The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 10

Author: Richard P. Bland  | Date: 1893


The Parting of the Ways*

Now, sir, we are asked here deliberately to repeal that law, and I want to call the attention of my friends on this side of the House, who proclaim themselves to be friends of free coinage at a reasonable ratio—I want to call their attention to this point and to ask them this question: Why do you gentlemen insist that you will repeal this law and send silver down probably fifteen cents an ounce before you fix the ratio? Is that an act friendly to silver? Can any gentleman here face his free coinage constituency and defend his vote subtracting from the value of silver fifteen cents an ounce before he votes to fix the ratio? I dare him to undertake it. He can not do it.

The claim is not sincere that the president expects hereafter to recommend bimetallism, for he does not do it in his message, and that claim misrepresents his position. He recommends the 167 reverse. The concluding paragraph of the message means, if it means anything, that after you shall have totally demonetized silver by repealing this Sherman Act, you will be required to go further in the same direction; and I make a prediction here and now, and, my friends, I want you to watch the proceedings of Congress in these coming weeks of this extra session, or of the next regular session, to see whether I am right or not.

My prediction is that in order to carry out the recommendations of that message we shall be called upon to sell bonds to procure gold. For what? To redeem all our pecuniary obligations, according to the very language of that message, in that money which is recognized by the principal nations of the world. Why did not the president say "gold"? We know what his language means. You are asked to load up the federal Treasury with gold, to redeem every pecuniary obligations to the government with bond obligations were based when they were issued, because they called for coin of the standard value at the time of their issue, and that was standard.

But now, I repeat, we shall have to redeem all this bullion, all these Sherman notes in gold; we shall have to sell bonds to get gold to redeem all our greenbacks, all our silver certificates, and we will be compelled to carry our silver dollars as so much dead weight of bullion in the 168 Treasury, so that we might as well dump them into the Potomac. That is what all this means. In other words, every piece of paper money issued in this country to-day, every silver certificate, every greenback, every bond, every Sherman note, is to be redeemed in gold, and we must procure the gold for their redemption.

What, then, are you to do with your silver bullion and with all your silver dollars, together about $500,000,000? They are to be demonetized as a base metal, and you know it. I am talking to intelligent gentlemen here who have read it; who can understand it. Why should you go on, then, to try to deceive yourselves and your constituents on this subject? There is no silver in that message, and gentlemen on the other side will simply do themselves and the subject justice hereafter, in the course of their debate, they will leave silver out of it, because they are proposing a measure in which there is no consideration whatever for silver.

It is this fight upon silver that has precipitated this panic; and the repeal of the Sherman law will only intensify it, not relieve it. The panic will be relieved when everything gets so low that people see they can make money by buying, when they begin to buy, prices will go up, and when everybody is buying money will come from its hoarding places and you will have some relief. In no other way will relief come.

Gold is coming to us to-day. Notwithstanding we are told the people across the water are afraid 169 to invest here for fear that we will not pay in gold, yet these people are sustaining prices to-day and sending here all the money that they can spare. There was a panic in gold-using Australia that has bankrupted that whole people and sent terror to the banks over England. We know that gold can not be obtained there except by paying for it, yet it is coming here.

Talk about a premium on gold! Here is the Treasury of the United States that is open to the plunder of every speculator in the civilized world. He can take his Sherman note or his greenback or any other government currency there and get gold without cost. Did you ever notice the names of the gentlemen in New York who are shipping gold abroad, or bringing it back? Every one of those names that I have seen has a foreign termination; every one of those gentlemen, so far as I am advised, is an agent for or conducts a branch bank of some bank across the water.

If you go to the Bank of England to get gold for export you must pay a premium on it; if you go to the Bank of France to get gold for export you must pay a premium on it. The case is the same with every other banking house in Europe; no gold can be obtained there without paying a premium. But here is the Treasury of the United States professing to be so helpless that it can not prevent every gold speculator from robbing the government of its gold. Our Treasury will not pay out the silver which it might pay.

The Bank of France will pay out silver, or will charge a premium on gold if it is wanted for anything but domestic use. But the Treasury of the United States, instead of paying out gold and silver in equal quantities and thus preserving its gold (if it is necessary to preserve it,—tho I see no necessity of preserving it, for all our money is at a premium to-day), lets everybody go there and get as much gold as he pleases. Why not pay out the silver when we have more of it than we have of gold, or pay out gold when we have more of it than silver, and thus protect ourselves?

It is because the administration is hostile to silver; and thus it is surrendering this country to the Shylocks of the Old World who have made war upon it. The aristocracy of Western Europe has absolutely tabooed silver in those countries and driven it away from there. Here it finds its only resting place. The last fight for the white metal is to be made here in this country and in this House, my friends. Will you stand by it now, or will you let the Shylocks come and have their way? It is for you to determine.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that we can trust the people of this country on a question of as vital importance as this. The question is now before us. This is its last resort. Will you virtually demonetize the money of nearly 70,000,000 of people, with a vast empire of 3,000,000 of square miles—a people thirsting for money to open up new railroads, to establish new factories, to 171 operate new places of business, to inaugurate new industries; 70,000,000 people demanding money, twice what we have to-day, a new people, a new country, a free people,—or they ought to be free whether they are or not.

Are you to give up the fight and let this vast body of our wealth go to ruin? I do not believe it. We know well enough that if we repeal this law and give nothing for it, the people of this country will regard it as a total demonetization of silver, which it will be, so far as this Congress is concerned, without any question.

What does free coinage of silver mean? It means that the holders of silver bullion, at some ratio to be fixed in the bill, may go to the mints of the government and have it struck into legal money of the government and deposit the dollars so coined, if the holder so desires, and have a certificate issued to him in place of it. What is the effect of unlimited coinage of silver in this country? and I invite your attention to this particularly, because it is a question of vital importance. It means that the silver coins of the United States at whatever ratio is fixed, and I want the present ratio that we have now, 16 to 1, maintained precisely as it is—it means that the sliver of the world can come here in exchange for what we have to sell.

Yes, it means that the silver of the whole world can come here. But they say that we will be flooded with the world’s silver; that it will be dumped down upon us. Now, let us see about 172 that for a moment. It means that any one with sixteen ounces of silver can come here from any part of the world, or with one ounce of gold, and he can buy your grain, he can buy your house and lot, he can buy your manufactured product, and buy the property and commodities of all sorts that you have to sell with either the one or the other; that is to say, he can buy just as much with his sixteen ounces of silver as with his one ounce of gold.

With the billions upon billions of property existing in this country to-day and being produced in this country every year, we simply offer to exchange that which we have in abundance on a basis of one pound of gold as the equivalent of sixteen pounds of silver. We invite, then, the world to come with its silver and make the exchange. No nation now, it is true, offers in exchange for silver the gold at any fixed ratio; consequently, all the silver that is coined is used in the countries where it is coined. And why? Because no great power offers to exchange commodities for one metal or the other at any fixed ratio. That is the only trouble with silver to-day.

What is it, then, that you are asked to do? It is that we, the government of the United States, we as a people say to all the world, especially the silver-using people, all of the Asiatic nations and the Great Indies, come here with your white metal, if you choose to come, and trade with us on the basis of 16 to 1, and buy your commodities from us at that ratio. 173 When you do that, will not the silver-using people come to our shores to make their purchases rather than go to the European powers, where they demand a ratio of 22 to 25? There can be no doubt of the answer to that question.

Many now born, by the time they are voters will compose part of a nation containing perhaps one hundred and twenty-five millions of people, with unsurpassed energies, with a genius nowhere equaled, and with a vast territory upon which those energies and that genius can operate. But a short time ago when you looked across the Alleghany Mountains you beheld the Western wilderness roamed only by the savage and wild beast. To-day it is teeming with its millions of civilized people, and when you cross the Mississippi you just begin to enter the great domain of this country of ours, for more than two-thirds of it lies beyond the Father of Waters.

And, Mr. Speaker, it is that two-thirds of our territory, rich as it is in gold and silver, embedded together in the same deposits, in the same mountains, so that you can not extract the one without extracting the other,—it is that portion of our territory that would give us the money that we need, the money of the world, good money, hard money, Democratic money; a country that the civilized world must look to for its future monetary supply if it is to continue on what is called the hard-money basis. And yet we are to-day asked to do what? To lay the blighting hand of confiscation upon the 174 millions of people inhabiting that country; to turn them out as tramps upon the land, merely to satisfy the greed of English gold.

Oh, my God, shall we do such a thing as that? Will you crush the people of your own land and send them abroad as tramps? Will you kill and destroy your own industries, and especially the production of your precious metals that ought to be sent abroad everywhere,—will you do this simply to satisfy the greed of Wall Street, the mere agent of Lombard Street, in oppressing the people of Europe and of this country? It can not be done; it shall not be done! I speak for the great masses of the Mississippi Valley, and those west of it, when I say you shall not do it!

Any political party that undertakes to do it will, in God’s name, be trampled, as it ought to be trampled, into the dust of condemnation, now and in the future. Speaking as a Democrat, all my life battling for what I conceived to be Democracy, and what I conceived to be right, I am yet an American above Democracy. I do not intend, we do not intend, that any party shall survive, if we can help it, that will lay the confiscating hand upon Americans in the interest of England or of Europe. Now, mark it. This may be strong language, but heed it. The people mean it, and, my friends of the Eastern Democracy, we bid farewell then you do that thing. 175

*From a speech in the House of Representatives, on August 11, 1893.

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Chicago: Richard P. Bland, The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 10 in The World’s Famous Orations, ed. William Jennings Bryan (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906), Original Sources, accessed May 20, 2024,

MLA: Bland, Richard P. The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 10, in The World’s Famous Orations, edited by William Jennings Bryan, Vol. 10, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906, Original Sources. 20 May. 2024.

Harvard: Bland, RP, The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 10. cited in December, 1906, The World’s Famous Orations, ed. , Funk and Wagnalls, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 May 2024, from