Des Moines, IA Speech 1, 1896-08-07

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Friday, August 7, 1896 at 9:30pm
Tabernacle Hall, Des Moines , IA

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; CONQUESTS IN IOWA, Journey to Des Moines Is a Triumphal Tour for William J. Bryan., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Saturday, August 8, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I esteem it to be a great privilege to be permitted even for a few brief moments to stand before the citizens assembled in this the capital city of one of the greatest agricultural states of this union. Iowa has no reason to blush for the position that she occupies among her sister states. It is not necessary for anyone to come from abroad to enlighten you upon the issues of the campaign.

Your own state is rich in orators, and in this campaign it will be richer than it has been before in a quarter of a century. (Great cheering.) You have here that statesman whom you delight to honor, and as I look back over the campaigns in which it has been my privilege to take part, there are no campaigns that I remember with more pleasure and of pride than those two campaigns when, at the invitation of your people, I came to assist in the election of Horace Boies as governor of this state. (Continued cheering.)

If in the National Convention which has just closed the choice fell upon me rather than upon him, it was not because of any superior merit on my part, but because of the circumstances which surrounded the convention. I do not take unto myself credit for what was done. I believe that those delegates were as honest and as earnest a body of men as were ever assembled in convention. After reviewing the situation they decided—whether wisely or foolishly, time will tell—that, under all the circumstances, the nomination should fall to me, and I am on my way now to the city of New York to receive the notification."


"I do not know how well I may be able to bear the standard which is to be placed in my hands, but I know this that there is not one person in all this land who is more deeply in earnest in this cause than he whom you have honored. (Loud applause.)

In this campaign the distinguished gentleman of whom I have spoken, your ex-governor, will go before you as one of your leaders and by his side will stand that other gallant man who for twenty years has fought, and whether we have agreed with him or not on all things, there is not an honest man here but must concede that where he has fought he has fought with the strength of a giant. (Great applause.)

And beside his side will stand in this great conflict men who until this year have been fighting the battles of the Republican party, men who boast that from the time of Lincoln until now they have been adherents of the Republican party, but who believe that in this campaign the Republicanism of Lincoln finds better expression in the Chicago platform than it found in the platform adopted at St. Louis." (Great cheering.)


"But you shall not need orators this year. If every orator you know were to be silent, orators would rise in every county and every town, and in every precinct of this state and proclaim the truth. Oratory sometimes has been laughed at, but, my friends, oratory will be with us as long as the human race endures. Whenever there is a cause that stirs men's hearts there will be orators to present that cause.

Eloquence is simply the speech of a person who knows what he is talking about and believes what he says. Our people in this campaign not only believe what they say, but when they tell you that there can be no prosperity for the people while the people fall down and worship gold as the only standard money they know what they are talking about. They say this is a campaign of education.

Yes, it is a campaign in which the education has already gone far enough for us to form some idea of the results. Sometimes they tell us that a great many of the newspapers are against us. I am reminded of what a friend in Lincoln said the other day. He said: 'It used to be the newspapers that educated the people, but now the people educate the newspapers.'" (Applause and laughter.)


"True it is that the people are educated on this money question. A gentleman said in Lincoln the other day when he saw the people gathered upon the streets discussing the great question—he was from the east—and he said to a friend: 'Here is a sight you never see back east.' The person answered, 'You have not been back there since the Chicago convention. If you had you would find all over the east what you find here, people meeting and discussing the money question.'

Sometimes our opponents tell us that the tariff is the issue of the campaign and that they will make it such. Whom will they consult to do it? Not the politicians. They must consult the people, and the money question is in the campaign and they cannot take it out of it. (Loud applause.)

But I am not here to talk tonight. I am simply here to express the appreciation which we feel at this magnificent expression of your interest in this question. It is no personal affair, my friends. You do not care for me. This is not a matter of individuals. Any person standing on this platform and proclaiming that which you believe will be supported by you with just as much enthusiasm. No, it is not an individual matter."


"The enthusiasm shown here and everywhere simply speak in tones that will be heard throughout the union of the interest which the people are feeling in the result of this campaign. Well may you feel interested, because, my friends, we have reached a great turning point in the history of events. Upon the action of this nation may depend the action of the civilized world upon the money question. And on the action of this state may depend the action of this nation and on the action of a single individual here may depend the action of this state.

Grave are the responsibilities of citizenship, and never more grave than now. (Great applause.) But I can simply appeal to you to do your duty as you see it and then stand up and take the consequences before your fellow men." (Great and continued cheering.)

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: 301
  • Date: August 7, 1896