Erie, PA Speech 3, 1896-08-26

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, August 26, 1896
Park Opera House, Erie, PA

Source: The Evening News, Thursday, August 27, 1896; TRIO OF SPEECHES AT ERIE, Mr. Bryan Addresses Three Big Audiences on the Issue of the Day., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Thursday, August 27, 1896


"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I esteem it a great privilege to be permitted to meet tonight with the members of the clubs assembled here from all over the state of Pennsylvania, because I know what these meetings mean. I know the inspiration that they give and is carried back by those who go forth to prosecute the work of this campaign. In my judgment we are entering upon a campaign which will be memorable in the history of the country for many reasons; not only because of the issue involved—that would be enough to make it an epoch in the history of nations—but there are other reasons. This campaign demonstrated as no campaign has done within the last generation the capacity of the people for self-government." (A voice, "A Daniel come to judgment.")

Is there a man in this land who doubts that the American people can rise to the requirements of any emergency? If so I bid him to cast his eyes upon 70,000,000 of people thinking of their own salvation. (Great applause.) Is there a man who believes that party machinery can govern this people? I bid him look until he sees the great common people breaking every machine that stands in their way. (Great applause and cheering.) Is there a man who believes that the age of oratory is gone? I point him to every precinct in this nation, where he will find a modern Demosthenes." (Great applause.)


"Oratory will live as long as there are causes which appeal to the human heart. Oratory is the speech of the person, one who knows what he is talking about and means what he says, and in this campaign you will find the orator everywhere. Come to my state and I will show you a banker and a money loaner who will go forth to preach the gospel of bimetallism as he never preached any other gospel in his life. I will show you a briefless barrister who, armed with right, will meet the attorney of the corporations and crush him before any audience. (Great applause.) I will show you the business man who never came from behind his counter before, but he, feeling that the welfare of his family, the welfare of posterity, depends upon the settlement of the cause, can come from his store and rise before his audience and make a speech that cannot be answered by any man who would fasten the shackles upon 70,000,000 free men. (Great applause.) I will take you to the railroad shops and I will show you men who know more about the money question than the president of the road knows about the subject. (Applause and cheers.) I will take you to a carpenter who, as he works at his bench, will resolve in his mind these questions and come nearer finding out what is an honest dollar than the man who represents a syndicate and bows to the dictation of Lombard street." (Great applause.)


"Ah! Come with me to the farm, and I will show you the man who follows the plow and who has studied this money question and who knows that if the dollars go up his wheat comes down, and you cannot answer the logic of that argument at all. (Great applause.)

...I know a western town where the people congregate upon the streets and block up the sidewalks talking the money question, and when they were too numerous they had to push them off the sidewalks, and they blocked up the streets, 100 feet side, and then to allow some business to go on the city council hired a hall for these people to meet in every day to discuss the money question in that way. You cannot drive the tariff question into the campaign with a pile driver. It is not more taxes the people want. It is more money to pay the taxes they have today. I want you to go home and take with you the determination to leave no effort undone to carry out the principle which you espouse. We have a cause that appeals to the hearts of men. There is no sentiment in the human heart that is deeper down than the love of justice. It is that love of justice which society is built upon—without which there could be no such thing as government, and that sense of justice is offended by any legislation that seeks to give to a few persons the prosperity that ought to be the heritage of all the people.

Now there is one rule by which we can determine on which side the citizens of this country will fight. I remember hearing a sermon preached a good many years ago from the text: 'As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.' The more I thought of that text, the more deeply it has impressed itself on me. The heart is the place where conduct is determined and if you want to find out where a man is in this fight, don't look at his brain, that would find a reason for whatever his heart wants to do. Look at his heart and find out where his sympathies are. When people choose their sides in this campaign after having studied the question understanding it, they will take the side to which their sympathies lead them. You might not accept my authority; I will give you authority that our opponents, at least, will not question.

Hon. John G. Carlisle, in 1878, made a speech in congress and in the course of that speech, in the House of Representatives, used these words—I think I can quote them exactly—'If this measure (which was the Bland act) could be entrusted for its enforcement to the public official who was in sympathy with the struggling masses who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country, rather than with the idle holders of idle capital, there would be but little difficulty, because he would coin the maximum instead of minimum provided by the amendment.' Do you comprehend what he said in those words? Mr. Carlisle divided society into two classes. He said that on the money question, the idle holders of idle capital were on the one side and that the struggling masses who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country were on the other side. If that division existed then, it exists now.

He said that the Secretary of the Treasury would be governed in his official acts by his sympathies, and because he sympathized with the idle holders of idle capital he would coin as little money as possible, whereas if he had sympathized with the struggling masses he would have coined as much as the law permitted. That is not my language. I may be too young to use words like that. John G. Carlisle was 43 years old when he used these words.

My friends, I believe that those words contain a great deal of philosophy. Show me the sympathies of a man and I will mark out his conduct. Show me a man whose sympathies are with the idle holders of idle capital and I will show you a man who wants as little money as possible, and puts in on the ground that he loves his neighbor better than himself.

...I urge you to remember that this cause rests upon the people themselves. They must fight the battle. They must carry this cause to success and I want you to remember that no abuse which can be heaped upon you should deter you from your purpose."

About this Document

  • Source: The Evening News
  • Published: Lincoln, NE
  • Citation: 6
  • Date: August 26, 1896