Centralia, IL Speech, 1896-07-14

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, July 14, 1896 at 6:10pm
City Park, Centralia, IL

Source: MUST VOTE INTELLIGENTLY, Mr. Bryan Says All He Asks Is That Each Man Study the Great Issue., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Tuesday, July 15, 1896

"Ladies and gentlemen: I did not come to make a speech; the campaign is hardly opened yet; but coming back to Marion county to attend to some business which had to be attended to before I returned to my Nebraska home, I was glad to accept the invitation to spend two or three hours with my relatives in this city and while here to meet again the citizens whom I have met before. We are entering upon a memorial campaign and the issues are being drawn for the contest."


"The two parties described as the two great parties, or the two leading parties, have already adopted their platforms and have already named their candidates for president and vice president and, in a short time, the campaign will be opened fully and you will be making up your minds as to which platform and to which ticket you will support. I trust the issues of this campaign will be clearly understood. Parties are not made to be worshiped; they are merely the instruments by which we serve our country. People are made not for the parties; the parties are made for the people, and the parties can only claim the support of the people when the parties are efficient instruments in the hands of the people for accomplishing good. And those who are called upon to vote have a right to consider the platform utterances and the policies advocated by the various parties as well as the candidates who are named. In this campaign, I believe that there will be less in personalities and more of principle than in any campaign which we have seen in recent years. The people have before them two great public questions. We must not expect that any platform will contain all that you desire."


"No thinking person finds in any platform an expression of everything which he believes, nor must we expect that a platform will be free from some objection. We select our party; we select our platform, not in the hope of finding something which is absolutely in accord with our opinion, but we take that platform which for the time being promises to us the best legislation on the most important questions. And in this campaign, it is decided by all sides that the most important issue is the money question.

It matters not whether you believe in the restoration of silver or in the gold standard; you must admit that the settlement of the money question is one of the first and greatest importance, on which when settled leave none other to be settled. The great parties have taken positions directly opposed to each other. Four years ago the positions taken by the Republican and Democratic parties were almost identical. The Republican party has said the American people were in favor of bimetallism and the Democratic party was holding to the gold for coinage alone. Thus, you see, that both parties declared in favor of gold and silver as the money of our country. Four years have passed since that platform was written, and these four years have been full of momentous happenings, but as this campaign approaches the great parties lined themselves up for the fray."


"Upon this question the party at St. Louis declared for the maintenance of the gold standard, but that platform does not say that the gold standard is a good thing because that platform planned to get rid of the gold standard, but declared this change cannot be made except by international agreement until the leading nations of the world would help. The Democratic party met at Chicago and adopted the platform which is in direct opposition to the platform adopted at St. Louis. The St. Louis convention declared for the gold standard until something could be done in the near future. But that Republican platform did not promise any more complete money system. The Democratic party outlined what it desired, that the silver dollar should be full legal tender for all debts, public and private, and that such legislation should be enacted as is necessary to the unrestricted coinage of gold and silver at the ratio of 16 to 1 without waiting for the aid of any other nation and that the government should reserve the right to redeem its obligations in either gold or silver.

The issue is drawn and we have our choice in this campaign between an American financial system for the American people and an English financial system for the English aristocracy. If I mistake not the patriotism of the people who have never been appealed to in the vain there can be but one issue in this campaign and but one result."


"If they ask us what about other questions, we will tell them that so long as the right of self-government is in danger there is no other question. Why discuss questions if we have not the power to decide them? But I want to impress upon your minds two things; I want to ask two questions. They are questions that will be asked over and over again in this campaign. They are questions that will be asked with ever-increasing emphasis: if the gold standard is a good thing, why should we try to get rid of it, and if the gold standard is a bad thing, why should we wait until some nations are willing to help us let go? We care not upon which issue they force the fight. We are prepared to meet them upon either issue or both. I thank you, friends and fellow citizens, for the interest which you have manifest and for the compliment which you have paid by your assemblage here today.

Now I must beg of you that you will remember your duty as citizens. Remember [[illegible]] stand upon the platform [[illegible]] do not come to you [[illegible]] to beg for your votes. Your vote is your own, and no man is asked to do anything save as his conscience dictates. And we beg you to study all the questions presented, study all the issues involved, and let your pledge register a free man's will."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: July 14, 1896