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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Primary Analysis: The Cross of Gold


Please read and comment on the following reading.  It is the full text of William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, delivered at the 1896 Democrat Presidential Convention.  Also available is an audio version, recorded 25 years later.  For others, perhaps you'd prefer to watch an actor performing the speech.

When commenting, you should provide your own personal insight, and comment on another person's response. Tell whether you agree or disagree with that person, be sure to describe what about somebody else's previous comments do you agree/disagree with; base it on evidence.  Connect your responses to the content of chapter 27 & 28.

Evaluate Bryan's message as the thesis of Populism.

21 comments:

Chika said...

I am a business[wo]man!
I watched the video. The actor was really good but at times he got over-emotional. That's okay, Bryan has got a cause to fight for!
It is amazing how Bryan's message was easy to understand even though this speech was given in 1896. ~Sarah V.

What I perceived from his speech is that Bryan is an efficient orator for Populism. That is likely why in the election that year the Populists received more popular votes than expected and ever seen from a third political party before. I believe, according to the book, it was 3% of the vote. This was accomplished because of Bryan's passion for his cause and the way he fights for free silver; not for his party, but for the good of the country. This is demonstrated when he says, "It is for the people that we speak." because it shows he represented the wants of the people. Also, I can tell he revered the idea of free silver because he said it is "[A]s holy as the cause of liberty.". By stating this, he stressed to the listeners in Chicago that the silver standard is a worthy cause to fight for.

One of my favorite sayings, in reply to the businessmen in favor of the gold standard, is when Bryan said, "[Y]our definition of a business man is limited...". This is because Bryan finally pointed out that the gold standard is not good for the laborers, but for the head of the corporations. He exemplifies in this quote that every worker in the country is a businessman so we should listen to what the people have to say, not the corporations.

C said...

Astute reflection, Sarah, especially your assessment of Bryan. He, as the "Great Commoner," used his skill as a former congressman and newspaper editor to present the plight of the common man. He's a great American, blending a lot of the ideals of both Jackson and Clay.

1 Quick thing, though...It was the 1892 election that Populism made a dent, with Weaver running. While he was already the Populist candidate when he made this speech in 1896, it was this address to the Democrat convention that earned him their nomination, as well. At that point, the groundswell of Populism was mostly absorbed into the Democrats' platform.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1892 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1896

Sarah said...

Thankyou for clearing that up! I knew I did something wrong there once I started reading again but I didn't want to go back and change it. Why has it always got to go back to Henry Clay? The game

jessalves10 said...

I agree with Sarah when she said that it was pretty easy to figure out what Bryan's stand on silver coinage. His speech was easy to understand, however, I found him a bit over-dramatic. When he stated, "brother has been arrayed against brother, and father against son. The warmest ties of love and aquantance and association have been disregarded." It's almost like he's talking about the civil war. Was it really that bad, or is he just a really good speaker? I know that gold and/or silver coinage was a big deal because it was one of the front-leading debates over the presidential election of 1896, but I didn't think that it was dividing the nation so badly.
One of my favorite lines was "in this land of the free you need fear no tyrant who will spring up among the people. What we need is an Andrew Jackson to stand as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of aggregated wealth." With this statement, Bryan is representing the poorer, working class people of america, making him a great person to support if you're in the populist party.

C.Slotter said...

I agree with Jess when she says that it seems as if Bryan was exaggerating the gold/silver coinage issue. Bryan makes it seems as if this issue is worth fighting a war over; he probably did this in order to excite the crowd and gain supporters. I liked when Bryan stated, "The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring." Bryan seems to believe that all Americans have the power to change the country, and that all Americans should fight for what they believe in. Bryan makes a great representative for the Populist party because he his willing to speak up for the poorer Americans that don't always get represented. This is shown when Bryan addresses the businessmen's support of a gold-standard; Bryan states that the workers, not the business leaders, should be listened to, because the workers make up the businesses.

amanda said...

I understand how Bryan can be over dramatic (as Jess has said above)but I think he may have acted this way on purpose. It was said "His dramatic speaking style and rhetoric roused the crowd to a frenzy" so perhaps he used his dramatic way of speaking as a technique to get attention from his crowds. I love how he gives a religious twist to the economic problems at large: "Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands 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." I think this man was a great speaker because he was able to use emotion triggering words and dramatized phrases to get the attention of his listeners. He grabs the attention of the poor man, the religious man, and everyone else with his voice and words. His phrase of crucify and crowns of thorns makes me believe that perhaps Bryan himself was a religious man. I also love the following phrase: I want to suggest this truth, that if the gold standard is a good thing we ought to declare in favor of its retention and not in favor of abandoning it; "if the gold standard is a bad thing, why should we wait until some other nations are willing to help us to let it go?" This statement expresses how independence is so important. America does not need help from other nations; it is independent and can take care of itself. I love that concept. -amanda

Diana said...

I agree with Caitlin when she talks about how it seems as if Bryan thought the issue with gold/silver was worth fighting for in a war. When Bryan said, “But in this contest, brother has been arrayed against brother, and father against son. The warmest ties of love and acquaintance and association have been disregarded." Along with Jess, I also wonder if this issue was really that big that it divided the nation apart. This showed how torn Bryan was with the issue of silver and gold coinage. I liked when Bryan stated, “If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world.” We can see how passionate Bryan was on with campaigning the issue of silver coinage and what he would do to get silver to be coined again. I feel that Bryan was a good candidate for the Populist Party because he was able to get the message out to the people on what the Populist Party stood for and actually got then to listen to him.

Krista said...

At first I found the video a little confusing because it started of sounding like the actor was making a speech about the speech, but then I realized that was how the actual speech started. With that aside the next thing that I enjoyed and surprised by was that the whole speech did not sound like it was arguing just for the right to coin silver. If you listen to just parts of the speech it sounds like Bryan was fighting for equal rights for farmer is more than one aspect than just about silver. I had a nice little piece of video/text to share, but Sarah already stole it when she said "[Y]our definition of a business man is limited..."' I felt that was the strongest part of the entire speech. I would have to go against Jess (sorry Jess) when she said the speech was overly dramatic because I could see how people could feel strongly about the gold standard because it gave the "businessmen" an unfair advantage. I feel that our book gave a good account of Bryan; from they way they described him I think the speech fit him well. It was a very powerful.

Mike said...

I decided to watch the video, as it'd be more enjoyable. I think that the actor did a wonderful job. Aside from that now, I feel this speech was greatly made. The way he introduced it drew you in, and as Krista had said, it was a little confusing at first, but it made sense after you realized what he was doing. Sarah said he was a bit over-emotional, but you can see how passionate Bryan was about his own speech, which is what made it so great. I like how he compares the average business man to that of his own employer, simply because they both get their own wages, so they are no different with their business interests. As well, he compares the regular farmer, to a man who bids on the grain, as equal business men. This whole speech was for the broader sense of all businessmen. The speech for all the business people, not just one group. My favorite part of the speech was when he says (I'm paraphrasing)that if you destroy the cities, the farms will bring them back as if by magic, but if you destroy the farms, grass will grow on every city of the country. This is showing how the farm is needed and not to be taken lightly upon, as it is what keeps everything striving and alive. Since he was a silverite it'd only make sense that this is how he viewed the value of farming and agriculture. I agree with Jess on the fact that he was a bit over powered in this speech, making it seem like there should be a war. However, I think it was just how into the subject he was speaking, that made it come out this way. I don't believe a war would settle this dispute, but this powerful speech gave hope to his fellow silverites. -Mike E.

Jeanette said...

Bryan’s speech was pretty expressive; I like how he said (about income tax), “When I find a man who is not willing to pay his share of the burden of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.” This shows just how appreciative of America he is, and that he does not take his country for granted, as well as that he is hardworking. I totally agree with Jess with what she said about the silver and gold arguments; I didn’t think the nation was getting that separated and worked up over the issue. There were larger problems that were brought up by the nation previously, like slavery, but the argument between the gold bugs and silverites on the issue of currency does not strike me as important compared with that. Sure, this matter caused conflict, but it did not literally divide the country as with the former matter with the nation splitting and forming the long-gone Confederacy. Bryan really shows his Populist views when he talks about America’s great dependence on farms. He states, “You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard...Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic.” This shows, with the fact that America has such a strong reliance on farms, that farmers and Average Joes at the time kind of had an advantage in this issue of currency (even though it did not work out as so); without farms, there would be no prospering cities.

matthew said...

Like most others, I too watched the video instead of read the actual speech. I agree with Mike that the actor did a great job as Bryan. Don Fielder's passion resembles the same passion Bryan would have in his Cross of Gold Speech. Besides the acting, I agree with Jeanette and Jess over the extent of the gold and silver arguements. "Never before in the history of American politics, has a great issue been debated, as this issue has been, by the voters of the great party." I knew that this was a problem, but I did not realize that it was a "great issue." Like Jeanette, I feel like there were more important issues like slavery, that America had to deal with.
The most important quote in his entire speech is when he talks about the farms at the end. "But destroy our farms and grass will grow on the streets of every city in the country." This shows how the farms are more important to life than cities are, and therefore we should not use the gold standard. "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!"

jennaaxrae18 said...

I had a hard time watching the video. I felt as though he was just yelling, which is understandable because those methods had to be used in order to grab the attention of your crowd and make your opinion heard, but I felt as though reading it was much easier. This speech is full of statements that really show how Bryan was set on this situation. This issue seemed to be extremely important to him (obviously) but like Jess said, why was it considered such a big deal? The economy relied on these sorts of issues and final decisions, sure, but certainly other things should have been addressed with the same intensity. I liked the last couple of lines of the speech the best when Bryan says, "Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands 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, " which is very powerful. Listeners let that line sort of hang in the air and took in the astonishment. It makes sense that this led to nomination and I think he represented the poorer class well with his arguments.
-Jenna Ryan

Sukhmeet said...

I watched the video like everyone else did and I believe the actor was a great because he perceive Bryan perfectly. Don Fielder's acting was so powerful that it resembled the same power Bryan had in his Cross of Gold speech. I agree with Matt that the issue wasn't as big Bryan made it seem. There other more important issues to discuss such as stabilizing the economy and slavery, and to do what was better for the whole country. But I believe Bryan was great for representing the populists because he spoke for what he believed in and that was to help poor farmers and even though his party got a small percentage of the popular vote it was still a lot for a third party.
-Sukhmeet

Ross said...

I believe William Jennings Bryan's speech to be almost inspirational. I believe it compares to if not outshines some of the most famous speeches of all time. The first few phrases of Bryan's speech were really quite intriguing. When he says, "I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were but a measuring of ability; but this is not a contest among persons. The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring. I come to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity." he really stresses the fact that this is more than a popularity contest and that his stand on this issue is out of the greater good of this country, not just his party. Also, many of my classmates believe that Bryan was a little overdramatic in his expression of this issue and feel that there were many other, more pressing issue to be dealt with but i disagree. He was debating for a more stable, successful economy. He knew that when the farms collapsed the cities, and therefore out entire nation were bound to fall with them. This is what he was trying to prevent, an issue i feel is well worth dramatics. Throughout our study of the history of this country we have seen much more drastic action taken on behalf of a much more ridiculous ideal. I believe Bryan to be an inspiring and adequate leader for the Populist party.

Christine said...

I agree with what most people have already said. The actor was a very good representation of Bryan, and like Amanda said, his over-exaggeration adds to the effect he is supposed to have. The way he gave the speech made it much easier to understand and I found that watching it rather than reading it was quite enjoyable.
I found that I agreed with Bryan's point of view, and I agree with Krista. The speech was not meant to be entirely about silver or gold, it was about getting equal rights for farmers. I thought that this approach was much more meaningful and it makes the chapter's content a bit easier to understand. I also agree with Mike. Bryan made his statements much more powerful by pointing out that if farmers were going to be treated poorly all the time, then eventually the farms would collapse and then the cities would die out. I think this helped his campaign and earned him the uncommonly high amount of votes he got. Like Ross, I found his speech to be very inspirational.

mike51095 said...

I think William Jennings Bryan made a good point when he said, "Burn down your cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic, but destroy our farms and grass will grow on the streets of every city in the country." What he means by this is that the farms are not dependent on the cities, but the cities are dependent on the farms. This is why he is against the gold standard, because it favors the cities rather than the farms. He believes that silver coinage would help the country more as a whole because it would allow more farmers to make a profit on their crops since they would be able to sell them for more and buy their equipment for less. Then since more farmers were in business the cities would be able to prosper as well. I agree with Amanda in the fact that Bryan is over dramatic. While he might have been over dramatic he might not have been as effective in convincing a crowd about his views if he were not this way. -Mike Signore

michellepleban said...

I like caitlins viewpoint on Bryan, she is right that he represents the poor. The poor were mostly farmers who favored bimetallism which explains why Bryan advocated the use of silver instead of gold. I don't think Bryan was over emotional, I think he was just very ambitious. He wanted people to hear what he had to say which is why he traveled to spread his word. This led to his nickname "The Great Commoner".

BigBri said...

I agree with Michelle, I feel that Bryan was a man of the poor and was not to emotional. I felt that he represented the majority of the people of the united states, the farmers. He was in it for the people, I do not understand why the people did not want bimetalism? It brought about more money, but if a dollar is worth less, then the income is higher and prices are higher thus, everything is just worth more. So in the end it will only help pay off debts, and after that, everything will be back to normal

mrowl12345 said...

At this point in history I do agree and believe in what Bryan says about the coinage of silver in America. To me it seems that the gold standard has run its course and that the benefits of silver outweigh the negatives. At this point in history, government regulation of the coinage of silver would be extremely beneficial to the countries national economy, especially to the people and farmers living to the west. The coinage of silver would provide cheap money for the farmers, which would allow them to sell their crops at a higher price, which in turn would leave them with a profit. Many people supported the coinage of silver, which Bryan defends in his speech. I agree with Ross that Bryan's speech was him arguing for a more stable and successful economy. I think that its a shame Bryan lost the election and the gold standard stuck. It would have been very interesting to see how the country would have benefitted and reacted to switching to gold. Also, after watching the video, and reading the speech, i found them both very difficult to understand. I had to look at them again several times to get the what bryan was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

I read the speech by text, because the video confused me within the first 3 minutes and it was easier to understand by text.
Of this speech, there were many key points I admired Bryan for making. Towards the beginning, he'd mentioned defending the cause of humanity, and not just liberty. I think that was a very strong point to make, because he mentions recognizing the people collectively as a race. Also, a few paragraphs down, he continues saying that we should not discuss or debate the judgement of the everyday human of America, but 'enter [it] up.'This strategy was obviously useful in relating to the crowd. He was good at making sure the people were recognized, especially when he said, "Our war is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity." Comments like this make me believe that Bryan was a good man for leadership. He clearly cared about the people as much as he cared about the politics, which is why I am also ashamed that he was not chosen for President. Either way, his speech was influential in it's recognition of humanity.
In addition to this, I agree with Amanda's comment above. She mentioned how Bryan was really over dramatic, but I agree that it was part of his style. Clearly it was a good technique, otherwise the crowd would not have gone as wild as history claims it did. With that being said, and pertaining back to previous things I said, I agree with Caitlin when she said that Bryan was a perfect representative for the Populist party because he recognized the lesser Americans. That, to me, is a great qulaity to have in a debate as a speaker and in politics as a leader. One should be able to recognize the people wholey and not just seperate sects of them. When speaking of the gold-standard, he was able to acknowledge those who work in comparison to those who lead, because those who lead the buisness will never succeed without those who work. That's why I think he was a good candadite for Populism, because he could recognize the truer issues and the reality of the population, rich or poor.
As a final note, I loved Bryan's quote: "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." We know that at this time people were still heavily involved in religion, so it seems like a smart idea to include some sort of religious comment. Not only did his speech pertain to humanity, but it also pertained to what humanity was involved in right now: religion. By this quote, he is recognizing the gold-standard, the people, and their religious ideals. I think this was a very smart tactic to use.
- Julie Chacho

C said...

The highlights, according to the students:
Sarah/Krista - "Your definition of a businessman is limited."
Caitlin - "I liked when Bryan stated, "The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring." Bryan seems to believe that all Americans have the power to change the country, and that all Americans should fight for what they believe"
Jeanette - said "like how he said (about income tax), “When I find a man who is not willing to pay his share of the burden of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.”"
Matt - "[D]estroy our farms and grass will grow on the streets of every city in the country"