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 a 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. ....
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.
.... 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 the 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. ....
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 disregarded; 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 [Senator Vilas] 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 those 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 criticisms. 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 could 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 if 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
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 reforms 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 of
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 today 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 today? Why, the man who was once pleased to think that
he looked like Napoleon--that man shudders today 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 substitute 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 today and who tell us that we ought to declare
in favor of international bimetallism--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 the fixed 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 three millions in number, had the
courage to declare their political independence of every other
nation; shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to seventy
millions, 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.