Cincinnati, OH Speech, 1896-10-02

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Friday, October 2, 1896 at 7:00pm
Music Hall, Cincinnati , OH

Source: ONCE MORE IN OHIO, Democratic Candidate Is Again in the Home State of His Opponent., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Saturday, October 3, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I esteem it a privilege, as a candidate for office, to be permitted to present the claims of our cause to the people of Cincinnati. We are compelled to face an enemy in this campaign which is not only well organized and well equipped with means, both for legitimate work and illegitimate work, but we are also compelled to face an enemy which is not entirely honest in its dealings with the people. (Applause).

Before speaking of the paramount issue of this campaign, I want to call your attention to two or three questions that have been raised by our opponents. Some of our opponents have attempted to arraign us before the bar of public opinion on the charge that we are trying to disturb order and to overthrow law. I want for a moment to meet that proposition. There is nothing in our platform that justifies that charge. If they say that our declaration in favor of an income tax is an attempt to discredit the supreme court, I deny it."


"There is nothing in our platform which is half as severe as the minority of the court itself uttered against the judgment of the supreme court. Let me call your attention to the language used by Abraham Lincoln in criticising a decision of the Supreme Court. When you hear his words you will understand how much more emphatic his language was than our platform—and yet there are many people in this country today who think that Abraham Lincoln was not only a great man, but also a good man and a patriot. He said:

'We believe as much as Judge Douglass, perhaps more, in obedience to and respect for the judicial department of the Government. But we think that the Dred Scott decision was erroneous. We know that the court that made it has often overruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it overrule this.'

That, my friends, was the position taken by Abraham Lincoln, and that is exactly the position which we take today. (Applause.) We expect that at some time in the future that decision will be overruled; we expect that at some time in the future it will be possible to make wealth bear its share of the burdens of government. (Applause.)

I call your attention to the fact that men who are criticizing us for still favoring the income tax do not themselves criticize the income tax. Our opponents want you to believe that we are opposed to the enforcement of law. It is strange how suddenly some of these people who have been in court all their lives as defendants, charged with violating the law, it is strange, I say, how suddenly they have come to respect a decision of the court. The men who, under the income tax law, will be compelled to pay a tax, instead of telling us that they are not willing to pay the tax, charge us with disrespect to the court. If these men, who want the protection of government and yet want others to bear all the burdens of government, were frank and honest, they would tell us that what they object to is not our criticism of the court, but the law itself, which would compel them to pay their share of the taxes."


"So far as that criticism is directed against me, as a candidate, I assert, as I have asserted before, that there is not a citizen in all this land who believes more thoroughly in the enforcement of every law upon the statute books than I do. (Applause.) And, my friends, if by the suffrage of my countrymen I may be made the chief executive of this nation, I will promise you that I will so enforce the laws that some of my critics will come on their knees begging not to have the laws enforced. (Tremendous applause.)

Let me state to you a reason for the opposition of some of these railroad presidents which they themselves do not suggest. They oppose our platform, not so much because it declares for free coinage—they can stand free coinage. They object to it because we demand that instead of summoning an army to settle labor troubles that we shall have a reason to settle them. They say that we are not in favor of law and order. I saw that we are the ones who desire a peaceable solution of all questions and that they are the ones who appeal to force and deny justice when they do it." (Applause.)


"But the worst part of all this opposition is that the men who attempt to destroy labor organizations and to make the laboring men defenseless are the men who in this campaign are attempting to use the votes of laborers themselves to overthrow their rights. (Great applause.)

There is another plank that these men find fault with, but they do not say much about it, and that is the plank wherein we declare against government by injunction, and in favor of the bill that passed the senate to protect people who are arrested for contempt. Why do they not criticize that plank? Because the bill which we endorsed in our platform passed the Senate of the United States, without opposition enough to secure a roll call. The bill is just. It is giving the right of trial by jury, and these men dare not oppose the justice of the measure and therefore they seek some other excuse upon which to oppose the principles of our platform.

...They say that we are trying to raise class against class. I deny it. We are trying to arouse the people to protect their homes from a conspiracy which has no equal in the history of the world." (Cheers and applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: October 2, 1896