Madalin, NY Speech, 1896-08-22

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, August 22, 1896
Convention Hall, Madalin, NY

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

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are entering upon a campaign which is a remarkable one in many respects. Heretofore, at least during the last twenty-five or thirty years, each party has gone into the campaign practically solid, presenting a united front against the opposing party. But in this campaign there has been practically a bolt from every convention which has been held. What does this mean? It means that convictions are deeper this year than they have been heretofore.

It means that people are not so willing now as they have been to allow the platform of a party to control their action. Men are thinking this year with more of earnestness and intensity than they have in recent years, and the results of this thinking will be manifested when the time comes to register the will of this great nation. And between that time and this hour, we expect to present to those who must act upon the questions and the issues of this campaign.

When our party at Chicago wrote the platform which it did, we knew that it would offend some people. No party can take a plain, strong, emphatic position upon any question without offending somebody. We declared in that platform what we believed to be right. We declared there the policies which we believed to be best for the American people, and when we did it we knew that it would alienate some.

Let me read one of the planks of that platform:

'We are opposed to the issuing of interest bearing bonds of the United States in time of peace, and condemn the trafficking with banking syndicates which, in exchange for bonds, and at an enormous profit to themselves, supply the Federal Treasury with gold to maintain the policy of gold monometallism.'

That is one of the planks. That was not put in there to attract the love of those who have grown rich out of the Government's extremities. We did not expect those who have a passage way from the Federal Treasury to their offices to join with us in closing up the passage way. We did not expect those who are making a profit out of a gold standard and out of the embarrassment which it brings to the Treasury to join with us in putting an end to the gold standard. Why, if we had expected it, we would have expected it in the face of all the history of the past.

Do you remember the Good Book tells us that some 1800 years ago a man named Demetrius complained of the preaching of the Gospel. Why? He said, 'It destroys the business in which we are engaged. We are making images for the worship of Diana, and these people say that they be not gods that are made with hands.'

But Demetrius was much like men who have lived since his day. When he had made up his mind that the preaching of the Gospel interfered with his business he didn't go out and say to the world, 'Our business is being injured and we are mad.' What did he say? He said, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians.'

We have some today who are very much like Demetrius. They know that the restoration of bimetallism destroys the business in which they have been engaged.

But when they make public speeches they don't say that the Democratic party is wrong because it interferes with their business. What do they say? They say 'Great is sound money; great is an honest dollar.'

I say this platform was not written to attract their votes. It was written because we want to destroy the business in which they are engaged. But, my friends, if those who have made a profit out of the Government's financial policy array themselves against the Democratic party, may or may we not expect those who believe that we are right to come to our rescue and fill up the ranks that are being thus depleted?

If we must part company with those who believe in a government of syndicates, by syndicates and for syndicates, may we not appeal with confidence to those who believe that 'a government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth'?

If these men who pride themselves upon their prominence in the business world and who glory in the title of business men are going to make a business out of politics, and are going to use their ballots to increase their incomes, I beg you to consider whether the great toiling masses of this nation have not a right to make a business out of politics once and protect their homes and their families.

I have not been in the State of New York long. I have not met many of your people. And yet in the short time that I have been here I have met enough Republicans who have told me that they were going to vote our ticket to make up for every prominent Democrat that has deserted us. And we welcome the coming guests as we speed those who are parting.

Now, my friends, this is a practical question. It is a question which you must consider for yourselves.

The gentleman who has preceded me has very properly told you that you are competent to settle this question for yourselves. The founders of our Government never imagined that a time would come when there would be only a few people in this country who would be competent to settle a great public question. If they had they would have written in the Constitution that on most questions everybody could vote, but that on the money question only the financiers could vote. It is hollow mockery to grant to the people a right in your Constitution and then deny them the privilege of exercising the right."

People Can Be Trusted.

"I assert that the people of the United States, those who produce wealth as well as those who exchange it, have sufficient patriotism and sufficient intelligence to sit in judgment upon every question which has arisen or which will arise, no matter how long our Government may endure. The great political questions are in their final analysis great moral questions, and it requires no extended experience in the handling of money to enable a man to tell right from wrong.

And, more than this, this money question will not be settled until the great common people act upon it. No question is settled until the masses settle it. Abraham Lincoln said that the Lord must have loved the common people, because He made so many of them. He was right about it.

The common people are the only people who have ever supported a reform that had for its object the benefit of the human race.

I do not mean to say that there have not been exceptions to the rule. I do not mean to say that you have not found among the masses at all times those who are ready to betray those who toiled with them if they could see some chance of personal elevation.

Nor do I mean to say that those who have got beyond the ranks of the common people are entirely unmindful of the claims of brotherhood upon them. But I say as a general rule that the common people here and everywhere have been the support and the only great support of every measure of reform.

Now you have a right to take this question, examine it, and form your own opinion, and the ballot is given to you in order that you may express your own opinion when you come to vote, and not be required to accept somebody else's opinion.

And I am going to call your attention to just a few things this afternoon for you to consider when you are trying to make up your minds what you should do.

Our opponents are all divided as to the policy which should be pursued. You take the gold standard Democrats. Some of them say they ought to come out openly and indorse the Republican candidate, so as to be sure and elect him. Others say, 'No, that would be dangerous, because unless we have a candidate of our own there will be a great many Democrats who will be foolish enough to vote the Democratic ticket.'

And there they are divided. They all want the same object. They all want to elect the Republican candidate, because they believe that Democracy is better exemplified through Republicanism than through Democracy.

But I say they are divided as to the means of getting at it, and some say that they can elect the Republican candidate better by having a candidate of their own to fool Democrats with than they can by openly supporting the Republican ticket.

Not only are they divided there, but they are divided all the way through when they come to argument. Why, some of them will start out to show that the gold standard is a good thing, and after one of their speakers gets well along showing how great a thing the gold standard is, then another speaker comes along and says it is a mistake to say the gold standard is good, that the gold standard is not good; that what we want is bimetallism, but that we can't have it until somebody helps us. Now those two arguments are not consistent. If the gold standard is a good thing, why should they want bimetallism? And yet they ever have two men making speeches the same night, the chances are 16 to 1 that one of them will praise the gold standard as a good thing, while the other will tell you how anxious they are to get rid of it.

Well, then, they come to the details of the argument. One man says the reason why he does not want free coinage is that he does not think that the Government should pass a law that will enable a silver miner to take o cents worth of silver bullion and convert it into a hundred cents and make the difference.

And he will get red in the face, and become indignant at the idea that the Government should attempt to help some individual in this way. Of course, he may have been in favor of a system of taxation that would give 200 or 300 per cent, but that doesn't count. It is a terrible thing to allow the silver miner to make that profit.

Then the next man who comes up will say that as a matter of fact the stamp of the Government adds nothing to the value of the metal, and that the free coinage of silver simply means that you convert 50 cents' worth of bullion into a 50-cent dollar, and that nobody snakes any profit out of it.

I say that the chances are that, if two men make speeches on the same platform against our taking any action until some foreign nation helps us, you will find that one of them will make one argument and the other will make the other argument, and very often the same man makes both arguments.

Now you can see the absurdity of it. If the silver miner, under free coinage, finds that his silver bullion is raised so that that which is now worth 50 cents will be worth 100 cents, then there will be no 50-cent dollars; and if the other man is correct, and the law adds nothing to the value of the metal, and you simply convert 50 cents' worth of silver into a 50-cent dollar, then the mine owner will not make a cent.

If there are two men to speak against our position, one of them will probably say that there has been no fall in prices, and he will denounce the people who complain that gold has risen in value, and after he has proved that to the satisfaction of every man who does not think, then his colleagues will come on and tell you that not only have prices fallen, but that it is the greatest blessing in the world to have prices fall.

Those two are not consistent, but it follows all the way through. Why is it? It is because our opponents have no theory, no principle, no policy upon which they are prepared to stand and fight. They do not dare to say that the gold standard is a good thing, because no party in the history of this country has ever declared in favor of a gold standard; and they do not dare to say that it is a bad thing, and then tell seventy millions of liberty loving people that they must suffer until some foreign nation comes and brings them relief.

I want you to remember that in the discussion of this money question there are certain fundamental principles; and when you understand those principles you understand the money question.

What is the principle that underlies it all? It is that the law of supply and demand applies to money as it does to everything else.

You know that if the world's crop next year of a certain article is very much greater than the crop this year, that article will fall in price; if the crop is much smaller than this year, the article will rise in price. You know that the law of supply and demand reaches and controls money, as well as other forms of property. It reaches and controls all sorts of property.

Increase the amount of money more rapidly than the demand for money increases, and you lower the value of a dollar; decrease the quantity of money while the demand for it increases, and you increase the value of a dollar. When you understand that, you understand the essence of the money question. When you understand that, you understand what its effect is on you; and then you can tell where your interest lies. When you understand that principle, then you understand why the great crusade in favor of the gold standard finds its home among the holders of fixed investments, who, by such legislation, raise the value of the property which they hold.

I am not giving you my authority for it; I can quote you authority which our opponents dare not question. I have called attention, and I shall continue to call attention, to a remark made by Mr. Blaine in Congress on this subject.

He said that the destruction of silver as money and the establishing of gold as the sole unit of value must have a ruinous effect upon all forms of property, except those investments which yield a fixed return in money; that these would be enormously enhanced in value and would gain a disproportionate and unfair advantage over every other species of property.

There is a statement that no man who has respect for his reputation will dare to dispute.

It means that you will give to those investments and to this one form of property, money, an advantage over every other form of property.

When you understand the effect of the policy and then understand that the desire for it is manifested most among those who hold the fixed investments or trade in money, I think you will come to the conclusion that I have come to—that the fact that the gold standard is a good thing for them is the principal reason why they are in favor of a gold standard.

When you make up your minds that the gold standard is a bad thing, then the only question that you have to consider is, how can you get rid of it? Our opponents may raise objections to the plans which we propose, but I want to suggest that you are interested not so much in knowing the objections to our plans as in knowing what plans they have to relieve the condition.

Why don't they propose something? Is it because they don't know what ought to be done? If so, they are poor people to lead you out of bondage.

Is it because they know and will not tell? If so, they have not the candor that should be possessed by those who would redeem a people from their suffering and distress. They say that our dollar will be a 53-cent dollar. They refuse to apply to the silver that is produced in the world the law of supply and demand.

We say, increase the demand for silver by legislation and that new demand, acting with the demand now in existence, will operate upon the price of silver. We say that that new demand will be sufficient to consume all the silver presented at the mint, and being sufficient, will raise the value of silver bullion to $1.29 per ounce throughout the world.

We have a reason for our belief: They simply say, 'It won't do it; it won't do it,' and then sit back and propose absolutely nothing.

I have known some of our opponents to use this sort of argument: Why, they say, if the free coinage of silver makes a silver dollar equal to a gold dollar it will be just as hard to get a silver dollar as it is to get a gold dollar. Do you know what they overlook? They overlook the fact that when we bring silver into competition with gold and increase the supply of standard money, while a silver dollar will be worth as much as a gold dollar, it will be easier to obtain, with the products of toil, a silver dollar or a gold dollar than it is today.

Our complaint is that the same hostile legislation which has destroyed the demand for silver and driven down the price of silver when measured by gold, has also increased the demand for gold and driven up the price of gold when measured by other forms of property, and that the opening of our mints to the free and unlimited coinage of silver will operate to bring more money into circulation and thus lessen the strain upon gold, and that by increasing the demand for silver we bring silver up until silver and gold meet at the ratio now fixed by law, and a silver dollar and a gold dollar will be of the same value here and all over the world."

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: 342-349
  • Date: August 22, 1896