Statement to Followers in the Aftermath of Electoral Defeat
Conscious that millions of loyal hearts are saddened by temporary defeat, I beg to offer a word of hope and encouragement. No cause ever had supporters more brave, earnest, and devoted than those who have espoused the cause of bimetallism. They have fought from conviction, and have fought with all the zeal which conviction inspires. Events will prove whether they are right or wrong. Having done their duty as they saw it, they have nothing to regret.
The Republican candidate has been heralded as the advance agent of prosperity. If his policies bring real prosperity to the American people, those who opposed him will share in that prosperity. If, on the other hand, his policies prove an injury to the people generally, those of his supporters who do not belong to the office-holding class, or to the privileged classes, will suffer in common with those who opposed him.
The friends of bimetallism have not been vanquished; they have simply been overcome. They believe that the gold standard is a conspiracy of the money changers against the welfare of the human race, and until convinced of their error they will continue the warfare against it.
The contest has been waged this year under great embarrassments and against great odds. For the first time during this generation public attention has been centered on the money question as the paramount issue, and this has been done in spite of all attempts upon the part of our opponents to prevent it. The Republican Convention held out the delusive hope of international bimetallism, while Republicans leaders labored secretly for gold monometallism. Gold-standard Democrats have publicly advocated the election of the Indianapolis ticket, while they labored secretly for the election of the Republican ticket. The trusts and corporations have tried to excite a fear of lawlessness, while they themselves have been defying the law, and American financiers have boasted that they were the custodians of National honor, while they were secretly bartering away the Nation's financial independence.
But, in spite of the efforts of the Administration and its supporters, in spite of the threats of money loaners at home and abroad, in spite of the coercion practiced by corporate employers, in spite of trusts and syndicates, in spite of an enormous Republican campaign fund, and in spite of the influence of a hostile daily press, bimetallism has almost triumphed in its first great fight. The loss of a few States, and that, too, by very small pluralities, has defeated bimetallism for the present, but bimetallism emerges from the contest stronger than it was four months ago.
I desire to commend the work of the three National Committees which have joined in the management of this campaign. Co-operation between the members of distinct political organizations is always difficult, but it has been less so this year than usual. Interest in a common cause of great importance has reduced friction to a minimum. I hereby express my personal gratitude to the individual members as well as the executive officers of the National Committee of the Democratic, Populist, and Silver Parties for their efficient, untiring, and unselfish labors. They have laid the foundation for future success, and will be remembered as pioneers when victory is at last secured.
No personal or political friend need grieve because of my defeat. My ambition has been to secure immediate legislation, rather than to enjoy the honors of office, and, therefore, defeat brings to me no feeling of personal loss. Speaking for the wife who has shared my labors, as well as for myself, 1 desire to say that we have been amply repaid for all that we have done.
In the love of millions of our fellow-citizens, so kindly expressed, in knowledge gained by personal contact with the people, and in broadened sympathies, we find full compensation for whatever efforts we have put forth. Our hearts have been touched by the devotion of friends, and our lives shall prove our appreciation of the affection of the plain people, an affection which we prize as the richest reward which this campaign has brought.
In the face of an enemy rejoicing in its victory, let the roll be called for the next engagement, and urge all friends of bimetallism to renew their allegiance to the cause. If we are right, as I believe we are, we shall yet triumph. Until convinced of his error, let each advocate of bimetallism continue the work. Let all silver clubs retain their organization, hold regular meetings, and circulate literature. Our opponents have succeeded in this campaign, and must now put their theories to the test. Instead of talking mysteriously about "sound money" and "an honest dollar," they must now elaborate and defend a financial system. Every step taken by them should be publicly considered by the silver clubs. Our cause has prospered most where the money question has been longest discussed among the people. During the next four years it will be studied all over this Nation even more than it has been studied in the past.
The year 1900 is not far away. Before that year arrives, international bimetallism will cease to deceive; before that year arrives, those who have called themselves gold-standard Democrats will become bimetalists and be with us, or they will become Republicans and be open enemies; before that year arrives, trusts will have convinced still more people that a trust is a menace to private welfare and public safety; before that year arrives, the evil effects of a gold standard will be even more evident than they are now, and the people then ready to demand an American financial policy for the American people will join with us in the immediate restoration of the free and unlimited coinage of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation.
Source: "Bryan Is Looking Ahead: Says the Cause of Bimetallism Has Not Been Lost," New York Times, November 7, 1896, p. 3.
William Jennings Bryan, Statement to Followers in the Aftermath of Electoral Defeat Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/345945