Hornellsville, NY Speech, 1896-08-28

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, August 29, 1896
Maple City Park, Hornellsville, NY

Source: LOVE THE WORKERS, Mr. Bryan Speaks of the Great Affection of the Goldbugs for Laborers, Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition), Sunday, August 30, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Fellow Citizens: I have not time to enter into an elaborate discussion of the issues presented to the people in this campaign, but I desire to call attention to a few things which may assist you in deciding on which side you will cast your influence. There are several things which you have a right to consider. It is the object, or at least should be, of public speakers to aid their audiences to understand the merits of disputed questions, and it is an evidence of sincerity of purpose when a person discusses public issues so plainly and clearly that one can understand just what is said and meant."


"When ambiguous language is used, when obscure expressions are employed, it is an indication that the person speaking has something to conceal. The Bible speaks of certain persons who love darkness rather than light, and it gives a reason for that peculiar affection. Do you remember what the reason is? We are told that they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Whenever I find darkness employed in the discussion of a question, or in the statement of a position, I am irresistibly reminded of that Bible passage, and conclude that the person who attempts to be obscure does so because he is not willing that the people should know what he believes and what he desires to accomplish. When I hear a man talking about 'sound money' without defining it, I think that, perhaps, he loves darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil. (Applause.)

When I find a man talking about an 'honest dollar' without telling what he means by an 'honest dollar,' I am afraid that I have found another man who loves darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil.

When I find that our opponents are taking their arguments from people who are nameless, I am afraid that there is purpose in the obscurity."


"Let me call your attention to an item which you will find at the top of the first column of the first page of the Buffalo Courier. Here it is. Read the headlines: 'Ready to unload.' 'India Bankers Hope that Bryan Will Win.' 'They Are Eager to Dump Great Hoards of Silver by the Ship Load on the United States Mints and to Double Its Present Price.'

Under these headlines I find this special cablegram from the great city from whence come most of the arguments of the enemy: London, England. (Hisses.) 'In the course of an interview today a leading India merchant who has just returned from Calcutta said to me that'—a leading India merchant, name unknown (laughter)—'American politics just now is of interest to Hindu and Parsee bankers and financiers, as well as to native potentates.'

Yes, my friends, American politics is of absorbing interest to all the nations because we are going to decide to govern ourselves. (Cheers.) 'All of them, possessing enormous hoards of silver, eagerly desire Bryan's election, and the chance thereby afforded them to dump shiploads of silver bullion into the United States mints at double the present price. So eager are they that I have heard a well founded rumor'—an unknown person has heard a well founded rumor—'that a fund has been started to aid the free silver party by supplying campaign literature.'"


"That is the end of the quotation from the unknown Indian merchant. And the cablegram adds:

'My informant is a man of such high commercial standing that I attach high importance to this information.'

There is a correspondent who does not sign his name, telling about a man of high commercial standing, whose name he does not give, who quotes from a leading merchant, whose name is unknown, and he says that there is a 'well founded rumor' that certain things are going to happen. (Laughter.)

That, my friends, is the sort of argument which is being spread before the American people. Why don't these men who are giving opinions give their names also, so that we can find out who the men are and what their opinions are worth? But I am afraid that they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. (Applause.) I call attention to this item because you can see by it what an unsubstantial foundation is laid for the fears which they attempt to excite in the breasts of American citizens.

Let me give you another evidence of the lack of candor and directness which characterizes our opponents. Ex-Secretary Fairchild is quoted in this paper as saying:

'I do not see how we can do anything else than put a third ticket in the presidential arena. We have practically committed ourselves to such a course. We want to see the defeat of the Chicago ticket, and we shall try to draw away as many voters as we can do anything else than put a third ticket in the presidential arena. We have practically committed ourselves to such a course. We want to see the defeat of the Chicago ticket, and we shall try to draw away as many voters as we can from it. We feel that their defeat may be best accomplished by a third ticket. Of course we shall find no fault with those of our friends who cast a straight vote for McKinley. As to who the nominee will be, I have not the slightest idea.'"


"Now there, my friends, is a man who claims to be in favor of honest money, advocating the putting up of a ticket, not for the purpose of electing it, but for the purpose of electing another ticket which the bolting Democrats are not willing to endorse in convention. (Applause.)

I simply call your attention to the methods which we have to meet in this campaign and ask you whether you think these methods characterize a political party which is so accustomed to honesty that it wants money honest and dollars sound? (Derisive laughter.)

Now, as against a party, without daring to advocate a gold standard, yet declaring in favor of its maintenance until other nations come to our relief and as against another so-called party that advocates the nomination of a ticket, not for the purpose of electing it, but for the purpose of electing another ticket, we present a straight-forward, emphatic declaration, which is so clear that one who runs may read. We demand the immediate restoration of the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the present ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth. I believe you have a right to consider the frankness, the candor, with which these positions are stated when you come to decide which side is honestly striving to do that which is best for the American people."


"Now, if the gold standard is a good thing, the Republicans ought to have declared in favor of its maintenance. If the gold standard is a good thing then the United States ought to have it, and if the gold standard is a bad thing, then no foreign nation should be permitted to force a standard upon the people of the United States. (Cheers.) There is not in the platform of the Republican party a single ray of hope. Are you satisfied with your condition? If so, then why do you want to keep a gold standard? If you are not satisfied with your condition, will you wait for somebody to come to your aid?

That, my friends, is the line of the campaign, no party depending on the gold standard, and yet a party willing to surrender the right of self-government, willing to vest its legislative powers in other lands and let them legislate for the United States. (Hisses and should of "Never, never.")

I do not believe that the American people will consent to receive their mandates from over the ocean. (A voice with a strong Hibernian accent: "Johnny Bull will never do it.") Another thing, my friends, our opponents do not attack one of the strong planks in our platform. We declare against the issue of bonds in time of peace and against trafficking with syndicates who hire themselves for a high price to look after our government. (Laughter.) We denounce that policy. Does the Republican party denounce it? No, no; not a word in its platform denounces it. If the Republican party succeeds will it stop that policy?" (Voices: "No, no.")


"How do you know it will not? It is because every man who is interested in these syndicates, every man who profits out of the government's extremities, is declaring that the republican ticket must be elected this year to save the country. The people would elect the republican ticket if they thought that party would stop trafficking with syndicates. (Applause.)

And yet when our opponents come before the people, to whom do they appeal for votes? Do any of these Republican speakers turn to the money changers and appeal to them to vote the Republican ticket? It is not necessary to waste time on them.

To whom do they appeal? To the ones they think the least likely to vote the Republican ticket. They appeal where they think it will take the most persuasion to get them out. They appeal to the laboring men of the United States. Just now their appeal is especially to the laboring men. They tell the laboring men that they are afraid that something is going to happen to him. (Laughter.)

Now, how can you tell whether these men who stand at the head of the gold crusade, and yet do not have the courage to say gold when they talk, how do you tell whether they are going to help the laboring man or not? Judge the future by the past. We have good scriptural authority for the assurance that a tree is known by its fruits. These trees have been bearing for a twenty years and there has not been a thing on a single tree which a laboring man would have in his house if he could get it."


"These men who have now become the great apostles preaching in the interest of the laboring men, my friends, these men who stand at the head of the gold crusade are men who have prevented the arbitration of difficulties between laborers and their employers. They are the men who by the formation of great trusts have stifled completely and have driven the small competitors out of business and then preyed upon society with no one to restrain them or make them afraid. (Cheers.) Are these the men who at this late day are going to turn around and champion laws for the special benefit and protection of the laboring man? Show me a man who has tried to break down labor organization. (Shouts of "Hang him, hang him.") And these are the men who are today 'sweating blood' for fear the workingman is going to have his wages cut in two.

Now, friends, the policy of the enemy is to divide our forces. (An Irishman: "That is Johnny Bull's policy too.") Whenever there has been an effort on the part of the laboring men to secure any legislation in their behalf, where have they found their friends? They found their friends on farms, and not in Wall street among the advocates of gold standard. (Applause.) And now they appeal to the laboring man to come with the money changers and help them to defeat the farmer, because he wants a higher price for his product. They want the laboring man to believe that the free coinage of silver is going to hurt him."


"My friends, I would rather risk the laboring man to decide what is a good thing for him than to leave his interests to his enemies. (Applause.)

The laboring men know that they cannot separate themselves from the tillers of the soil. They know there can be no prosperity until the farmer is selling what he produces for more than it costs him to produce it. (Cheers.) They know that a policy which decreases the number of home owners and increases the number of tenants curses not only the farmer, but everyone who earns his bread by the sweat of his brow. And they know that the great toiling masses have got to stand together, or if I may use one of the early jokes, they have got to hang together, or they will hang separately. (Great laughter.)

Now, my friends, I have suggested these things for your consideration and I want to submit a few questions for you to ask your opponents when you enter into discussion with them because conversions are made through you. More people are converted in these hand to hand contests than are converted from the platform, and I want to commission you as missionaries to go into all the darkness around you and to bring converts into the light. (Applause.)

If a man says he is in favor of a gold standard, tell him that he is a man without a party in the United States; tell him that he cannot stand on any platform ever written in this country. If he says he is opposed to a gold standard and is in favor of bimetallism, ask him whether he thinks the best way to get bimetallism is to have a gold standard (laughter), and if he is willing to have bimetallism ask him how long he is willing to wait for it."


"If he says he needs other nations to help, ask what other nations he wants to help and what chance he thinks there is for this help, and ask him if he thinks the people of a creditor country, whose managers and whose rulers profit by the advance in the value of the dollar, are very good people to expect to come to help us to stop the thing which is doing them good. Ask him what reason he has to think that human nature is any different in a foreign country from what it is here; and ask him if he knows anybody here trying to hurt himself just to help somebody else. (Laughter.)

If he says that he does not think this nation is large enough to have a financial policy of its own, ask him what he thinks this nation is large enough to have. (Laughter.) If he says we are not able to legislate for ourselves on the greatest question that can come before the people, ask him what right we have anyhow to declare our independence. (More laughter.)

If he tells you that he does not want a 53-cent dollar ask him if he has got any of those dollars to sell now for 53 cents."


"Tell him that under free coinage the dollar will be the same as it is now; will be of the same weight and of the same fineness, and that it will be legal tender better than it is today, because while the silver dollar is a legal tender today unless somebody contracts against it, the new silver dollar will be a legal tender no matter if men hereafter try by law to demonetize what the government makes money. They tell you that the government must pay all its obligations in gold. Who said so? No law ever said so. No law is on the statute books today that ever said so. No law is on the statute books today that ever said so.

...We can make more mints; and yet you find people who are frightened at a flood and then are frightened at a drought of money."


"I don't know anything more pitiful than to see a man who is in mortal terror lest he should have to struggle with a flood and a drought of money at the same time. (Laughter.) They say that free coinage of silver will so stimulate the production that the mines will produce more than we can utilize. Whenever I hear a man say that there may possibly be in the future more silver produced than the world can utilize, I am always reminded of one thing that consoles me very much. Every time it commences to rain it is possible that the rain may never stop. And yet I have known it to be so dry that people have actually prayed for rain, although they knew all the time that if it ever got started it might no end.

But people are afraid of flood and rain because they know it has rained for 6,000 years and we have never had but one deluge. Therefore, they talk of another flood. (Laughter.)

You tell me there will be a flood of silver. I tell you it is possible, but not probable. I tell you we have used silver money for 6,000 years and we never had even one flood of silver in all such time. (Laughter.) And if the time ever comes when we have too much silver, so much that we cannot use it, when I remember that for twenty years we stopped the coinage, I felt, oh, so hopeful that we will find some way of stopping the flood if we ever want to." (Laughter.)


"I have known some good people who are almost afraid to go to sleep at night for fear somebody would break into the back yard and use it as a dumping place for silver of the world." (Laughter.)

(A voice: "Say something about the tariff.")

"What is the use of discussing the question, until we decide whether the United States has a right to legislate on any question. (Applause and laughter.) Why not submit the tariff question to the international agreement along with the money question. The tariff question compared with the money question is absolutely insignificant. And you cannot force the tariff question into a campaign where the people are trying to decide their financial independence of every nation on earth. (Cheers.) It matters not how we differ on other questions. This is going to determine the allegiance of people to party this year. And if the syndicates can leave the Democratic party in order to prevent free silver, I want to know why the laboring men and the farmers cannot leave the Republican party in order to destroy the gold standard. (Many shouts of "We will.")

I believe to make the people love their government is not to call them abusive names when they make a just complaint, but to make the government so good that it deserves the love of every citizen."


"I come to renew your faith in the love of independence, which declares that all men are created equal, and if all men are created equal, then no man, whatever his name or position or lot in life, has a right to injure another man, and no government should enable one citizen to injure another.

I have not come here to beg your votes, but I say that when you have read my platform and understand what these policies mean to you, if you then believe that through the election of the ticket nominated at Chicago you can best serve your country, serve your rights, and protect your families, then I am a bidder for your votes. I care not to what party you belong. But if on the other hand you believe that the election of anybody else is better for yourselves and for your country, then it would be criminal for you to cast your votes for me. That is my idea of politics. It is not the person; it is the cause for which the person stands. It is not the indorsement; it is the principle. I stand for certain principles, and if elected I will carry them out to the best of my ability, so help me." (Loud and prolonged cheering.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: August 29, 1896