Hartford, CT Speech 1, 1896-09-24

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Thursday, September 24, 1896 at 10:00pm
Capitol Park, Hartford, CT

Source: TWO SPEECHES IN HARTFORD, Mr. Bryan Finishes a Long Day of Campaign Work in Connecticut., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Friday, September 25, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"I am glad to talk to the people of the capital city of Connecticut. I know that in coming here I come to meet many who are not in sympathy with the cause which I represent (cheers), and to meet some who are too intolerant even to consider the merits of the cause. Error always shuns the light, and those who are enjoying that which is wrong are never willing that the people shall hear the right.

Your financiers sometimes assume that they, and they only, understand a question like the money question. I want to read to you what Senator Fessenden once said about the knowledge of financiers upon the money question. You will find the quotation in a speech made by him at a tine when the legal tender laws were being discussed.

'Nobody knows much upon the question of finance, not even those who are most familiar with it; for, sir, I declare today that, in the whole number of learned financial men that I have consulted. I never have found any two of them who agree, and therefore it is hardly worth while for us to plead any very remarkable degree of ignorance when nobody is competent to instruct us; and yet such is the fact. I can state to you, Mr. President, that on one day I was advised very strongly by a leading financial man at all events to oppose this legal tender clause. He exclaimed against it, with all the bitterness in the world. On the very same day I received a note from a friend of his, telling me that we could not get along without it. I showed it to him, and he expressed his utter surprise. He went home, and next day telegraphed to me that he had changed his mind and now thought it was absolutely necessary; and his friend who wrote me wrote again that he had changed his—and there were two of the most eminent financial men of the country.'"


"There you have the testimony, not of a Western man, but of an Eastern Senator, that even financiers did not seem to agree on the money question or a financial system. Two men advised him in different ways on the same day and the next both changed their minds. I call your attention to this quotation because your financiers speak with all the assurance of men who receive their knowledge direct from some higher source. The fact is, that the Western farmer who has felt the pinch of the gold standard has a clearer understanding of what it means than the man down here who has not suffered from the system.

Never in the history of the world has reform come to mankind from those who derive a benefit from the vicious system to be reformed. Those who are not suffering do not study the conditions, nor do they seek a remedy.

Why, I am glad to come here. Your city is noted for its great insurance companies, and the insurance companies are taking an active part in the battle to continue the gold standard. Is it not worth while for these companies to consider the interests of the rest of the people? Remember those insurance companies receive in premiums far more than they pay out on losses and therefore a dollar which grows larger all the time is of more benefit to the insurance company than it is to the policy holder. The presidents of these companies are more concerned about their own salaries than they are in protecting the policy holders from the effects of free coinage.

I am glad to come here for another reason. I told you I find intolerance in some of these centers. I know why that intolerance exists. Let me read you something and see if you can guess who wrote it: 'The possession of large property and the ability to earn large incomes necessarily give to those enjoying this income great influence over public opinion. I know the power of this influence.' What anarchist used those words do you suppose?"


"Those were the words of Senator Sherman of Ohio, on January 25, 1871, when he was defending an income tax at that time. It is true that those great influences are always arrayed against any effort made to raise the condition of the people. I am glad to come here because I want to preach democracy in the stronghold of plutocracy. (Applause.)

...Another thing: The people know that the insurance companies have a greater objection to the Chicago platform than is found to free coinage. That platform declares in favor of an income tax, and these insurance companies claim the protection of the Government, while they are unwilling to pay taxes to support the Government which protects them. They secure large incomes; they enjoy prosperity; they go into United States courts and there seek protection, and then they want to place upon less fortunate people all the burdens of government. If the presidents of these insurance companies would assume the responsibilities which belong to them, and consent to pay their just share of the taxes of the Federal Government, they would be more respected by the people generally.

Some of our opponents pretend to be afraid that the election of the Chicago ticket will interfere with property rights. I would not take from those who have a single dollar of their possessions; I would not take or destroy one iota of happiness which they enjoy, but I believe that the safety of our Government requires the setting of limits to greed and the putting of a check upon avarice, so that those who have will not monopolize all the avenues of industry and shut out of employment those who desire to have.

Of all the instrumentalities which have been conceived by the mind of man for transferring the bread which one man earns to another man who does not earn it, I believe the gold standard is the greatest. The gold standard, by its silent process of taking from the value of property and adding to the value of dollars, is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. And when the poor complain, those who are benefited by the system turn upon them, call them a mob, dispute their intelligence, and even question their right to participate in the government of the country."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 3
  • Date: September 24, 1896