Cleveland, OH Speech 1, 1896-08-31

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Monday, August 31, 1896
Central Armory, Cleveland, OH

Source: NEVER SUCH SCENES, City of Cleveland Witnesses a Reception Not Before Known in Her History, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Tuesday, September 1, 1896; The Evening News, Tuesday, September 1, 1896

"What is the meaning of this enormous outpouring of the people? No ordinary occasion would produce this scene. No ordinary campaign would stir men's spirits as they are being stirred today. Your presence, your enthusiasm, testify to the fact that this year people are thinking as they have not thought before in recent years. And well they may. In this campaign two mighty forces are arrayed and they are engaged in a struggle which means much to both. When Mr. Carlisle in 1878 was discussing the money question, he said:

'The struggle now going on cannot cease and ought not to cease until all the industrial interests of the country are finally and fully emancipated from the heartless domination of syndicates, stock exchanges and other great combinations of money grabbers in this country and Europe.'

Have the people been emancipated from the heartless domination of those 'heartless syndicates and money grabbers of this country and Europe?" (Cries of "No, no, no.") No, for the last 20 years that heartless domination has increased in its severity and with the last three years that heartless domination has grown more and more intense, until today the people are confronted with this problem: Are the American people able to govern themselves, or must this government be thrown over to the syndicates to carry on a scheme they think best for their private profit? (Cries of "no, no.")

For the last twenty years, the struggle has grown more and more intense. The question is, are the American people to govern themselves or must the government be turned over to syndicates to be carried on by them for their own profit? It has been customary in the past for the two great parties to write platforms and to go before the people and tell them about the planks in the platform; but their language was ambiguous.

Not so in the present contest. The two parties have taken their positions without any attempt to delude the gold standard was placed on the statute books of the country by fraud. There never has been an open fight about it in this generation. It wore the mask of a robber and carried the knife of an assassin when it was adopted in 1873; the American people knew nothing of this. The American people of St. Louis had such an opportunity as seldom comes to a party. The present administration has advanced the gold standard and forced it on the people under whip and spur, passing the law which repealed the purchasing clause of the Sherman act."


"What an opportunity this gave the Republican party. Why did it not in convention declare the abandonment of the financial policy of the Democratic party? Why did not it declare an abandonment of the gold standard and a restoration of the bimetallism of the constitution? Because the financiers of New York wrote the Republican platform. The farmers and the workingmen of the [[illegible]] were looking and longing for relief, but the Republican party was deaf [[illegible]] and blind to all cries save [[illegible]] gold. (Applause.)

The Republican party in writing its platform did not dare to advocate the gold standard, but said that it must be maintained until other nations came to our relief. It pledges the party to get rid of a gold standard and substitute bimetallism. But when? It confesses its impotency to govern the country by declaring that we must wait for the aid and consent of other nations. That is the Republican platform. Does it say for how long the country is to suffer a gold standard? No. Does it say for a year, or for four years? No; it does not limit. What is the duration to this infamous gold standard? (A voice: "Fifty years.") Forever, my friends." (Applause.)


"Where will the foreign nation come from that will have pity on us? Can you expect aid from the nation from which you wrested your independence? [[Illegible]] opponents hold out not a hope, not a promise. Against this vesting of legislative power in the hands of aliens, the Democratic party presents a platform that is so clear and direct that he who [[illegible]] may read. The Republican party says that we must maintain for a time, at least, the gold standard. It declares unalterable opposition to any other standard. The Republican party says we must continue it until other nations are ready to restore bimetallism. The Democratic party says: 'We demand the immediate restoration of free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth.' Therefore you can decide on which side of the question your interests are.

You say you are not concerned in what others may do. Let me beg you to beware of subjecting the interests of the greatest nation on earth to a gold standard until you are prepared to accept the legitimate and natural results of such an act. If greed and avarice can blind the judgment or stifle the consciences of 70,000,000 of people in the United States, do you know that when this policy is consummated here the same influence will be turned toward other silver-using countries? If they can drive silver out here, what nation can withstand its influence?

Wait until these heartless, merciless influences have driven silver from here and they will turn to other nations. Wait until they have driven silver from India and 250,000,000 of people reach out after their share of the world's supply of gold. Wait until they have driven silver from China and 350,000,000 of people reach out after their share of the world's supply of gold; wait until they have driven Japan to the gold standard and Mexico and South America and then you will put gold on an auction block and every toiler under the sun will bow to it and work a little harder to get a little less of the yellow metal. And at whose bidding do you destroy silver? At the bidding of the farmers of the world? The farmers have never asked for the crucifixion of silver. At the bidding of the laborers of the world? The laborers of the world have never demanded the death of the white metal. Who has demanded it? (A voice, "Wall street.")

The money changers whom the Savior drove out of the temple. Go to the great money centers where a few men can corner the world's gold and then let it out for a little while to the nation that will pay the highest price for it. To the large holders of fixed investments who find that their property rises as stagnation and distress prevails throughout the world. These are the ones who come to you and in the name of honesty beg you to fasten this standard upon the country. You have a right to consider the manner and the words of those who come to preach a gold standard; these defenders who raise themselves to the full height of their moral stature and say: 'Shall we allow the poor, ignorant, incompetent people to ruin themselves?'"


"The advocates of a gold standard tell you that it is not good for them, but that it is good for all the rest of the people. They tell you that the free coinage of silver would benefit them, but that they do not want it. They want the gold standard because it helps the laboring man. (Scoffing and laughter.) They say, 'We will ram the gold standard down the throats of the people, whether they want it or not, because we love them.' (Mocking laughter.) Do you believe them? (Shouts of "No, no!") They are men of like passions with ourselves. What influences us influences them. When they tell you it is for our good, they are only thinking of themselves and adding hypocrisy to avarice." (Applause.)

(Light crash of broken timber in one of the galleries. A voice: "All right, Bryan, go ahead." Laughter.)

When I find somebody who is always feeling for me, I am careful that he does not reach me. (Laughter.) These men who have been sacrificing themselves for us, let us now sacrifice ourselves for them by giving them bimetallism. (Laughter and applause.) If a gold standard is a good thing, we ought to have it all the time. If it is a bad thing, we ought not to have it at all. There is only one way to get rid of it and that is to get rid of it. (Applause and laughter.) We cannot abandon it as long as we maintain it."


"There is but one way to get rid of the gold standard and to restore bimetallism, and that is by the action of the United States alone. Just open our mints to the coinage of gold and silver on equal terms and without limit at a fixed ration the coins made from both metals to be an unlimited legal tender for all debts, public and private. (Applause.) Our opponents say that the government ought to go out of the banking business because the issue of paper money is one of the functions of banks. We tell them that the issue of money and greenbacks is one of the functions of government, and that the banks ought to go out of the government business. (Applause and laughter.) I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I predict that as soon as the election is over the gold which the banks put into the treasury will be taken out again, after it has thus been used for political purposes.

...I want you to take this money question and settle it for yourselves. I understand that some people, when they want the votes of employees, go to the employers and arrange for the delivery. (Loud cries of "Mark Hanna, Mark Hanna" and hisses.) My friends, when we want votes for the Chicago ticket, we want to go to the sovereigns themselves, who are the only owners of their votes. If the employees of the railroad want to vote for the Chicago ticket those who are in charge of the road have no right to prevent them and under the Australian ballot they cannot prevent it. I want to feel that I have behind me a majority of the people who will stand by me while I put in force every word of the Chicago platform, if there is power in the government to do it.

My friends, they call us anarchists. No man who owns property that he came by honestly need fear that a hair upon his head will be disturbed. And, as to the Chicago platform, if it means anything, means that we shall go back to the period when the motto of this government was 'equal rights to all and special privileges to none,' we do not want to appeal to those who wish to use the government for private ends. We do not appeal to those who ant the government to stand by and protect them while they trample upon the rights of citizens. We want the support of those who will want to secure for this government the love of every citizen for making the government so good as to deserve the love of every citizen."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1, 1
  • Date: August 31, 1896