Springfield, OH Speech, 1896-09-02

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, September 2, 1896
Convention Hall, Springfield, OH

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; SCENES ALONG THE ROUTE, Thousands Turn Out to See the Democratic Nominee., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Thursday, September 3, 1896

"For a few moments only I shall occupy your attention, because a large portion of my voice has been left along the line of travel, where it is still calling sinners to repentance. (Great laughter.) I am told that in this city you manufacture more agricultural implements than are manufactured in any other city in the country. I am glad to talk to people who recognize their dependence upon the farmers. I have had occasion to talk to some who seem to imagine that the harder they could make the condition of the farmers the better would be their own. I am glad to talk to you who recognize that the dollars which you receive are earned first by those who convert the natural resources of this country into money, who till the soil and from its fertility bring forth this nation's primary wealth. As a matter of fact the farmers and the laboring men are the foundation of society. Upon this foundation the commercial classes rest, and the financier acts as a sort of a roof over the structure. You can take off the roof and put on another, but you cannot destroy the foundation without destroying the whole building. Goldsmith well expressed it when he said:

  • 'Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
  • A breath can make them, as a breath has made.
  • But a bold peasantry, a nation's pride.
  • When once destroyed, can never be supplied.'

The Democratic party, in its platform at Chicago, is pleading the cause of a nation's peasantry that must not be destroyed. Upon the prosperity of the great producers of wealth, whom we call the masses, as distinguished from the classes, depends all the prosperity of this city. If you have a gold standard, you legislate the value of property down. Do you remember how, when we were young, we used to play on the teeter board? When one end of the board was up, the other was down. It has remained for modern financiers to declare that you can keep both ends of the teeter board up at once. They seem to think that money can be dear and prices good at the same time. The legislation that increases the purchasing power of the dollar simply enables that dollar to buy more of other things. How can a dollar be made to buy more of other things? By making more wheat sell for a dollar, more corn sell for a dollar, more oats sell for a dollar, more potatoes sell for a dollar—more of the products of toil exchangeable for a given amount of money. It is a good thing for the man who owns money and buys property, but it is a bad thing for the man who has to buy money with property.

How does the gold standard affect you? You make your implements and sell them to the farmer. Suppose the farmer finds that his taxes do not go down, that his interest does not go down, that his debts do not go down, but that the price of all that he sell goes down. What does it mean? It means that he has a less and less amount to expend on agricultural implements and on the support of his family. He promises to pay you, and legislation destroys his ability to pay, then you find fault because you have to take your implements back and sell them second hand to somebody else. That is the effect of legislation. Our opponents are trying to throw upon Providence the blame for our conditions. If a farmer complains that he is not making much out of his potato crop they tell him that it is due to the potato bug. If he does not make much out of corn, they tell him that it is due to the chinch bug. But let me tell you that the gold bug is destroying more than all of them. The farmer is the most helpless victim of circumstances of all the producers of wealth. If a man is engaged in manufacturing and finds the demand decreasing, he can close his factory and stop the expense of production, but the farmer cannot. When he plants his crop in the spring, he does not know whether there is going to be a flood or a drouth; whether there will be hot winds or cold hail. He takes his chances, and, when he has taken more chances than anybody else and survived all the pestilences and calamities that visit the farm, it is not fair to drive him between the bulls and bears of Wall street and let them take from him all that is left.

The Democrats of this State have done well against odds. In spite of great influences the Democrats of this State have declared for the restoration of the money of the Constitution. You met your opponents in open conflict, and by superiority of numbers overcame them. What did they do? The very people, who have been calling all silver Democrats, Populists—who have been trying to read us out of the party for years, when they found that they could not read us out, instead of going to some other party and giving up the name to which we have proven our right, try to take the name with them, and then call us anarchists because we do not go with them.

I understand that these gold standard Democrats have declared their emblem to be the hickory tree. We have heard about Satan stealing the livery of Heaven, but we have never before seen men try to use the name of that great hero and statesman to undo an that he tried to do. Talk about Andrew Jackson belonging to the gold Democracy! Go back to the time of Andrew Jackson, and who were arrayed against him? The very classes which, after having failed in their effort to use the Democratic party for private gain, are now trying to elect the Republican candidate for President by nominating a gold standard candidate. Take a hickory tree for their emblem? Why do they not take something more appropriate? Why do they not put upon their ballot the picture of in owl? Nothing could be more appropriate. It looks wise and does its work in the dark. Or, if they do not like the owl, let them take the mole. It is a smooth animal and works underground all the time. But they ought to spare the sacred memory of the man who was the hero of New Orleans, and whose resting place, the Hermitage, is the Mecca of all who love Democratic principles still.

My friends, remember that relief cannot come to you from those who have fastened this yoke upon you. You may go to New York or Boston and find financiers who doubt the greatness of this country and proclaim the necessity for foreign aid, but the men who do that know more about Europe than they do about the United States. They go oftener to London than to the great prairies of the West and South. If because of their more intimate acquaintance with foreigners they have exaggerated ideas of the necessity for foreign aid, you people who live between the Alleghenies and the Golden Gate—you who are willing to trust your all upon the Republic and rise or fall with it—you have the power and the right to take the reins of government into your own hands and administer the law, not for foreign syndicates, but for the people of the United States."

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: 360-362
  • Date: September 2, 1896