St. Paul, MN Speech 1, 1896-10-10

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, October 10, 1896 at 8:00pm
Auditorium, St. Paul, MN

Source: BRYAN AT ST. PAUL, Democratic Leader Makes Three Speeches in Minnesota’s Capital City., Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition), Sunday, October 11, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be permitted to defend our cause in the presence of an audience in this great city. Before addressing myself to the subject in hand, I desire to express to organized labor my grateful appreciation of the gift just presented. It is a gold pen with a silver holder, and if I am elected by my countrymen to be chief executive of this nation, that pen and holder will be used to sign a free coinage bill at the earliest possible moment. (Applause.) I am glad that the pen with which my signature is to be affixed is the gift of the laboring men, because I believe that the laboring men of this country—aye, more than that, the laboring men of all the world—are interested in the restoration of silver to its ancient place by the side of gold. (Applause.)

I would not favor the free coinage of silver did I not believe that it would be beneficial to those who toil, because my political philosophy teaches me that there can be no prosperity in this nation unless that prosperity begins first among those who create wealth and finds its way afterward to the other classes of society. (Applause.) More than that, civilization itself rests upon the great mass of the people, and it is only by carrying the people upward and onward that we can expect any advance in civilization. There can be no real civilization where a few have more than they can use and the many have not sufficient to give necessary sustenance. Nor do I believe that these great inequalities can exist in a nation where the government observes the old maxim of equal rights to all and special privileges to none. (Applause.)

When government is properly administered, there will be no railroad wreckers to make themselves rich by bankrupting those who put their confidence in them; when government is properly administered there will be no representative of a coal trust sitting by every fireside to exact tribute from those who desire to be protected from the cold of winter; when government is properly administered there will be no syndicates fattening upon the government's adversities, after they have brought the adversities upon the government; when government is properly administered there will be no corporations which will assume to be greater than the power which created them; when government is properly administered it will recognize those fundamental principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with inalienable rights, that governments are instituted to preserve these rights, and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. (Applause.) When these four principles are applied, then government will be what it ought to be.

Jackson has well said that there are no necessary evils in government; that evils exist only in its abuses. It is not government against which we raise our hands. It is against the abuses of government that we rebel. (Great cheering.) It is against the abuses of government that we aim, and we will not be driven from our purpose to eradicate these evils, although every man entrenched behind a special privilege heaps abuse upon us.

...We have made the money question a paramount issue of this campaign, and yet our opponents are not satisfied to meet this question openly. They have never been satisfied to meet the money question. The advocates of the gold standard never fought an open fight and never will. (Applause.) You ask me why they do not. I will tell you. As Shakespeare explains, when he says [[illegible]] it is conscience that makes cowards of men, and the conscience of the advocate of the gold standard tells him that his policy enriches some, but is a curse to the great mass of the people. (Applause, and a voice, "Will you answer a question?")

Yes, sir. (Cries, "No, no, sit down.")

Wait a moment, my friends; I am willing to answer any question pertinent to this question, because when a man believes he is right, no man confuses him, my friends."

"Under the advocacy of the Republican party, what, in your opinion, was the cause of the Homestead and the Pittsburgh strikes?" (Cries of "Sit down.")

"My friends, when I submit to an inquiry I have the right to suppose that it will be directed toward the subject which I am discussing and not a subject which I am not discussing. (Applause.) If anybody desires to ask a question connected with the money question while I am discussing that question he is perfectly at liberty to do so, and I shall not embarrass you by my reply. I will try to give you light, if you are wrong, and if I am wrong I shall be as glad to be put right as I am to put you right. (Applause.)

Before the Republican convention did you not hear a great many people talk about the impossibility of having two yard sticks; did you not hear them talk about gold being the only money fit for civilized nations; did you not hear them talk about having outgrown silver; did you not hear them talk about the mine owners' profit in free coinage and the demagogue who tried to curry favor with the people by advocating free coinage and the dishonest debtor who wanted to pay his debts in cheap dollars? You heard all this, but when the Republican convention met and they had a number sufficient to write a platform, did they put in there anything about the demagogue who was advocating bimetallism? Not at all. That Republican platform expressly declared that he gold standard was not a desirable thing. That platform expressly pledges the Republican party to get rid of a gold standard and substitute the double standard—when? When leading commercial nations are not opposed to it.

...(A question, whether it would be any easier under free coinage to get free silver from the silver kings than it is to get gold from the gold kings.)

Is that all the difficulty that my friend has, or has he some other that I can explain at the same time? (Applause.)

My friends, the gentleman has asked a very simple question and I am glad that it is asked, because it will show you what tiny things can be stumbling blocks for those who do not want to step over them. (Applause.) The gentleman wants to know how we are to get money from the silver kings. I want him to remember that he has two arguments (if he represents the gold standard idea), which I would like him to reconcile when he has time. They tell us that the silver king will convert what is now 50-cent dollars into 100 cents, and make the difference. That is one of the troubles, is it not?"


"And when he has done it it will be a 50-cent dollar. That is another difficulty, is it not? (Great cheering.)

Now, when you have time to think about it, I want you to try to figure out how that can be a 100-cent dollar large enough for the miner to make 50 cents on it and then become a 50-cent dollar for all the rest of the people. (Applause.) The only way in which the miner can make that profit is by converting a piece of silver worth 50 cents into a dollar which will be worth 100 cents. If, when he gets through, he has only converted a 50-cent piece of silver into a 50-cent dollar, he has not made anything by the operation.

...I am not going to say one word to prevent any Democrat doing what his conscience tells him to be right, but if any Democrat is going to leave the Democratic party, I want him to find his reason in his head or in his heart, and not in his pocketbook. If he finds his reason in his pocketbook, I want him to be man enough to say that that is where the reason is, and not say that he leaves because all the rest of the Democrats have become anarchists.

If a Democrat is connected with a trust and loves the trust more than he does his country, let him say so, and we will bid him Godspeed. If there is any Democrat who is connected with a corporation and prefers to retain his connection with that corporation rather than to stand with the Democratic party in its effort to bring the Government back to the position of Jefferson and Jackson, let him say so.

And more than that, let not the Democrats who go delude themselves with the thought that this is but a temporary disagreement. Let them not delude themselves with the thought that they can separate from us now and come back hereafter to assume positions of command. Let them understand what this con-test means. This contest is not for now or for a day. This contest is the beginning of a struggle which will not end until this Government is wrested from the hands of syndicates and trusts, and put back into the hands of the people. Any Democratic son who desires to leave his father's house can do so, but let him understand that when he gets tired and comes back we may not kill the fatted calf for him. When he gets tired of associating with those who would undo what Jefferson and Jackson did, it may be that those whom he left at home will make him saw wood a long while before he gets to the dinner table.

...I am willing to trust the justice of our cause to the sense of justice that exists in every individual, and, my friends, if we cannot win this contest by the voluntary wish and vote of the American people, I would prefer to wait four years more before we win it. (Cheers and cries of "You won't have to wait.")

I say, my friends, I would prefer to wait than to feel that had I won the contest I was not supported by a majority of the American people. I realize the fight we have on hand. I realize the responsibilities of the office, and I want to feel that if I am elected, that I have behind me the hearts of a majority of these people and, if I have, so help me God, I will carry out that platform." (Applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: October 10, 1896