Harper's Ferry, WV Speech, 1896-09-30

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Wednesday, September 30, 1896
Depot, Harper's Ferry, WV

Source: DELAYED BY FLOODS, Mr. Bryan Arrives at Grafton Three Hours Behind His Schedule., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Thursday, October 1, 1896

"My friends, democracy has a meaning and that meaning is well understood by those who love democratic principles and in this campaign we find men who claim to be democrats trying to fasten upon this country a system by which the banks shall issue money, when Thomas Jefferson declared that banks of the United States were more dangerous than standing armies. (Applause). One reason why we know that we are standing in the position that Jefferson occupied is that he said that those who wanted to turn over the business of issuing paper money to the banks called him a maniac because he opposed it; and the very men who called him a maniac call us who advocated what he advocated then, lunatics. (Applause).

My friends, Jefferson had confidence in the capacity of the people for self-government, aye, a hundred years ago, when government was an experiment he had faith enough in them to think the people could govern themselves. And yet today we have to meet enemies who are not willing that the people themselves shall run this government, but think it is necessary to turn its affairs over to a syndicate to manage for the benefit of the American people." (Applause).


"My friends, we are advocating the restoration of that financial policy which was good enough for this country during all the early days of the republic—a financial policy which had the support of all the leading democrats who lived before 1873, a financial policy which was changed by the representatives of the people in darkness and without discussion, and as many believe, by fraud, actually practiced upon the people. (Cheers).

My friends, some of the financiers down [[illegible]]st doubt the ability of the people to [[illegible]] their own business [[illegible]] when I find a financier who distrusts the American people I generally find a financier who visits Europe oftener than he visits the country that lies west of New York. (Cheers.) I want you to remember that in this campaign those who advocate the free coinage of silver are the only ones who have a system of finance that they are willing to lay before the American people. We are not asking that the silver dollar be changed nor that the gold dollar be changed, but that the American people shall have an option to have both gold dollars and silver dollars to do business with. (Applause and a voice, "How about the 53-cent dollar?")

Some ask, 'How about the 53-cent dollar?' Well, now, my friends, I have known people who have been without dollars so long that a 53-cent dollar would be a God-send to them. (Laughter and applause.) But, my friends, they did not call a silver dollar a dollar and 3-cent dollar when silver was treated like gold. Prior to 1878, the silver dollar was a dollar and 3-cent dollar, measured by gold. They told us that they wanted to get rid of the silver dollar, because it was too good, and now they do not want to bring it back because it is not good enough.

They told us they wanted to demonetize it because it went abroad, and now they are afraid to remonetize it for fear it will come back. (Applause) When our mints were open to the free coinage of gold and silver on equal terms we did not have any trouble about silver being a cheap dollar, and when we open our mints again to silver on an equal footing with gold, there will be nobody to complain of 50-cent dollars, because a silver dollar will be worth as much as a gold dollar here and anywhere in the world." (Cheers.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: September 30, 1896