THE CROSS OF GOLD

delivered by William Jennings Bryan, on July 8, 1896

     Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Convention: I would
     be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the
     distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if
     this were mere measuring of abilities; but this is not
     a contest between persons.  The humblest citizen in all
     the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous
     cause,is stronger than all the hosts of error.  I come
     to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the
     cause of liberty -- the cause of humanity.
     
     When this debate is concluded, a motion will made to
     lay upon the table the resolution offered in
     commendation of the Administration, and also the
     resolution offered in condemnation of the
     Administration.  We object to bringing this question
     down to the level of persons.  The individual is but an
     atom; he is born, he acts, he dies; but principles are
     eternal, and this has been a contest over a principle.
     
     Never before in the history of this country has there
     been witnessed such a contest as that through which we
     have just passed.  Never before in the history of
     American politics has a great issue been fought out as
     this issue has been, by the voters of a great party. 
     On the fourth of March, 1895, a few Democrats, most of
     them members of Congress, issued an address to the
     Democrats of the nation, asserting that the money
     question was the paramount issue of the hour; declaring
     that a majority of the Democratic party had the right
     to control the action of the party on this paramount
     issue; and concluding with the request that the
     believers in the free coinage of silver in the
     Democratic party should organize, take charge of and
     control the policy of the Democratic party.
     
      Three months later, at Memphis, an organization was
     perfected, and the silver Democrats went forth openly
     and courageously proclaiming their belief, and
     declaring that, if successful, they would crystallize
     into a platform the declaration which they had made. 
     Then began the conflict. With a zeal approaching the
     zeal which inspired the crusaders who followed Peter
     the Hermit, our silver Democrats went forth from
     victory unto victory, until they are now assembled, not
     to discuss, not to debate, but to enter up the judgment
     already rendered by the plain people of this country. 
     In this contest brother has been arrayed against
     brother, father against son.  The warmest ties of love,
     acquaintance and association have been disregarded; old
     leaders have been cast aside when they have refused to
     give expression to the sentiments of those whom they
     would lead, and new leaders have sprung up to give
     direction to this cause of truth.  Thus has the contest
     been waged, and we have assembled here under as binding
     and solemn instructions as were ever imposed upon
     representatives of the people.
     
     We do not come as individuals.  As individuals we might
     have been glad to compliment the gentleman from New
     York [Senator Hill], but we know that the people for
     whom we speak would never be willing to put him in a
     position where he could thwart the will of the
     Democratic party.  I say it was not a question of
     persons; it was a question of principle, and it is not
     with gladness, my friends, that we find ourselves
     brought into conflict with those who are now arrayed on
     the other side.
     
     The gentleman who preceded me [ex-Governor Russell]
     spoke of the State of Massachusetts; let me assure him
     that not one present in all this convention entertains
     the least hostility to the people of the State of
     Massachusetts, but we stand here representing people
     who are the equals before the law, of the greatest
     citizens in the State of Massachusetts.  When you
     [turning to the gold delegates] come before us and tell
     us that we are about to disturb your business
     interests, we reply that you have disturbed our
     business interests by your course.
     
     We say to you that you have made the definition of a
     business man too limited in its application. The man
     who is employed for wages is as much a business man as
     his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much
     a business man as the corporation counsel in a great
     metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as
     much a business man as the merchant of New York; the
     farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day
     -- who begins in the spring and toils all summer -- and
     who by the application of brain and muscle to the
     natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as
     much a business man as the man who goes upon the board
     of trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners
     who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb
     two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring forth from
     their hiding places the precious metals to be poured
     into the channels of trade are as much business men as
     the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner
     the money of the world.  We come to speak for this
     broader class of business men.
     
     Ah, my friends, we say not one word against those who
     live upon the Atlantic coast, but the hardy pioneers
     who have braved all the dangers of the wilderness, who
     have made the desert to blossom as the rose -- the
     pioneers away out there [pointing to the West], who
     rear their children near to Nature's heart, where they
     can mingle their voices with the voices of the birds --
     out there where they have erected schoolhouses for the
     education of their young, churches where they praise
     their Creator, and cemeteries where rest the ashes of
     their dead -- these people, we say, are as deserving of
     the consideration of our party as any people in this
     country.  It is for these that we speak.  We do not
     come as aggressors.  Our war is not a war of conquest;
     we are fighting in the defense of our homes, our
     families, and posterity.  We have petitioned, and our
     petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our
     entreaties have been desregarded; we have begged, and
     they have mocked when our calamity came.  We beg no
     longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more.  We
     defy them.
     
     The gentleman from Wisconsin has said that he fears a
     Robespierre.  My friends, in this land of the free you
     need not fear that a tyrant will spring up from among
     the people.  What we need is an Andrew Jackson to
     stand, as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of
     organized wealth. They tell us that this platform was
     made to catch votes.  We reply to them that changing
     conditions make new issues; that the principles upon
     which Democracy rests are as everlasting as the hills,
     but that they must be applied to new conditions as they
     arise.  Conditions have arisen, and we are here to meet
     these conditions.  They tell us that the income tax
     ought not to be brought in here; that it is a new idea. 
     They criticize us for our criticism of the Supreme
     Court of the United States.  My friends, we have not
     criticized; we have simply called attention to what you
     already know.  If you want criticisms read the
     dissenting opinions of the court.  There you will find
     criticism.  They say that we passed an unconstitutional
     law; we deny it.  The income tax law was not
     unconstitutional when it was passed; it was not
     unconstitutional when it went before the Supreme Court
     for the first time; it did not become unconstitutional
     until one of the judges changed his mind, and we cannot
     be expected to know when a judge will change his mind. 
     The income tax is just.  It simply intends to put the
     burdens of government justly upon the backs of the
     people.  I am in favor of an income tax.  When I find a
     man who is not willing to bear his share of the burdens
     of the government which protects him, I find a man who
     is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like
     ours.
     
     They say that we are opposing national bank currency. 
     It is true.  If you will read what Thomas Benton said
     you will find he said that, in searching history, he
     would find but one parallel to Andrew Jackson; that was
     Cicero, who destroyed the conspiracy of Cataline and
     saved Rome.  Benton said that Cicero only did for Rome
     what Jackson did for us when he destroyed the bank
     conspiracy and saved America.  We say in our platform
     that we believe that the right to coin and issue money
     is a function of government.  We believe it.  We
     believe that it is a part of sovereignty, and can no
     more with safety be delegated to private individuals
     than we could afford to delegate to private individuals
     the power to make penal statutes or levy taxes.  Mr.
     Jefferson, who was once regarded as good Democratic
     authority, seems to have differed in opinion from the
     gentleman who has addressed us on the part of the
     minority.  Those who are opposed to this proposition
     tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of
     the bank, and that the Government ought to go out of
     the banking business.  I stand with Jefferson rather
     than with them, and tell them, as he did, that the
     issue of money is a function of government, and that
     the banks ought to go out of the governing business.
     
     They complain about the plank which declares against
     life tenure in office.  They have tried to strain it to
     mean that which it does not mean.  What we oppose by
     that plank is the life tenure which is being built up
     in Washington, and which excludes from participation in
     official benefits the humbler members of society. Let
     me call your attention to two or three important
     things.  The gentleman from New York says that he will
     propose an amendment to the platform providing that the
     proposed change in our monetary system shall not affect
     contracts already made.  Let me remind you that there
     is no intention of affecting those contracts which
     according to present laws are made payable in gold; but
     he means to say that we cannot change our monetary
     system without protecting those who have loaned money
     before the change was made, I desire to ask him where,
     in law or in morals, he can find justification for not protecting
     the debtors when the act of 1873 was passed, if he now 
     insists that we must protect the creditors.
     
     He says he will also propose an amendment which will
     provide for the suspension of free coinage if we fail
     to maintain the parity within a year.  We reply that
     when we advocate a policy which we believe will be
     successful, we are not compelled to raise a doubt as to
     our own sincerity by suggesting what we shall do if we
     fail.  I ask him, if he would apply his logic to us,
     why he does not apply it to himself.  He says he wants
     this country to try to secure an international
     agreement.  Why does he not tell us what he is going to
     do if he fails to secure an international agreement? 
     There is more reason for him to do that than there is
     for us to provide against the failure to maintain the
     parity.  Our opponents have tried for twenty years to
     secure an international agreement, and those are
     waiting for it most patiently who do not want it at
     all.
     
     And now, my friends, let me come to the paramount
     issue.  If they ask us why it is that we say more on
     the money question than we say upon the tariff
     question, I reply that, if protection has slain its
     thousands, the gold standard has slain its tens of
     thousands.  If they ask us why we do not embody in our
     platform all the things that we believe in, we reply
     that when we have restored the money of the
     Constitution all other necessary reform will be
     possible, but that until this is done there is no other
     reform that can be accomplished.
     
     Why is it that within three months such a change has
     come over the country?  Three months ago, when it was
     confidently asserted that those who believe in the gold
     standard would frame our platform and nominate our
     candidates, even the advocates to the gold standard did
     not think that we could elect a President.  And they
     had good reason for their doubt, because there is
     scarcely a State here to-day asking for the gold
     standard which is not in the absolute control of the
     Republican party.  But note the change.  Mr. McKinley
     was nominated at St. Louis upon a platform which
     declared for the maintenance of the gold standard until
     it can be changed into bimetallism by international
     agreement.  Mr. McKinley was the most popular man among
     the Republicans, and three months ago everybody in the
     Republican party prophesied his election. How is it
     to-day?  Why, the man who was once pleased to think
     that he looked like Napoleon --that man shudders to-day
     when he remembers that he was nominated on the
     anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.  Not only that,
     but as he listens he can hear with ever-increasing
     distinctness the sound of the waves as they beat upon
     the lonely shores of St. Helena.
     
     Why this change?  Ah, my friends, is not the reason for
     the change evident to any one who will look at the
     matter?  No private character, however pure, no
     personal popularity, however great, can protect from
     the avenging wrath of an indignant people a man who
     will declare that he is in favor of fastening the gold
     standard upon this country, or who is willing to
     surrender the right of self-government and place the
     legislative control of our affairs in the hands of
     foreign potentates and powers.
     
     We go forth confident that we shall win.  Why?  Because
     upon the paramount issue of this campaign there is not
     a spot of ground upon which the enemy will dare to
     challenge battle.  If they tell us that the gold
     standard is a good thing, we shall point to their
     platform and tell them that their platform pledges the
     party to get rid of the gold standard and substitue
     bimetallism.  If the gold standard is a good thing, why
     try to get rid of it?  I call your attention to the
     fact that some of the very people who are in this
     convention to-day, and who tell us that we ought to
     declare in favor of international bemetallism --
     thereby declaring that the gold standard is wrong and
     that the principle of bimetallism is better -- these
     very people four months ago were open and avowed
     advocates of the gold standard, and were then telling
     us that we could not legislate two metals together,
     even with the aid of all the world.  If the gold
     standard is a good thing we ought to declare in favor
     of its retention, and not in favor of abandoning it,
     and if the gold standard is a bad thing, why should we
     wait until other nations are willing to help us to let
     go?  Here is the line of battle, and we care not upon 
     which issue they force the fight; we are prepared to
     meet them on either issue or on both.  If they tell us
     that the gold standard is the standard of civilization, 
     we reply to them that      this, the most enlightened of
     all the nations of the  earth, has never declared for a
     gold standard and that both the great parties this year
     are declaring against  it.  If the gold standard is the 
     standard of  civilization, why, my friends, should we not have it? 
     If they come to meet us on that issue we can present
     the history of our nation.  More than that -- we can
     tell them that they will search the pages of history in
     vain to find a single instance where the common people
     of any land have ever declared themselves in favor of
     the gold standard.  They can find where the holders of
     fixt investments have declared for a gold standard, but
     not where the masses have.
     
     Mr. Carlisle said in 1878 that this was a struggle
     between "the idle holders of idle capital" and "the
     struggling masses, who produce the wealth and pay the
     taxes of the country," and, my friends, the question we
     are to decide is, upon which side will the Democratic
     party fight -- upon the side of "the idle holders of
     idle capital," or upon the side of "the struggling
     masses"?  That is the question which the party must
     answer first, and then it must be answered by each
     individual hereafter.  The sympathies of the Democratic
     party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the
     struggling masses who have ever been the foundation of
     the Democratic party.  There are two ideas of
     government.  There are those who believe that if you
     will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous
     their prosperity will leak through on those below.  The
     Democratic idea, however, has been that if you
     legislate to make the masses prosperous their
     prosperity will find its way up through every class
     which rests upon them.
     
     You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in
     favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great
     cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies.  Burn
     down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities
     will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our
     farms, and the grass will grow in the streets of every
     city in the country. My friends, we declare that this
     nation is able to legislate for its own people on every
     question without waiting for the aid or consent of any
     other nation on earth, and upon that issue we expect to
     carry every State in the Union.  I shall not slander
     the inhabitants of the fair State of Massachusetts nor
     the inhabitants of the State of New York by saying
     that, when they are confronted with the proposition,
     they will declare that this nation is not able to
     attend to its own business.  It is the issue of 1776
     over again.  Our ancestors, when but 3,000,000 in
     number, had the courage to declare their political
     independence on every other nation; shall we, their
     descendants, when we have grown to 70,000,000 declare
     that we are less independent than our forefathers?  No,
     my friends, that will never be the verdict of our
     people.  Therefore, we care not upon what lines the
     battle is fought.  If they say bimetallism is good, but
     that we cannot have it until other nations help us, we
     reply that, instead of having a gold standard because
     England has, we will restore bimetallism, and then let
     England have bimetallism because the United States has
     it.  If they dare to come out in the open field and
     defend the gold standard as a good thing we will fight
     them to the uttermost.  Having behind us the producing
     masses of this nation and the world, supported by the
     commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the
     toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for
     a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press
     down upon the brow of labor  this crown of thorns; 
     you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.