Indianapolis, IN Speech 5, 1896-10-06

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, October 6, 1896
Tomlinson Hall, Indianapolis , IN

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

Gentlemen: I appreciate the invitation extended by the traveling men to say a word to them, and I appreciate the honor of an introduction to the traveling men by a traveling man who became a supporter of mine after he had read the letter of acceptance of the Republican candidate. I value the support of traveling men for two reasons. In the first place, as a class they average high in intelligence—no class of people has a higher average of intelligence—and when I have the support of traveling men they cannot say that my cause appeals to unthinking people. The traveling men think. Their minds are active and it is only another proof that bimetallism commends itself to those who will reason, who will study and who will investigate. I am glad to have their support for another reason. They are not only intelligent, but they are active. There are two kinds of supporters, those who vote for you and those who not only vote but work for you; and while we are grateful to those who give their votes, we are still more grateful to those who, not satisfied with simply voting, go out as missionaries to bring others into line.

I am sure that we can have no more effective assistance in this campaign than that of the traveling men. They travel over this country and they do not cost campaign committees anything for expenses or literature. And they can talk faster, longer, and louder than all the other people combined. I say I am glad to have them on our side and I am not going to say that the traveling men are entirely unselfish in supporting bimetallism. In fact, I am one of those who believe that it is much easier for a man to be patriotic when he can at the same time help his own interests and the interests of his family and the interests of those about him. I believe that men have a right in the discussion of public questions to apply those questions to their own condition and see how a policy proposed will affect them in their business. These traveling men are right when they determine that the only way to help the business of the traveling man is to enable the people to buy the goods which traveling men have to sell. The gold standard enables a few people to buy more than they would be able to buy under bimetallism, but it makes the great mass of the people less able to buy than they would be tinder bimetallism. If a man sells shoes he knows that it is a great deal better to sell shoes to the millions who will be able to wear them under a just financial policy than to confine his sales to the few hundreds who will be able to wear them under a gold standard. As it is with shoes so it is with clothing, and so it is with all the goods which are sold. If you increase the power of the people to consume, you increase their power to buy, and when you do so you lay the only foundation upon which commerce in this country can stand. Destroy the power of the masses to buy and you undermine our commercial fabric and increase the number of failures and the number of traveling men out of employment.

I thank you, my friends, for this opportunity to speak to you. If men ask you what 16 to 1 means, you tell them it means that every one traveling man is going to get sixteen votes for us this fall.

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: 532-533
  • Date: October 6, 1896