Omaha, NE Speech 1, 1896-11-02

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Monday, November 2, 1896
Boyd's Theater, Omaha, NE

Source: OVATION AT BOYD'S., Theater Could Not Possibly Accomodate the Crowds., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Tuesday, November 3, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It gives me great pleasure to greet the citizens of my own state on this, the last night before the election, and to find an enthusiasm here which indicates what they will do tomorrow. I am glad to be with you, for while the enthusiasm which you manifest here has been seen all the way between the Missouri and the Atlantic coast, yet it is always gratifying to one to feel that he has the good will of his neighbors and the people who lave lived with him and know him best. (Cheers.) I want to say to you tonight that I feel grateful to those of the opposition who have on many occasions taken occasion to answer false charges made, and though they could not vote with us, have tried to do justice when others have circulated rumors which were not true. And if there are some who have in this campaign circulated charges which they knew not to be true, I shall leave them to their own consciences and to their neighbors', because I believe, my friends, that in spite of all the desperate things that they have done, the conscience of the American people will be more potent than all their combines together. (Cheers.)

I believe the American people are coming to realize what this contest means. When we started out in the campaign, declaring the money question to be the paramount issue, we expressed our willingness to settle that question now and leave other questions for determination hereafter. But we found that, when we attacked the money changers, we attacked all those associated corporations which live together and act together as one man in any hour of danger, and we found that, in this campaign, every man who has used the instrumentalities of government for private gain, every man who seeks to use government for private plunder, recognizes that in our victory there is a menace to his business of living upon someone else, rather than working for his own living, has contributed to an enormous campaign fund with which they expect to corrupt 70,000,000 of people. (Cheers.)

This struggle has to be made every generation. In times of quiet people have become indifferent to their political duties, and when the masses are indifferent then are these great and powerful agencies the most active. They send their representatives around legislative halls; they secure legislation; they intrench themselves behind special privileges, and the masses bear it until patience ceases to be a virtue and then they rise, as they are rising in this campaign, to take government back into their own hands and place it again upon the foundations laid by the fathers. (Cheers.)

It is not strange that party lines have been disturbed. We have simply been exchanging prisoners, my friends. We have been having in our party persons who, under the guise of Democrats, have been aiding plutocracy; and there have been in the Republican party those who have earnestly striven to make that party representative of the popular will, but the chance came and we now send our plutocrats to them and they send their common people to us. (Applause.)

The issue is drawn, and when this contest shall be determined, when the vote shall be counted you will find two classes of people voting as they understand this question. On the one side you will find the capitalistic classes from whom no reform ever came in the history of the world. (Cries of "That's right" and applause.) You will find the trusts and syndicates and the corporations and those who live off of them and fawn and flatter them, and receive the crumbs that fall from their tables. (Cheers.) On the other side you will find those who still believe that government has done its duty when it guarantees to each individual the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness and gives special privileges to none. (Cheers.) You will find those who are in sympathy with the struggling masses on our side in this contest, because our contest means that the struggling masses shall not struggle in vain, but shall enjoy a fair share of the fruits of their own toil. (Cheers.)

We have to meet the money question first, because it was presented first. We have to meet it now because it is presented now, but back of it are all these great combines that support it in this light and which are supported by it in their fight.

My friends, on tomorrow this nation will determine at the ballot box the financial policy of the American people for at least four years, and this is the issue presented: Shall we have an American financial policy for the American people; shall we have our finances suited to our own needs, or shall 70,000,000 of people bow the neck to the yoke of foreign domination and petition where they ought to demand? (Cheers.) I want you, before you vote tomorrow, to read the Republican platform on the money question. It does not say that the gold standard is a good thing. It dare not say it. It cannot say it, because, my friends, the voice of distress rising from the producing masses would silence any voice that they should raise declaring that the gold standard had brought blessings to the American people. Ay, more than that, they not only do not declare that the gold standard is a good thing, but they expressly declare that it is bad, by pledging to use every effort to get rid of the gold standard and substitute the double standard when other nations will help to do it. (Laughter and cheers.) I repeat now what I have said so often, that if the gold standard is good, if it brings blessings to the American people, then, instead of getting rid of it, we want to keep it. If the gold standard is an advantage, instead of abandoning it we want to preserve it. But we want to preserve it on its merits, and not under compulsion. If the gold standard is bad enough to get rid of, it is bad enough to get rid of now, whether any other nation wants us to get rid of it or not. (Cheers.)

I might appeal to the democrats of this state and of this nation on the ground of regularity, because I was nominated in a regular convention, regularly called, and the most democratic convention held in years, because the people instructed their delegates and the delegates followed those instructions. (Applause.)

...Now, my friends, I understand that a person who takes this position does not expect or need not expect to get the support of these polite members of society who think that they are divinely appointed to live on what other people earn, and not only that, but disfranchise them if they do not become willing servants; but I want to say to you that if you will examine the charters given to banks the charters given to corporations, you will find that not a charter granted conveys the right to run the politics of this country, and, when our government is administered as it should be, they will quit running politics and attend to the business for which they were organized."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: November 2, 1896