Wilmington, DE Speech 1, 1896-09-21

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Monday, September 21, 1896 at 8:30pm
Auditorium, Wilmington, DE

Source: BISMARCK AND THE MAJOR, Two Most Eminent Authorities Quoted by Mr. Bryan as to the Situation., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Tuesday, September 22, 1896; The Evening News, Tuesday, September 22, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is something customary to the people who desire to see a presidential candidate to form excursions and visit the home of the candidate. (Laughter and applause.) But times are hard this year and the candidate comes to you to save the expense of travel. (Laughter and applause.) I don't believe our people can travel as cheaply anyhow as our opponents can during this campaign. (Great applause.)

...I want to talk to you awhile tonight about the financial policy of the government. I ask your attention to two features of the financial question. First, what use shall we make of the silver dollar already in existence? Second, shall we have any more silver dollars put into existence?

In the first place our silver dollar is not redeemable in gold by law. Our silver dollar is a legal tender for all debts, public and private, unless the contract expressly excludes the silver dollar. Our government has a right to pay every coin obligation in either gold or silver, whichever the government desires. (Applause.) Furthermore, this government has no gold obligation, except gold notes, and for every note there is a gold dollar in the treasury ready to pay it. This government has no gold bonds. This government has no paper outstanding excepting the gold can legally be demanded. What use shall we make of the silver dollar?"


"The Chicago platform declares that the silver dollar shall be just as good as the gold dollar and that the government shall not discriminate in favor of one or against the other in treatment of the coin. (Great applause.) I speak of this because all the conditions of which we complain are brought about by the failure of the government to exercise its right to redeem its coin obligations in either gold or silver.

The issue of $262,000,000 in bonds was unnecessary. Those bonds were issued because the Secretary of the Treasury refused to exercise the rights given him by law and preferred to saddle a bonded debt upon this country instead of departing from custom. (Cheers.) More than that, my friends, not only has the Secretary of the Treasury issued bonds to the extent of $262,000,000 to buy gold with, when the necessity for buying gold could have been avoided by the use of silver, but there is no end to the issues of bonds if this financial system continues and the Republican party proposes to continue the same financial system that has cursed this country for the last twenty-three years. (Great applause.)

It sold bonds and sent them across the ocean and before six months were up the same bonds that went across the ocean at 1.04 came back to this country at the rate of 1.20. This is financiering. (Laughter and applause.) That is wisdom in financial circles. (Laughter.) And if there is anyone who does not see that it is wise, do not say so, because they will say you are in ignoramus down in Wall street. (Applause.) That contract contained a stipulation by which the Rothchilds and Morgan syndicate agreed for a certain length of time to do its best to protect the treasury of the United States. I think that was the worst clause in the contract. It was the worst clause in the contract because it recognized in the contract that the services of those men were worth buying and paying a large price for. (Great cheering.)

...You will find in our cities preachers of the gospel, enjoying every luxury themselves, who are indifferent to the cries of distress which come up from the masses of the people. It was told of a princess in a foreign land that, when someone said to her, 'the people are crying for bread,' she replied, 'Why don't they eat cake?' Tell some of these ministers of the gospel that men out of work are driven into crime, and they cannot understand why everyone is not as well off as themselves. When I have seen preachers of the gospel using even more bitter speech than politicians against the clamorings of the people, I have wondered where they got the religion that they preach. My friends, the common people were never aided in their struggles by those who were so far beyond them that they could dot feel their needs and sympathize with their interests.

...If some petty individual who did not have a high financial standing were to try to beat the government out of $100, they would put him in the penitentiary and make an example of him, but if a man tries to beat the government out of $5,000,000 he becomes a patriot and deserves to be the chief guest where the treasury officials are banqueted. I do not believe the man who manages the financiering should be the bosom friend of the conspirators who never lose an opportunity to bleed the people.

I believe a new leaf must be turned over. I believe that the time has come when the secretary of the treasury, instead of being invited before the magnates of Wall street and told what he must do, ought to invite the magnates of Wall street before him and tell them what they must do and make them do it. You say it cannot be done. Then our government is a failure, because there is somebody in the government who is bigger than the government itself. You say we are not able to manage these trusts. Yes, we are. A trust cannot exist unless it is connived by the lawmakers or those who enforce the law.

You have had something to do with the coal trust and your coal costs you about a dollar a ton more this year than last. It means that trusts can go to every fireside and exact an unjust tribute before the man who sits by the fireside can be warm. It means that our natural wants drive us into a pen where the men who own the trusts can slaughter us at their mercy. I have been called an anarchist because I have opposed the trusts and syndicates which would manage this country. I am glad to have the opposition of these men. I am glad that if I am elected there is not a trust or syndicate that can come to me and say: 'We put you there; now pay us back.'" (Tremendous applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 21, 1896