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Cross of Gold Speech Anniversary Today

Says the NYTs today, "On July 9, 1896, William Jennings Bryan caused a sensation at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago with his "cross of gold" speech denouncing supporters of the gold standard. Bryan went on to win the party's nomination."  We should add that he lost the general election, of course.  In fact, his was a politically losing argument not only in 1896, but 1900 and 1908 for him as well.

I wonder if there are any Gold Democrats left.  They had a great platform at the Convention of the National Democratic Party at Indianapolis, Ind., September 3, 1896.

'This convention was assembled to uphold the principles upon which depends the honor and welfare of the American people in order that Democrats throughout the Union may unite their patriotic efforts to avert disaster from their country and ruin from their party. The Democratic party is pledged to equal justice and exact justice in all men of every creed and condition; to the largest freedom of individual consistent with good government; to the preservation of the Federal Government in its constitutional vigor and support of the maintenance of the public faith and sound money; and it is opposed to paternalism and all class legislation. The declarations of the Chicago Convention attack individual freedom, the right of private contract, the independence of the judiciary, and the authority of the President to enforce Federal laws. They advocate a reckless attempt to increase the price of silver by legislation to the debasement of our monetary standard, and threaten unlimited issues of paper money by Government. They abandon for Republican allies the Democratic cause of tariff reform to court the favor of protectionists to the fiscal heresy. In view of these and other grave departures from Democratic principles, we cannot support the candidates of that convention, nor be bound by its acts. The Democratic party has survived a victory won in behalf of the doctrine and the policy proclaimed in its name at Chicago. The conditions, however, which make possible such utterances from a national convention are a result of class legislation by the Republican party. Is still proclaims, as it has for many years, the power and duty of the Government to raise and maintain prices by law; and it proposes no remedy for existing evils except oppressive and unjust taxation.'

The Independent had a write up of the Gold Democrats not so long ago.

History reminds us that Bryan campaigned not only for monetary debasement but prohibition of alcohol and the teaching of evolution (he wanted it banned in church-related as well as public schools).  In fact, the chief proponent of monetary debasement was also the leading light against the teaching of evolution at the Skopes trial in 1925.

Getting back on point, our friend Dan Mitchell posted this video of the speech of an NPR episode with a clip from Jennings repeating the cross of gold speech in 1923:

  • Larry White

    Let's not forget Bryan's anti-semitic side. From chapter 11 of my forthcoming book:

    Bryan’s 1896 presidential nomination speech offered a famous rhetorical trope likening the gold standard’s supposed effects on workers and farmers to the crucifixion of Christ: “[Y]ou shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The crucifixion metaphor drew on the anti-Semitic view that the Jews were to blame for the crucifixion of Christ. It insinuated that Jewish bankers controlled international finance under the gold standard and were similarly to blame for workers’ suffering. A political cartoon from the Populist periodical Sound Money made the message blatant: it showed Republican party boss Mark Hanna (with President McKinley in his jacket pocket) placing a crown of thorns on an suffering man labeled “Labor,” who has been nailed to a cross labeled “Gold.” The cartoon Hanna stood on the shoulders of a large-nosed bearded man whose sleeve was inscribed “Rothschild,” representing the Jewish Rothschild banking dynasty, and in smaller type “owner of most of the gold in the world.”

    • RickDiMare

      Larry, page 387 of your Chapter 11 states: "Long-serving Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recommended controlling the fiat money supply to mimic the behavior of a gold standard. In response to questioning at a 2001 congressional hearing, Greenspan said: ―Mr. Chairman, so long as you have fiat currency, which is a statutory issue, a central bank properly functioning will endeavor to, in many cases, replicate what a gold standard would itself generate.‖ In particular, like a gold standard, a fiat-money central bank should constrain money growth and should not ―just pump out liquidity indefinitely."

      Here, Greenspan doesn't mention how the income tax is used to regulate a fiat currency, which apparently is a huge secret we're not supposed to talk about, but he is quite right in stating that when a fiat currency is properly regulated (by the IRS), it can mimic a gold standard.

      So, to answer the question of your other post, "Is the Euro flawed?," it most probably is flawed because I doubt the IRS has adequate power to regulate fiat money users outside the U.S. This is important to talk about because continually bailing out Europe through the IMF could bankrupt the United States if European nations don't allow the IRS to regulate the Euro under our Commerce Clause.

      This is also an important issue regarding our present debt limit crisis. If Greenspan is correct, we really have no choice but to raise taxes under the current system.

  • MichaelM

    I find it hard to believe that those who support so much freedom in monetary affairs along one axis would so slovenly support such a limit on the People's freedom of choice when it comes to what material the coins they use are made of, or what metal the banking institutions they frequent back their loans with. In truth, the adoption of a gold only system of money is probably one of the vital steps on the road to centralization of the money power into the hands of a state-run monopoly bank. A return to the gold standard is but on step on the path to monetary freedom, not the end goal.