human labor is the party that legislates stagnation upon a people, who drives men into bankruptcy by 'be it enacted,' etc. (Continued applause.) We believe that the opening of our mints will bring into circulation more standard money; to the gold of the world we will add the silver, and when the silver and gold together measure the price of all the property of the world that price will be higher than it is now and that is why we are in favor of bimetallism. (Great applause.)

We apply the law of supply and demand to money. We know that if you make a certain thing scarce the price will rise; we know that is true of all kinds of property; we know that it is true of money. Now we apply the law of supply and demand not only to money as a whole, but we apply it to silver as well. We say that the price of silver bullion as measured by gold has fallen because legislation has lessened the demand for silver and increased the demand for gold and driven them apart. (Renewed cheers.) We say that the opening of our mints to the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver will create a demand for silver, and that that new demand, taken with the demand which now exists, will be great enough to utilize every ounce of silver, not needed in the arts, and therefore we can maintain the price of silver bullion at $1.29 an ounce throughout the world." (Continued applause.)


...(Mr. Bryan continued at some length to give his well known reasons why the silver advocates demand the ratio of 16 to 1, and then quoted from George Washington in September, 1796, who said:)

"'Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you, my friends, and believe me, my fellow citizens, the jealousy of free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience have proved that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.'

It is less than two years since the Secretary of the Treasury employed a London banker to protect the Treasury of the United States, and yet when we tell you to beware of placing the legislative control of our financial policy in the hands of foreigners they accuse of trying to stir up the hostility of those who live abroad.

I think that of the 70,000,000 of people in this country today there is a vast majority waiting, as did the forefathers in Philadelphia, for the sound of the Liberty Bell, and when that signal will catch up the sound and we will hear no more of this subservient policy that we must wait until other nations tell us what the American people shall do." (Great applause.)

About this Document

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