Lincoln, NE Speech 2, 1896-09-08

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, September 8, 1896 at 10:30pm
State Capitol Building, Lincoln, NE

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; ELOQUENT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, Mr. Bryan Replies to the Address of George A. Groot, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, September 9, 1896

"Hon. George A. Groot, Chairman, and others, members of the Notification Committee of the National Silver Party: Gentlemen—I beg to reply at this time without the formality of a letter. The platform of the National Silver Convention contains but one plank and that plank, the plank upon the silver question, is identical in substance with the silver plank of the Chicago platform. As I have already discussed the subject at length in accepting the Democratic nomination it will not be necessary at this time to enter upon any argument in defense of bimetallism. I beg to assure the committee that I accept the nomination tendered on behalf of the National Silver Party in the spirit in which it is tendered. (Cheers.) I can appreciate the feelings which animated those who assembled in the Silver Convention and turned their backs upon the party with which they had formerly been associated."


"I know something of the strength of party ties because I was once in a position where I looked forward to the possibility of like action upon my own part. I can appreciate the depth of conviction which led the members of that convention to place the interests of their country above the welfare of a party. (Long cheering, shouts of "good.") More than a year ago when we were engaged in a struggle to bring the Democratic party to the indorsement of free coinage, the question was put to me whether, in case of failure, I would support the Democratic nominee, if he were a gold standard advocate running upon a gold standard platform. I never believed that the Democratic party would indorse the gold standard, but when those who questioned me were not content with probabilities, and asked again whether, in the possible event of the Democratic party declaring for gold, I would support the nominee, I said, as you will remember, that under no circumstances would my vote be given to a man who would use the influence of the executive to fasten the gold standard upon the American people. (Cheering.)

I stood in anticipation where the members of the Silver Party Convention stood in fact. I, like them, preferred the approval of my conscience to the approval of all others. My convictions upon this subject are not shallow convictions. I may be in error—none of us can claim infallibility—but I believe that the gold standard is a conspiracy against the human race. (Great cheering.) I would no more join the ranks of those who propose to fasten it upon the American people than I would enlist in an army which was marching to attack my home and destroy my family. (Renewed cheering.) I repeat, therefore, that I appreciate the spirit which animated those who have just tendered me this second nomination, and I can accept it in the spirit in which it is tendered. I pledge you that, if elected, you shall never have occasion to accuse me of being false to that platform." (More cheering.)


"When I declared that I would not support a gold standard candidate, I was standing upon the record of the Democratic party; I was defending its principles as well as the interests of the country at large. And when the Republicans who assembled in the Silver Convention at St. Louis refused to worship the golden image which their party had set up, they were standing upon the record of the Republican party. (Great applause.)

The Republican national platform of 1888 denounced the Democratic administration for having attempted to degrade silver. At the Lincoln day banquet, in Memorial Hall at Toledo, Ohio, on February 12, 1891, the present candidate for president upon the Republican ticket used the words which I shall now read to you. I have found these words reproduced in a Toledo paper, and they have stood so long without correction that I may safely quote them. If their correctness is hereafter denied I shall hasten to do justice to the Republican candidate by retracting them. These are the words which he is said to have used:"


"'During all of Grover Cleveland's years at the head of the Government he was dishonoring one of our precious metals, one of our own great products, discrediting silver and enhancing the price of gold. He endeavored even before his inauguration to office to stop the coinage of silver dollars, and afterwards, and to the end of his administration, persistently used his power to that end. He was determined to contract the circulating medium and demonetize one of the coins of commerce, limit the value of money among the people, make money scarce, and, therefore, dear. He would have increased the value of money and diminished the value of everything else—money the master, everything else the servant.' (Great applause.)

Following these same lines, the Republican National Convention, in 1892, declared, at Minneapolis, that the American people were, from tradition and interest, in favor of bimetallism. (A voice, "That's so.") Have traditions changed in four years? (A voice, "No.") Have interests changed in four years? (A voice, "No.") No, my friends; but, forgetting the platform of 1880, forgetting the denunciation uttered by their distinguished leader in 1891, forgetting the platform of 1892, the Republican party, in national convention assembled, declared in 1896 that the American people must forego the advantages of the bimetallic system, to which tradition and interests endear them, until foreign nations shall bring these advantages to them." (Applause.)


"Is it strange that men who have looked for bimetallism in the Republican party should at last give up hope and turn elsewhere for relief? These Republicans cannot be criticised for leaving the Republican party. They have done what every American citizen has a right to do. They have done better than our Democratic advocates of the gold standard, because these Republicans, when they left their former party, openly joined with those who had a chance to succeed, while our Democratic advocates of the gold standard sought to secure the election of the Republican candidates by nominating separate candidates. (Cries of "That's so.")

To show you that the action taken by these Republicans is defended by experience and example, let me carry you back to the period just preceding the war. If you will turn to a book recently published entitled 'John Slierman's Recollections,' you will find, on page 112 of the first volume, a portion of a speech which he delivered in Congress in 1856. Let me read this extract:

'I am willing to stand by the compromises of 1820 and 1850, but when our Whig brethren of the South allow this administration to lead them off from their principles, when they abandon the position which Henry Clay would have taken, forget his name and achievements, and decline any longer to carry his banner—they lose all their claims on me. And I say now, that until this wrong is righted, until Kansas is admitted as a free State, I cannot act in party association with them.'

There the distinguished Senator from Ohio asserted upon the floor of Congress that he was willing to accept compromise after compromise, but that the time had at last come when he could go with his party associates no further; that until certain things were accomplished he could not act with them. The situation today is but a repetition of history. Compromises have been submitted to by these silver Republicans in the hope that the party of their choice and love would at last bring to the people the relief which they desired. But the Republican party, like the Whig party in 1856, has been led off by an administration until it has deserted its traditions and its platforms, and these silver Republicans have a right to say to their former associates: 'We will act with you no longer until this nation is redeemed.'" (Applause.)


"We do not ask those who present this nomination to pledge their future support to the Democratic party. The same intelligence which directs them today in the discharge of duty will be with them four years from now to direct them in the discharge of the duties which will then arise. The same patriotism which leads them today in what they do will be with them four years from now to guide and direct them then. We trust them now; we shall trust them then. The Democratic party has proven itself worthy of their confidence this year, and it receives their support. If four years from now it proves unworthy of their confidence, it will not then deserve their support. (Applause and cries of "That's right, that's the way to talk.")

The chairman of the notification committee has said that we have today to meet a great money trust. He is right. We are now confronted by the most gigantic trust that has ever been formed among men. Do we talk about trusts formed to control the prices of the various articles which we use? My friends, all these trusts combined become insignificant when compared with the money trust which has its hands upon our country. (A voice, "That's so.") Place the control of the standard money of the world in the hands of a few financiers, and times will always be good with them no matter what distress may overtake the rest of mankind. I believe that Mr. Carlisle did not exaggerate when he said, 'The consummation of this scheme'—to destroy silver as a standard money throughout the world—'means more of misery to the human race than all the wars, pestilences, and famine that have ever occurred in the history of the world.' Who does not stand appalled before such misery? Who among you is willing to be a partner in such a conspiracy, in the consummation of such a scheme? (A voice, "Nobody.") It is against the consummation of this scheme so eloquently and so forcibly described by Mr. Carlisle, that the silver Republicans have risen in protest. I respect their convictions. And through you, gentlemen of the committee, I thank them for the nomination tendered. All that I can promise is that I shall endeavor, to the best of my ability, to prove worthy of their confidence."

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, IL
  • Citation: 427-429
  • Date: September 8, 1896