Monmouth, IL Speech, 1896-10-24

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, October 24, 1896
Fairgrounds, Monmouth, IL

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"I want to call your attention to an interview which appears in a Chicago paper of yesterday. It is a dispatch from New York giving an interview with Bishop Worthington of Omaha. When it was suggested to the Bishop that the farmers throughout the country were not in as prosperous a condition as they had been in the past, Bishop Worthington said:

'The trouble with the farmer, in my judgment, is that we have carried our free educational system too far. The farmers' sons, a great many of them, who have absolutely no ability to rise, get a taste of education and follow it up. They will never amount to anything, that is, many of them, and they become disqualified to follow in the walk of life that God intended they should, and drift into the cities. It is over-education of those who are not qualified to receive it that fills our cities while the farms lie idle.'

I hope it may prove that those words were not uttered by Bishop Worthington, because I hate to think that any man used words like those that I have read. To talk about the over-education of our farmers' sons and to attribute the difficulties which surround us today to that is, to my mind, one of the most cruel things that a man ever uttered. The idea of saying that there is over-education among our farmers' sons! Do you know what that language means? It means a reversal of the progress of civilization and a march towards the dark ages again. Now, can you tell me which one of the farmers' sons is going to prove a great man until you have educated them all? Are we to select a commission to go around and pick out the ones who are to be educated?

Ah! my friends, there is another reason why people have gone into the cities and left the farms. It is because your legislation has been causing the foreclosure of mortgages upon the farms. It is because your legislation has been making the farmer's life harder all the time; it is because the non-producing class have been producing the laws. The idea of laying the blame of the present distress to the farmer's door! The idea of suggesting as a remedy the closing of schools in order that the pupil may not become dissatisfied! Why, my friends, there will be dissatisfaction while the cause for dissatisfaction exists. Instead of attempting to prevent people realizing their position, why don't they try to improve the condition of the farmers of this country? I cannot understand how a man living upon a farm can be deluded with the idea that the gold standard has anything but misery and suffering for him. Haven't you independence enough to leave your party in order to save your homes and your families from the gold standard?

Politics is a matter of business, but there are times when politics involves more than business, and in this campaign, when we are to determine the financial policy of the nation for four years at least—and maybe for a longer time—this question rises beyond the plane of a mere business question. This question involves the welfare of our nation, it involves humanity, it involves civilization, because, mark my words, if the gold standard goes on and people continue to complain, the gold standard advocates, instead of trying to improve the condition of the people, will be recommending that you close your schools so that the people will not realize how much they are suffering.

Is it not strange that there can be anybody in this country so far removed from the masses of the people as to think that the masses of the people are being well cared for? No, it is not strange; it is as old as history. In all times, in all countries and under all conditions, those who are getting along well enough, as a rule, do not feel for those who are suffering, and, therefore, the well-to-do never reform an evil or bring relief from a bad condition.

I want you to remember this, that you cannot find in all the history of the past a single instance where people who profited by bad laws ever secured their repeal. You cannot find an instance where the people who have profited by a bad system ever secured a change of the system. Bad laws must be reformed by those who have suffered. Bad systems must be changed by those who have been suffering from them. I appeal to you who have felt the severity of a gold standard to achieve your own relief, because you have the means in your power. The opportunity will be presented at the ballot box."

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: 572-573
  • Date: October 24, 1896