Wheeling, WV Speech, 1896-10-01

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Thursday, October 1, 1896 at 7:30pm
Grand Stand, Wheeling, WV

Source: VAST CROWDS CHE[ER], Swarms of Humanity Pack t[he] Streets of Wheeling to Greet the Great Leader., Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Friday, October 2, 1896; The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are engaged in a campaign upon which much depends. I have heard since I came into the State that a prominent member of a corporation has boasted that the Republicans have $300,000 to spend in this State to prevent the electoral vote being cast for the Chicago ticket. (Shouts of "They won't do it" and cheers.) In times of quiet, when people feel no deep interest in the result, money may possibly be expended in such a way as to affect an election, but in times like these, when the people are in earnest, money cannot change the result. (Great cheers) As against a corruption fund, however, must we place the manhood of the voters of the United States (Great applause.) If our opponents are allowed to intimidate and corrupt the voters, then the people are helpless to secure any remedy through legislation because every time intimidation is successful it encourages those who try it to try intimidation again. Every time corruption is successful it encourages corruptionists to try corruption again, and when they win by corruption and intimidation they then enact legislation which secures to them out of the pockets of the people, vastly more than they expend in carrying the election.

I rejoice that such a demonstration as this is possible in the State of West Virginia. Without any money being spent by the committee, great interest has been aroused. (W[[illegible]] and prolonged cheering) The fact that you are willing to give your time and to contribute, even at a sacrifice, whatever is necessary to prepare this magnificent demonstration, is evidence that you are in earnest and that you mean business in this campaign. (Great applause.)

We have declared the money question to be the paramount issue of the campaign. Ordinary questions may be settled at any time, but we have reached a crisis in our financial affairs when it is necessary for the United States to take a decided stand, and what that stand shall be must be determined, not by a few financiers, but by the American people. Some of our opponents seem to think that only a few people are able to understand the money question. They even go so far as to assert that financial questions are too complicated to be understood by the ordinary citizen. When I find a man who thinks that the money question is too complicated for the people, I generally find a man who thinks it is just about complicated enough for himself. When I find a man who thinks that the money question is too deep for the people, I generally find a man who thinks that he has made a study of deep questions. Whenever I find a man who thinks that the masses are not intelligent enough to act for themselves, I generally find a man who wants to act for them. And you may rest assured that if you let some one act for all the people on the theory that all the people have not sense enough to act for themselves, then you may depend upon it that the one who does the acting will not neglect himself. The money question is not a complicated question; it requires no extended study to understand the principle which underlies it. It is so simple that there is no person in this audience who need go away without a clear understanding of the subject. You can make money either dear or cheap by law. You can make money dear by making it scarce; you can make money too cheap by making it too plentiful. A dollar is a creature of law; if you have more dollars than are necessary to keep pace with the demands for money, then dollars will fall in purchasing power. If the demand for money increases more rapidly than the number of dollars, then the value of the dollar will rise. There are some people who profit by a rising dollar; there are some people who grow rich as a dollar grows in purchasing power, and if these people control legislation they will so control it as to raise the value of the money which they own. There are those who make a profit by the negotiation of bonds, and those who profit by bond sales are anxious for the government to maintain a policy which will make frequent bond issues necessary. Therefore, my friends, the question as to who shall determine the quantity of money becomes a serious question. The advocates of a gold standard insist that they favor the gold standard, not because of the advantage which it brings them but because of their interest in others. You may believe that if you like, but I do not. When I find a man who wants a thing because he thinks it is good for himself, I recognize him as a natural sort of man, but when I find a man who always wants to do something for me against my will; some one who insists upon looking after my interests when I don't want him to; and who tells me that he always feels for me I am careful to see that he does not reach me.

I do not know what these gold advocates may have said in your presence but I know that some of them insist that the New York financiers would make a great profit out of free coinage if they could only permit themselves to enjoy the profit. When they tell me that the financiers will profit by free coinage, then, my friends, I conclude that the time has come for the masses to pay back a debt of gratitude which has been accumulating for twenty years. For twenty years these financiers, if we can believe their own report, have been legislating for the good of the people even to the neglect of themselves. I do not think we ought to permit them to make this sacrifice for us always, and when they tell us that the free coinage of silver will help them I say that we should give them the advantage of free coinage and permit them to enjoy it to their hearts' content. If it brings disadvantage to us we will endeavor to bear up under the disadvantage with that fortitude which they have displayed in enduring the gold standard for so many years. If, as a matter of fact, they believe that the free coinage of silver is going to enrich them, why is it that they call us anarchists because we are attempting to do something for them?"


"You ask a farmer why he wants bimetallism. He tells you because bimetallism will help him and he believes it will help others. You ask the laboring man why he wants bimetallism and he tells you it will help him and believes it will help others, but you ask the eastern financier why he wants a gold standard. Does he tell you that he wants it because it will help himself? You never heard one of them shy [[illegible]] Why, he tells you he wants a gold standard because it will help somebody else. You ask him who will be benefited and he tells you that the gold standard will help the farmer, and he wants it for the famrers' good: he tells ou that the standard will help the laborer and he wants it for the laborer's good. When the eastern financier tells you that he wants a good dollar so that when the laboringman gets a dollar—when—(great applause) it will be a good dollar (Laughter.) He says that he wants the gold standard because it will be good for the business...for the business man to use and [[illegible]] he can just have the gold [[illegible]] that a few financiers can [[illegible]] and the business man can use [[illegible]]."

[[illegible]] LOVES THEM.

"[[illegible]] that the farmer, the [[illegible]] and the business man [[illegible]] the gold standard. Tell [[illegible]]e willing to risk whatever [[illegible]] from bimetallism and he [[illegible]] the full height of his moral [[illegible]] and says: 'But shall I let those hurt themselves? (Laughter.) [[illegible]] will ram the gold standard down [[illegible]] throats whether they want it or not because I love them so.' (Loud laughter and cheers.)

My friends, you may believe this sort of stuff if you want to, but when they tell you that they want a gold standard just because they think it helps somebody I do not believe what they say. My friends, I do not know what these gold standard advocates might have said in your presence, but I know that some of them have tried to say that the New York financiers would make a great profit out of free coinage, but that they don't want to allow themselves to make that profit. (Laughter.)

When they tell me that financiers should profit by free coinage then, my friends, I make up my mind that the time has come when the masses of people [shou]ld pay a debt of gratitude which they have been longing to pay for twenty years. These financiers tell us that for twenty years they have been legislating the good of the people—even to the [[illegible]]ect of themselves. I do not think that we ought to permit them to make the sacrifice for us always." (Laughter.)


"And when they tell us that the free coinage of silver will help them then I say, my friends, we have a chance now to get even because we will give them free coinage and let them enjoy it to their heart's content. (Wild and prolonged applause.)

...There is no tyranny more galling than the tyranny of plutocracy: no tyranny so despotic as the tyranny of those financiers who attempt to rob men of their right to vote and act because they have signed their name to a note. I know men will have been threatened with bankruptcy if they did not surrender their convictions to this moneyed aristocracy. I have been touched by the intensity of the feeling among the people, and well may they feel deeply, my friends, because if this moneyed aristocracy has a right to dominate elections and control policies, then free government as it is known by the fathers will cease to exist in the United States. (Great applause.)

...I want to call your attention, my friends, to this unique situation. You had speaking in your midst today a man who says he is going to vote for the Republican ticket—because Mr. Cockran, who spoke here today, has openly and boldly declared his intention of voting the Republican ticket, and yet a man who openly says that he is going to vote the Republican ticket is sent around over the country by men who call themselves 'sound money Democrats', and who pretend to be [[illegible]]ing another ticket."


"I am not criticizing Mr. Cockran's declaration that he will vote the Republican ticket, but I ask you whether you, in all the history of this country, you ever knew a political party that employed a man to make speeches under its auspices when it knew he was not going to vote for the ticket which it said it was going to vote for. My friends, I call your attention to it because I want to show you what a transparent fraud the bolting Democratic organization is. It has all the characteristics of a gold-bug Republican, except courage to vote the Republican ticket. The leaders, instead of saying they are gold, prate about an honest dollar, when they know that the gold dollar is the most dishonest dollar in the land today, and they love it most when it is 'most dishonest.'" (Great applause.)

About this Document

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