Brooklyn, NY Speech 1, 1896-09-23

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, September 23, 1896 at 8:00pm
Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY

Source: KINGS COUNTY WILD, No End to the Enthusiasm With Which the Candidate Is Welcomed, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Thursday, September 24, 1896

(Mr. Bryan has difficulty quieting the crowd's applause and cheering.)

"If you don't stop, if you don't preserve order, our opponents will say you are against order as well as against law. (Laughter.)

I esteem it a great privilege to be permitted to defend the cause which has been espoused in this campaign; and I am glad to be permitted to present that cause to the people of Brooklyn. I only wish that that distinguished divine whose name has added even to the fame of our great city, Henry Ward Beecher (Applause.), were with us today that he might again champion the cause of the people in their fight. Before devoting myself to the money question I desire to say something in regard to the planks of our platform which have been assailed by the enemy. I only speak of them because persons high in the Republican party have called attention to them and never sought to twist them into a meaning never intended, and to give them an interpretation which they will not bear.

...Now, my friends if our platform is wrong I want these Republicans to repudiate Abraham Lincoln. (Applause.) Because if you take Abraham Lincoln [[illegible]] the Republican party you have [[illegible]] from it its most sacred memory, my friends. (Applause.)

Now let me call your attention to another thing they complain of. They say we criticize the supreme court. Let me read you what we say on that subject.

...What criticism is there? I call attention to the fact that the court overruled the decisions of a hundred years. We declare that congress ought to use all the constitutional power that remains. Yet it insists that having taken part we dare not use what we left. We demand that congress shall use such power as may come from a reversal by the court as it may hereafter be constituted. Has no court hereafter a right to reverse the decision of this court? If not what right had this court to reverse the courts for one hundred years before it? (Applause.)

This court changes from time to time; judges die or resign and new judges take their places. Is it not possible, my friends, that future judges may adhere to the precedents of a hundred years, instead of adhering to a decision rendered by a majority of one and that one changed his mind in two months? Every time a lawyer goes into court and asks for a reversal of the decision of the court—and it is not an infrequent thing—every time a lawyer does it he attacks the correctness of the decision which he desires to have reversed. Let me read to you about what the Republican platform said about decisions of the supreme court in 1860:"


"'We condemn the recent opening of the African slave trade under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power.'

That is what the platform said: it declared a decision of the court was a perversion of judicial power. There is no language in our platform that is as harsh on the supreme court as that Republican platform. (Applause.)

My friends, on these two questions, where we are assailed by the Republicans today, we have not taken as emphatic a stand as the Republican party took in the first platform upon which it elected a President of the United States. Let me read to you what Abraham Lincoln said about the supreme court. This is from his inaugural address: 'I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the supreme court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon parties to the suit as to the objects of that suit.'

...Then Mr. Lincoln says that if it is meant to be asserted that the supreme court has a right to determine the policy of the people on great questions, that they may as well resign our government into the hands of the supreme court. Our platform is not as harsh as the language of Abraham Lincoln."


"I quote these authorities, my friends, in order that you may all see how far fetched is the criticism that is leveled against us. I quote these in order that you may see that the very men who must, in order to do so, abandon the Republican platform upon which Lincoln was elected. (Applause.)

Now, our opponents say that we are opposed to the enforcement of the law. I deny it. I stand as the candidate of three parties. I do not speak of myself as an individual, because the individual is lost in a campaign in the representative character of the candidate. But, my friends, I want to say to you that the fear that is expressed is not a fear that if elected I will not enforce the law. I have said it before and I say it again, that if by the suffrages of my countrymen I am placed in that position which is the highest position in the gift of the people of the world, every law shall be enforced against the great as well as against the small. (Great applause.) It is not a fear of lawlessness, my friends. Think of men who have transgressed the law being afraid that there will be enforcement of the law. Think of men who have considered themselves greater than the government, who are afraid the government will not be great enough.

They remind me of the man in court. The person who seemed uneasy, and the judge assured him that he had nothing to fear, that he would get justice in that court, and he says: 'Great heavens judge, that's what I am afraid of.' (Applause.) We say that we have been the peculiar objects of these imputations. We pause, therefore, for a moment to repel them."


"We entertain no sentiments adverse to social order: we seek not to destroy, but to preserve in their purity the institutions of our country. This language is the language of Samuel J. Tilden (applause), used in an address to farmers and workingmen and mechanics delivered on February 6, 1883. They accused reformers then of being destroyers of the peace, and he asserted then, as we assert now, that we have not come to destroy. Let me read from that same speech of Tilden's: 'A powerful monied corporation engaged in a death struggle with the government to whom it owed its existence assailed the purity of our press. A mighty combination of politicians and monied interests is again in the field to control elections, to change the administration of government and to re-establish the supremacy of the great monied corporations over the business of the country.'

That same monied power exists today, and it is doing the same work today that it did in the days of Tilden, and business men are terrified. Tilden said that the patriotism of the people prevailed in that struggle. I believe that the patriotism of a patriotic people will prevail in this struggle. To think otherwise would be to despair of a government like this. My friends, we cannot have a free government unless the people are free to act.

I repeat, my friends, that this government by the few, this government by asserted wealth, this government by corporations is the most tyrannical government that any people ever suffered under." (Applause.)


"When you know that I am opposed to a government by a few; when you know that I am opposed to a government by the great corporations, you will understand why they call me an anarchist. But I don't want to dwell longer on this. I want for a few moments to call your attendance to the present financial system and explain to you what we desire to substitute in the place of this financial system.

Now, the present financial system is based upon gold. The present financial system contemplates the retirement of greenbacks and treasury notes and the substitution of blank paper for those notes. The present financial system contemplates the retirement of all legal tender silver certificates, contemplates gold only as the legal tender money of the country. The financial policy under which we now suffer, therefore, contemplates a condition in which a few men will control the gold money and the national banks will control the paper money and the people will have nothing to say about it.

Mr. Carlisle, in a recent letter, says that it is the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to redeem silver dollars in gold, whenever it becomes necessary, in order to maintain the parity. What does that mean? It means that all this talk about retiring greenbacks and treasury notes is a farce and when this farce gives out they intend to start another endless chain as soon as they get through with the present endless chain."


"We have either to have one kind of standard money or two kinds. If we can not have two kinds, then it must be one and the government must have a right to use a silver dollar. If the government cannot use a silver dollar to pay all the debts that it owes, then the silver dollar is not as good as the gold dollar. I believe this government has a right to use its silver dollar as it uses its gold dollars: but our opponents have gone on a different theory, and they have taxed the people of this country to pay interest on $262,000,000 in bonds in order to buy gold on the theory that silver was not as good as gold.

My friends, when I see bonds worth $1.19 sold for $1.04˝, and try to describe what kind of a transaction it was a regret that my parents did not teach me more tongues in which to express my ideas. And yet the people who sell for $1.04˝ bonds worth $1.19 assume that they are the only people who understand financiering. I believe that instead of the secretary of the treasury getting down on his knees and asking these men to please tell him what he ought to do, that he ought to stand up and with 70,000,000 of people behind him tell them what they ought to do, and make them do it. You say that it is not possible. The great trouble has been in my judgment, that our treasury officials, instead of being in sympathy with the mass of the people of the United States, have been in sympathy with the syndicates and the financiers of the United States."


"Our platform declares for the double standard without discrimination or charge for mintage. Our platform is about a reiteration of the main part of the platform of 1892 without the steps. (Laughter.) We left the steps off because the candidates did not care to step down this time. (Great applause.) Our platform is not made simply that they may get on, but it is made to stand on after election. I am in favor of free coinage, whether we produce silver in this country or not. I am in favor of the use of silver, not because we produce, but because we own it. (Applause.) If we need it, and if it is best for us at our present ratio, I am in favor of having it, even if to have it gives the people who produce silver a chance to do what they did before the law struck silver down. They tell you that free coinage helps those who delve into the mine. Admitted. I tell you that when they bring out that metal they pour it into the channels of trade and we are blessed by its discovery. (Applause.) Who will be helped by the gold standard? Not those who produce the metal and pour it into the channels of trade, but those who corner the money of the world and keep it out of the channels. (Applause.)

...Shame on the cowardly American who thinks this nation is not as big as Bismarck thinks it is."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 23, 1896