Rochester, NY Speech, 1896-08-26

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, August 26, 1896 at 2:15pm
Brown Square, Rochester, NY

Source: The Evening News, Thursday, August 27, 1896

"In this land as in no other land, we can say to our children, whatever be our walk in life, whether we be rich or poor, whether we stand among the known or the unknown, we can say to our children, 'All the avenues of industry are open to you if you can prevent the trusts from closing these avenues, and all the honors that are in the hands of the people are before you if you can have it understood that the people have a right to choose their officials and not the corporations and syndicates.' Our opponentsóI do not mean the little ones that stand about sometimes upon street corners in the hope of some petty office and find fault with those who are candidatesóbut I mean some of the conspicuous opponents whom we meet in this campaign, who have declared openly and publicly that they must exert themselves to keep anarchy and socialism from dominating in the United States. I want to assure you, my friends, that the people who are opposing the success of the ticket nominated at Chicago are not doing it because they are afraid that anarchy, such as they speak of, will be triumphant, but it is because they know that the Chicago platform aims its blows at the real enemies of this country: those who think they are greater than the government and can make the government their instrument for private gain.

Let me tell you why they call us anarchists. Mr. Carlisle, when a member of congress in 1878, used these words which I shall read to you: 'Our power of legislation over this subject will not be exhausted by the passage of this measure and we ought not to wait for a single moment in our efforts to complete the work of relief inaugurated by it. The struggle now going on cannot cease until all the industrial interests of the country are fully and finally emancipated from the heartless domination of syndicates, stock exchanges and other great combinations of money grabbers in this country and in Europe.'

That is the language of John G. Carlisle in 1878. We stand today where he stood then and we intend to complete the work which he began. Show me a man who is interested in the stock exchanges, in the syndicates and in the great combinations of money grabbing thin this country and in Europe and I will show you a man who is opposed to the Chicago ticket and I will show you a man who charges us with being anarchists. I hurl back the charge, and I say that these men are the greatest enemies that this country has and their opposition to us is because our warfare is against them and is intended to stop the plunderer of the industrial masses in behalf of the money corporations of this country and Europe.

I notice one of the opponents of free coinage said the other day that if the farmer had suffered from falling prices when he went to sell, he had gained in falling prices when he went to buy. That may all be well enough for some one who is not a farmer to tell a man who is a farmer. It would never be told by a farmer himself. Because the farmer knows that while he sells at whole sale he buys at retail and that retail prices do not fall as fast as wholesale prices, and he knows that there are certain fixed charges that do not fall at all. Have your taxes fallen in the last 20 years? My observation is that taxes are as high as they were 20 years ago; but if it require twice as much of the products of the farmer to pay your taxes, they are in effect twice as high as they were then. If it takes twice as much of farm products to pay the interest upon your mortgages, then that interest in effect is twice as high as it was 20 years ago. If it takes twice as much of farm products to pay the principal on your debt as it took 20 years ago, then your debt is in effect twice as high as it was then. My friends, you can talk to the farmer from now until election day, but you will never convince him that a gold standard has brought anything but ruin and distress to the farmer.

How about the working man? Well, my friends, there is one good way to judge whether those men who now appeal to the laboring men to stand by a gold standard because it is a benefit to the wage earner; there is a good way of knowing how much faith you can put in these protestations of friendship. Who are the men who are now telling the laboring man that he must stand by the gold standard if he wants to prosper? Why, whenever one of these eastern financiers is troubled with sleeplessness, the doctor does not ask any questions, he just says: 'Just stop your worrying about the laboring men and go to sleep.' Are these the men who have been leading the laboring men up to higher grounds? No, my friends. They are the men who have been too busy trying to make money out of the appreciation of the dollar to spend their dollars in giving employment to the men in developing the resources of this great country.

You cannot employ labor unless you can sell the products of labor at a profit and as money goes up the products of labor must fall down, and the man finds it more profitable to lock his money in the vault and collect its increasing value than he does to invest it in enterprises under a prospect of loss. To whom do you sell those things which you produce? Do you send your shoes to the farmers out west? Ho can they buy shoes of you unless they can get for their products more money than enough to pay their interest and taxes? You destroy the consumption power of the people and you destroy the market for your products. More than that, we owe money abroad and we must pay that debt either in products or money. If we drive down the value of our products, it simply means we must send more money abroad to make up the difference. It means that when we send the goods abroad we must send them at lower prices and have this money to spend among our people. We are opposed to the gold standard because it has never conferred one benefit upon those who produce the wealth of the world. Gold has been the prize of the man who hoards money; silver has been the medium of exchange among those upon whom the greatness of every nation has rested.

You can rob this world of gold and put enough silver in the world to make up for the loss of gold, and commerce will move on, but rob this world of its silver if you will and try to fill its place with gold, and see how long your system will stand? One of our distinguished opponents has said that every gold standard nation in the world uses silver as well as gold, but no silver standard nation uses gold. What does this mean? It means that people can get along without gold, but even gold standard countries cannot get along without silver."

About this Document

  • Source: The Evening News
  • Published: Lincoln, NE
  • Citation: 6
  • Date: August 26, 1896