Madison, WI Speech 2, 1896-10-30

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Friday, October 30, 1896 at 7:45pm
State Capitol, Madison, WI

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

"I have not attempted to answer all of the misrepresentations which have been circulated in this campaign, but in the closing days I feel that it is necessary to call your attention to an attack which has recently been made by the enemy. I find that the Republicans are circulating among Catholic citizens the charge that I am or have been a member of the American Protective Association. I have also learned that I have been accused of being a member of a society which I think is known as the Junior Order of American Mechanics. At the same time I have been accused in other quarters of being opposed to the public school system and of having voted against the teaching of the English language in the public schools of New Mexico. While I have attempted to confine my discussion of public issue to the questions raised by my platform, and have considered the money question as paramount to all others, I take this opportunity to explain my position upon the religious controversy which has been raised, and ask the press associations to give the matter publicity.

I am not and never have been a member of the American Protective Association or of the Junior Order of American Mechanics, or of any other society hostile to any church, religion or race; nor have I ever applied for membership in any such organization. While I am a member of the Presbyterian church, I have always believed that there should be no religious test applied in the holding of public office, and I have not allowed religious differences to affect my conduct in the discharge of the duties of public office. I am a believer in the public school system. I attended public schools myself and my children are now attending public schools. While I recognize the right of parents to send their children to private schools and colleges, if they so desire, I believe that the free public school must remain a part of our system of government in order that the means of education shall be within the reach of every child in the land. The Democratic members of Congress voted against a proposed amendment to the constitution of New Mexico which compelled the teaching of the English language in the public schools, not because the Democrats were opposed to public schools, or to the teaching of the English language in such schools, but because they did not deem it necessary or wise to require a pledge from the people of New Mexico which had not been required of the people of the other Territories seeking admission. I trust that what I now say may reach all of the voters, because it is the only opportunity I shall have of meeting these misrepresentations. I trust that those who support the policies set forth in the Democratic platform will not allow themselves to be alienated from my support by any affidavits which may be circulated by political enemies. I have tried so far as I could to conduct this campaign in an open and honorable way, and have insisted that those who are with us should refrain from personal criticism of my opponent and leave the people to pass judgment upon the principles which we represent."

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: 593
  • Date: October 30, 1896