New London, CT Speech, 1896-09-28

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Monday, September 28, 1896 at 12:17pm
Soldiers and Sailors Monument, New London, CT

Source: ALL SECTIONS INTERESTED, Mr. Bryan Explains the Need of Bimetallism by People Everywhere, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Tuesday, September 29, 1896

"Today I leave Connecticut. I have been through the several New England states, and only one, I believe, I have not been able to visit. I came to New England to preach the cause and to defend the principles for which I stand at this time. (Applause.) I came because there is no part of the country where the advocates of the free coinage are unwilling to present their cause. There is no part in this country which is excluded from the benefits of bimetallism; there are no parts of this country which we are willing to concede to the gold standard." (Applause and cheers.)


"Some of the Republican platforms of the eastern states have not only declared against silver, but have declared against agitation. When I find a man who is opposed to a discussion of a public question, I find a man who would feel more at home under a monarchy than he would in a republic. (Applause.)

Agitation is nothing but discussion. (Applause and cries of "That's so.") Discussion is the only means by which the people can find out what is best and remedy the wrong. (Applause.) A man who denounces agitation, a man who opposes public discussion of public questions would have you suffer and not permit you to secure the only means by which relief can come.

My friends, our opponents think that they can destroy agitation by commanding it to keep still. They might as well try to sweep back the waves of the ocean. (Applause). They have interjected into the body politic a foreign financial system, and there is agitation, and there will be agitation until you remove it. (Applause.) I say a foreign system, because we borrowed it from another country. (Applause.) Not only borrowed it, but, my friends, we are anxious to return it to the land from which we borrowed it. (Great applause.) If you doubt it, let me call attention to this fact, that until this campaign no political party in the United States ever declared a gold standard a good thing."


"The Republican party declares that bimetallism is desirable, but until the leading nations of Europe also desire bimetallism we must go without it. I am unwilling to admit that foreign nations shall determine what kind of a financial system we have in this country. (Applause.) We advocate an independent financial policy. We advocate the adoption of a system by the American people, for the American people, and, my friends, one of the evidences that we are right is our opponents are not willing to openly declare that which they are secretly seeking to secure. (Applause.) No Republican is willing to write upon a card and wear upon his breast that while he is an American citizen, he does not think this nation is big enough to attend to its own business. (Applause.) And that is what the Republican platform means.

(A voice: "Where will we be when we get free silver?")

Are you in favor of a gold standard?

(The voice: "Yes.")

Tell me why?"

(The voice: "Because I believe it is best for the country. Every nation will accept a dollar for a dollar.")


"Why? I will tell you. Because of its value. The reason why our gold dollar and gold bullion are worth the same is because the law says that you can convert bullion into a dollar at the mint.

(The voice: "Well, how about silver?")

When the laws are so, under the free coinage of silver, that the holder of silver bullion can convert his silver bullion into dollars at the mint that will fix a mint price for silver then, as we have a mint price for gold now, and silver dollars will be worth as much abroad as our gold dollars. (Great applause and cheering.)

Now, my friends, I do not object to the questions asked, because if I am wrong on this question there is nobody more anxious to find it out than I am. But if I am right and my friend is wrong I hope he will be as anxious to get right as I am. (Great applause.) Questions do not hurt, my friends. We are glad to answer questions, because there is not a question that can be asked by an advocate of the gold standard that cannot be answered by advocates of free coinage." (Applause and cries of "Why don't McKinley come out and answer some of them?" Another voice: "The people here have the impression that when the free coinage of silver is brought into effect they can take their silver pots and coin them into money.")


"The gentleman says the people have the impression here that under free coinage the people can take silver teapots and their silverware and have it converted into money. It is true, that under free coinage any man can melt up $1.50 worth of spoons and have the silver coined into $1.29 if you have a man who is fool enough to do it. (Great applause.)

Now why will people refuse to melt their silverware? Because it will be worth more as silver plate than it will be worth as silver dollars under free coinage. (Applause.) And, my friends, you can depend upon it that people will not do things that are going to hurt them if they know it. That is one of the things that you base you reasoning upon, and in that connection I frequently have people ask me 'Wouldn't it be possible for a man to buy silver for 53 cents and have it coined into a dollar and make the difference?' (Laughter and a voice, "Who is going to sell it?")

The gentleman asks the question which shows he understands it. He says 'who will sell it?' Now, when you cannot coin silver, you can buy for 53 cents the silver that is in a dollar, but when you can have that silver coined for a dollar, then you cannot find anybody who will sell you that silver for 53 cents. (Cheers.) Now, my friends, if the farmer cannot get money for what he produces, how is he going to have the money to buy what other people have to sell. (A voice: "Start up the mills.") Suppose you start up the mills; how are you going to dispose of the things which the mills produce unless people can buy the product of your mills?"


"While the Republicans are accusing us of arraying class against class, they are doing more in this campaign to appeal to class distinctions and class interests than was ever done by any party in the history of the United States. (Applause.) Out in my state the Republican committee tried to array silver laborers against the people who pay the taxes. You will see every day letters sent out trying to array the wage-earner against the farmer. They will tell the man who is drawing a salary that the free coinage of silver will hurt him, and therefore he must look out for his salary. They have not appealed to the people of this country and asked them to consider the interests of this country. Look at the applications which are furnished to railroad men. (Applause.)

They are earnestly requested to work for their own interests by joining a club and in the application you will find a statement like this: 'I am opposed to free coinage because it would injure me as a wage earner.' They want those who join 'sound money' clubs to assert that they have an individual, personal reason for opposing free silver, and yet the great advocates of the gold standard want you to believe that they have no personal interest for favoring a gold standard." (Applause.)


"Do the members of the syndicates which have been bleeding the country assert that they have a pecuniary interest in bleeding the government and therefore they do not want that right taken away from them? Do the heads of the railways say that they have any interest in this campaign in trying to prevent arbitration? Do they assert that they are in this campaign for blood, because they want to continue government by injunction? Not at all. (Applause.) They want you to believe that they are patriotic people who lie awake at night wondering how they can do something for toiling humanity. (Laughter and applause.) They are not only trying to array the wage earner against the farmer, but they make a special appeal to the depositors in the savings banks and tell you they do not want free coinage of silver because it will enable them to pay their depositors in cheap dollars and they are afraid that if they are enabled to do so that they won't have the moral courage to do so, but will pay you in gold dollars.

I know a little about the banking business. I will know more as soon as I get my first dividend on the amount I had deposited when the bank failed. (Laughter.) We had a cashier of that bank who was afraid of silver and wanted 'honest money' and was afraid that the people would get fifty-cent dollars. (Great cheering and laughter.) Mr. Blaine in 1878 said that the destruction of silver as money and the establishment of gold as the sole unit of value must have a ruinous effect on all forms of property except those investments which yield a fixed return in money, which would be enormously enhanced in value and gain a disproportionate and unfair advantage over every other species of property." (Cheers.)

("Would it not be as hard to change the standard of money in the world as it would be to change the standard of weights and measures in the world?" asked a voice.)


"I will answer your question by saying that in the first place the world has no standard of weights and measures and we have been unable to bring the nations of the world to agree to a standard of weights and measures. (Great applause.) In the second place, why did you not give that advice in 1873 you are giving now? They changed our standard of money then and for twenty years they have tried to keep us from undoing what they did then. (Cheers.) Those who denied the right of the people to use the law to restore silver to its rightful place are the very ones who helped to pass a law twenty-three years ago to destroy the free coinage of silver and substitute a new standard after the nations of the world had tried bimetallism and after this nation had tried it, from the beginning of the nation down to that time. They cannot decide what other nations shall do. (Great applause.)

Did Austria seek our consent when she resumed specie payments on a gold basis? Did Italy ask our consent when she resumed specie payments on a gold basis? Did the other nations of the world ask our consent when they changed their standards? No. then, sir, what man, what man, who wants to be an American, wants to get down on his knees and ask other nations' consent when we want to do what we please? (Great applause and cheers.) I have given you, my friends, what might be a sufficient answer. I want to give you more than a sufficient answer. My friend wants to know how we can change the standard of the world. I tell him that Prince Bismarck recently said that if the United States acts alone it will be salutary in bringing other nations to accept our bimetallic policy. If my timid friends doubts the ability of this nation I beg of him to sit at the feet of a foreigner and learn confidence in American institutions." (Great applause and cheering.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 5
  • Date: September 28, 1896