Kansas City, MO Speech 1, 1896-07-16

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Thursday, July 16, 1896 at 6:30pm
Coates Hotel Balcony, Kansas City , MO

Source: MR. BRYAN AT KANSAS CITY, Democratic Nominee Addresses an Immense Crowd on the One Great Issue, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Friday, July 17, 1896; The Johnson News, Friday, July 24, 1896; The Evening News, Friday, July 17, 1896


"I stated to the committee that I would not make a political speech, but in the presence of so many interested people I am afraid that I will be compelled to break my promise for just a few moments. (Thunderous applause.)

We are entering upon a memorable campaign. The platforms have been adopted. Two great parties have placed their candidates in the field, and in a little while you, as citizens, will be called on to discuss the issues involved. The platform adopted at Chicago is, in my humble judgment, one of the most splendid presentations of public policies ever adopted by a national convention in the United States. (Applause.) It presents those issues which in the judgment of the delegates are paramount in this campaign. It is a Democratic platform in every sentence, word and syllable. (Applause.) A Democratic platform that carries the party back to the days of its founder, Thomas Jefferson (cheers), and to its most courageous defender, Andrew Jackson. There never was a time when the real principles of true Democracy were dearer to the hearts of the American people than they are today, and it is because that platform appeals to the hearts of the American people that you find them rising in its support, from the Pacific ocean down to the places where the waves of the Atlantic beat."


"It is not the platform of a section. It is the platform of our common country and appeals to those who love mankind to rise in its defense. (Applause.)

It breathes the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. It presents those fundamental truths upon which all true government must rest. You will find in it as its key note that 'all men are created equal' and that the object of government is to secure to the individual his inalienable rights and protect each man, from the humblest to the great, in the enjoyment of life and liberty and happiness. It proclaims the doctrine of civil liberty and with no less emphasis it declares the right of every man to worship his Creator according to the dictates of his own conscience. (Great applause.) It pledges the party to the protection of all without regard to station or condition in society, and it pledges the party to be no respector of persons, and leaving to the persons to be the judge of the manner, the form and the time in which they shall worship, or, if they please, refuse to worship the God who gave them being. It is Democratic from the first sentence to the last in that broader sense in which Democracy appeals to all who believe in a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'" (Applause.)


"From time to time new questions arise, but the principles of Democracy never change. We simply apply to new conditions the principles which are as eternal as the hills, and this time our platform has declared that the paramount public question is the restoration of gold and silver coinage of the constitution. (Great applause.) All other questions must stand back until this great question is solved. Four years ago, we went into a campaign here and the great diving issue was the tariff question. The tariff question is a question of taxation and the subject of taxation is always with us. We may settle it now and again and again, but while there is government the subject of taxation will be ever present. We have reached a crisis in our monetary legislation. There are those who chain this nation to the gold standard, but while there be those who would fasten an European yoke upon the necks of American freemen there is but one question and that is: 'Can this nation govern itself and make its own laws for its people?' "


"In speaking with emphasis upon this subject I beg of you not think that we who believe in the free coinage of silver at 16 to 1 lack charity for those who differ with us. It is not a campaign in which we should use bitter words. I have every respect for the opinion of those who differ from us. There are men, there are great men, there are good men who do not agree as to the restoration of silver. Let us not speak of them in terms of denunciation. Aye, my friends, my heart is sad tonight because of the news received that one of the most illustrious of the Democrats of the east, who differed from us honestly on this great question, has suddenly passed away, and I know that when I announce to this great audience that ex-Governor William E. Russell was suddenly touched by the finger of death, that you will agree with me in leaping across the differences that separate us and bowing with reverence and respect over his lifeless body. Let us not speak harshly of those who differ. Let us remember that they, too, are attempting to serve, according to their conscience and in accord with their judgment. And let this be a fight of principle, not men; let it be a contest, a struggle if you will, over a great issue and not a bitter warfare between contending persons."


"But my friends, while we have all charity for those who differ from us and while we concede to them the right to wage this war as best they can, and by every honorable means to secure that legislation which they think to be best. I beg to impress upon you that you have an equal right with the people of any section of this land to make your influence felt and your views effective in controlling the destines of this republic.

We have our homes and our families to consider and they have no one else to protect them, and if we fail in our duty there must be neglect. I believe from the bottom of my heart, and the belief touches every fiber of my being, that unless we restore silver to its equal place by the side of gold, to the place that it occupied for so many years so many centuries and so many ages, there can be no lasting prosperity brought back to the homes of those who toil. (Great applause.) They tell us that they want confidence restored. We tell them that confidence must have a substantial basis upon which to rest and that so long as you legislate value out of property, there is nothing substantial on which confidence can rest. If they tell us they want an honest dollar; we tell them we have every desire for an honest dollar, but when they attempt to define an honest dollar, we beg them to give us a dollar which is as kind to the man who produces wealth as it is to the man who holds it in investment. We ask them to give us a dollar that smiles upon the man who owes a debt as much as it does upon the man who holds a mortgage."


"I am not treading upon new paths nor trespassing upon dangerous ground when I tell you that a dollar which increases in value is not an honest dollar. A dollar which reaps where it does not sow, a dollar which gives to its possessor an unearned increment, that is taken out of the sweat and blood of those who toil, and if the man who owns that dollar forgets the equities of the case, there is no reason why the producers of wealth should fall down and worship a dollar that is destroying them and their chances of existence.

But I am not going to discuss this question. I want to appeal to you—(Cries of "Go on.") I want to appeal to you to study it for yourselves, and to enable you to study it intelligently and to a purpose, I want to suggest two things for you to think about. They tell you that the gold standard is the standard of civilization. If they tell you that, let me suggest an answer that is complete. If the gold standard is the standard of civilization, why is it that the United States, the leader in the civilization of the world, has never declared for the gold standard? If the gold standard is the standard of civilization, why is it that no national party in the history of the United States has ever declared that the gold standard is a good thing? (A voice—the Republican party did.) You say the party did? No, it did not. The Republican party declared that the gold standard should be maintained until something could be substituted for it. Then what was that something? It was bimetallism. And they pledge themselves to get rid of the gold standard and substitute bimetallism as a better thing than a gold standard. If the gold standard is a good thing, why should we try to get rid of it? If it is a bad thing why should we keep it for a single moment? If, my friends, they dare upon any stump, upon any platform, or in any state, to advocate the gold standard as a good thing, we point to the Republican platform as conclusive evidence that the principle of bimetallism is better, and if they admit that they admit that the double standard is better than a single gold standard and tell us that this nation is unable to sustain it without the aid and consent of other nations, we hurl back defiance to them and tell them that this nation is strong enough to legislate for its own people without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth. Which course will they take? They dare not meet the focus upon the money question because there is no ground upon which they can stand. If they had declared for a gold standard, they might have advocated it, but having declared against a gold standard, they dare not ask the verdict of their countrymen on this proposition. Is the United States able to legislate for itself on the most important issue before the country? Or must the legislative power be delegated to some foreign nation? Must the American people surrender the right of self-government? I have no fear of the verdict of the people. Aye, when we were but three millions we were willing to declare our political independence. When we are seventy millions are we afraid to declare our financial independence?"


"Why, in our platform we declare in favor of the Monroe doctrine. We are in favor of this nation protecting the little nation of Venezuela from an act of wrong. I ask you, are we great enough to go to South America and protect South America? Yes, we are, but can we do that and yet shall we say we are not able to protect our own people on our own soil? (Applause.) Well now, my friends, I didn't intend to talk politics at all, but the presence of this magnificent assemblage tempted me to break the promise I had made. I want to leave this subject to be discussed by others and I want to simply say one thing. It is not a difficult thing for us who live in this western country, who know the condition of our people, their needs and their desires; it is not a difficult thing for us to advocate bimetallism; not a difficult thing for us to ask for the restoration of the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. But there are sections in this country where it has required more heroism to stand out for the rights of the masses of the people. And I ask you as you assemble tonight not to forget that brave man who stands upon the ticket we name, and who, away off near the Atlantic shore, has been fighting the battles of the common people as courageously as Bland has fought them in Missouri (great applause), as courageously as western advocates of free coinage have fought the battle here. And in your delight over having at last claimed recognition on the national ticket for western men and western ideas, do not for one moment allow your enthusiasm to lag. Do not for one moment forget the patriotism of Arthur Sewall, who stands the embodiment of these principles as well as those of the west and south."


"I beg you to remember your responsibility as citizens. We come not to you appealing for your votes; they are your own. You live in a nation where the people rule, where every citizen is a sovereign, yet where no one cares to wear a crown. We do not come to appeal to you; we simply come to present during this campaign our cause. We believe in it; we believe it is a righteous cause, but we submit to your judgment, and all we ask of you is that each of you shall study the question, and when you have made up your minds have the courage to do what you believe to be right. Let your ballots, let the ballot of each man register a free man's will, and then, my friends, whatever may be the result we shall accept it in that spirit which pervades democracy. We shall accept it because the majority of the people, expressing themselves at the polls, must be respected. Because from their decision there is no appeal. I thank you for your attention." (Thunderous applause.)

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Lincoln, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: July 16, 1896