Springfield, MA Speech, 1896-09-25

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Friday, September 25, 1896
Courthouse Square, Springfield, MA

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

"Before entering upon a discussion of the paramount issue of this campaign, I desire in this city to pay a tribute to independent journalism. I have always respected an honest, earnest and able opponent. I have never criticised the right of any one to speak his sentiments and present his ideas as clearly, as forcibly and as eloquently as he can. I believe with Jefferson that error is harmless where reason is left free to combat it—and if any man has an idea, I am willing for him to launch that idea and trust to the merits of that idea to make its way into the mind and into the hearts of men. I respect the Springfield Republican for the high plane upon which it discusses political questions. I respect it for the tolerance which it shows to political opponents, and, without censuring those who substitute abuse for argument, I can commend those who use argument instead of abuse.

I can commend also to every citizen the words of that distinguished editor who was the founder of this paper. I am told that he is the author of the expression that a man who is not willing to die for a cause in which he believes is not worthy to live.

It is the willingness of the people to stake their all upon the correctness of their convictions that has enabled truth to spread from person to person, until it at last overcomes all opposition. And in this campaign we have as good an illustration as was ever given of depth of conviction and intensity of earnestness in the presentation of a cause. I challenge you to find in all the political contests through which this country has passed a single contest which has aroused more earnestness than this contest through which we are now passing. I challenge you to find, among all the hosts who have defended a cause, more earnest men than are found today among the advocates of the right of this Government to legislate for itself, without regard to other nations. It will not do to say that there is no cause for such feeling as is manifested now. If you read the dispatch from London which appeared in yesterday morning's paper you will find that a great meeting of agriculturists was held at Buda Pesth, and in speaking of that meeting, the dispatch said that practically all of those representing agricultural societies were in favor of the restoration of bimetallism.

My friends, our opponents sometimes tell us that this movement in favor of free coinage is started by the mine owners and kept up by the mine owners. I want them to understand that they cannot explain this great uprising of the people on the theory that it is instigated by men who own bullion and want to sell it at a higher price. This uprising comes from the masses of the people, who do not produce bullion, but they produce property, and they realize that the gold standard has been, driving value out of the property which they produce.

The opposition may well afford to pause in their ridicule of the advocates of free coinage and in their denunciation of them as lawless characters, to find out whether there is a well-founded reason for this advocacy of bimetallism among the farmers of the United States, of England, of Germany, of France, and of every other nation which has been cursed by the gold standard.

My friends, I assert here, and I challenge any gold paper to dispute it, that a financial policy which is injurious to the agricultural classes has nothing to commend it to the government of any nation.

The gold standard has never commended itself to the agricultural classes of any country which has ever had it. What will you say, then? Will you say that these farmers have no right to have their interests respected? No, you dare not say that, because, my friends, they must first produce wealth before there is wealth to be distributed. What will you say, then? Will you say that, having the right to have their interests respected, they have not the intelligence to know what is best for them? No, you dare not say that, because you know that in public life and in business life the best brains that you have come from the farms of this country.

What answer will you make to them? When they ask for bread, will you give them a stone? When they ask for fish, will you bestow serpents upon them? That has been the policy of the financiers of this country, and, assuming their own unselfishness, they have been attempting to force their ideas upon others, while others have fallen down beneath the weight of these ideas and the financiers themselves have risen to prosperity on the prostrate forms of the fallen.

No person can accuse me of attempting to deny to the financiers or even to the money changers the right to their opinions, the right to their votes, or the right to every legitimate influence. What I deny to them is the right to think for anybody but themselves, the right to act for anybody but themselves, the right to put themselves above other people and go through the world crying, 'I am holier than thou; I am holier than thou.'

My friends, let me give you one way by which you can determine the sincerity of men. It is not a new rule. It is as old as the law of evidence. It applies to all walks of life, to all conditions and to all subjects. The man who believes he is right tells you what he believes, and why he believes it. The man who does not believe that he is right is the man who has filled the dictionary with ambiguous terms and who fills his speech with words of double meaning.

The man who talks about 'sound money' and then refuses to tell you what 'sound money' means, can only get a certificate of honesty from himself. If the advocates of 'sound money' believed that their money was good they would tell you that by 'sound money' they meant a gold standard. I asked a man why it was that he was opposed to using the word 'gold' in the platform.

'Well,' he said, 'we have found an unreasonable prejudice against the word gold, and, therefore, it is to avoid that prejudice that we use the phrase "sound money."'

My friends, the people have no prejudice against gold, but they have a prejudice against a system that is based upon gold and does not furnish the gold when people want it.

There is one advantage in being a bimetallist. You can like gold and silver both, while a gold standard man does not dare to like silver, and he does not get much gold to like.

A man told me that out of nearly $1,000,000 collected in taxes at Hartford, Connecticut, less than $100 was collected in gold. Our opponents tell us they want money, but they want a financial system built upon an invisible foundation. Do you call that soundness, my friends? If you do, you must write a new meaning for soundness and have soundness defined as that which is dangerous.

Our opponents talk about honest money, and yet, my friends, they never touch upon the purchasing power of a dollar in defining what is an honest dollar. They tell us that they want good money. My friends, there are two things that we need in money. Money must have quantity as well as quality. We must have money which we can get hold of. If money is so good that you can pray for it and long for it, but can never see it except when you have the privilege of gazing through some grated door and looking at somebody else's pile, then it is too good for the masses of the people.

Money ought not to be built on the balloon plan. Balloons are built to go up, and the higher they go the better they are as balloons; but if dollars are built on that plan, the higher they go the greater is the misery that they bring to mankind.

Our opponents want a balloon dollar. Our opponents want a dollar that gets higher and higher all the time. If we are going to have a gold standard, if we are going to have a dollar whose appetite is never satisfied, a gold dollar which insists upon eating more of the products of toil every year, we ought to change the dies at the mint and so stamp that dollar that people will understand it. Let us take off the emblems that have adorned it from the beginning and put on one side the picture of the horse leech, and under the picture let it be written, as in Proverbs, 'Give, Give, Give;' and on the other side of the gold dollar let us put the picture of an open grave, and above it let us write, as in Proverbs, 'It sayeth not, it is enough.'

My friends, that is the sort of dollar that the gold standard has given us. That is the sort of dollar that the gold standard will continue to give us. If oats get down to ten cents a bushel it means that $1 will buy ten bushels of pats, and if that dollar is not good enough you can send its value up until $1 will buy twenty bushels of oats, and if the farmer is getting too much money for his oats, you can still send it up higher so that it will take 100 bushels of oats to buy a dollar. You can make the dollar as dear as you want to, and the dearer you make it the worse it is for everybody except the owners of fixed investments and the men who sell bonds to the Government after having driven the Government into the position where it wants to buy the bonds.

When they talk of a gold standard I always think of what Lincoln said when a man once asked him how he liked a certain speech. He replied:

'Anybody who would like that sort of a speech would be very much pleased with it.' I find that the people who like the gold standard are very much pleased with it, but I am glad to know that the number of people who like the gold standard is growing less every day, even in New England."

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: 489-492
  • Date: September 25, 1896