Richmond, VA Speech 1, 1896-09-18

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Friday, September 18, 1896 at 8:00pm
State Exposition Building, Richmond, VA

Source: BRYAN AT RICHMOND., nd Climax of the Democratic Nominee’s Brilliant Campaign in the South., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Saturday, September 19, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It gratifies me much to find in the capital city of this great state so marked an evidence of interest which people are taking in this campaign. I do not come to instruct on the subject of finance. It would be a useless task to add anything to that which has already been said by the distinguished senator who has brought to the investigation of the money question that ability which he carried into all his work and will address to ability eloquence to present and to eloquence magnificent courage to defend democracy as it is taught by the fathers. [Sic?] (Applause.) To such a state represented by John W. Daniel (applause) no apostle of bimetallism need come to aid in the work of education. I am not here as a campaigner. I am simply passing through the state, because I would never have come to Virginia with any thought that my presence here was necessary to secure the electoral vote of this sate. (Applause.)

I am the nominee of three conventions but I do not appeal to the voter on the ground that I was nominated by his party. I have a higher claim to your suffrages than party ties can give me. I appeal to you as the only candidate for the presidency who believes the American people can have a financial policy of their own. (Applause.)

If there is a man who respects party regularity, he cannot complain of the manner of my nomination. The Democratic convention which met at Chicago represented the voters of the Democratic party more truly, more completely than any convention which has been held in recent years. That convention was regularly called by the regular authorities and delegates were chosen in every state in the regular manner. And, more than that, the issue joined between the friends of free coinage and its enemies was fought out before the people themselves, the highest tribunal under our form of government. (Applause.) The voter, not the bosses, ran the Chicago convention, (applause) and I am proud to be the nominee of the convention which gave expression to the hope, the aspirations of the common people of the Democratic party. (Cheers.) But with all this claim to regularity I do not ask a single Democrat to vote for my election if, in his heart, he believes that my election would injure his country.

How can you tell whether a man is honest when he tells you that the election of the Chicago ticket would injure his country? I will give you a way to tell. Any man who thinks my election would injure this country, can prove it in just one way and that is by voting for the Republican candidate and thus make sure my defeat. (Cheers and applause.) Don't tell us that your conscience would permit you to vote the Democratic ticket and then vote for a bolting ticket. The Bible tells us of the man who hid his talent in the earth and who was condemned because he had neglected to improve his opportunity."


"I want to say to you that the ballot is given to the citizen as a sacred trust to use according to his judgment and his conscience, and that no man in an hour of peril has a moral right to throw his vote away. (Cheers.) Why is it that some Democrats or some people who used to be Democrats spend the day in telling how the election of the Chicago ticket would ruin this country, and then refuse to cast their votes for the only man who can defeat the Chicago nomination. (Cheers.) I will tell you why. It is because they have not the courage to bear the odium of being Republicans. (Great cheering.)

We are engaged in a great struggle, one of the greatest struggles in which the people of this country were ever engaged in in time of peace. It is a struggle between democracy on the one side and plutocracy on the other and there is no middle ground for any man to stand upon. (Loud cheering.) Those who are not for us, are against us. We would have more respect for them than if they were honest enough to go where they belong. (Cheers.)

I believe we shall win now. But whether we win now or not, we have begun a warfare against the gold standard which shall continue until the gold standard is driven from our shores back to England. (Cheers.) We have been opposed to the importation of criminals and paupers from abroad, and we shall oppose the importation of a financial system which is criminal and which makes paupers wherever it goes.

The Republican platform adopted at St. Louis declares not that the gold standard is good but that it must be maintained. How long? Until the American people are tired of it? No, they are tired of it now. Until the people desire to get rid of it? No, they desire to get rid of it now. How long? We must maintain it until foreign nations desire us to get rid of it." (Great cheering.)


"In this city where Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech which aroused the nation to arms, I am not afraid that the people will permit a foreign financial control when more than 100 years ago your ancestors were willing to give their lives if need be to release the colonies from foreign political control. We are in favor of the immediate restoration of free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation. (Cheers.)

We are in favor if it because bimetallism is needed to give the people a sufficient volume of standard money to keep pace with population and business. The treasury reports show a shrinkage of more than $150,000,000 in the currency of the people within the last two years. The Republican party does not propose any plan by which any currency shall be replenished from time to time as the people need money. They simply desire the people to urn over our financial system to a few syndicates who can profit by the extremities of the government—extremities which the syndicates have done more to create than any other cause. (Applause.)

We apply the law of supply and demand to money. We say the value of a dollar depends upon the number of dollars, and that we can raise the value of a dollar by making dollars scarce, and we charge that our opponents are in favor of making money scarce, because they are controlled by those who want money to be dear. If you own money, you ought to vote the Republican ticket. If you are in favor of money the only thing it is desirable to own, and making property the only thing that everybody wants to get rid of, you want to vote the Republican ticket, because the Republican party proposes to continue the present financial system, the object of which it is to make it more profitable to hoard money and get the increase in the value of a dollar, than to put that dollar to work employing labor and developing the resources of this great country." (Cheers.)


You ask why it is anybody in this community can favor a gold standard. I will tell you why some people in some communities that I know, favor gold standards. I have known merchants who were notified that unless they supported the gold standard, they could not obtain any extension on their notes at the banks, and that is brought about by the fact that some banks are notified from New York that unless they use their influence in favor of a gold standard, they cannot discount their notes in New York, and the New York banks are notified from London that if we do not have a financial policy run on the European plan the English money lenders will not let us have money. (Applause.)

Our opponents tell us that we must maintain the gold standard in order to borrow money. We reply that if we maintain the gold standard, we will never be able to do anything but borrow money, and we will soon be at an end in that, because our property will not be fit to borrow on. (Uproarious applause and cheers.)

They tell us that the election of the Chicago ticket will drive gold from this country. I want you to remember that the mere nomination of the candidate for President upon the free silver platform has been bringing gold to this country for the last few weeks. (Cheers.)

My friends, if a nomination will start this much of a flow of gold this way, what will be the result of the election of a president who is in favor of free silver? (Cheers.)

We are notified that we cannot maintain the parity if Mexico cannot. This nation can create a demand for silver ten times as great as any demand that can be created in Mexico, and my friends, if there is a Republican who doubts if this nation is greater than Mexico, let him remember that the United States and Mexico together may be able to do what Mexico cannot do alone. (Loud cheers.)

Gold financiers want the gold standard because it is good for their people. The financier wants the standard, he says, because it is good for the farmer; he wants the gold standard because it is good for the laborer. He is for it because it is good for the business man. You tell him that these people are willing to risk bimetallism, and then what does he say? Rising to the full height of his moral stature, he tells you that he cannot, according to his conscience, allow other people to hurt themselves, even if they want to hurt themselves. (Laughter and applause.)

When I find a man who is always wanting to help me against my will, who is trying to do something for me that I don't want; who is always feeling for me, I notice that he doesn't reach me when he feels for me. (Cheers.) When these advocates of the gold standard asserted that the free coinage of silver would be good for them, it took a great load off my mind. For twenty years these people have, according to their say so, been sacrificing themselves for the rest of the people. I don't believe they should be allowed to further wrong themselves for their good. Cheers.) And when these people insisted that the free coinage of silver would be good for them, I thought now our time has come. We will pay back this debt that has been accruing for twenty years, and we will make them enjoy the benefits of free coinage all the rest of their natural lives, and we will bear with fortitude whatever evils come of it. (Laughter and cheers.)

Now, my friends, I must close. (Cries of "Go on, go on.") I have been proving my loyalty to the ratio of 16 to 1 by working sixteen hours in one day and I cannot go beyond that, my friends.

I want you to take this question and do what you think best, and whatever is the result I shall willingly abide by it, whether it be to elect or defeat, conscious that victory must at last come to all those who fight for the cause of truth." (Great cheering.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 18, 1896