Indianapolis, IN Speech 1, 1896-10-06

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Tuesday, October 6, 1896 at 3:00pm
Capitol Grounds, Indianapolis , IN

Source: The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896, 1896; BREAK ALL RECORDS, Crowds at Indianapolis Greater Than Any Yet Addressed by Mr. Bryan, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Wednesday, October 7, 1896

"Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It gives me great pleasure to visit Indianapolis. I recall that Hon. Thomas A. Hendricks, a citizen of this city and State, and at that time a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, was the first great Democratic leader whom I ever saw, and such was my admiration for his life and character that my first political pilgrimage was made to this city to attend his funeral. Therefore I think of him on my return to this city, and I think of the principles for which he so ably contended. I am here today to advocate the principles which are democratic in the broadest sense of that term; when the fundamental principles of democracy are understood they are loved and respected by all, irrespective of name, who believe in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This city enjoys the unique distinction of being the birthplace and the deathbed of a so-called party. (Cheers.) I know that when I speak of this so-called party I am disobeying the Bible injunction—let the dead bury their dead. (Cheers.) I speak of this so-called party as I would not speak of any bona fide organization of men (Laughter) because it occupies a peculiar place in history. It calls itself a national party when it does not expect to carry a single county in the entire nation. (Cheers and laughter.) It calls itself a Democratic party when it was organized for the express purpose of electing a Republican candidate for the Presidency. (Great cheering.) If it were big enough to justify the name, I would call it a stupendous fraud, but it is too small—I will call it a transparent fraud. (Cheers.) It is the first political convention ever held in this country where the delegates nominated a ticket which they did not expect to vote for; and the first time when men ever received a nomination and did not want to be voted for. (Cheers and laughter.)

The minority in the Chicago convention opposed free coinage on the ground that it would interfere with international bimetallism, (Laughter) toward which they said the efforts of this government should be steadily directed, and when they failed to secure the adoption of that plank at Chicago they assembled in convention here and forgot to mention international bimetallism. (Cheers.) There could be no clearer evidence of intended deception than is found in the fact that the minority at Chicago, when they at last reached a convention where they had things all their own way, repudiated the plank which they stood on there, and came out in favor of the gold standard instead of international bimetallism. My friends, I am willing to meet an open enemy in an open field, and concede to that enemy all the rights and privileges of honorable warfare, but when our opponents call themselves the advocates of sound money while they endeavor to fasten upon us an unsound financial system—when they call themselves the advocates of honest money and then deal dishonestly with the American people, they do not deserve to be treated like honorable enemies. (Great cheering.) I have no criticism to make of any man who, believing that the election of the Chicago ticket would injure this country, votes the Republican ticket, but, my friends, when I find a man who wants to elect the Republican ticket but has not the courage to bear the odium of advocating it, I have not so much respect for him. (A voice: "Bynum, Bynum.")

That reminds me what that distinguished citizen once said. (A voice: "Extinguished citizen.") A gentleman suggests that he is an extinguished citizen, but I will say distinguished citizen because he has a past whether he has any future or not. (Laugher and cheers.) If you want to know what he said about the gold standard, listen while I read from his speech in Congress on silver in 1886:

'Again, the advocates of gold approach us with open hands and smiling countenances but I fear with a dagger concealed beneath their cloaks.' (Cheers.)

Ah, my friends, he knew the nature of the animal before he began to associate with it. (Cheers and laughter.) He is right in his description. The gold standard never fought an open fight. It carries the knife of the assassin and does its work behind the mask of the burglar. It is not an open enemy, never was and never will be.

Now see: see how he understood them. He said, 'Oh, they say, we want silver; we are bimetallists, but we want an honest dollar. Suspend coinage and we will drive England, Germany and other nations to bimetallism and then the price of silver bullion will appreciate and our dollars will be worth a hundred cents.' (Cheering.) That is what was said in 1886. My friends, instead of saying now that we will adopt bimetallism and drive other nations to it, he says that we will stand by the gold standard and allow other nations to drive us away from it. (Cheers.)

I will also quote to you what Mr. Bynum quoted in that speech from Senator Ingalls. Now note the language quoted from Senator Ingalls:

'No enduring fabric of national prosperity can be builded on gold. Gold is the money of monarchs; kings covet it, the exchanges are affected by it; its tendency is to accumulate in vast masses in the commercial centers and to move from kingdom to kingdom in such volumes as to unsettle values and disturb the finances of the world; it is the instrument of gamblers and speculators, and the idol of the miser and thief; being the object of so much adoration it becomes haughty and sensitive, and shrinks at the approach of danger, and whenever it is most needed it always disappears; at the slightest alarm it begins to look for refuge; it flies from the nation at war to the nation at peace; war makes it a fugitive; no people in a great emergency ever found a faithful ally in gold; it is the most cowardly and treacherous of an metals; It makes no treaty that it does not break, it has no friend whom it does not sooner or later betray. Armies and navies are not maintained by gold; in times of panic and calamity, shipwreck and disaster, it becomes the chief agent and minister of ruin, no nation ever fought a great war by the aid of gold; on the contrary, in the crises of greatest peril it becomes an enemy more potent than the foe in the field, but when the battle is won and peace has been secured, gold reappears and claims the fruits of victory.'

My friends, these are the words of the distinguished Senator. Mr. Bynum once quoted them and the words are true. Gold is arrogant and tyrannical in time of peace, and it deserts any nation in time of war, and never is a friend when a friend is needed.

Many reasons might he given to show why the policy which we advocate is democratic. In the first place, our policy has the endorsement of the Democratic National Convention, and that is sufficient to determine what democracy is today. There must be majority rule or minority rule, and democracy has always meant the rule of the majority, and a majority of the Democrats of the nation, acting with more freedom and directness than in any convention before, have declared that the free and unlimited coinage of silver at 16 to 1 without waiting for any other nation is democratic.

But there is another thing that convinces us that our position is democratic. Every undemocratic influence in the country is arrayed against us. Every man who has profited by special legislation, every trust that seeks to impose upon the people, every syndicate that fattens upon public adversity, and every corporation that thinks that it is greater than the Government which created it—all these are opposed to us, and give us assurance that we are doing good work for the people.

Again, if you will look at those who have opposed democracy in the past, you will learn that our position is correct. Let me read you what Thomas Jefferson said in 1800 of the combination which was then opposing democracy. In writing to a friend who had gone abroad, he said:

'The aspect of our polities has wonderfully changed since you left. In place of the noble love of liberty and republican government which carried us triumphantly through the war, an Anglican party has sprung up whose avowed purpose it is to draw us over to the substance as they have already done to the form of British government. While the main body of our citizens remain true to republican institutions, against us are the executive, the federal judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all the officers of the Government, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty, all British merchants and Americans trading on British capital, all speculators and bond brokers, and with them the banks and dealers in public funds and United States bonds—contrivances invented for the purpose of corruption, and for assimilating to the rotten as well as to the sound parts of the British model. It would give you a fever if I were to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies—men who were once Solomons in council and Samsons in the field. In short we are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting perils, but we shall preserve it.'

My friends, these are the words in which Jefferson described the opposition to the Democratic party in 1800—just ninety-six years ago. It is the same opposition that we have to meet now. Show me a man who goes to Europe oftener than he crosses the Mississippi river, and I will show you a man who thinks that this country cannot do anything unless England helps to do it. Show me a man who thinks that this nation cannot be survived unless it trades on British capital; show me a man who thinks that our financial system ought to have for its object the borrowing of money from abroad, and I will show you a man who would make the people of this country bow their necks to foreign oppression and accept whatever financial policy our creditors desire to force upon us.

It seems that there were apostates in those days also, and it seems that they were Solomons in council and Samsons in the field. Why, you would suppose that Jefferson was describing the present condition, because every man who leaves the Democratic party this year is willing to make affidavit that he is a Solomon in council and that he has been a Samson in the field. But Jefferson said that the Government would be preserved in spite of them. He said that the liberties of the people would be preserved in spite of them, and, my friends, I believe that the same can be said now. We can lose those leaders who have been—not argued out but—pulled out of the Democratic party by great corporate interests, and yet the Democratic party will survive to battle for the people. For every Democrat who is drawn away from his moorings by some sub-marine cable, we will gain some Republicans who still believe that this nation ought to have its own business attended to by its own people.

We have commenced a warfare against the gold standard, and we expect to continue that warfare until there will not be a man in this country who will dare to raise his voice in favor of the gold standard. We believe in bimetallism; it has been the policy of this country in the past. All parties have declared for it time and again. The American people are today wedded to bimetallism by tradition and interest, and the party which refuses to support bimetallism will find itself divorced from all the offices in the United States.

Our opponents tell us that if we have free coinage we will go to the standard of Mexico. Why do they not say that if we maintain the gold standard we will approach the condition of Turkey, which has a gold standard? I understand that the Armenians have recently been called anarchists by those who are in authority in Turkey, and I suppose from that that they are in favor of bimetallism and have raised their voices against the gold standard in Turkey. They call us anarchists over here because we are opposed to allowing foreign nations to make a financial policy and then force it upon us whether we like it or not. As I looked into the faces of the members of the various clubs that escorted me from the depot to the hotel and into the faces of the people who lined the streets, I wondered, if these were anarchists, how the patriots of this country would look if we could get them together in one place and gaze upon them. If those who are assembled here today and in similar meetings throughout the country are really enemies of this country, I would like to know how this country is to be saved from its enemies. The men who insist on doing our legislating in time of peace as a rule never fight any battles in time of war.

We are in favor of the money of the Constitution. It was good enough in 1884. Our national platform declared that year in favor of honest money— and it did not stop there as the advocates of so-called honest money do today, but went on and defined what honest money was. That platform declared that the Democratic party favored 'honest money, the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution.' That platform was good enough to elect a President and Vice-President on in 1884. In 1888 the Democratic platform reiterated the Platform of 1884. The platform of 1892 said:

'We hold to the use of gold and silver as the standard money of the country, and to the coinage of both gold and silver without discriminating against metal or charge for mintage.'

Some qualifying words were then added which were intended as steps down so that the man who ran upon the platform could go off of it as soon as he was elected. But that platform did not declare for a gold standard. That platform recognized the principle of bimetallism and demanded that gold and silver should be treated exactly alike as the money metals of this country, and yet, my friends, the financiers have succeeded in the past in inserting an ambiguous phrase so that the men elected on the platform could refuse to carry out its spirit.

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: 526-532
  • Date: October 6, 1896