Fredricksburg, VA Speech, 1896-09-19

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, September 19, 1896 at 11:00am
Mary Washington Monument, Fredricksburg, VA

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: Fredericksburg is not a large city and yet it is rich in incidents of great historic value. Here the women of America have reared a monument to Mary the mother of Washington. I am glad to stand on this spot; I am glad to feel the influences which surround her grave. In a campaign, especially in a campaign like this, there is much of bitterness, and sometimes of abuse spoken against the candidates for public office, but, my friends, there is one character, the mother—a candidate for the affections of all mankind—against whom no true man ever uttered a word of abuse. There is one name, mother, which is never found upon the tongue of the slanderer—in her presence all criticism is silenced. The painter has, with his brush, transferred the landscape to the canvas with such fidelity that the trees and grasses seem almost real; he has even made the face of a maiden seem instinct with life, but there is one picture so beautiful that no painter has ever been able to perfectly reproduce it, and that is the picture of the mother holding in her arms her babe. Within the shadow of this monument, reared to the memory of her who in her love and loyalty represents the mother of each one of us, I bow in humble reverence to motherhood.

I am told that in this county were fought more battles than in any county of like size in the world, and that upon the earth within the limits of this county there fell more dead and wounded than ever fell on a similar space in all the history of the world. Here opposing lines were drawn up face to face; here opposing armies met and stared at each other and then sought to take each other's lives. But all these scenes have passed away and those who once met in deadly array now meet and commingle here as friends. Here the swords have been turned into plowshares, here the spears have been converted into pruning hooks, and people learn war more. Here the bands on either side once stirred up the flagging zeal with notes that thrilled the hearts of men. These two bands are now component parts of one great band, and as that band marches on in the lead playing "Yankee Doodle" and "Dixie" too, the war—scarred veterans who wore the blue and the war—scarred veterans who wore the gray—follow, side by side, each vying with the other in the effort to make this the greatest and the best of all the nations on God's footstool.

I am glad to visit this historic place. They say that here George Washington once threw a silver dollar across the river; but remember, my friends, that when he threw that silver dollar across the river it fell and remained on American soil. They thought that it was a great feat then, but we have developed so rapidly in the last hundred years that we have financiers who can leave George Washington's achievement far behind. We have financiers who have been able to throw gold dollars all the way across the Atlantic, and then bring them back by an issue of bonds.

Would you believe, my friends, that a silver dollar which was good enough to be handled by the father of his country is so mean a thing as to excite the contempt of many of our so-called financiers? Well, it is. It is so mean that they do not like it. Why, our opponents tell us that they want a dollar that will go all over the world. We have had dollars which have gone over the world so rapidly that we want a dollar that will stay at home without a curfew law.

Our opponents tell us that they want a dollar which they can see anywhere in the world if they travel abroad. I am not so much worried about our dollars which travel abroad. I want a dollar that will not be ashamed to look a farmer in the face."

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, Illinois
  • Citation: 457-458
  • Date: September 19, 1896