Jersey City, NJ Speech 1, 1896-09-29

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, September 29, 1896
Meeting Hall, Jersey City, NJ

Source: WHAT LEGISLATION CAN DO, Mr. Bryan Cites the Effects of Currency Laws in Years Gone By., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, September 30, 1896

"One of the reasons why in this campaign I have departed somewhat from precedent and have gone over the country myself is because it has enabled me to reach the people themselves, whereas if we had more daily papers we could reach the people through them. If my going around results to my disadvantage it is better for the people to find me out before election than after.

The trouble is our opponents are all the time talking about maintaining the parity between the two metals and neglecting the fact that under the gold standard we have failed to maintain a parity between a dollar and property. They entirely ignore the effect of legislation, when we desired legislation, although they are very conscious of the potency of legislation, when they use it on their side. If, in 1873, they had proposed a law such as was passed in that year closing the mints to the free coinage of silver and we had said to them, 'Why, law can do nothing on this subject; commerce regulates the value of these things,' what would they have said? They would not have been content to let commerce regulate them."

STRUCK DOWN ONE METAL.

"Then they wanted the law to step in and strike down one of the money metals and give to gold the monopoly of mint privileges and when they have done that they have blossomed out into believers in non-interference on the part of the government. If they tell you that law can do nothing and commerce everything, remind them of the law of 1834. The advocates of the gold standard say that from the beginning of our financial history down to 1834 gold was at a premium and silver the money in common use among the people. They will tell you that after 1834 silver was at a premium and gold was the money in circulation among the people. What changed the habit of our people and made them stop using silver and commence the use of gold? Was it commerce? It was a little law of but a few words that changed the ratio from 15 to 1 to 16 to 1, and by so doing gave the advantage to silver. That change put silver at a premium because there was a demand for silver in France at a more favorable ratio than ours. And, therefore, our silver either went to France, where it could be coined at the ratio of 15 to 1 or if it stayed here it stayed at the commodity value."

POWER OF LEGISLATION.

"When these people tell you commerce is above law, you point to that little law that changed the customs of the people and money in use in a day and night. (Applause.) You say law cannot affect values. Suppose a public building is to be located in this town, why is it everybody wants the building located near his land? Because it raises the value of his land. A new harbor or the deepening of a river or the opening of a port, brings business to that locality, and that new business brought there by law, creates a new demand for property, and that property rises by act of legislation.

I have told you of this because I want you to understand that when we speak of the power of law to affect the value of silver we are simply applying to silver the same principles we recognize when applied to anything else. Some people think silver can be produced without limit. I know one way to cure a man of that idea. Let him go out and try to find silver mines and prove by his own experience how easy it is to increase the supply of silver. (Laughter.) It is true of silver as it is of gold, that many seek but few find. No two mines in the United States produce silver at exactly the same price per ounce, and no mine produces silver at exactly the same price per ounce year after year in succession. Mining is gambling, and the man who gets the winning paddle makes money; but a great many get paddles and never get anything."

SILVER NOT SO PLENTIFUL.

"You think it is easy to find silver. Remember the people of the world who have searched for it since history began, and yet if all the silver now existing in the form of coin were melted down into one great lump it has been estimated that lump would only be sixty-six feet each way. That is that great overwhelming product of silver that people will run in on us and overwhelm us with if we open our mints to the free coinage of silver. Our opponents tell us we are trying to change the yard stick. We tell them they have been trying to change the bushel measure and put two bushels of precious products into one bushel. Instead of shortening the number of hours in a day they are trying to shorten the number of days in a week. We can say of the gold standard that all its ways are ways of wretchedness, and all its paths are ruin to the masses of the people. (Applause.)

There is no danger of foreign coin coming here and overwhelming us because it is worth more at home. There is no danger of all the annual product coming to us because all the nations that use silver must have their share. The arts must have their share."

MIGHT BE TOO LITTLE.

"We simply have to use what other nations and the arts do not consume. Instead of having too much I am afraid we will have too little money then.

In the development of the resources of this country we can utilize more money than can be utilized by a similar number of people in any other part of the world. But instead of having a large enough amount of money to carry on the country's business and give us increased development, we have a decreasing currency and the republican party offers no remedy for the situation. (Applause.) We have in circulation among the people $150,000,000 less this year than we had two years ago. And yet the Republican party proposes to maintain our present financial system, no matter what may come, until foreign nations get so tired that they will help us to get rid of it." (Great applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 5
  • Date: September 29, 1896