“Free Silver”


"Laboring men please all attend While I relate my history, Money it is very scarce...." "The farmer is the cornerstone, though he is cruelly treated. Bryan is the poor man's friend...." "We'll arise, defend free silver's cause...."


William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) was a curious mix of genius and fool. A genuine peacemaker and friend of the poor, and a brilliant speaker, he had neither economic nor scientific sense (as he demonstrated by serving as prosecutor in the Scopes trial).

By the 1890s, farmers oppressed by debt were begging for a loosening of the money supply, and their proposed solution was free coinage of silver. That they needed relief is beyond question; that free silver was the answer is unlikely.

But Bryan adopted the cause, and his famous "Cross of gold" speech ("you shall not press down upon the brown of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold") swept the 1896 Democratic convention and made Bryan the youngest serious presidential candidate in history.

But while Bryan inspired fervent devotion in certain circles, the country was basically conservative, and he lost in 1896 -- and by wider margins in 1900 and 1908. - RBW

Historical references

  • July 7, 1896 - William Jennings Bryan gives his "Cross of Gold" speech calling for a silver currency
  • 1896, 1900, 1908 - Bryan's three runs for the presidency


  1. Thomas-Makin', pp. 191-192, (no title) (1 text)
  2. BI, ThBa191


Author: James W. Day ("Jilson Setters")
Earliest date: 1939 (Thomas)
Found in: US(Ap)