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Bryan’s “Cross that Gold” Speech: Mesmerizing the Masses

The most famous speech in American political history was ceded by william Jennings Bryan on July 9, 1896, at the democratic National Convention in Chicago. The problem was whether to endorse the totally free coinage of silver- at a ratio of silver to gold of 16 come 1. (This inflationary measure would have actually increased the amount of money in circulation and also aided cash-poor and also debt-burdened farmers.) ~ speeches top top the topic by number of U.S. Senators, Bryan climbed to speak. The thirty-six-year-old former Congressman indigenous Nebraska aspired to be the autonomous nominee for president, and he had been skillfully, however quietly, structure support because that himself among the delegates. His dramatic speak style and rhetoric roused the group to a frenzy. The response, created one reporter, “came prefer one an excellent burst of artillery.” Men and women screamed and also waved their hats and canes. “Some,” wrote one more reporter, “like demented things, divested themselves of their coats and also flung castle high in the air.” The next day the convention nominated Bryan because that President ~ above the fifth ballot. The full text of william Jenning Bryan’s renowned “Cross of Gold” speech appears below. The audio section is one excerpt.

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I would be presumptuous, indeed, to existing myself versus the distinguished gentlemen to who you have actually listened if this were but a measuring of ability; yet this is no a contest among persons. The humblest citizens in every the land when clad in the armor that a righteous cause is stronger than every the entirety hosts the error that they deserve to bring. I concerned speak to you in defense that a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity. When this conflict is concluded, a activity will be made come lay ~ above the table the resolution offered in commendation of the administration and additionally the resolution in blame to of the administration. Ns shall object to happen this concern down come a level of persons. The individual is but an atom; that is born, that acts, he dies; but principles room eternal; and also this has actually been a challenge of principle.Never before in the background of this nation has there been experienced such a dispute as that v which we have actually passed. Never prior to in the history of American politics has a great issue been battled out as this problem has to be by the voter themselves.On the fourth of March, 1895, a few Democrats, most of lock members of Congress, approve an deal with to the democracy of the country asserting that the money question was the paramount issue of the hour; asserting also the right of a majority of the autonomous Party to manage the place of the party on this great issue; concluding v the request that all faithfulness in totally free coinage of silver in the autonomous Party should organize and also take charge of and control the plan of the democratic Party. Three months later, in ~ Memphis, an company was perfected, and the silver Democrats went soon openly and boldly and courageously proclaiming your belief and also declaring the if successful they would certainly crystallize in a platform the declaration i m sorry they had actually made; and then started the problem with a zeal draw close the zeal which inspired the crusaders who followed Peter the Hermit. Our silver Democrats went forth from success unto victory, until they space assembled now, no to discuss, not to debate, but to get in up the judgment rendered through the plain civilization of this country.But in this contest, brother has actually been arrayed against brother, and father versus son. The warmest ties of love and acquaintance and also association have been disregarded. Old leaders have actually been actors aside when they refused to offer expression to the sentiments that those whom they would lead, and new leaders have sprung increase to provide direction come this cause of freedom. Thus has the contest been waged, and also we have actually assembled below under together binding and also solemn instructions together were ever before fastened top top the representatives of a people.We perform not come as individuals. Why, as people we might have to be glad to compliment the gentleman from new York , however we knew the the world for whom us speak would never be willing to put him in a position where he could thwart the will certainly of the democratic Party. Ns say it was no a concern of persons; it to be a concern of principle; and it is not through gladness, my friends, the we discover ourselves brought into conflict with those who are now arrayed on the other side. The gentleman who simply preceded me speak of the old state of Massachusetts. Allow me assure him that no one person in every this convention entertains the least hostility to the human being of the state of Massachusetts.But we stand below representing world who room the equals prior to the regulation of the biggest cities in the state the Massachusetts. As soon as you come before us and tell us that us shall harass your organization interests, us reply the you have actually disturbed our organization interests by her action. We say come you the you have actually made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is to work for earnings is as much a businessman together his employer. The attorney in a nation town is as much a businessman as the copy, group counsel in a great metropolis. The seller at the crossroads store is as lot a businessman together the merchant of brand-new York. The farmer that goes soon in the morning and also toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain and muscle come the natural resources the this country creates wealth, is as lot a businessman together the male who go upon the plank of Trade and also bets ~ above the price of grain. The miners who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and also bring soon from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the networks of trade are as lot businessmen as the couple of financial moguls who in a backroom corner the money of the world.We concerned speak for this more comprehensive class that businessmen. Ah. Mine friends, we say not one word against those that live upon the Atlantic Coast; however those continuous pioneers who braved every the dangers of the wilderness, who have made the desert to blossom together the rose—those pioneers away the end there, rearing their youngsters near to nature’s heart, whereby they can mingle your voices v the voices of the birds—out there wherein they have erected schoolhouses for the education of your children and also churches where they prayer their Creator, and the cemeteries whereby sleep the ashes of their dead—are together deserving that the consideration of this party as any people in this country.It is because that these that us speak. We execute not come together aggressors. Our battle is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity. We have actually petitioned, and also our petitions have actually been scorned. We have entreated, and also our entreaties have actually been disregarded. We have actually begged, and also they have actually mocked once our calamity came.We beg no longer; we entreat no more; us petition no more. Us defy them!The gentleman from Wisconsin has said he fear a Robespierre. Mine friend, in this floor of the cost-free you need are afraid no tyrant that will feather up from amongst the people. What we need is one Andrew Jackson to stand together Jackson stood, against the encroachments that aggregated wealth.They tell us that this platform to be made to catch votes. Us reply to them that transforming conditions make brand-new issues; that the values upon which rest Democracy room as everlasting as the hills; yet that they should be used to brand-new conditions as they arise. Problems have arisen and also we are attempting to fulfill those conditions. Lock tell us that the income tax ought not to be lugged in here; the is not a brand-new idea. They slam us because that our criticism the the supreme Court of the unified States. Mine friends, we have made no criticism. We have actually simply called attention to what girlfriend know. If you want criticisms, read the dissenting opinions of the Court. That will offer you criticisms.They say us passed one unconstitutional law. Ns deny it. The income tax was not unconstitutional when it to be passed. The was no unconstitutional once it went prior to the can be fried Court because that the very first time. That did not end up being unconstitutional till one judge readjusted his mind; and we can not be supposed to recognize when a referee will adjust his mind.The income tax is a just law. It simply intends to put the burdens of federal government justly top top the backs that the people. Ns am in donate of an income tax. When I uncover a male who is not willing to salary his re-superstructure of the load of the federal government which protects him, I uncover a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.He says that we room opposing the national bank currency. It is true. If girlfriend will check out what cutting board Benton said, friend will uncover that he claimed that in searching history he can find however one parallel to Andrew Jackson. The was Cicero, who destroyed the conspiracies of Cataline and saved Rome. He did because that Rome what Jackson did as soon as he ruined the financial institution conspiracy and also saved America.We speak in our platform that we believe that the appropriate to coin money and also issue money is a duty of government. We believe it. We believe it is a component of sovereignty and can no an ext with safety be delegated to private individuals than deserve to the strength to make penal statutes or levy regulations for taxation.Mr. Jefferson, who was when regarded as an excellent Democratic authority, appears to have a different opinion native the gentleman who has addressed us on the part of the minority. Those who space opposed come this proposition tell united state that the problem of file money is a function of the bank and that the government ought to go out of the bank business. Ns stand through Jefferson rather than through them, and also tell them, as he did, the the concern of money is a duty of the government and also that the banks should go out of the administrate business.They complain about the plank i m sorry declares versus the life tenure in office. They have tried to stress, overload it to mean that which it does no mean. What us oppose in that plank is the life tenure that is being gathered in Washington which establishes an office-holding class and also excludes from participation in the services the humbler members of our society. . . .Let me contact attention to two or three great things. The gentleman from brand-new York states that he will certainly propose one amendment offering that this readjust in our legislation shall not impact contracts which, follow to the current laws, room made payable in gold. Yet if he way to say that we cannot readjust our monetary mechanism without protecting those who have loaned money prior to the change was made, I desire to ask that where, in legislation or in morals, the can find authority for not protecting the debtors as soon as the act of 1873 to be passed when he currently insists that us must defend the creditor. He says he also wants to amend this platform so as to carry out that if we fail to preserve the parity in ~ a year that we will then suspend the coinage the silver. We reply that as soon as we advocate a thing which we think will be successful we room not compelled to raise a doubt regarding our own sincerity by make the efforts to present what we will execute if we space wrong.I asking him, if the will apply his logic to us, why that does not apply it come himself. He claims that he wants this country to try to secure an global agreement. Why doesn’t the tell us what that is walking to perform if lock fail come secure an global agreement. Over there is more reason for him to perform that than for us to expect to fail to keep the parity. They have tried for thirty years—thirty years—to secure an worldwide agreement, and those space waiting for it many patiently that don’t want it in ~ all.Now, mine friends, permit me concerned the great paramount issue. If castle ask us below why that is us say more on the money inquiry than we say ~ above the tariff question, ns reply the if protection has actually slain that is thousands the yellow standard has actually slain its 10s of thousands. If lock ask united state why us did not embody all these things in our communication which us believe, us reply come them that when we have revitalized the money that the Constitution, every other vital reforms will be possible, and also that until that is excellent there is no revolutionary that can be accomplished.Why is it the within 3 months such a readjust has come over the sentiments that the country? 3 months ago, as soon as it to be confidently asserted the those who believed in the gold conventional would framework our platforms and also nominate our candidates, even the supporters of the gold typical did no think that we could elect a President; however they had great reasons for the suspicion, since there is scarcely a state right here today questioning for the gold traditional that is no within the absolute manage of the Republican Party.But keep in mind the change. Mr. McKinley to be nominated at St. Louis ~ above a communication that claimed for the maintenance of the gold conventional until it must be changed into bimetallism through an global agreement. Mr. McKinley to be the most popular man amongst the republic ; and also everybody 3 months back in the Republican Party prophesied his election. How is it today? Why, that man who used to boast the he looked choose Napoleon, that man shudders today once he thinks the he to be nominated ~ above the anniversary the the fight of Waterloo. Not just that, however as he listens he have the right to hear with ever before increasing distinctness the sound the the waves together they beat upon the lonely shores that St. Helena.Why this change? Ah, mine friends. Is no the readjust evident come anyone that will look at the matter? the is because no personal character, however pure, no an individual popularity, but great, can safeguard from the avenging wrath of one indignant human being the guy who will either declare that he is in donate of fastening the gold conventional upon this people, or that is ready to surrender the best of self-government and place legislative regulate in the hand of foreign potentates and powers. . . .We walk forth i was sure that we shall win. Why? because upon the paramount worry in this project there is no a spot of ground top top which the adversary will dare to difficulty battle. Why, if they tell united state that the gold standard is a an excellent thing, we allude to your platform and also tell them that their communication pledges the party to eliminate a yellow standard and also substitute bimetallism. If the gold standard is a great thing, why shot to eliminate it? If the yellow standard, and I might speak to your attention to the truth that few of the very people who space in this convention today and who call you the we need to declare in favor of international bimetallism and thereby declare the the gold standard is wrong and that the values of bimetallism space better—these very people four months earlier were open and also avowed advocates of the gold standard and telling united state that we could not legislate two steels together even with all the world.I desire to suggest this truth, that if the gold standard is a great thing we must declare in donate of its retention and not in favor of abandoning it; and if the gold conventional is a negative thing, why need to we wait till some other nations are willing to help us come let that go?Here is the line of battle. We treatment not upon which worry they force the fight. Us are ready to satisfy them on either worry or on both. If castle tell united state that the gold typical is the typical of civilization, we reply come them that this, the many enlightened the all countries of the earth, has actually never claimed for a gold standard, and both the parties this year room declaring against it. If the gold conventional is the conventional of civilization, why, my friends, should we not have actually it? for this reason if they involved meet us on that, us can present the history of our nation. Much more than that, we have the right to tell castle this, that they will certainly search the pages of background in vain to uncover a solitary instance in which the common world of any kind of land ever asserted themselves in donate of a gold standard. Castle can discover where the holders of addressed investments have.Mr. Carlisle claimed in 1878 the this to be a struggle between the idle holders of idle capital and also the struggling masses who develop the wealth and also pay the count of the country; and also my friends, that is just a question that us shall decision upon which next shall the democratic Party fight. Top top the side of the idle holders of idle capital, or ~ above the side of the struggling masses? the is the question that the party should answer first; and also then it should be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies that the autonomous Party, as described by the platform, space on the next of the struggling masses, who have ever been the structure of the autonomous Party.There room two principles of government. There are those who think that if you just legislate to do the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will certainly leak v on those below. The autonomous idea has been that if you legislate to do the masses thriving their prosperity will discover its method up and also through every course that rests upon it.You pertained to us and tell us that the an excellent cities space in donate of the gold standard. I tell you that the an excellent cities rest upon these vast and fertile prairies. Burn under your cities and also leave ours farms, and your cities will certainly spring increase again together if by magic. However destroy our farms and the grass will thrive in the roads of every city in the country. Mine friends, us shall declare the this nation is able to legislate because that its own world on every concern without waiting for the help or consent of any type of other nation on earth, and upon that concern we expect to bring every solitary state in the Union.I shall not slander the fair state that Massachusetts nor the state of new York by speak that as soon as citizens are challenged with the proposition, “Is this country able to deal with its own business?”—I will certainly not slander one of two people one through saying the the people of those claims will declare our helpless impotency as a nation to attend to our very own business. It is the worry of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when yet 3 million, had actually the courage come declare their political self-reliance of every other country upon earth. Candlestick we, their descendants, once we have actually grown to 70 million, declare that we are less independent 보다 our forefathers? No, mine friends, that will never ever be the judgment of this people. Therefore, we care not upon what present the battle is fought. If they speak bimetallism is an excellent but we cannot have it it spins some country helps us, we reply that, rather of having actually a gold standard since England has, we shall restore bimetallism, and then allow England have actually bimetallism since the United says have.If they challenge to come the end in the open field and also defend the gold traditional as a good thing, us shall struggle them to the uttermost, having actually behind united state the creating masses that the country and the world. Having behind us the advertising interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, us shall prize their requirements for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of job this crown of thorns. Girlfriend shall not crucify mankind upon a overcome of gold.

Source: main Proceedings the the democratic National Convention organized in Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 8, 9, 10, and also 11, 1896, (Logansport, Indiana, 1896), 226–234.

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Reprinted in The Annals of America, Vol. 12, 1895–1904: Populism, Imperialism, and Reform (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1968), 100–105.

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