Chicago, IL Speech 1, 1896-10-27

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, October 27, 1896 at 4:00pm
Battery D, Chicago, IL

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; ONE GRAND OVATION, Opening of Mr. Bryan’s Chicago Campaign a Long Series of Triumphs, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, October 28, 1896

"Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens: I came to Chicago as I started on my way to New York to open this campaign and I return to your city to take part in the closing exercises of the campaign. I have witnessed today a scene which impresses me very much and which leads me to believe that the great city of the West, which rests upon the prosperity of the masses and cannot prosper unless they prosper, will cast its influence one week from today on the side of an American financial policy for the American people. (Applause.) I beg to express my deep gratitude to the organizations which participated in this welcome. But I am not vain enough to believe that any part of the extraordinary enthusiasm which I have witnessed between the Missouri River and the Atlantic Ocean is intended as a personal tribute. In this great contest it is the principles for which the candidate stands, and not the candidate himself, that has called forth this demonstration. (Applause.)

There is only one thing for which I claim any credit. I believe that you, and others who have expressed themselves as you have, have confidence that I will carry out the pledges which I have made during this campaign. (Applause.) It is simply your confidence that I will do what I have promised to do and carry out the ideas for which I stand in this campaign, that is personal. But, my friends, what credit is it to a man to be what he seems to be? If I were other than true to the principles which I have advocated, I would be beneath the contempt of those whose suffrages I ask. (Applause.)

I do believe that in this campaign a great question is to be determined for the present at least. I do believe that the settlement of that great question affects every man, woman and child in this land, and when I see the people stirred as they have seldom been stirred before, I believe that they appreciate the responsibilities of citizenship and that they intend that their ballots shall be cast for that financial system which they believe to be best for themselves, for their neighbors and for their country. (Applause.)

I appreciate, too, the kindly feeling which has prompted the presentation of this badge by the Hebrew Democrats. (Applause.) Our opponents have sometimes tried to make it appear that we were attacking a race when we denounced the financial policy advocated by the Rothschilds. But we are not; we are as much opposed to the financial policy of J. Pierpont Morgan as we are to the financial policy of the Rothschilds. (Applause.) We are not attacking a race; we are attacking greed and avarice, which know neither race nor religion. I do not know of any class of our people who, by reason of their history, can better sympathize with the struggling masses in this campaign than can the Hebrew race. (Applause.)

The Bible tells us that when the children of Israel were in bondage and asked for a lightening of their burdens; the Pharaoh of their time said that they were idle and recommended more work. He compelled them to make bricks without straw. Pharaoh has been the same in all ages. No matter to what race he belongs, no matter when or where he lives, Pharaoh lives on the toil of others and always wants to silence complaint by making the load heavier.

In presenting this badge, my Hebrew friends have referred to David and Goliath. Whenever we have a great contest in which right is arrayed against might, the contest between David and Goliath is always cited to give inspiration to those who fight for the truth. David conquered, not because he was stronger, but because he was on the right side; and if in this contest I am likened to David, let me reply that as David triumphed because he was right, so my only hope of victory is in the righteousness of my cause. (Applause.) I may be wrong (cries of "No, no" and cheers)—I have never claimed infallibility—but when I examine a question and reach a conclusion, I am willing to stand by what I believe, I care not what may happen. In this struggle for the restoration of bimetallism there was a time when I had less company than I have now. (Laughter.)

Some of the Chicago papers have called me a demagogue. (Hisses.) If there is one thing which I am not, it is a demagogue. (Applause.) A demagogue is a man who advocates a thing which he does not believe—(cries of "Bill McKinley" and cheers). A demagogue is a man who advocates a thing which he does not believe—(applause and cheering). This audience is too responsive. (Applause.) My friends, let me now get through that sentence. (Laughter and cheers.) Now let me finish that sentence. A demagogue is a man who advocates a thing which he does not believe in order to conciliate those who differ from him. (Applause.) A demagogue is a man who is willing to advocate anything, whether he believes it or not, which will be advantageous to him and gain him popularity. (Great applause.) Now, my friends, I have never advocated, during my public life, a single thing which I did not myself believe. (Applause.) I have proven my willingness to go down in defeat when I was in a minority rather than surrender my convictions, and I have always been willing to accept defeat when it came. (Great applause.) I say this here because in this city most of the papers are against us, and I must defend myself. (Cries of "How about the Dispatch?" and cheering.)

I do not mean to slight the Dispatch, but you know that the great bulk of the press of this city is against us and has been against us, and that we must seek to reach the people directly, because we have not the advantage that our opponents have of reaching them through the daily press.

If there is anybody in this city who believes that the free coinage of silver will be injurious to this country, he has a reason for voting against those who stand for free coinage, but I do not want any person who is in favor of the money of the Constitution to be deterred from voting for those who stand for that money by any abuse which our opponents may use against us between now and election day. (Great applause.) I shall be in this city for a few days and shall see as many of your people as it is possible to see in that time, and I shall defend before these people the principles for which I stand. And more than that, I am going to talk to the people themselves; I shall not go to the employers and bargain with them for the delivery of the votes of their employees. (Great applause.) I have been taught to believe that the ballot was given to the individual for his own use, and that the person who has the right to vote has also the ability to determine how he ought to vote. Therefore in this campaign I shall address my arguments to the individual voters, not to the head of a firm, or to the president of a corporation, or to the boss of a railroad. (Wild cheering and a voice, "We'll be with you Tuesday.")

Three political parties have declared that the money question is the paramount issue and the bolting Democrats—who are helping the Republican ticket without the courage to openly support it—have declared that this money question is the paramount issue. The leading Republicans also have admitted it, and yet when our opponents are driven to the wall on the money question and have failed in their attempt to defend themselves before the American people, they have attempted to turn the discussion off from the money question onto other questions; (cheers) but I give them notice that for one week more they must face the money question. (Great applause.)

In the past, the gold standard has gained every victory under cover and in the dark; and in this campaign the gold standard, having failed before the people, is seeking to secure its hold upon the American people under cover of the pretense that the nation is in danger if those who believe in the Chicago platform are successful. (Applause.)

I am willing to trust to the intelligence of the American people to decide whether this Government is safer in the hands of those who believe in the ability of the people to govern themselves or in the hands of the trusts and syndicates which have been bleeding the people. (Great cheering.)

I am willing to let the American people decide whether our affairs are safer in the hands of those who believe in our form of government and who would, if necessary, die to perpetuate it, or whether it is safer in the hands of a few financiers who cannot think on the money question until they have cabled to London to find out what to think. (Cheers.)

Now, my friends, I only came here this afternoon to greet you and receive your words of welcome, and I must go now in order to be ready for the evening campaign. I simply want to ask you this afternoon to put one question to every goldbug who comes and talks to you, and this question is this: You ask him why, if the gold standard is a good thing, that he talks about 'sound money' instead of 'gold,' when he talks. (Great cheering.) Tell him that, so long as he is ashamed to use the word gold when he talks, that he need not expect you to believe in the beauties of a gold standard." (Great cheering.)

About this Document

  • Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896
  • Author: William Jennings Bryan
  • Publisher: W.B. Conkey Company
  • Published: Chicago, Illinois
  • Citation: 580-582
  • Date: October 27, 1896