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These things are ill-exchanged for the illusions of a base currency and groundless hope of advantages to be gained by a disregard of our financial credit and commercial standing among the nations of the world. If our people were isolated from all others, and if the question of our currency could be treated without regard to our relations to other countries, its character would be a matter of comparatively little importance. If the American people were only concerned in the maintenance of their precious life among themselves they might return to the old days of barter and in this primitive manner acquire from each other the materials to supply the wants of their existence. But if American civilization was satisfied with this, it would abjectly fail in its high and noble mission. In these restless days the farmer is tempted by the assurance that though our currency may be debased, redundant and uncertain, such a situation will improve the price of his products. Let us remind him that he must buy as well as sell.
It ought not to be difficult to convince the wage-earner that if there were benefits arising from a degenerated currency they would reach him least of all and last of all. In an unhealthy stimulation of prices, an increased cost of all the needs of his home must belong to his portion, while he is at the same time vexed with vanishing visions of increased wages and an easier lot. The pages of history and experience are full of the lesson. An insidious attempt is made to create a prejudice against the advocates of a safe and sound currency by the insinuation, more or less directly made, that they belong to financial and the business classes, and therefore are not only out of sympathy with the common people of the land, but for selfish and wicked purposes are willing to sacrifice the interests of those outside of their circles. I believe that capital and wealth, through combinations and other means, sometimes gain an undue advantage; and it must be conceded that the maintenance of a sound currency may, in a sense, be invested with a greater or less importance to individuals according to their conditions and circumstances.
It is, however, only a difference in degree, since it is utterly impossible that any one in our broad land, rich or poor, whatever may be his occupation and whether dwelling in a center of finance and commerce or in a remote corner of our domain, can be really benefited by a financial scheme not alike beneficial to all our people, or that any one should be excluded from a common and universal interest in the safe character and staple value of the currency of the country. In our relation to this question, we are all in business, for we all buy and sell; so we all have to do with financial operations, for we all earn money and spend it. We cannot escape our interdependence. Merchants and dealers are in every neighborhood and each has its shops and manufacturers. Wherever the wants of man exist, business and finance are in some degree found related in one direction to those whose wants they supply, and in another to the more extensive business and finance to which they are tributary.
A fluctuation in prices at the seaboard is known the same day or hour in the remotest hamlet. The discredit or depression in financial centers of any form of money in the hands of the people is a signal of immediate loss everywhere. If reckless discontent and wild experiments should sweep our currency from its safe support, the most defenseless of all who suffer in the time of distress and national discredit would be the poor as they reckon their loss in
their scanty support, and the laborer and workingman as he sees the money he has received for his toil shrink and shrivel in his hand when he tenders it for the necessaries to supply his humble home.
Disguise it as we may, the line of battle is drawn between the forces of safe currency and those of silver monometallism. I will not believe that if our people are afforded an intelligent opportunity for sober second thought they will sanction schemes that, however inviting, mean disaster and confusion, nor that they will consent by undermining the foundation of a safe currency to endanger the beneficent character and purposes of their government.
I immediately published in the editorial columns of the Omaha World-Herald an open letter, intended to call attention to the evasion employed by the President. This letter, which was quite extensively copied at the time, is given below:
Open Letter to President Cleveland.
Omaha, Neb., April 18, 1895.-Hon. Grover Cleveland, President-Dear Sir: In your recent letter declining an invitation to attend the Chicago "gathering in the interest of sound money," you say: "What is now needed more than anything else is a plain and simple presentation of the argument in favor of sound money." To "a vast number of our people" Coin's Financial School seems to be "a plain and simple presentation of the argument in favor of sound money," but some of your friends have not been pleased with the argument. Since you secured the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law you have very properly taken the place so long held by the author of that law, Senator Sherman, and are now the acknowledged leader of the gold standard advocates of the United States, both Democratic and Republican; and to you, therefore, as the leader of that element, the people naturally look for "a plain and simple presentation of the argument in favor of sound money," as you understand "sound money," or, at least, for an intelligent definition of "sound money." What do you mean by the phrase “sound money?" In your letter you make frequent use of that and kindred phrases. In fact, in the course of your letter you speak three times of "sound money,” twice of a “safe currency," once of a "sound currency," once of a "safe and sound currency," once of "safe and prudent financial ideas," and once of "wholesome financial doctrine." You also speak once of a "debased currency," once of a "degenerated currency" and once of "cheap money." In one place you describe your opponents as "the forces of silver monometallism," but you nowhere explain what you mean by "sound money," or what you consider "cheap money." Now, everybody favors "sound money' and a "safe currency," and a plain and simple statement of what you mean by these euphonious and universally admired phrases might dispel the war clouds and make a "line of battle" unnecessary. If by "sound money" you mean a gold standard, why did you avoid the use of the word "gold" in your letter? If by a "safe currency" you mean bimetallism, why did you avoid the use of the word "bimetallism" in your letter? Your letter nowhere contains a direct reference either to the gold standard or to bimetallism, but is quite
replete with expressions which may mean a great deal or nothing, according to the interpretation placed upon them. Your opponents have always given you credit for courageously defining your position on public questions; will you prove their confidence well founded by stating frankly what kind of a financial system we shall enjoy “if the sound money sentiment abroad in the land" succeeds in saving "us from mischief and disaster?" Your opponents candidly avow their purpose and clearly outline the legislation which they desire; is it not fair to ask that you define your policy with as much frankness?
Your opponents favor the free and unlimited coinage of gold bullion into dollars, each containing 25.8 grains of standard gold; are you in favor of this? Your opponents are in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver bullion into dollars, each containing 412.5 grains of standard silver; are you in favor of this? If not, are you in favor of the coinage of silver bullion into dollars of any size? If not in favor of the free coinage of silver, what charge, if any, would you make for coinage? If you are not in favor of the unlimited coinage of silver, what limit would you suggest? Your opponents not only believe in the restoration of the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver at the present ratio of 16 to 1, but they are in favor of taking this action at once, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth; do you agree with them? If not, do you favor the restoration of bimetallism by international agreement? If you are in favor of an international agreement, what ratio would you advise and what nations are, in your opinion, necessary to such an agreement? If you favor an international agreement, how long are you willing to wait for it? Your opponents are in favor of making standard gold coin and standard silver coin equally a legal tender for all debts public and private, and are opposed to making a silver dollar a promise to pay a gold dollar, or a gold dollar a promise to pay a silver dollar; do you agree with them? Your opponents believe that the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the present ratio of 16 to 1 by the United States, regardless of the action of other nations, will give us "sound money" and a "safe currency;" they not only believe this, but they support their position by arguments so "plausibly presented" that even you are frightened into the belief that "the sound money sentiment" "must be crystallized and combined and made immediately active" in order to prevent their success at the polls. Can you define your position so clearly and defend it so plausibly as to scare your opponents as badly as they have scared you? Is the failure of gold standard advocates to define their purposes and defend their financial system due to lack of knowledge of the subject, or to an unwillingness to let the people know what they intend? If "the proprieties" of your "official place oblige" you "to forego the enjoyment" which you would derive from the writing of another letter explaining your last letter and defining your position on the financial question, please designate some one who has authority to speak for you so that the people may be "afforded an intelligent opportunity," as you suggest, to study and decide this now paramount public question.
In May of the same year Secretary Carlisle delivered an address to a non-partisan gathering at Memphis, Tennessee, following out the line of policy laid down in Mr. Cleveland's letter. This speech
was intended to inaugurate an administration campaign in the Southern States, and was followed by several similar speeches in Kentucky, where a State contest was in progress.
Upon invitation of the Democrats of Memphis, I replied to Mr. Carlisle's speech the following evening and employed a part of his celebrated speech of 1878 to answer the arguments which he advanced at Memphis.
The silver Democrats were so aroused by the now evident purpose of the gold Democrats, that a large number of them joined, with many Populists and silver Republicans, in a non-partisan convention, held at Memphis, Tennessee, in June. I attended this convention and as a member of the Committee on Resolutions made the acquaintance of many who afterwards became prominent in the fight.
The conference appointed a National Silver Committee to carry on the work. Political conditions were arising, however, which made nonpartisan action difficult, and within a few days after the adjournment of this convention (June 18 was the date) Senator Isham G. Harris, of Tennessee, Senator James K. Jones, of Arkansas, and Senator David Turpie, of Indiana, joined in a letter to the prominent silver Democrats of the nation, stating, among other things, "that a thorough organization of the Democrats of the several States who favor the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver on terms of equality, at 16 to 1, is a necessary and proper means of controlling the action. of the National Democratic Convention of 1896, upon this vitally important question," and calling upon them to meet at Washington, D. C., on the 14th of August, 1895, to perfect an organization. This conference was held in the parlors of the Metropolitan Hotel, on the day appointed, and some thirty-seven States and Territories were represented. The conference resulted in the formation of the Bimetallic Democratic National Committee, consisting of Senator Harris, Chairman, Senator Jones, Treasurer, Hon. T. O. Towles, of Missouri, Secretary, and Senator Turpie, Governor William J. Stone, of Missouri, Secretary of State William H. Hinrichsen, of Illinois, Congressman Charles F. Crisp, of Georgia, and Hon. Casey Young, of Tennessee the remaining members. The convention "empowered this Executive Committee to select and appoint a full National Committee, one member from each State and Territory, and extend the organization among Democrats throughout the Union, wherever deemed wise and expedient." In the exercise of this authority the committee appointed the following State committeemen: John W.
Tomlinson, Birmingham, Alabama; Carroll Armstrong, Morrillton, Arkansas; Thomas J. Clunie, San Francisco, California; C. S. Thomas, Denver, Colorado; Frank G. Harris, Ocala, Florida; Patrick Walsh, Augusta, Georgia; George Ainslie, Idaho City, Idaho; G. W. Fithian, Newton, Illinois; B. F. Shively, South Bend, Indiana; S. B. Evans, Ottumwa, Iowa; David Overmyer, Topeka, Kansas; H. A. Sommers, Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Melton J. Cunningham, Natchitoches, Louisiana; Frank K. Foster, Boston, Massachusetts; George P. Hummer, Holland, Michigan; Robert H. Taylor, Sardis, Mississippi; Lon V. Stephens, Jefferson City, Missouri; W. A. Clarke, Butte, Montana; C. J. Smyth, Omaha, Nebraska; I. H. Dennis, Reno, Nevada; T. J. Jarvis, Greenville, North Carolina; William M. Roach, Larimore, North Dakota; Allen W. Thurman, Columbus, Ohio; Thomas O'Day, Portland, Oregon; W. D. Mayfield, Columbia, South Carolina; J. M. Head, Nashville, Tennessee; Horace Chilton, Tyler, Texas; Peter J. Otey, Lynchburg, Virginia; C. H. Warner, Colfax, Washington; Daniel B. Lucas, Charlestown, West Virginia; J. E. Osborne, Rawlins, Wyoming; William H. Barnes, Tucson, Arizona; Dr. A. J. Beale, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; O. W. Powers, Salt Lake City, Utah; W. C. Hopewell, Hillsboro, New Mexico.
I give the names of this committee because it was largely through the efforts of these men that the silver Democrats secured control of the Democratic National Convention. The committee crystallized the silver sentiment in the Democratic party.
It will be noticed that this work of organizing the silver Democrats of the nation for the capture of the National Convention was identical in plan, in operation and in result, with the organization of the silver Democrats in the State of Nebraska, perfected more than a year before.
On January 22, 1896, a conference was held at Washington, attended by the representatives of the American Bimetallic League, the National Bimetallic Union and the National Silver Committee. (the non-partisan one appointed at Memphis). At this conference it was decided to consolidate the three organizations and the new organization was named the American Bimetallic Union, with Hon. A. J. Warner, President; R. C. Chambers, of Utah, First VicePresident; Henry G. Miller, of Chicago, Second Vice-President; Thomas G. Merrill, of Helena, Montana, Treasurer; Edward B. Light, of Denver, Colorado, Secretary.
This conference issued a call for the Silver Convention which met