Asheville, NC Speech, 1896-09-16

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, September 16, 1896 at 4:00pm
Amphitheater, Asheville, NC

Source: BRYAN REACHES ASHEVILLE, Accorded One of the Most Unique and Spirited Receptions of His Tour., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Thursday, September 17, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"I have a reason for coming to North Carolina which is personal, aside from my interest in the electoral vote of this State. It was the State of North Carolina which at Chicago, before I became a candidate, before my own State had taken any formal part in presenting my name—it was the State of North Carolina which, by resolution, decided to give me the unanimous vote of the North Carolina delegation in the National Convention. (Cheers.) I appreciate the honor which the delegates were willing to do me and therefore it gives me great pleasure to come among the people whom they represented, and give what assistance I can, if any assistance be needed, to secure the electoral vote of this State for the free coinage of silver at 16 to 1. I am glad the canvass of this State opens in this county, which was the home of one of the grandest public men given to this nation—not alone by North Carolina, but the entire country—Senator Vance. (Great applause.) He was a man whom I delighted to honor, and I am glad that I stand among his neighbors and friends advocating the same cause that he so eloquently advocated. I cannot more than impress upon your memories the words of his last speech. Let me read you an extract from it:

'The great fight is on. The money power and its allies throughout the world have entered Into this conspiracy to perpetrate the greatest crime of this or any other age, to overthrow one-half of the world's money and thereby double their wealth by enhancing the value of the other half which is in their hands. The money-changers are polluting the temple of our liberties. To your tents, O Israel!'" (Applause.)


"He foresaw the struggle in which we are now engaged. He realized its magnitude when many others did not. Those words came from him as words of command, 'To your tents, O Israel.' And the command was heeded by the Democratic party. The silver Democrats engaged, first, in a warfare within the party to rescue that party from the hands of those who were using it to advance the interest, not of Democracy but of plutocracy. (Applause.) It was a great contest. I venture the assertion that never before in the history of this country did any party have such a contest within its ranks as that which ended at Chicago. I venture the assertion that never before in the history of this country have the voters themselves had so much to do with a convention as did the voters of the Democratic party with the convention at Chicago. This question was submitted to the voters.

The Democratic idea has been that the party is but the instrument of those who compose it, and derives its power from the will of the voters who number themselves as members of that party. Yet it is often the case that the party machinery or bosses have more to do with shaping the policy and making the nomination than the voters themselves. I am proud to be the nominee of a convention which represented no machine and no bosses, but the unpurchased suffrages of the voters of the party. (Great applause.)

A few months ago the most sanguine Democrat did not believe that success this fall was more than possible. The most sanguine Democrat felt that four years of gold standard administration had destroyed almost the possibility of success. But the voters of the Democratic party determined to make one final fight and determined that, if die the party must, it should at least maintain the honor of those who believe in the right of the people to govern themselves. The result is just what it always is if people lay aside expediency and seek to do their duty and accept the consequences. In trying to do right the Democratic party won a possibility of success which it never could have hoped for if it had consulted expediency. (Cheers.) They told us we must not disturb the harmony of the party. The gold Democrats demanded the silver Democrats pledge themselves to support the nominee. They called us everything and tried to make us pledge ourselves to abide the decision at Chicago before we could go into convention.

I, for one, said that whenever our opponents would bring a pledge that the gold standard Democrats would take, it would be time enough to ask free silver Democrats to make pledges. (Cheers.) I stated in answer to an inquiry that I would not support for President a man who would in the Presidential chair continue the present financial policy and mortgage the United States to English bondholders. I said it because I meant it. I may be wrong in my judgment, because none of us are infallible, but my judgment is the only judgment that can control my conduct."


"Now when the Secretary of the Treasury denounced me as a Populist and quoted me as saying that I would not support the nominee, I replied that I did not expect him to support the nominee if he were a free silver man. The time came when he was put to the test, and the only difference between him and me was that I was candid enough to tell the people that I would follow my conscience, and he tried to control a convention and then bolted when he failed to do it. (Great applause.) I have sent him no letter begging his support. (Laughter.) The highest compliment he can pay me is to oppose me, because then the world will know that the Secretary of the Treasury whom I will appoint, if I am elected, will be as different from him as possible. (Great applause.)

I do not dispute the right of any Democrat to vote against the Chicago ticket, if he thinks its success will imperil the country, but what I ask is that these men who have been pretending to be Democrats shall now, when the Democratic party has been rescued from the people's despoilers, leave the name and not attempt to take that name with them into disgrace.

They call themselves true Democrats. No true Democrat ever nominated one ticket for the purpose of voting for another. (Great cheering.) We have this contest to meet and we are prepared to meet it. We have a cause that appeals to the intellect of those who think and to the hearts of those who feel, and we are willing to place that cause in opposition to the cause which merely appeals to the pocketbooks. (Cheers.)

...I denounce the idea that some seem to have that the government has the right to less the volume of money but no right to increase it. Some are afraid if we pass a free coinage law there will be such an enormous increase in the volume of our currency that we won't know what to do with it."


"You can't read a speech made by our opponents but you will find contradictions in it and one proposition will answer another. For instance, a man will say if we had free silver it would give the mine owner a profit of 100 per cent when he took his bullion worth 50 cents to the mint and had it coined into a dollar, and it is a terrible thing to let him make that profit. After he has worried about that, he will tell you as a matter of fact that the law adds nothing to the value of the metal under the free coinage of silver and 50 cents of bullion will only be a 50-cent dollar.

Both these statements cannot be true. If you convert 50 cents worth of bullion into a 50-cent dollar there is no profit to the mine owner. And if the mine owner makes a profit by converting 50 cents worth of bullion into 100 cents, then there are no 50-cent dollars.

Then you hear that under free coinage we would be flooded with silver until money would be so cheap we would not have any use for it, and when you have been frightened as badly as you can be that way, they will tell you this cheap money will run the dear money out and it will take fifteen years with our mints running at full capacity to make money enough to take the place of gold, and that will make money so scarce that a silver dollar will be harder to get than a gold dollar. (Laughter.) You can't have too little and too much all at once.

...Not a dollar's worth of gold would leave this country under free coinage until those who held it felt they were benefited by letting it go. But I do not admit gold would go to a premium. I believe under free coinage gold would come here, instead of going away, and the only way to stop the outflow of gold is to adopt bimetallism and raise the price of wheat and cotton and pay our debts in produce instead of gold." (Great applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 16, 1896