Lincoln, NE Speech 2, 1896-11-02

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Monday, November 2, 1896 at 5:43pm
Lincoln Hotel Balcony, Lincoln, NE

Source: The Evening News, Tuesday, November 3, 1896

"Ladies and Gentlemen: This is the last opportunity that I shall have to address the people of Lincoln before they sit in judgment upon the issues present in this campaign. Tomorrow will decide the financial policy of this nation for the next four years at least. (Cheers and some McKinley cries.) Three national parties placed in my hands the standard upon which was written free and unlimited coinage of silver at 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation. (Great applause and cheering.)

For three months I have done what I could to present this question to the American people and traveled from Nebraska to the Atlantic, and everywhere I have preached the same doctrine and advocated the same principles. (Applause and cheers.) Everywhere I have found those who believe with us, and the zeal of the bimetallists who live along the eastern coast is as great as the zeal of the bimetallists of Nebraska. (Applause and cheers.) They called it a sectional question when we began, but they have found out that it is not a sectional question. It is a great controversy between the money power and the common people of all this country. (Applause.) The Republican party started out to make the tariff question an issue in this campaign, but if you will go among any group of persons where politics is discussed, you will find what a failure they have made in getting the tariff question into the campaign. (Applause.) The Republican party attempted a fraud upon the American people in its financial plank. Under the hope of international bimetallism it started out to fasten the gold standard upon the American people. It has been aided in this work by a few former democrats who have been advocating the gold standard, but in order to keep up the fraud they have pretended to favor Palmer and Buckner when they have worked for the Republican ticket. (Applause and cheers.) You can see how the campaign has been conducted. The Republicans have not dared to advocate the gold standard because their platform pledges the Republican party to get rid of it as soon as other nations will help. But as they are not able to openly advocate the gold standard, they help the bolting Democrats who can preach what the Republicans do not dare to preach, and they answer the same purpose. (Great applause and cheers.)

I want you to understand the campaign which we have had to fight. They have told us that the great interests of society were against us. Yes, certain great interests have been. The trusts have been against us, but the trusts are no more against me than I am against the trusts. (Long and continued applause and cheers.) The syndicates which have been selling bonds for the government are against me, but, my friends, they have reason to be, because if I am elected they will no longer bleed the American people. (Continued applause.) They say that the corporations are against us. Yes, many of them are, and they have reason to be, because we believe that the corporation is a creature of law and that the government which created it is still greater than the corporation and should compel it to obey the law. (Great applause and continued cheering.)

We have felt the influence of some of these corporations. We know what it is to have them say to men who are with us that if they vote our ticket they must be discharged and lose their bread and butter. (Continued applause.) My friends, they know that if we succeed in this campaign, there will be legislation to punish the man who attempts to deprive another of the right of citizenship. (Applause.) They tell us that the national banks are against us. Yes, some of them are, because, my friends, we believe that the greenback as we have it today is better than to retire the greenbacks and issue bonds and give the banks the benefit of the interest. (Applause.)

My friends, we have found men advocating honest money who were so afraid of paying their debts in dollars that were not honest, that in order to avoid all possibility of mistake they have refused to pay their debts at all. (Laughter and great applause.) We stand in this campaign for a reversal of the financial policy which has cursed this country for twenty years. We are in favor of restoring the gold and silver coinage of the constitution. We are in favor of having an American financial policy for the American people. (Applause and cheers.)

We do not expect the support of those who doubt the ability of the American people to attend to their own business. (Applause and cheers.) We do not expect the support of those who have more faith in foreign financiers than they have in our own people. We do not expect the support of those who would rather trust the destinies of 70,000,000 of Americans to a few foreign financiers than trust the destinies of our own people in their own hands. (Great cheering.) But, my friends, while we have against us many of these influences which are considered great and potent, we have on ours side those who believe in the old-fashioned idea of government—that it should guard equal rights to all and special privileges to no one. (Applause.)

My friends, tomorrow is the day upon which you register your will; tomorrow is the day when by your ballot you describe the government under which you desire to live. If you desire a government of syndicates, by syndicates and for syndicates, you have a right to it, and you can cast your influence with those who are against us. (Applause.) If you still believe in the government that Lincoln desired, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, you must join with those who believe in a government by the people. (Applause.) So far as I am personally concerned, this election will simply determine whether I shall remain a private citizen or occupy the most exalted position within the power of man to confer upon a fellow man. It will determine whether I shall remain with you to uphold, as best I can, the hand of the one who is elected until his policy can be reversed at the polls, or whether I shall depart from you, to be gone four years, and then return to live with you the rest of my days. (Great applause and cheering.) I have stated that if elected I shall not be absent from you more than four years. When I stated it I meant it, and I want you to believe in my sincerity when I say so. (Applause and cries of "We do.") I believe that the office is attended with duties so great, with responsibilities so heavy, that the man who occupies it ought to have no personal ambition beyond proving himself worthy of the confidence of those who elected him. (Great cheering.) If elected, I shall consecrate four years of my life to the service of my country, feeling that when that is done all has been done in the way of honor that can be done, and then I shall rejoice again to be a private citizen in this nation where to be a citizen is greater than to be a king. (Great applause.)

My friends, I remember that when a little less than two years ago I returned to this city after completing four years in congress, you met me and extended to me a welcome which touched my heart, and I want to say to you that nothing you can do in the future can withdraw from me what you have done in the past. You may turn against me if you like, my friends, you can never undo what you have already done, nor can you take from me the feeling of gratitude which I entertain towards those whose kindness and confidence first gave me an opportunity to become interested in public questions, the kindness and confidence of those who enabled me to begin the great fight in which I am now engaged. (Applause.) My friends, I want you to believe me when I say that I have enjoyed the opportunity of defending bimetallism, because I believe it is a righteous cause and I want you to believe that I would rather stay among you as a private citizen and be permitted still to raise my voice against what I conceive to be a crime against the human race than to enjoy all the honors in Christendom if I had to join in the conspiracy. (Great applause and cheering.)

And now let me ask of you that you who are interested in the result of this campaign shall lose no effort to have the vote recorded tomorrow exactly as the people desire to vote. I am seeking no involuntary support. I have said, and I repeat, that I do not want a vote unless there is behind the vote the heart of the person who casts the vote. (Great applause.) The work that lies before a president who goes into the office with a desire to reform the financial policy and to drive the trusts and syndicates from this land, will be hard enough if he is supported by the people; his work would be impossible if he were not supported by the them. (Great cheering and applause.) I want you, if you are in earnest, to give us a congress and senate as well as an electoral vote. (Cries of "We will.")

If you are in earnest, I want your earnestness to be manifested in a clean sweep and then, my friends, if by the suffrage of my countrymen I am made their chief executive, I will promise you that no power in this country or in any foreign land will prevent the restoration of the money of the constitution among our people." (Tremendous cheering and great applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: The Evening News
  • Published: Lincoln, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: November 2, 1896