Kansas City Speech 1, 1896-09-12

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, September 12, 1896 at 7:00am
The Packinghouse District, Kansas City , MO

Source: MR. BRYAN AT KANSAS CITY, Ten Thousand Workingmen Listen to the Candidate of Democracy., Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition), Sunday, September 13, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Fellow Citizens: This is a little earlier than I usually commence my morning's work. (Laughter.) I am very glad to be able to speak to you even for a moment. Some of our opponents tell us that we should open the mills instead of the mints. That reminds me of the man who said that his horse would go well enough if he could only get the wagon started. (Laughter and applause.) It is, so to speak, putting the cart before the horse. Of what use are mills unless the people can buy what the mills produce? And how can the mills be operated so tong as those who produce the wealth of the country, particularly the farmers, are not able to make enough out of their products to pay taxes and interest?" (Applause.)


"There is no more effective way to destroy the market for the products of the mills than to lower the price of the farmer's crops so that they will not bring him enough to pay him for raising them. There was a report once filed by Mr. McKinley in 1890, along with the McKinley bill, and that report declared that there was great industrial depression, and that while there was depression in agriculture, there could be no prosperity anywhere. It was true then, and it is true today, that while there is depression in agricultural products, there can be no prosperity anywhere. You must commence at the bottom and work up through the other classes. You cannot commence your prosperity at the top and expect it to work down through all the classes of society." (Applause.)


"You gentlemen who live in this city, surrounded by an agricultural country, know that there is no way of bringing prosperity to Kansas City until you first bring prosperity to those toilers upon whose welfare Kansas City rests. (Applause.) It does not require financiers, nor does it require railroad attorneys, to tell you where your prosperity lies (great applause); nor can these men prevent your exercising the right of sovereign voters. (Applause, a voice, "They are trying to do it.") (Another voice, "Missouri give you 100,000 majority, you bet.") (Another voice, "Put Kansas down for 60,000.") (Another voice, "And Arkansas is all right.")

I met a railroad man yesterday who told me that while he did not agree with me on the silver question, he thought an issue had been raised which was greater than the silver question, namely, whether he lived in a republic where a man had a right to vote as he pleased, or whether his vote was the property of somebody else to be used as somebody else pleased."


"That sounds very much like one of those meetings where they take up a collection. When you talk about the results of an election, the people from the various states vie with each other to see who can make it nearest to unanimous. Unless all signs fail, the people are going to be at the polling places this year before the booths upon and stay there until they close and there won't be a man who can get to the polls but who will be sure to be there. What does it mean? It means that the people are taking the interest in the election that the people ought always to take. There are beginning to understand the value of the ballot as the means by which they can redress their wrongs. Sometimes people have complained that the laws were bad and have allowed them to remain bad. They have complained that they ought to be better and have done nothing to make them better. If the laws are bad, they themselves are to blame, and if they wish good laws, they must secure them themselves. And this interest means something. It means that government is going to be made more nearly what government ought to be, and that is a government which will protect the humblest citizen in the land in his right to work, to enjoy the fruits of his toil." (Great applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 5
  • Date: September 12, 1896