Baltimore, MD Speech 2, 1896-09-19

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, September 19, 1896
Music Hall, Baltimore, MD

Source: MR. BRYAN’S BALTIMORE SPEECHES, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Monday, September 21, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"I come as the nominee in this campaign of three parties, who believe in the restoration of the money of the constitution (applause), as the nominee of three parties who believe that the money of the constitution is an honest money, honest enough for any man. (Applause.)

The Democratic party at Chicago adopted a platform which means something, my friends. (A voice, "Right you are.") A platform that has alienated some; it must be that any platform which covers several questions will alienate some. But, my friends, I want to suggest this for your consideration, that the Chicago convention, composed of delegates nominated by the Democratic party, is the only authority that can determine what is Democracy in this country. (Applause.) Some have left the Democratic party because of the action of the Chicago convention. We cannot by any court process restrain them from leaving the Democratic party, but we can shut the door, so that when they go out they cannot get back again. (Long continued applause.)

...I desire to thank the commercial men for the badge which they have presented, not because of the value of the badge, but because it shows that the commercial men realize that they cannot sell goods unless the people are able to buy.

There are two ideas which are meeting in conflict in this campaign. The Republican idea is that all you have to do is to have confidence that you have eaten, and that you will feel as well as if you had had a hearty meal; our idea is that if one is furnished a hearty meal he will then have the pleasant recollection of having eaten it. Our opponents say that if we will only have confidence, all will be well; we say that when we furnish a basis upon which confidence can rest, then, and not till then, will there be confidence.

We have commenced a warfare which will end now if it ends in success, but which will never end until it does end in success. No question is settled until it is settled right. Neither fraud nor intimidation nor corruption ever settled a question right. They tell us that our troubles come from agitation; that if we would only stop agitating all would be well. We reply that when all is well agitation will stop of itself. They find fault because people complain; let them take away the cause of complaint and the complaint will cease. We complain because the conditions are hard for the producers of wealth, and then our opponents complain at our complaint, instead of complaining of the conditions which give rise to our complaint. They seem to have the idea which is said to have prevailed at one timeónamely, that it is not wrong to steal, but that it is a crime to be caught stealing. We denounce the gold standard as wrong; we denounce the dollar under a gold standard as a robber. Do you think that we have reached the end of the gold standard? There is no end. Do you think that we have drained the cup of sorrow to its dregs? No, my friends, you cannot set a limit to financial depression and hard times. If the influences which are at work are able to drive silver out of use as standard money here, those same influences will be turned toward other nations; if they succeed here, what reason have we to believe that they will fail when directed against weaker nations? Every nation which goes to the gold standard makes the dollar dearer still, and as the dollar rises in value, you must sacrifice more of all of the products of toil in order to secure it. As you sacrifice more and more, you will find that your debts virtually increase as your ability to pay your debts decreases, and, in the long run, the capitalistic classes will devour all the property.

This is the only nation which is in a position to make the fight for the restoration of bimetallism; other nations are powerless. Do the masses of England want a gold standard? They have never declared for it. Do the masses of Germany want a gold standard? They have never said so. Who wants the gold standard? Those who 'rule by right divine,' and those greater rulers who stand behind the thrones and rule through national debts. If the gold standard advocates in this country think that it is necessary for this nation to employ a foreign banking syndicate to take care of the United States Treasury when we have but a small national debt, how, I ask, can they expect the nations of Europe, with their great standing armies, with their great national debts, to escape from the clutch of the money changers?

Our opponents say that this money question is a business question; they try to rid it of sentiment. But there is not much business which is devoid of sentiment. And when our friends tell us that we are running a sentimental campaign while they are running a business campaign, we tell them that we are simply placing the human heart of the masses against the pocketbooks of a few. (Applause.) When we say that the money question is the paramount issue, our opponents keep trying to thrust the tariff question into the open. Why not settle the tariff question by international agreement? (Laughter an applause.)

The man who toils all day is engaged in business, but why? Because he is working for those whom he loves better than his own life. He accumulates property; he lays aside something for a rainy day, but why? When a man accumulates, you call it a matter of business, and yet, my friends, his hopes and interests are entwined about his accumulations because he expects that after he is gone his own flesh and blood will enjoy his property. Take sentiment from life and there is nothing left. When our opponents tell us that we are running a sentimental campaign and that they are running a business campaign, we reply to them that we are simply placing the heart of the masses against the pocketbooks of a few.

Some one has said that no one can write a poem in favor of the financial policy of the present administration, and why? Because there is nothing in it to appeal to the sentiment or to the heart. It would require a large reward to bring out a poem which would portray in beautiful language the advantage of having a syndicate run the Government of the United States.

We have been called anarchists. I am not an anarchist. There is not beneath the flag a truer friend of government or a greater lover of law and order than the nominee of the Chicago convention. I love government, and I want to make it so good that there will not be one citizen in all the land who will not be willing to die for his government. I love law and order so much that I want the law enforced against the greatest enemies of law and orderóthose who think that they are greater than the Government itself.

The free coinage of silver is the first step toward the restoration of just conditions in this country. It will not end all unhappiness; it will not bring prosperity to those who will not work; it will not give a competency to these who will not save. But it will help to restore the heritage which has been bartered away; it will help each man to secure a more reasonable share of the fruits of his own toil. When the Government has been taken out of the hands of the syndicates, the stock exchanges and the 'combinations of money grabbers in this country and Europe,' the door will be open for a progress which will carry civilization up to higher ground.

If we win this fight now, reform will begin at once; if we are defeated in this campaign there is nothing before the people but four years more of harder times and greater agitation, and then the victory will come. Our opponents say that they want to restore confidence, but the Republican party cannot restore prosperity in this country so long as that prosperity is doled out to us by foreigners who profit by our distress.

Business men complain that business conditions are bad; I warn them that business conditions cannot be improved by following out the financial policy which has brought business to its present condition. There is an old saying that the hair of the dog cures the bite, but this is not true in financial legislation.

...Why, my friends, this nation has occupied a kneeling posture for so long that the old world hardly recognizes it now that it stands up and looks them in the face. I have had occasion to remark that when they thought the silver craze did not amount to anything they would draw out the gold and issue bonds, then draw the gold out again and issue more bonds and keep it up as long as there was a good market for bonds. Gold went abroad and it was laid to one thing and another, but the Chicago convention met and it adopted a platform that said what it meant and meant what it said, and then what? There was a hurried consultation and a prompt decision that it would not do to issue any more bonds before election. (Laughter and applause. A voice: "Give it to Cleveland, give it to him.") And, my friends, in order to pacify the people, in order to quiet the fears they have just been sending the gold over here and showing what great confidence they have in the American people and if this election results in the maintenance of the gold standard and the election of those who still insist that our treasury shall be run on the European plan, they can draw out every dollar." (Applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 6
  • Date: September 19, 1896