Ottumwa, IA Speech 1, 1896-10-31

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Saturday, October 31, 1896
Depot, Ottumwa, IA

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; REVIEWS THE CAMPAIGN., Mr. Bryan Explains the Issue Before the People., Omaha World-Herald (Sunday Edition), Sunday, November 1, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are now at the close of a memorable campaign, a campaign in which greater issues are involved than were ever involved in any previous campaign in the United States in time of peace, a campaign which has aroused a deeper feeling than has been aroused by any previous campaign in time of peace, a campaign which has witnessed more unselfish devotion to a cause than has ever been witnessed in any previous campaign in time of peace. (Great cheering.) Men who had never spoken before in public have gone forth in this campaign because their hearts were so full of the truth that they could not keep silent. If they had taken from us every man who had made a public speech before, we would have had sufficient of public speaking from these new men who have demonstrated that eloquence is the speech of one who knows what he is talking about and believes what he says. (Great cheering.)

The time has now come for you to sit in judgment as sovereigns of the greatest nation on the earth, and all that we ask of you is that you make your votes represent what you believe."


"The cause of bimetallism has grown every day of this campaign. (Cheers.) There has not been a single moment when there was a cessation in the progress of the cause, and why? Because our cause is just and our arguments unanswerable. (Great cheering.) I claim no credit for the work that has been done; bimetallism has not grown because I have advocated it, but because it appeals to all. Our opponents have accused us of arraying class against class, yet to them belongs the discredit of making more appeals to class and sectional prejudices than any other party has ever made. (Great cheering.) They have tried to array the money loaner against the man who borrows money; they have tried to array the merchant against his customers; they have tried to array the wage earners against the farmer; they have tried to array the financiers against the rest of the people; they have tried to array the soldiers against their country. (Great cheering.) There is not a class to which they have not appealed. Aye, they have even gone into religion and have appealed to missionary societies and to church boards, and have told them that the free coinage of silver would lessen the value of their investments." (Cheers.)


"My friends, our appeal has been to the great producing masses and to those who believe that the prosperity of the nation must begin with those who toil and find its way upward through the other classes of society. (Wild cheers.) We have tried to apply the doctrine of bimetallism to all of the people, and we insist that there is only one class which profits by the gold standard, and that is the class which owns money, and trades in money, and grows rich as the people grow poor. (Great cheering.)

Bimetallism appeals to the farmers because they have suffered from falling prices while their debts and taxes have refused to fall. (Cheers.) We want to restore bimetallism and then maintain the parity between the dollar and property. (Great cheering.) Bimetallism appeals to the wage earner because it makes it more profitable to invest money in enterprises and in the employment of labor than to lock it up in a vault and gain the rise in the value of dollars. (Great cheering.) Bimetallism gives to the laboring man an opportunity to work, and we point to the fact that in all the times past, laboring men have been more prosperous when two jobs of work were looking for one man when two men were looking for one job of work." (Great cheering.)


"Bimetallism appeals to the business man because business failures everywhere testify to the fact that the merchant cannot sell when the people are not able to buy. (Great cheering.) We want to increase the consuming capacity of the American people by having money in the country for them to obtain when they sell their crops and for them to spend in the purchase of food and clothing for their families.

The gold standard has separated the mouth from the money to buy food for it; it has separated the back to be clothed from the purse that contains the money to buy the clothing. We want to close the gap between gold and silver and, by so doing, close the gap between the needs of the human race and the money required to satisfy those needs. (Great cheering.) Bimetallism appeals to the professional man because the professional man lives upon those who produce the wealth of the country and upon those who exchange wealth; and if he destroys the foundation he destroys his own prosperity. (Cheers.) Bimetallism appeals to the soldier; the soldier who was willing to give his life, if need be, to make this one nation, is willing to give his vote this year to make this nation an independent nation rather than the province of some foreign empire." (Great cheering.)


"Our cause appeals to the minds of those who think and to the hearts of those who feel, while the gold standard, when rightly understood, appeals only to those who love money more than they do mankind. (Wild cheering.)

I want you to remember that no evil was ever reformed by those who profited by the evil; that no bad law was ever repealed by those who obtained the benefits of the bad law; that no vicious system was ever corrected by those who profited by the vicious system; and so, in this campaign, the people who have grown rich from the gold standard having banded themselves together to maintain it, we must appeal to those who have suffered in order to obtain relief from the gold standard. (Great cheering.) We have been making an appeal to the people of this country and I have tried to do my share of the work. (Cries of "Yes, you have.") I have worked as hard as I could, and yet I do not want you to think that my physical strength is exhausted. (Wild cheering.)

My hand has been used until it is sore, but it can handle a pen to sign a free-coinage bill, if I am elected. (Great applause and cries of "You will be.") I have been wearied with work, but I still have the physical strength to stand between the people, if they elect me, and the Wall street syndicates which have been bleeding this country." (Wild and continued cheering. A voiceŚ"You are elected." More wild cheering.")


"My friends, you have been told that I am a dangerous man. (Laughter.) There is nothing in my past life, either public or private, that justifies any citizen in saying that my election would be a menace to law and order, or to our form of government, or to the welfare of society; but there is much in what I have said and done to create a suspicion that my election would be a menace to those who have been living on what other people have earned. (Loud cheers.)

(A voice: "Dangerous to Wall street." Cheers.)

My friends, I believe in the cause for which I speak. I have never claimed infallibility, but when I believe a thing I stand by it. (Cheers.) And I believe in the restoration of bimetallism, and if I have behind me the hearts, as well as the votes, of the American people, you may depend upon it that no power in this country or in any other nation will prevent the opening of our mints to the free coinage of silver on equal terns with gold, and at the present ratio." (Great cheering.)


"I appreciate the work that has been done in this campaign; I appreciate the words that have been spoken, the zeal which has been shown, and the sacrifices which have been made, and I appreciate the efforts which have been put forth by the wives and mothers, as well as the work done by the men. (Cheers.) The wives and mothers have a right to feel an interest in the result of this campaign; they are concerned as much as we. There is no question which appeals to the mother's heart more than the question raised in this campaign, namely, whether the trusts and syndicates shall run this government, or whether the people themselves shall have a voice in the making of the laws. (Wild cheering.)

They have accused me of being a young man and I have not attempted to deny it. (Cheering.) But, my friends, as a young man I know something of the feelings of young men, and I know what it is to have a condition in our political society that makes it difficult for a young man to rise in life unless he becomes a favorite of some great corporation. (Great cheering.) I want our government maintained as the fathers intended it. I want it so that the child of the humblest citizen in this land can aspire to any position in the political or business world to which his merits entitle him. I want it so that if he enters politics he will not find arrayed against him all the great financial influences of society unless he is willing to join with them and conspire against the welfare of the people as a whole. If he enters business I want him to be able to stand upon his own merits and not stand always in the fear that some great trust will run him out of business." (Great cheering.)


"We are engaged in just such a contest as every generation must pass through. In times of quiet, abuses spring up. When the people neglect their civil duties those who have great interests at stake gather around legislative halls and secure legislation that grants them special privileges, and then they entrench themselves behind the privileges granted them and contribute to campaign funds in order to purchase an election, knowing that they can get back through unjust legislation more than they contribute to the campaign fund. (Great cheering.) The people suffer until suffering ceases to be a virtue; they are patient until patience is exhausted, and then they arouse themselves, take the reins of government and put the government back upon its old foundation. (Great cheering.)

We are engaged in such a struggle now, and while the election will turn upon the money question, yet behind the money question stand other questions, and behind the money power stand all those combinations which have been using the government for public plunder. (Wild cheering.) I know that the forces against us are great, but, my friends, the conscience of the American people is more potent than any campaign fund that can be raised." (Wild cheering.)


"I am not surprised at the means which have been employed, because when a party starts out with the proposition that we must submit to such a financial system as money lenders demand, they go further and say that any man who borrows money must submit to dictation from the man who loans to him, and that any man who works for wages must submit to dictation from the man who employs him. This doctrine of submission will be carried all the way down the line until the right of the citizen is lost and until the corporation becomes all-powerful. (Great cheering.)

The yellow ribbon which was first adopted as a badge of submission to a foreign money power has become a badge of coercion. (Wild and continued cheering.) Let those wear it who are willing to bow the knee and supplicate for assistance from across the ocean. (Great cheering.) I expect the votes of those only who believe that the American people are able to attend to their own business. (Great cheering.) Let those wear the yellow ribbon who are willing to submit the destinies of this nation to those who loan us money. I expect the votes of those only who want to commit the destinies of 70,000,000 of people to those people themselves. We simply ask you who live upon these prairies and in these cities to be as independent in the casting of your votes as the eastern financier is when he casts his vote. He tells you that he is a business man and cannot allow party questions to interfere with business. I want you to be business men in this campaign. From now until election day carry as your motto: 'We mean business,' and bimetallism will be restored."

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: 594-597
  • Date: October 31, 1896