William Jennings Bryan
$100,000 U. S. 4’s at 110, less 1-3 per cent. accrued
Making the actual cash investment only. . . . . . . . . . . . .
On which the bank would receive an income of over 127-7/8 per cent, as follows:
Interest on $100,000 4’s per annum . . . . . . . . . .
Already a good portion of these bonds held in reserve are coming into the market and soon find their way into the hands of national banks.
If the proposed law is adopted $900 will be taken from the expense column by the repeal of the tax on circulation and $10,000 will be taken from the cost of investment, so that the profits would amount to $3,436 on an investment of $9,666, or more than 33 per cent. If, however, the increased demand for bonds raised the premium to 15 per cent., we could only calculate a little less than $3,436 on an investment of $14,666, or nearly 25 per cent. This they would probably call a fair divide. The bondholder would receive an advantage in the increased premium of, say, $25,000,000, and the national bank would be able to make about double on its investment what it does now. If the premium should increase more than 5 per cent. the bondholder would make more and the bank less. If the premium should not increase that much the bondholder would make less and the bank more.
Let those, I repeat, who favor this plan, be prepared to defend it before a constituency composed of people who are not making 5 per cent. on an average on the money invested in farms or enterprises, and let those who will profit by the law cease to deny the ability of Government to increase the price of property by law. One is almost moved to tears by the sight of New England manufacturers protesting with indignation against the wisdom or possibility of giving fictitious value to a product, when for the last thirty years they have drained the rest of the country and secured artificial prices by protective tariff laws. Some of our Eastern friends accuse the advocates of free coinage of favoring repudiation.
Repudiation has not been practiced much in recent years by the debtor, but in 1869 the Credit Strengthening Act enabled the bondholder to repudiate a contract made with the Government and to demand coin in payment of a bond for which he had given paper and which was payable in lawful money. That act increasing the market value of the bonds gave a profit to many who now join the beneficiaries of the act assuming the District of Columbia debt in vociferous proclamation that “the Government cannot create value.” Does not the location of a public building add to the value of adjacent real estate? Do not towns contest the location of a county seat because of the advantage it brings? Does not the use of gold and silver as money increase the value of each ounce of each metal?
These are called precious metals because the production is limited and cannot be increased indefinitely at will. If this Government or a number of governments can offer a market unlimited, as compared with the supply, the bullion value of gold and silver can be maintained at the legal ratio. The moment one metal tends to cheapen, the use falls on it and increases its price, while the decreased demand for the dearer metal retards its rise and thus the bullion values are kept near to their legal ratio, so near that the variation can cause far less inconvenience and injustice than the variation in the exchangeable value of the unit would inflict under a single standard. The option is always given to the debtor in a double standard.
In fact, the system could not exist if the option remained with the creditor, for he would demand the dearer metal and thus increase any fluctuation in bullion values, while the option in the hands of the debtor reduces the fluctuation to a minimum. That the unit under a double standard is more stable in its relation to all other things is admitted by Jevons and proven by several illustrations. Mr. Giffen tries to avoid the force of the admission by saying that the difference in favor of the double standard is only in the proportion of 2 to 1, and therefore not sufficient to justify its adoption. It would seem that where stability is so important—and it never was so important as to-day, when so many long-time contracts are executed—even a slight difference in favor of the double standard ought to make it acceptable.
We established a bimetalic standard in 1792, but silver, being overvalued by our ratio of 15 to 1, stayed with us and gold went abroad, where mint ratios were more favorable.
I have here a silver coin [exhibiting it] which came from the mint in 1795. It has upon the edge these significant words: “Hundred Cents—One Dollar or Unit.” It would seem, therefore, that the weight of the gold dollar was regulated by the silver dollar, and the gold pieces provided for made multiples of it. In 1834 and in 1837 the alloy was changed and the gold dollar reduced in size in order to correspond to the newly established ratio of 16 to 1. The amount of pure silver in the standard dollar has never been changed since its adoption in 1792.
The ratio of 16 to 1 overvalued gold and our silver went abroad. The silver dollar was worth about 3 cents more than the gold dollar, because it could be coined in France at the ratio of 15-1/2 to 1. Thus during all the period prior to 1873 this country enjoyed bimetalism and, although at one time we used one metal and at another time another, no statesman arose to demand a single standard. We now have three kinds of bimetalists—those who favor a double standard only by international agreement, those who favor independent action at a changed ratio, and those who favor independent action at the present ratio. Those favoring an international agreement might be again divided into those who favor an agreement by a few nations, those who favor an agreement by many nations, and those who favor it only on condition that all nations would join.
I suppose it would hardly be proper to further divide them into those who really desire an international agreement and those who utilize the possibility of an international agreement to prevent independent action. I am afraid the agreement will not be brought about by those who, like the gentleman from Ohio [MR. HARTER], are willing to try it, but have no faith in its permanency; nor will it receive much aid, I fear, from the gentleman from New York [MR. HENDRIX], who said on last Saturday:
“I predict to you that inside of three months—before this Congress meets again—if you repeal this Sherman law and adjourn, England will make proposals to this country to come into a monetary conference and see what can be done for the sake of her ward India.”
Less than five minutes before he had pierced the veil of the future with prophetic ken and declared:
“The moving finger of Time, down from the days when gold started in the race for first place to this moment, has pointed to a single unit of value. It is our destiny. It will triumph in this Hall—perhaps not in this Congress nor in your day; but it is going to become the financial policy of this country just as sure as to-morrow morning’s sun will rise.”
Any hope of bimetalism there?
What is the prospect for the establishment of international bimetalism? I would be glad to see the unlimited coinage of gold and silver at a fixed ratio among the nations, but how is such an agreement to be secured? The gentleman from Maryland [MR. RAYNER] says the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law will bring England to terms. Is it impossible to extract a lion’s teeth without putting your head in his month? Is it not a dangerous experiment to join England in a single standard in order to induce her to join us in a double standard? International agreement is an old delusion and has done important duty on many previous occasions.
The opponents of the Bland law in 1878 were waiting for international bimetalism. Mr. Cleveland mentioned the prospect of it in his message in 1885, and again this year. It was a valuable weapon in 1890, when the Sherman bill was passed and the Brussels conference was called in time to carry us over the last Presidential election. We are still waiting, and those who are waiting most patiently who favor a gold standard. Are we any nearer to an international agreement than we were fifteen years ago? The European nations wait on England, and she refused within a year to even consider the adoption of the double standard. Can we conquer her by waiting? We have tried the Fabian policy.
Suppose we try bringing her to terms by action. Let me appeal to your patriotism. Shall we make our laws dependent upon England’s action and thus allow her to legislate for us upon the most important of all questions? Shall we confess our inability to enact monetary laws? Are we an English colony or an independent people? If the use of gold alone is to make us slaves, let us use both metals and be free. If there be some living along the Eastern coast—better acquainted with the beauties of the Alps than with the grandeur of the Rockies, more accustomed to the sunny skies of Italy than to the invigorating breezes of the Mississippi Valley—who are not willing to trust their fortunes and their destinies to American citizens, let them learn that the people living between the Alleghanies to the Golden Gate are not afraid to cast their all upon the Republic and rise or fall with it.
One hundred and seventeen years ago the liberty bell gave notice to a waiting and expectant people that independence bad been declared. There may be doubting, trembling ones among us now, but, sirs, I do not overestimate it when I say that out of twelve millions of voters, more than ten millions are waiting, anxiously waiting, for the signal which shall announce the financial independence of the United States. [Applause.] This Congress cannot more surely win the approval of a grateful people than by declaring that this nation, the grandest which the world has ever seen, has the right and the ability to legislate for its own people on every subject, regardless of the wishes, the entreaties, or the threats of foreign powers. [Applause.]
Perhaps the most important question for us to consider is the question of ratio. Comparatively few people in this country are in favor of a gold standard, and no national party has ever advocated it. Comparatively few, also, will be deceived by the promise of international bimetalism annually held out to us. Among those in favor of bimetalism, and in favor of independent action on the part of the United States, there is, however, an honest difference of opinion as to the particular ratio at which the unlimited coinage of gold and silver should be undertaken. The principle of bimetalism does not stand upon any certain ratio, and may exist at 1 to 30 as well as at 1 to 16.
In fixing the ratio we should select that one which will secure the greatest advantage to the public and cause the least injustice. The present ratio, in my judgment, should be adopted. A change in the ratio could be made (as in 1834) by reducing the size of the gold dollar or by increasing the size of the silver dollar, or by making a change in the weight of both dollars. A larger silver dollar would help the creditor. A smaller gold dollar would help the debtor. It is not just to do either, but if a change must be made the benefit should be given to the debtor rather than to the creditor.
Let no one accuse me of defending the justness of any change; but I repeat it, if we are given a choice between a change which will aid the debtor by reducing the size of his debt and a change which will aid the creditor by increasing the amount which he is to receive, either by increasing the number of his dollars or their size, the advantage must be given to the debtor, and no man during this debate, whatever may be his private wish or interest, will advocate the giving of the advantage to the creditor.
To illustrate the effect of changing the ratio let us take, for convenience, the ratio of 24 to 1, as advocated by some. We could make this change by reducing the weight of the gold dollar one-third. This would give to the holders of gold an advantage of some $200,000,000, but the creditors would lose several billions of dollars in the actual value of their debts. A debt contracted before 1873 would not be scaled, because the new gold dollar would purchase as much as the old gold dollar would in 1873. Creditors, however, whose loans have been made since that time would suffer, and the most recent loans would show the greatest loss. The value of silver bullion has only fallen in relation to gold. But the purchasing power of one ounce of silver has varied less since 1873 than has the purchasing power of one ounce of gold, which would indicate that gold had risen.
If, on the other hand, the ratio is changed by increasing the size of the silver dollar, it would be necessary to recoin our silver dollars into dollars a half larger, or we would have in circulation two legal tender silver dollars of different sizes. Of the two plans it would be better, in my judgment, to keep both dollars in circulation together, though unequal in weight, rather than to recoin the lighter dollars. The recoinage of more than 500,000,000 dollars, or the bullion representing them, would cause a shrinkage of about $170,000,000 or one-third of our silver money; it would cause a shrinkage of nearly one-sixth of our metalic money and of more than one-tenth of our total circulation. This contraction would increase our debts more than a billion dollars and decrease the nominal value of our property more than five billions.
A change in the ratio made by increasing the size of the silver dollar as above suggested would also decrease by one-third the number of dollars which could be coined from the annual product of silver. If, as Mr. Carlisle has said, the supply of metal, both gold and silver, is none too large to keep pace with population, the increase in the weight of each dollar would make the supply to that extent deficient. A change in ratio, whether secured by decreasing the gold dollar or by increasing the silver dollar, would probably make an international agreement more difficult, because nearly all of the silver coin now in existence circulates at a ratio less than ours.
If the change should be made in this country by increasing the size of the silver dollar and an international agreement secured upon the new ratio, to be effected by other nations in the same way, the amount of money in the world, that is metalic money, would suffer a contraction of more than $1,000,000,000, to the enormous injury of the debtor class and to the enormous advantage of the creditor class. If we believe that the value of gold has risen because its supply has not increased as fast as the demand caused by favorable legislation, then it would be unfair to continue this appreciation by other legislation favorable to gold. It would be a special injustice to the mine owner and to the farmer, whose products have fallen with silver, to make perpetual the injunction against their prosperity.
We often hear our opponents complain of the “cupidity of the mine owner.” Let us admit that the mine owner is selfish, and that he will profit by the increased price of silver bullion. Let us, for the sake of argument, go further, and accuse him of favoring the free coinage of silver solely for the purpose of increasing the price of his product. Does that make him worse than other men? Is not the farmer selfish enough to desire a higher price for wheat? Is not the cotton grower selfish enough to desire a higher price for his cotton? Is not the laboring man selfish enough to desire higher wages? And, if I may be pardoned for the boldness, are not bankers and business men selfish enough to ask for legislation at our hands which will give them prosperity? Was not this extraordinary session called in order to bring back prosperity to our business men?
Is it any more important that you should keep a mercantile house from failing than that you should keep a mine from suspending? Are those who desire free coinage of silver in order that the barren wastes should be made to “blossom like the rose” any worse than those who want the Sherman law repealed in order to borrow foreign gold and retire clearing house certificates? There is a class of people whose interest in financial legislation is too often overlooked. The money-loaner has just as much interest in the rise in the value of his product—money—as farmers and miners have in the increased price of their products.
The man who has $10,000 in money becomes worth $20,000 in reality when prices fall one-half. Shall we assume that the money-lenders of this and other countries ignore the advantage which an appreciated currency gives to them and desire it simply for the benefit of the poor man and the laborer? What refining influence is there in their business which purges away the dross of selfishness and makes pure and patriotic only their motives? Has some new dispensation reversed the parable and left Lazarus in torment while Dives is borne aloft in Abraham’s bosom?
But is the silver miner after all so selfish as to be worthy of censure. Does he ask for some new legislation or for some innovation inaugurated in his behalf? No. He pleads only for the restoration of the money of the fathers. He asks to have given back to him a right which he enjoyed from 1792 to 1873. During all those years he could deposit his silver bullion at the mints and reveive full legal-tender coins at the rate of $1.29 for each ounce of silver, and during a part of the time his product could be converted into money at even a higher price. Free coinage can only give back to him what demonetization took away. He does not ask for a silver dollar redeemable in a gold dollar, but for a silver dollar which redeems itself.
If the bullion value of silver has not been reduced by hostile legislation, the free coinage of silver at the present ratio can bring to the mine owner no benefit, except by enabling him to pay a debt already contracted with less ounces of silver. If the price of his product has been reduced by hostile legislation, is he asking any more than we would ask under the same circumstances in seeking to remove the oppressive hand of the law? Let me suggest, too, that those who favor an international agreement are stopped from objecting to the profits of the silver mine owner, because an international agreement could only be effected at some ratio near to ours, probably 15-1/2 to 1, and this would just as surely inure to the benefit of the owner of silver as would free coinage established by the independent action of this country.
If our opponents were correct in asserting that the price of silver bullion could be maintained at 129 cents an ounce by international agreement, but not by our separate action, then international bimetalism would bring a larger profit to the mine owner than the free coinage of silver by this country could. Let the international bimetalist, then, find some better objection to free coinage than that based on the mine owner’s profit.
But what is the mine owner’s profit? Has any one told you the average cost of mining an ounce of silver? You have heard of some particular mine where silver can be produced at a low cost, but no one has attempted to give you any reliable data as to the average cost of production. I had a letter from Mr. Leech when he was Director of the Mint, saying that the Government is in possession of no data in regard to the cost of gold production and none of any value in regard to silver. No calculation can be made as to the profits of mining which does not include money spent in prospecting and in mines which have ceased to pay, as well as those which are profitably worked.
When we see a wheel of fortune with twenty-four paddles, see those paddles sold for 10 cents a piece, and see the holder of the winning paddle draw $2, we do not conclude that money can be profitably invested in a wheel of fortune. We know that those who bought expended altogether $2.40 on the turn of the wheel, and that the man who won only received $2; but our opponents insist upon estimating the profits of silver mining by the cost of the winning paddle. It is safe to say that taking the gold and silver of the world—and it is more true of silver than of gold—every dollar’s worth of metal has cost a dollar. It is strange that those who watch so carefully lest the silver miner shall receive more for his product than the bare cost of production ignore the more fortunate gold miner.
Did you ever hear a monometalist complain because a man could produce 25.8 grains of gold, .9 fine, at any price whatever, and yet take it to our mint and have it stamped into a dollar with full legal tender qualities? I saw at the World’s Fair a few days ago a nugget of gold, just as it was found, worth over $3,000. What an outrage that the finder should be allowed to convert that into money at such an enormous profit! And yet no advocate of honest money raises his hand to stop that crime.
The fact is that the price of gold and silver does not depend upon the cost of production, but upon the law of supply and demand. [Applause.] It is true that production will stop when either metal cannot be produced at a profit; but so long as the demand continues equal to the supply the value of an ounce of either metal may be far above the cost of production. With most kinds of property a rise in price will cause increased production; for instance, if the price of wheat rises faster than the price of other things, there will be a tendency to increased production until the price falls; but this tendency cannot be carried out in the case of the precious metals, because the metal must be found before it can be produced, and finding is uncertain.
Between 1800 and 1849 an ounce of gold or silver would exchange for more of other things than it would from 1849 to 1873, yet during the latter period the production of both gold and silver greatly increased. It will be said that the purchasing power of an ounce of metal fell because of the increased supply; but that fall did not check production, nor has the rise in the purchasing power of an ounce of gold since 1873 increased the production. The production of both gold and silver is controlled so largely by chance as to make some of the laws applicable to other property inapplicable to the precious metals. If the supply of gold decreases without any diminution of the demand the exchangeable value of each ounce of gold is bound to increase, although the cost of producing the gold may continue to fall.
Why do not the advocates of gold monometalism recognize and complain of the advantage given to gold by laws which increase the demand for it and, therefore, the value of each ounce? Instead of that they confine themselves to the denunciation of the silver-mine owner. I have never advocated the use of either gold or silver as the means of giving employment to miners, nor has the defense of bimetalism been conducted by those interested in the production of silver. We favor the use of gold and silver as money because money is a necessity and because these metals, owing to special fitness, have been used from time immemorial. The entire annual supply of both metals, coined at the present ratio, does not afford too large a sum of money.
If, as is estimated, two-thirds of the $130,000,000 of gold produced annually are consumed in the arts, only $46,000,000—or less than we need for this country alone—are left for coinage. If one-sixth of the $185,000,000 of silver produced annually is used in the arts, $155,000,000 are left for coinage. India has been in the habit of taking about one-third of that sum. Thus the total amount of gold and silver annually available for all the people of all the world is only about $200,000,000, or about four times what we need in this country to keep pace with increasing population. And as population increases the annual addition to the money must also increase.
The total sum of metalic money is a little less than $8,000,000,000. The $200,000,000 per annum is about two and a half per cent. on the total volume of metalic money, taking no account of lost coins and shrinkage by abrasion. To quote again the language of Mr. Carlisle:
“Mankind will be fortunate indeed if the annual production of gold coin shall keep pace with the annual increase of population, commerce and industry.”
An increase of one-third in the weight of the silver dollar by an international agreement would reduce by 50,000,000 the number of dollars which could be coined from the annual product of silver, which would amount to a decrease of about one-fourth of the entire increase of metalic money, while the abandonment of silver entirely would destroy three-quarters of the annual increase in metalic money, or possibly all of it, if we take into consideration the reduction of the gold supply by the closing of gold-producing silver mines.
Thus it is almost certain that without silver the sum of metalic money would remain stationary, if not actually decrease, from year to year, while population increases and new enterprises demand, from time to time, a larger sum of currency. Thus it will be seen that the money question is broader than the interest of a few mine owners. It touches every man, woman, and child in all the world, and affects those in every condition of life and society.
The interest of the mine owner is incidental. He profits by the use of silver as money just as the gold miner profits by the use of gold as money; just as the newspaper profits by the law compelling the advertising of foreclosures; just as the seaport profits by the deepening of its harbor; just as the horse-seller would profit by a war which required the purchase of a large number of horses for cavalry service, or just as the undertaker would profit by the decent burial of a pauper at public expense.
All of these receive an incidental benefit from public acts. Shall we complain if the use of gold and silver as money gives employment to men, builds up cities and fills our mountains with life and industry? Shall we oppress all debtors and derange all business agreements in order to prevent the producers of money metals from obtaining for them more than actual cost? We do not reason that way in other things; why suppress the reason in this matter because of cultivated prejudices against the white metal? But what interest has the farmer in this subject, you may ask. The same that every laboring man has in a currency sufficient to carry on the commerce and business of a country. The employer cannot give work to men unless he can carry on the business at a profit, and he is hampered and embarrassed by a currency which appreciates because of its insufficiency.
The farmer labors under a double disadvantage. He not only suffers as a producer from all those causes which reduce the price of property, but he is thrown into competition with the products of India. Without Indian competition his lot would be hard enough, for if he is a land owner he finds his capital decreasing with an appreciating standard, and if he owes on the land he finds his equity of redemption extinguished. The last census shows a real estate mortgage indebtedness in the five great agricultural States—Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska—of more than one billion of dollars. A rising standard means a great deal of distress to these mortgagors. But as I said, the producers of wheat and cotton have a special grievance, for the prices of those articles are governed largely by the prices in Liverpool, and as silver goes down our prices fall, while the rupee price remains the same. I quote from the agricultural report of 1890, page 8:
“The recent legislation looking to the restoration of the bimetalic standard of our currency, and the consequent enhancement of the value of silver, has unquestionably had much to do with the recent advance in the price of cereals. The same cause has advanced the price of wheat in Russia and India, and in the same degree reduced their power of competition. English gold was formerly exchanged for cheap silver and wheat purchased with the cheaper metal was sold in Great Britain for gold. Much of this advantage is lost by the appreciation of silver in those countries. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect much higher prices for wheat than have been received in recent years.”
Mr. Rusk’s reasoning is correct. Shall we by changing the ratio fix the price of wheat and cotton at the present low price? If it is possible to do so it is no more than fair that we restore silver to its former place, and thus give back to the farmer some of his lost prosperity. Can silver be maintained on a parity with gold at the present ratio? It has been shown that if we should fail and our effort should result in a single silver standard it would be better for us than the adoption of the gold standard—that is, that the worst that could come from the attempt would be far better than the best that our opponents could offer us.
It has been shown that dangers and disadvantages attend a change of ratio. It may now be added that no change in the ratio can be made with fairness or intelligence without first putting gold and silver upon a perfect equality in order to tell what the natural ratio is. If a new ratio is necessary, who can tell just what that ratio ought to be? Who knows to what extent the divergence between gold and silver is due to natural laws and to what extent it is due to artificial laws? We know that the mere act of India in suspending free coinage, although she continues to buy and coin on government account, reduced the price of silver more than 10 cents per ounce. Can any one doubt that the restoration of free coinage in that country would increase the bullion price of silver? Who doubts that the free coinage of silver by the United States would increase its bullion price?
The only question is how much. Is it only a guess, for no one can state with mathematical precision what the rise would be. The full use of silver, too, would stop the increased demand for gold, and thus prevent any further rise in its price. It is because no one can speak with certainty that I insist that no change in the ratio can be intelligently made until both metals are offered equal privileges at the mint. When we have the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the present ratio, then, and then only, can we tell whether any of the apparent fall in the bullion price of silver is due to circumstances over which we have no control, and if so, how much? If this experiment should demonstrate the necessity for a change of ratio it can be easily made, and should be made in such a way as to cause the least injury to society. But we can, in my judgment, maintain the parity at the present ratio. I state this without hesitation, notwithstanding the fact that our opponents do not disguise the contempt which they feel for one who can believe this possible. If the past teaches anything it teaches the possibility of this country maintaining the parity alone. The Royal Commission of England stated in its report that France did maintain the parity at 15-1/2 to 1, although she has not half our population or enterprise. During the years when her mint laws controlled the price of gold and silver bullion the changes in the relative production of gold and silver were greater than they have been since. At one time before 1873 the value of the silver product was related to the value of the gold product as 3 to 1, while at another time the relation was reversed, and the production of gold to silver was as 3 to 1.
No such changes have occurred since; and the present value of the silver product is only 1-1/2 to 1 of gold. Much of the prejudice against silver is due to the fact that it has been falling as compared to gold. Let it begin to rise and it will become more acceptable as a money metal. Goschen, at the Paris Conference, very aptly stated the condition when he said:
“At present there is a vicious circle. States are afraid of employing silver on account of the depreciation, and the depreciation continues because States refuse to employ it.”
Let that “vicious circle” be broken and silver will resume its rightful place. We believe, in other words, that the opening of our mints to the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at 16 to 1 would immediately result in restoring silver to the coinage value of $1.29 per ounce, not only here, but everywhere. That there could be no difference between the dollar coined and the same weight of silver uncoined, when one could be exchanged for the other, needs no argument.
We do not believe that the gold dollar would go to a premium, because it could not find a better coinage ratio elsewhere, and because it could be put to no purpose for which a silver dollar would not be as good. If our ratio were 1 to 14 our gold would, of course, be exchanged for silver; but with our ratio of 16 to 1 gold is worth more here than abroad, and foreign silver would not come here, because it is circulating at home at a better ratio than we offer.
We need not concern ourselves, therefore, about the coin silver. All that we have to take care of is the annual product from the mines, about 40 per cent. of which is produced in this country. Under the Sherman law we furnish a market for about one-third of the world’s annual product. I believe about one-sixth is used in the arts, which would leave about one-half for all the rest of the world. India has suspended free coinage temporarily, in anticipation of the repeal of the Sherman law. The Herschell report expressly states that the action was necessary, because no agreement with the United States could be secured. The language is as follows:
“In a dispatch of the 31st of June, 1892, the government of India expressed the deliberate opinion that, if it became clear that the Brussels conference was unlikely to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, and if a direct agreement between India and the United States were found to be unattainable, the government of India should at once close their mints to the free coinage of silver and make arrangements for the introduction of a gold standard.”
There is no doubt of the restoration of free coinage in India if this Government takes the lead, and with India taking the usual amount, but one-sixth of the annual supply if left for the other silver-using countries. There can be no flood of silver, nor will prices rise to any considerable extent—except the price of silver itself and a few of the staple products of agriculture which have fallen with silver because of India’s competition. General prices cannot rise unless the total number of dollars increases more rapidly than the need for dollars, which has been shown to be impossible with the present supply. The danger is that, taking all the gold and all the silver, we will not have enough money, and that there will still be some appreciation in the standard of value.
To recapitulate, then, there is not enough of either metal to form the basis for the world’s metalic money; both metals must therefore be used as full legal tender primary money. There is not enough of both metals to more than keep pace with the increased demand for money; silver cannot be retained in circulation as a part of the world’s money if the United States abandons it. This nation must, therefore, either retain the present law or make some further provision for silver. The only rational plan is to use both gold and silver at some ratio with equal privileges at the mint. No change in the ratio can be made intelligently until both metals are put on an equality at the present ratio. The present ratio should be adopted if the parity can be maintained; and, lastly, it can be.
If these conclusions are correct what must be our action on the bill to unconditionally repeal the Sherman law? The Sherman law has a serious defect; it treats silver as a commodity rather than as a money, and thus discriminates between silver and gold. The Sherman law was passed in 1890 as a substitute for what was known as the Bland law. It will be remembered that the Bland law was forced upon the silver men as a compromise, and that the opponents of silver sought its repeal from the day it was passed. It will also be remembered that the Sherman law was in like manner forced upon the silver men as a compromise, and that the opponents of silver have sought its repeal ever since it became a law. The law provides for the compulsory purchase of 54,000,000 ounces of silver per year, and for the issue of Treasury notes thereon at the gold value of the bullion.
These notes are a legal tender and are redeemable in gold or silver at the option of the Government. There is also a clause in the law which states that it is the policy of this Government to maintain the parity between the metals. The Administration, it seems, has decided that the parity can only be maintained by violating a part of the law and giving the option to the holder instead of to the Government. Without discussing the administration of the law let us consider the charges made against it.
The main objection which we heard last spring was that the Treasury notes were used to draw gold out of the Treasury. If that objection were a material one the bill might easily be amended so as to make the Treasury notes hereafter issued redeemable only in silver, like the silver certificates issued under the Bland law. But the objection is scarcely important enough for consideration. While the Treasury notes have been used to draw out gold, they need not have been used for that purpose, for we have $346,000,000 worth of greenbacks with which gold can be drawn, so long as the Government gives the option to the holder. If all of the Treasury notes were destroyed the greenbacks are sufficient to draw out the $100,000,000 reserve three times over, and then they can be reissued and used again. To complain of the Treasury notes while the greenbacks remain is like finding fault because the gate is open when the whole fence is down, and reminds one of the man who made a box for his feline family, and cut a big hole for the cat to go in at and a little hole for the kittens to go in at, forgetting that the large hole would do for cats of all sizes.
Just at this time the law is being made the scapegoat upon which all our financial ills are loaded, and its immediate and unconditional repeal is demanded as the sole means by which prosperity can be restored to a troubled people.
The main accusation against it now is that it destroys confidence, and that foreign money will not come here, because the holder is afraid that we will go to a silver standard. The exportation of gold has been pointed to as conclusive evidence that frightened English bondholders were throwing American securities upon the market and selling them to our people in exchange for gold. But now gold is coming back faster than it went away, and still we have the Sherman law unrepealed. Since that theory will not explain both the export and import of gold, let us accept a theory which will. The balance of trade has been largely against us during the last year, and gold went abroad to pay it, but now our exportation of breadstuffs has increased and the gold is returning. Its going was aggravated by the fact that Austria-Hungary was gathering in gold for resumption and was compelled to take a part from us. Instead of using that export of gold as a reason for going to a gold basis, it ought to make us realize the danger of depending solely upon a metal which some other nation may deprive us of at a critical moment.
MR. CANNON of Illinois. Will the gentleman permit me to interrupt him?
MR. BRYAN. Certainly.
MR. CANNON of Illinois. I am in complete harmony with what my friend is saying now. I ask him if he will allow me to request him not to omit to state that in the twelve months ending June 30 last this same balance of trade that was against us not only took the gold of the United States, but nearly $17,000,000 of silver as well.
MR. BRYAN. I think the statement made by the gentleman is correct.
The Sherman law fails utterly to account for present stringency. Let me suggest a more reasonable cause for the trouble. Last spring an attempt was made to secure the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law. We had no panic then, but the same forces which have always opposed any legislation favorable to silver demanded that the purchase of bullion should stop. Some who believe that 15 per cent. reserve makes a bank safe became frightened lest a 25 or 30 per cent. reserve might not be sufficient to make the Government safe, and wanted an issue of gold bonds. The great argument used in favor of both these propositions was that money was being drawn from the Treasury and sent to Europe; that confidence was being destroyed and that a panic would follow. They emphasized and magnified the evils which would follow the departure of gold; they worked themselves and their associates into a condition of fright which did cause financial stringency. Like the man who innocently gives the alarm of fire in a crowded hall, they excited a panic which soon got beyond control.
The trouble now is that depositors have withdrawn their deposits from the banks for fear of loss, and the banks are compelled to draw in their loans to protect their reserves, and thus men who do business upon borrowed capital are crippled. The people have not lost faith in the Government or in the Government’s money. They do not refuse silver or silver certificates. They are glad enough to get any kind of money. We were told last spring that gold was going to a premium, but recently in New York City men found a profitable business in the selling of silver certificates of small denominations at 2 per cent. premium, and on the 5th of this month there appeared in the New York Herald and the New York Times this advertisement:
WANTED—SILVER DOLLARS,—We desire to purchase at a premium of 3/4 per cent., or $7.50 per thousand, standard silver dollars, in sums of $1,000 or more, in return for our certified checks payable through the clearing-house.
ZIMMERMANN & FORSHAY,
Bankers, 11 Wall Street.
About the same time the New York police force was paid in $20 gold pieces because of the scarcity of other kinds of money. How many of the failing banks have obeyed the law in regard to reserve? How many have crippled themselves by loaning too much to their officers and directors? The situation can be stated in a few words: money cannot be secured to carry on business because the banks have no money to loan; banks have no money to loan because the depositors have withdrawn their money; depositors have withdrawn their money because they fear the solvency of the banks; enterprises are stagnant because money is not in circulation.
Will a repeal of the Sherman law cure these evils? Can you cure hunger by a famine? I know that there are some who tell us that we have plenty of money. If I may be pardoned for a personal allusion, their attitude reminds me of a remark made by my father-in-law just after he entrusted his daughter to my care, “William,” said he, laying his hand affectionately on my head, “while I have we shall not both want.” Others say, “What is the use of having more money? We cannot get it unless we have something to sell.” That is true; but the price of what we sell depends largely upon the amount of money in circulation. How can we pay our debts without selling something, and how can we sell anything unless there is money in circulation to buy with? We need money. The Sherman law supplies a certain amount. Will the stringency be relieved by suspending that issue? If the advocates of repeal would take for their battle cry, “Stop issuing money,” instead of “Stop buying silver,” would not their purpose be more plain? But they say the repeal of the law will encourage foreign capital to come here by giving assurance that it will be repaid on a gold basis. Can we afford to buy confidence at that price? Can we afford to abandon the constitutional right to pay in either gold or silver in order to borrow foreign gold with the certainty of having to pay it back in appreciated dollars? To my mind, Mr. Speaker, the remedy proposed seems not only dangerous and absurd, but entirely inadequate. Why try to borrow foreign capital in order to induce the people in this country to redeposit their savings in the banks?
Why do not these financiers apply the remedy to the diseased part? If the gentleman from New York [Mr. HENDRIX], to whom I listened with pleasure, and who said, “I have come into this Hall as a banker, I am here as the president of a. national bank,” desires to restore confidence, let him propose for the consideration of the members a bill to raise, by a small tax upon deposits, a sum sufficient to secure depositors against possible loss; or a bill to compel stockholders to put up security for their double liability; or to prevent stockholders or officers from wrecking a bank to carry on their private business; or to limit the liabilities which a bank can assume upon a given amount of capital, so that there will be more margin to protect its creditors; or a bill to make more severe the punishment for embezzlement, so that a man can not rob a bank of a half-million and escape with five years, and can not be boarded at a hotel by a marshal, while the small thief suffers in a dungeon.. Let him propose some real relief and this House will be glad to cooperate with him.
Or, if there is immediate relief necessary in the increased issue of paper money, let our financiers press the suggestion made by the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. JOHNSON], viz., that the holders of Government bonds be allowed to deposit them and draw the face in Treasury notes by remitting the interest and with the power of redeeming the bonds at any time. This will give immediate relief and will save the Government interest on the bonds while the money is out. But no, the only remedy proposed by these financiers at this time, when business is at a standstill and when men are suffering unemployed, is a remedy which will enable them to both control the currency and reap pecuniary profit through its issue.
One of the benefits of the Sherman law, so far as the currency is concerned, is that it compels the issue of a large amount of money annually, and but for this issue the present financial panic would, in my judgment, be far more severe than it is. That we need an annual increase in the currency is urged by Mr. SHERMAN himself in a speech advocating the passage of the Sherman law. On the 5th day of June, 1890, he said in the Senate:
“Under the law of February, 1878, the purchase of $2,000,000 worth of silver bullion a month has by coinage produced annually an average of nearly $3,000,000 per month for a period of twelve years, but this amount, in view of the retirement of the bank notes, will not increase our currency in proportion to our increasing population. If our present currency is estimated at $1,400,000,000, and our population is increasing at the ratio of 3 per cent. per annum, it would require $42,000,000 increased circulation each year to keep pace with the increase of population; but as the increase of population is accompanied by a still greater ratio of increase of wealth and business, it was thought that an immediate increase of circulation might be obtained by larger purchases of silver bullion to an amount sufficient to make good the requirement of bank notes and keep pace with the growth of population. Assuming that $54,000,000 a year of additional currency is needed upon this basis, that amount is provided for in this bill by the issue of Treasury notes in exchange for bullion at the market price.”
This amount, by the fall in the price of bullion silver, has been largely reduced. Shall we wipe it out entirely? He insisted that the Sherman law gave to the people more money than the Bland law, and upon that ground its passage was defended before the people. Could it have been passed had it given less than the Bland law? Who would have dared to defend it if it had provided for no money at all? What provision shall be made for the future? Upon that question our opponents are silent. The bill which they have proposed leaves us with no increased currency provided for.
Some of the advocates of a gold standard, in the defense of their theory, find it necessary to dispute every well-established principle of finance. We are told that as civilization increases credit takes the place of money and that the volume of real money can be diminished without danger. That recalls the experience of the man who conceived the idea that a fish could be made to live without water. As the story goes, he put a herring, fresh from the sea, in a jar of salt water. By removing a little every morning and adding rainwater he gradually accustomed it to fresh water. Then by gradually removing the fresh water he accustomed it to air and finally kept it in a cage like a bird. One day, in his absence, his servant placed a cup of water in the cage in order that the fish might moisten its food; but alas! when the master came home he found that the fish had thoughtlessly put its head into the water and drowned!
From the arguments of some of our opponents we might be led to the conclusion that the time would come when money would not only be unnecessary but really dangerous.
The question, Mr. Speaker, is whether we shall increase our supply of primary money, as we do when we increase our gold and silver, or whether we shall increase our promises to pay real money, as we do when we increase national bank notes.
MR. BLAND. Will the gentleman permit a suggestion?
MR. BRYAN. Yes, sir.
MR. BLAND. The Treasury notes issued under the law for the purchase of the silver bullion are legal tender for all debts, public and private, and not like bank notes, mere credit money.
MR. BRYAN. I understand that. I say they are primary money; although if it were construed to mean that they were merely a promise to pay gold, then they would be simply credit money to that extent.
MR. BLAND. The distinction I wish to draw is this, that those Treasury notes issued in purchase of silver bullion are legal tender while a bank note is not.
MR. BRYAN. And the distinction is a very just one, and a legal tender dollar is the better.
The larger the superstructure of credit, as related to the basis of metal, the more unsubstantial our system. If we present a bank note for payment we receive a greenback; if we present a greenback for payment, the treasurer has a right to pay in silver dollars, and now our opponents want it understood that a silver dollar is only a promise to pay a gold dollar. Is that sound money?
No, Mr. Speaker; if metalic money is sound money, then we who insist upon a base broad enough to support a currency redeemable in coin on demand, are the real friends of sound money, and those are “dangerous fiatists” who would make the metalic base so narrow as to compel the Government to abandon it for the preservation of its people. If all the currency is built upon the small basis of gold those who hold the gold will be the masters of the situation. We have a right to demand that the future financial policy shall be a part of the repealing act, so that we may choose between it and what we have and reject it if it is less favorable than the present law. And I may add in the language adopted by the bimetalic league a few days ago—
“The refusal of the opponents of bimetalism to propose any substitute for the present law, or to elaborate any plan for the future, indicates either an ignorance of our financial needs or an unwillingness to take the public into their confidence.”
But, sir, more serious than any other objection which can be made to the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law is the incontrovertible fact that a suspension of silver would tend to lower the price of silver bullion and thus make the restoration of bimetalism more difficult. That this will be the effect is proven not only by reason but by the utterances of Mr. Herschell’s committee in discussing the finances of India. That report says:
“In December last, a bill was introduced in the Senate to repeal the Sherman act, and another to suspend purchases under it. Whether any such measures will pass into law it is impossible to foretell, but it must be regarded as possible; and although, in the light of past experience, predictions on such a subject must be made with caution, it is certainly probable that the repeal of the Sherman act would be followed by a heavy fall in the price of silver.”
The first question for us to decide, then, is: are we in favor of bimetalism or a universal gold standard? If we are in favor of bimetalism, the next question is will a fall in the bullion price of silver as measured by gold help or hinder bimetalism? We are told by those who want a gold standard that it will help bimetalism; but the query is, if it would, “Why do they favor it?” It is sufficient to arouse suspicion when every advocate of gold monometalism favors unconditional repeal, and. the more emphatic his advocacy of gold the more earnest his desire for repeal. Is any subsequent legislation in behalf of silver intended? If so, why not propose it now? What money loaner, loaning upon a mortgage, would be willing to let the money go upon a promise that the mortgage should be delivered next week? Or what business man would cancel an obligation to-day on the promise of having the money paid to-morrow? Shall we be more careless in protecting the sacred interests of our constituents than a business man is in transacting his business?
What excuse can we give to our people for releasing what we have with the expectation of getting something in the future when the advocates of repeal boldly demand, upon this floor, the adoption of a universal gold standard, and predict that its coming is as certain as the rising of to-morrow’s sun. Read the utterances of these leaders in the crusade against silver. Read the famous article of the distinguished gentleman from New York [MR. COCKRAN]. Read the article in the Forum of last February, from the pen of Hon. George Fred Williams, who, in the last Congress, spoke for those demanding unconditional repeal:
“In the efforts which have thus far been made towards a repeal, a single question has been repeated by the silver men so often as to give a plain indication to the situation. What, it is asked, do you propose to put in place of silver purchases? There never was a time more opportune to answer definitely this question with the single word, nothing.”
Let me join issue upon this question, and say that the time will never come in this country when that word “nothing” will be accepted as a satisfactory answer.
They tell us that our platform demands repeal, but does it demand repeal only? Shall we take away the “cowardly makeshift” before we restore the real thing for which that “temporary expedient” was substituted? As well denounce one kind of food because not the most nourishing and then refuse all food to the patient. They shall not be permitted to thus mutilate the platform. No such inexcusable attempt at garbling has been witnessed since the minister took from the sentence “Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house” the words “top not come down,” and inveighed against the feminine habit of wearing the hair in a knot on the top of the head. They demand of us unconditional repeal. They demand that we give up all that we have in the way of silver legislation before we know what we are to receive. Shall we surrender on these terms?
Rollin tells us that the third Punic war was declared by the Romans and that a messenger was sent to Carthage to announce the declaration after the army had started on its way. The Carthagenians at once sent representatives to treat for peace. The Romans first demanded the delivery of three hundred hostages before they would enter into negotiations. When three hundred sons of the nobles had been given into their hands they demanded the surrender of all the arms and implements of war before announcing the terms of the treaty. The conditions were sorrowfully but promptly complied with, and the people who boasted of a Hannibal and a Hamilcar gave up to their ancient enemies every weapon of offense and defense. Then the Roman consul, rising up before the humiliated representatives of Carthage, said:
“I can not but commend you for the readiness with which you have obeyed every order. The decree of the Roman Senate is that Carthage shall be destroyed.”
Sirs, what will be the answer of the people whom you represent, who are wedded to the “gold and silver coinage of the Constitution,” if you vote for unconditional repeal and return to tell them that you were commended for the readiness with which you obeyed every order, but that Congress has decreed that one-half of the people’s metalic money shall be destroyed?
They demand unconditional surrender, do they? Why, sirs, we are the ones to grant terms. Standing by the pledges of all the parties in this country, backed by the history of a hundred years, sustained by the most sacred interests of humanity itself, we demand an unconditional surrender of the principle of gold monometalism as the first condition of peace. You demand surrender! Ay, sirs, you may cry “Peace, peace,” but there is no peace. Just so long as there are people here who would chain this country to a single gold standard, there is war—eternal war; and it might just as well be known now! I have said that we stand by the pledges of all platforms. Let me quote them:
The Populist platform adopted by the national convention in 1892 contained these words:
“We demand free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1.”
As the members of that party, both in the Senate and in the House, stand ready to carry out the pledge there made, no appeal to them is necessary.
The Republican national platform adopted in 1888 contains this plank:
“The Republican party is in favor of the use of both gold and silver as money, and condemns the policy of the Democratic administration in its efforts to demonetize silver.”
The same party in 1892 adopted a platform containing the following language:
“The American people from tradition and interest favor bimetalism, and the Republican party demands the use of both gold and silver as standard money, such restrictions to be determined by contemplation of values of the two metals, so that the purchasing and debt-paying power of the dollar, whether of silver, gold, or paper, shall be equal at all times.
“The interests of the producers of the country, its farmers and its workingmen, demand that every dollar, paper or gold, issued by the Government, shall be as good as any other. We commend the wise and patriotic steps already taken by our Government to secure an international parity of value between gold and silver for use as money throughout the world.”
Are the Republican members of this House ready to abandon the system which the American people favor “from tradition and interest”? Having won a Presidential election upon a platform which condemned “the policy of the Democratic administration in its efforts to demonetize silver,” are they ready to join in that demonetization? Having advocated the Sherman law because it gave an increased use of silver, are they ready to repeal it and make no provisions for silver at all? Are they willing to go before the country confessing that they secured the present law by sharp practice, and only adopted it as an ingenious device for preventing free coinage, to be repealed as soon as the hour of danger was passed?
The Democratic platform of 1880 contained these words:
“Honest money, consisting of gold and silver, and paper convertible into coin on demand.”
It would seem that at that time silver was honest money, although the bullion value was considerably below the coinage value.
In 1884 the Democratic platform contained this plank:
“We believe in honest money, the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution, and a circulating medium convertible into such money without loss.”
It would seem that at that time silver was considered honest money.
In 1888 the Democratic party did not express itself on the money question except by saying:
“It renewed the pledge of its fidelity to Democratic faith, and reaffirms the platform adopted by its representatives in the convention of 1884.”
ince that platform of 1884 commended silver as an honest money, we must assume that the reaffirming of that platform declared anew that silver was honest money as late as 1888, although at that time its bullion value had fallen still more.
The last utterance of a Democratic national convention upon this subject is contained in the platform adopted at Chicago in 1892. It is as follows:
“We denounce the Republican legislation known as the Sherman act of 1890 as a cowardly makeshift, fraught with possibilities of danger in the future, which should make all of its supporters, as well as its author, anxious for its speedy repeal. We hold to the use of both gold and silver as the standard money of the country, and to the coinage of both gold and silver without discrimination against either metal or charge for mintage, but the dollar unit of coinage of both metals must be of equal intrinsic and exchangeable value or be adjusted through international agreement, or by such safeguards of legislation as shall insure the maintenance of the parity of the two metals, and the equal power of every dollar at all times in the markets and in the payment of debts; and we demand that all paper currency shall be kept at par with and redeemable in such coin. We insist upon this policy as especially necessary for the protection of the farmers and laboring classes, the first and most defenseless victims of unstable money and a fluctuating currency.”
Thus it will be seen that gold and silver have been indissolubly linked together in our platforms. Never in the history of the party has it taken a position in favor of a gold standard. On every vote taken in the House and Senate a majority of the party have been recorded not only in favor of bimetalism, but for the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the ratio of 16 to 1.
The last platform pledges us to the use of both metals as standard money and to the free coinage of both metals at a fixed ratio. Does anyone believe that Mr. Cleveland could have been elected President upon a platform declaring in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law? Can we go back to our people and tell them that, after denouncing for twenty years the crime of 1873, we have at last accepted it as a blessing? Shall bimetalism receive its deathblow in the House of its friends, and in the very Hall where innumerable vows have been registered in its defense? What faith can be placed in platforms if their pledges can be violated with impunity? Is it right to rise above the power which creates us? Is it patriotic to refuse that legislation in favor of gold and silver which a majority of the people have always demanded? Is it necessary to betray all parties in order to treat this subject in a “nonpartisan” way?
The President has recommended unconditional repeal. It is not sufficient to say that he is honest—so were the mothers, who, with misguided zeal, threw their children into the Ganges. The question is not “Is he honest?” but “Is he right?” He won the confidence of the toilers of this country because he taught that “Public office is a public trust,” and because he convinced them of his courage and his sincerity. But are they willing to say, in the language of Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him?” Whence comes this irresistible demand for unconditional repeal? Are not the representatives here as near to the people and as apt to know their wishes? Whence comes the demand? Not from the workshop and the farm, not from the workingmen of this country, who create its wealth in time of peace and protect its flag in time of war, but from the middlemen, from what are termed the “business interests,” and largely from that class which can force Congress to let it issue money at a pecuniary profit to itself if silver is abandoned.The President has been deceived. He can no more judge the wishes of the great mass of our people by the expressions of these men than he can measure the ocean’s silent depths by the foam upon its waves.
Mr. Powderly, who spoke at Chicago a few days ago in favor of the free coinage of silver at the present ratio and against the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law, voiced the sentiment of more laboring men than have ever addressed the President or this House in favor of repeal. Go among the agricultural classes; go among the poor, whose little is as precious to them as the rich man’s fortune is to him, and whose families are as dear, and you will not find the haste to destroy the issue of money or the unfriendliness to silver which is manifested in money centers.
This question can not be settled by typewritten recommendations and suggestions made by boards of trade and sent broadcast over the United States. It can only be settled by the great mass of the voters of this country who stand like the Rock of Gibraltar for the use of both gold and silver.
There are thousands, yes, tens of thousands, aye, even millions, who have not yet “bowed the knee to Baal.” Let the President take courage. Muehlbach relates an incident in the life of the great military hero of France. At Marengo the Man of Destiny, sad and disheartened, thought the battle lost. He called to a drummer boy and ordered him to beat a retreat. The lad replied:
“Sire, I do not know how. Dessaix has never taught me retreat, but I can beat a charge. Oh, I can beat a charge that would make the dead fall into line! I beat that charge at the Bridge of Lodi; I beat it at Mount Tabor; I beat it at the Pyramids; Oh, may I beat it here?”
The charge was ordered, the battle won, and Marengo was added to the victories of Napoleon. Oh, let our gallant leader draw inspiration from the street gamin of Paris. In the face of an enemy proud and confident the President has wavered. Engaged in the battle royal between the “money power and the common people” he has ordered a retreat. Let him not be dismayed.
He has won greater victories than Napoleon, for he is a warrior who has conquered without a sword. He restored fidelity in the public service; he converted Democratic hope into realization; he took up the banner of tariff reform and carried it to triumph. Let him continue that greater fight for “the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution,” to which three national platforms have pledged him. Let his clarion voice call the party hosts to arms; let him but speak the language of the Senator from Texas, in reply to those who would destroy the use of silver:
“In this hour fraught with peril to the whole country, I appeal to the unpurchased representatives of the American people to meet this bold and insolent demand like men. Let us stand in the breach and call the battle on and never leave the field until the people’s money shall be restored to the mints on equal terms with gold, as it was years ago.”
Let this command be given, and the air will resound with the tramp of men scarred in a score of battles for the people’s rights. Let this command be given and this Marengo will be our glory and not our shame.
Well has it been said by the Senator from Missouri [MR. VEST] that we have come to the parting of the ways. To-day the Democratic party stands between two great forces, each inviting its support. On the one side stand the corporate interests of the nation, its moneyed institutions, its aggregations of wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless. They demand special legislation, favors, privileges, and immunities. They can subscribe magnificently to campaign funds; they can strike down opposition with their all-pervading influence, and, to those who fawn and flatter, bring ease and plenty. They demand that the Democratic party shall become their agent to execute their merciless decrees.
On the other side stands that unnumbered throng which gave a name to the Democratic party and for which it has assumed to speak. Work-worn and dust-begrimed, they make their sad appeal. They hear of average wealth increased on every side and feel the inequality of its distribution. They see an over-production of everything desired because of the underproduction of the ability to buy. They can not pay for loyalty except with their suffrages, and can only punish betrayal with their condemnation. Although the ones who most deserve the fostering care of Government, their cries for help too often beat in vain against the outer wall, while others less deserving find ready access to legislative halls.
This army, vast and daily vaster growing, begs the party to be its champion in the present conflict. It cannot press its claims ‘mid sounds of revelry. Its phalanxes do not form in grand parade, nor has it gaudy banners floating on the breeze. Its battle hymn is “Home, Sweet Home,” its war cry “equality before the law.” To the Democratic party, standing between these two irreconcilable forces, uncertain to which side to turn, and conscious that upon its choice its fate depends, come the words of Israel’s second lawgiver: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” What will the answer be? Let me invoke the memory of him whose dust made sacred the soil of Monticello when he joined
The dead but sceptered sovereigns who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.
He was called a demagogue and his followers a mob, but the immortal Jefferson dared to follow the best promptings of his heart. He placed man above matter, humanity above property, and, spurning the bribes of wealth and power, pleaded the cause of the common people. It was this devotion to their interests which made his party invincible while he lived and will make his name revered while history endures. And what message comes to us from the Hermitage? When a crisis like the present arose and the national bank of his day sought to control the politics of the nation, God raised up an Andrew Jackson, who had the courage to grapple with that great enemy, and by overthrowing it, he made himself the idol of the people and reinstated the Democratic party in public confidence. What will the decision be to-day? The Democratic party has won the greatest success in its history. Standing upon this victory-crowned summit, will it turn its face to the rising or the setting sun? Will it choose blessings or cursings, life or death—which? Which?