Milwaukee, WI Speech 2, 1896-09-05

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, September 5, 1896 at 2:40pm
National Park Racetrack, Milwaukee, WI

Source: BRYAN IN WISCONSIN, Democratic Standard Bearer Addresses Two Audiences at Milwaukee., Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition), Sunday, September 6, 1896

"Ladies and Gentlemen: I have spoken under various conditions, but I don't believe I ever spoke in the rain before to people who were held by mere idle curiosity. (Laughter.) I am not going to talk long, because it would be cruel to you to have to stand out here in this rain, but I am going to talk just enough to keep my engagement, and hope the weather will be better tonight. We are engaged in a campaign in which you are interested, because if the money question is of such great importance that the financiers feel justified in laying aside all party lines to look at what they consider their interest, then I believe the masses of the people are interested enough to lay aside party lines and look after their interest. (Great applause.)

The Republican platform declares the American people must stand by and undergo a gold standard until the civilized nations take pity on us and relieve us from our sufferings. These are people who are afraid this nation is not large enough to run itself. But the people who lack confidence in American institutions are not the people who produce the wealth of America."


"If the gold standard is a good thing, why did the Republican party pledge itself to get rid of it? Is there anything too good for the American people? If the gold standard is good, the Republican party ought to pledge itself to keep it regardless of what other nations say. If the gold standard is not good enough to keep, it is bad enough to get rid of, and we ought to do it without waiting for anybody else's help. No man can say the gold standard is a good thing and stand on the Republican platform. If he says the gold standard is a bad thing, then he must put himself in the attitude of making this nation dependent on foreign nations or else come into our fold and declare for the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver are at the present ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid of any other nation. (Great applause.)

We know not only what we want, but how we are going to get it. We have not only a policy which we can prosecute, but one we can defend. We are opposed to the gold standard because it is bad, because it has ruined the commerce of this country and has been destructive of the interests of this country. We think any standard which gives a rising dollar and falling prices, that makes the money owner great and the producer small, or, as the Republican candidate for president expressed it at Toledo some five years ago, a policy which makes money the master and all else the servant. We believe that policy bad, and are opposed to sticking to it any longer. (Applause.) We believe bimetallism will restore the parity between money and property."


You hear people talk about parity between two kinds of metal. The difference between the advocates of the gold standard the advocates of bimetallism is large, and the gold standard advocates is all the tim[[illegible]] about the parity between two [[illegible]] dollars, while the bimetallism [[illegible]] fact that under the [[illegible]] are not maintaining parity between a dollar and the [illegible] which a dollar will buy. The gold standard advocate is more concerned about a difference of [[illegible]] per cent between two dollars than the difference of 100 per cent between a dollar now and twenty years ago.

People tell you the American dollar is so much better than the Mexican dollar because it will buy two of them. You tell him when an American dollar will buy two Mexican dollars it will buy two bushels of wheat, but the time will come when the Mexican dollar will buy three bushels of wheat. You say you want a good dollar. How good? So good that you cannot get hold of it? (Laughter.) They tell us the laboring man is interested in the gold standard because he wants a dollar to buy as much as possible. The laboring man is more interested in the opportunity to earn a dollar. We have hard times and falling prices which are hard on the laboring man. Laboring men know that when legislation makes it more profitable for a man to lock his money up in a vault and gather in the rise of its value he will do that instead of employing labor in development of the resources of the country. There is only one way to open the avenues of business and give employment to labor. That is to restore enough standard money in this country to justify a man in spending his money in enterprise instead of locking it up."


"They talk about a 50-cent dollar. I never hear a man say that without thinking of the man who said he had been so long without a dollar of any kind it would be Godsend to him to see any kind of a dollar.

...What we complain most of is that the money owning and money changing classes have made dollars dearer by making them scarcer, and they did it because they were interested in having money go up and you who have property have a right to protect yourselves against the conspiracy to destroy a part of the value of your property." (Applause.)

(A voice: "A man here wants to know a little about the old soldier.")


I want to say in the crisis we are now approaching appeals to the old soldier as much as it did in 1861. If men in this country were willing to march out upon the field to sustain a government by the people and for the people, I want to know why they cannot give one day of the year, and that election, to stand for the government and for the people. (Applause and three cheers.) I am not afraid that any man who risked his life in his nation's behalf is going to be influenced by the arguments addressed to soldiers now by financiers who during the war looked out for themselves and left the soldier to look out for himself. (Applause.) I am not afraid the men who were willing at that time to endure the dangers of war because the believe the black men should be free are going to join the ranks of the gold standard to enslave 70,000,000 of people, black and white. (Applause.)

(The rain lessens. A voice: "The sun is coming out!" Great cheering.)

"Now one or two suggestions and I shall close. (Cries of "Go on!") I want you to remember the value of the dollar depends upon the number of dollars. When you legislate [[illegible]] regard the number of dollars you affect their value. This principle of the monetary science is understood by our opponents. They have understood it because they invoked legislation to destroy part of the country's money to enhance the rest of the country's money."


"When they tell you that you don't understand finance, you tell them the man who talks about money and ignores the law of supply and demand, which means that if we had too little money, money becomes dear-the man who talks that way is as ignorant of money as a child if he throws a stone into the air and then does not understand that by the attraction of gravity it must come to the ground, because the action of the law of gravity is not more inexorable than the law of supply and demand, and we base our argument on it.

They tell you we ignore the law of supply and demand in regard to silver. We do not. If we increase demand we increase price, and when we open the mints to silver we increase the demand and that demand increases the price of silver. When the United States stopped buying silver in 1893 it fell. Why? Because you had legislated demand out of existence. We believe the demand furnished by 70,000,000 people is sufficient to use all the silver that can come to our mints. If that is true, no person will sell his silver for less than a dollar and twenty-nine cents. But they tell us Mexico has failed to do so. Some people will not be expected to vote for us. Of course we cannot have them all, and I am willing the Republicans shall have the vote of every man who thinks the United States is not larger than Mexico. (Laughter and applause.)

If Mexico was enabled, with other nations now using silver, to furnish a use for all the silver that would go to the Mexican mints, she would maintain the parity. We believe we are able to do it, taking into consideration the demand now existing. We can never tell until we try. We are the only nation who offers any plan by which you can determine it, because we offer to try the free coinage of silver, and we give you the reasons for believing it will be successful."


"Remember this: the gold standard has never taken a step in the light. The gold standard has never fought a battle in the open field, and it is not fighting it this year. When the Democratic convention met the gold standard advocates brought in a minority report. They did not declare for a gold standard, but declared they were afraid the free coinage of silver by this country alone would prevent international bimetallism, toward which all the efforts of the country should be directed. But the majority ruled at Chicago.

Then what? Then their leading men at Chicago organized another convention, and what did they do? Did they adopt the platform they tried to get adopted at Chicago? Oh no! When they got down to Indianapolis, they [[illegible]] off the mask and declared in favor of the gold standard. What does that mean? It means the attempt at Chicago to commit the Democratic party to international bimetallism was a fraud. (Applause.) And the fact that those men tried to get that sort of platform at Chicago and failed, went down to Indianapolis and then adopted a gold standard platform is a confession that when they acted at Chicago their purpose was to deceive the American people.

We are willing to fight the Republican party or anyone who opposes our position, and will come out and state so, but when the party of Indianapolis puts up one man for the purpose of electing another, we declare there is no more honesty in its desire for bimetallism than there is in its political methods. (Great applause.)

The convention at Indianapolis was held in the interest of Republican success, and if the delegates had the courage that ought to follow conviction they would indorse McKinley, for whom they expect to vote."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 5, 1896