« PreviousContinue »
216 THOMAS B. REED
and unimpeachable integrity, bold but safe, brilliant but wise, masterful but heeding counsel, and a fighter without fear.”
GIFTS TO LIBERAL INSTITUTIONS
[As an example of Thomas B. Reed at his best in oratory we cannot do better than to offer a selection from his address in 1898, on the semi-centennial of Girard College, Philadelphia. Reed's method did not usually reach this elevation in sentiment and breadth of view, being rather controversial than dignificq, and we therefore present this as showing the heights of thought and lucidity of expression of which he was capable.]
Six hundred and fifty or seventy years ago, England, which, during the following period of nearly seven centuries, has been the richest nation on the face of the globe, began to establish the two universities which, from the banks of the Cam and the Isis, have sent forth great scholars and priests and statesmen, whose fame is the history of their own country, and whose deeds have been part of the history of every land and sea. During all that long period, reaching back two hundred and fifty years, before it was even dreamed that this great hemisphere existed; before the world knew that it was swinging in the air and rolling about the sun; kings and cardinals, nobles and great churchmen, the learned and the pious, began bestowing upon those abodes of scholars their gifts of land and money; and they have continued their benefactions down to our time. What those universities, with all their colleges and halls teeming with scholars for six hundred years, have done for the progress of civilization and the good of men, this whole evening could not begin to tell. Even your imaginations cannot, at this moment, create the surprising picture. Nevertheless, the institution at which most of you are, or have been, pupils is at the beginning of a career with which those great universities and their great history may struggle in vain for the palm of the greatest usefulness to the race of man. One single fact will make it evident that this possibility is not the creation of imagination or the product of that boastfulness which America will some day feel herself too great to cherish, but a simple and plain possibility which has the sanction of mathematics, as well as of hope.
Although more than six centuries of regal, princely, and pious donations have been poured into the purses of those venerable aids to learning, the munificence of one American citizen to-day affords an endowment income equal to that of each university, and, when the full century has completed his work, will afford an income superior to the income of both. When Time has done his perfect work, Stephen Girard, mariner and merchant, may be found to have come nearer immortality
THOMAS B. REED 217
than the long procession of kings and cardinals, nobles and statesmen, whose power was mighty in their own days, but who are only on their way to oblivion. I am well aware that this college of orphans, wherein the wisdom of the founder requires facts and things to be taught rather than words and signs, can as yet make no claim to that higher learning so essential to the ultimate progress of the world ; but it has its own mission as great and as high, and one which connects itself more nearly with the practical elevation of mankind.
Whether the overruling Providence, of which we talk so much and know so little, has each of us in His kindly care and keeping, we shall better know when our minds have the broader scope which immortality will make possible. But, however men may dispute over individual care, His care over the race as a whole fills all the pages of human history. Unity and progress are the watchwords of the Divine guidance, and no matter how harsh has been the treatment by one man of thousands of men, every great event, or series of events, has been for the good of the race. Were this the proper time, I could show that wars—and wars ought to be banished forever from the face of the earth; that pestilences —and the time is coming when they will be no more; that persecutions and inquisitions—and liberty of thought is the richest pearl of life; that all these things—wars, pestilences, and persecutions—were but helps to the unity of mankind. All things, including our own natures, bind us together for deep and unrelenting purposes.
Think what we should be, who are unlearned and brutish, if the wise, the learned, and the good could separate themselves from us; were free from our superstitions and vague and foolish fears, and stood loftily by themselves, wrapped in their own superior wisdom. Therefore hath it been wisely ordained that no set of creatures of our race shall be beyond the reach of their helping hand, so lofty that they will not fear our reproaches, or so mighty as to be beyond our reach. If the lofty and the learned do not lift us up, we drag them down. But unity is not the only watchword; there must be progress also. Since, by a law we cannot evade, we are to keep together, and since we are to progress, we must do it together, and nobody must be left behind. This is not a matter of philosophy; it is a matter of fact. No progress which did not lift all, ever lifted any. If we let the poison of filthy diseases percolate through the hovels of the poor, death knocks at the palace gates. If we leave to the greater horror of ignorance any portion of our race, the consequences of ignorance strike us all, and there is no escape. We must all move, but we must all keep together. It is only when the rearguard comes up that the vanguard can go on.
Z o 19 WILLIAM J. BRYAN (1860 —)
THE KNIGHT OF FREE SILVER
of the most remarkable events in the history of Conventions took place. A young reformer, hardly known in the party, not known at all to the country, rose before the delegates, and in a speech of the most stirring eloquence so carried them from their feet that they lost sight of the claims of all the old and seasoned leaders of the party, and chose this orator of thirty-six as their standardbearer in the coming campaign. Free silver was a prominent plank in their platform, and free silver was the informing spirit of his oration. It was its closing words that took the convention captive and made William Jennings Bryan the inevitable candidate of the party.
During the month that followed its delivery this speech was perhaps more widely read and debated than any other ever made in the United States. Who is this new candidate for the greatest place in the gift of the nation? was asked. The answer was that he was a native of Illinois, born in 1860, who graduated at Illinois College in 1881, studied law in Chicago, and had since practiced in Illinois and Nebraska. He was a member of Congress from 1891 to 1895, was a Democratic nominee for the Senate in 1894, and was the author of the “Silver plank” in the Democratic platform.
The People's party nominated him on the same basis, but he was decisively defeated in the election, the indication being that free silver was not wanted by the majority of the people. In the war of 1898, Bryan raised the Third Nebraska Regiment and became its colonel. In 1900 he again received the nomination of the Democratic and People's parties, and was once more pitted against his old antagonist, William McKinley. As before, Bryan “stumped ” the country,
I N the Democratic National Convention at Chicago in 1896, one
WILLIAM J. BRYAN 219
making a large number of effective speeches, in which the principles and practices of the party in power were severely scored. But his labors proved of no avail, he was defeated by a greater number of electoral votes than before, and once more retired to private life.
THE CROSS OF GOLD
[“Free Silver,” we have said, was the Democratic and Populist battle-cry in 1896. The platform read: “We demand the free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the aid and consent of any other nation.” This declaration of financial principles, penned by Bryan, was in direct opposition to the Republican financial plank, which stated : “We are opposed to the free coinage of silver, except by international agreement.” Such was the issue upon which the campaign was fought. The speech with which Bryan defended his side of the argument was an acknowledged masterpiece. The burning eloquence, earnestness, zeal and magnetic power of the orator were irresistible. When the closing words were spoken the great audience rose as one man, and he was borne from the stage in a burst of the wildest enthusiasm. His plank in the platform was adopted by a large majority, and carried with it his nomination for the Presidency.]
And now, my friends, let me come to the paramount issue. If they ask us why it is that we say more on the money question than we say upon the tariff question, I reply that, if protection has slain its thousands, the gold standard has slain its tens of thousands. If they ask us why we do not embody in our platform all the things that we believe in, we reply that when we have restored the money of the Constitution all other necessary reforms will be possible; but that until this is done there is no other reform that can be accomplished.
Here is the line of battle, and we care not upon which issue they force the fight; we are prepared to meet them on either issue or on both. If they tell us that the gold standard is the standard of civilization, we reply to them that this, the most enlightened of all the nations of the earth, has never declared for a gold standard and that both the great parties this year are declaring against it. If the gold standard is the standard of civilization, why, my friends, should we not have it 2 If they come to meet us on that issue we can present the history of our nation. More than that; we can tell them that they will search the pages of history in vain to find a single instance where the common people of any land have ever declared themselves in favor of the gold standard. They can find where the holders of fixed investments have declared for a gold standard, but not where the masses have.
Mr. Carlisle said, in 1878, that this was a struggle between “the idle holders of idle capital '' and “the struggling masses who produce the
220 WILLIAM J. BRYAN
wealth and pay the taxes of the country; ” and, my friends, the question we are to decide is: Upon which side will the Democratic party fight; upon the side of “the idle holders of idle capital'' or upon the side of “the struggling masses 2'' That is the question which the party must answer first, and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic party. There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way through every class which rests upon them. You come to us, and tell us, that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard ; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country. My friends, we declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth; and upon that issue we expect to carry every State in the Union. I shall not slander the inhabitants of the fair State of Massachusetts, nor the inhabitants of the State of New York, by saying that, when they are confronted with the proposition, they still declare that this nation is not able to attend to its own business. It is the issue of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when but three millions in number, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation ; shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to seventy millions, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers ? No, my friends, that will never be the verdict of our people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good, but that we cannot have it until other nations help us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we will restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States has it. If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost. Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and of the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand 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.