July 9th, 1896 – Silver Vs. Gold

Today-In-History

The Cross of Gold speech was delivered by William Jennings Bryan, a former United States Representative from Nebraska, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 9th, 1896. In the address, Bryan supported bimetallism or “free silver“, which he believed would bring the nation prosperity. He decried the gold standard, concluding the speech, “you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold”. Bryan’s address helped catapult him to the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination; it is considered one of the greatest political speeches in American history.

William-Jennings-Bryan_001_L

For twenty years, Americans had been bitterly divided over the nation’s monetary standard. The gold standard, which the United States had effectively been on since 1873, limited the money supply but eased trade with other nations, such as the United Kingdom, whose currency was also based on gold.

Illustration Depicting "Cross of Gold" SpeechMany Americans, however, believed that bimetallism (making both gold and silver legal tender) was necessary for the nation’s economic health. The financial Panic of 1893 intensified the debates, and when Democratic President Grover Cleveland continued to support the gold standard against the will of much of his party, activists became determined to take over the Democratic Party organization and nominate a silver-supporting candidate in 1896.

Bryan had been a dark horse candidate with little support in the convention. His speech, delivered at the close of the debate on the party platform, electrified the convention and is generally credited with getting him the nomination for president. However, he lost the general election to William McKinley and the United States formally adopted the gold standard in 1900.


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar