William Jennings Bryan: “Cross of Gold” Speech

(1896)

On July 8, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, William Jennings Bryan gave one of the most memorable political addresses in American history. Dubbed the “Cross of Gold” Speech because of its vivid image of crucifying humankind upon a golden cross, the oration propelled Bryan to the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. In the “Cross of Gold” Speech, Bryan articulated the feelings of Americans from the South and West who felt that the currency system and its effects had injured their financial and cultural interests. These sections saw a more flexible monetary system and some degree of inflation as a cure for the economic ills that afflicted farmers, miners, and industrial workers. Bryan captured their grievances and gave them eloquent expression in his “Cross of Gold” Speech.

Bryan's remarks, which he had given in earlier speeches, spoke to the specific discontent of Democratic leaders and their constituents in 1896. His words...

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A cartoon from 1896 portraying William Jennings Bryan as an anarchist threat to religion (Library of Congress)

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