“They cannot suffer when paid in the best money known to man….”

Originally posted Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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The 1896 nomination of Williams Jennings Bryan caused a terrible rift in the Democratic Party, much of whose base was faithful to gold.

When asked what they would do, conservative Democrats like New York’s David Hill told reporters that they were “still Democrats . . . very still.” Others quietly threw their support to McKinley.

Conservative Grover Cleveland loyalists convened in Indianapolis to nominate a slate of candidates so that Democrats would have “an honorable alternative to voting Republican.”

From their platform:

THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM.
Adopted at the Convention of the National Democratic Party at Indianapolis, Ind., September 3, 1896.

This convention has assembled to uphold the principles upon which depend 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 to all men of every creed and condition; to the largest freedom of the individual consistent with good government; to the preservation of the Federal Government in its constitutional vigor and the 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 many defeats, but could not survive 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. It 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.

GOLD AND SILVER IN THE CURRENCY.

The experience of mankind has shown that, by reason of its natural qualities, gold is the necessary money of the large affairs of commerce and business, while silver in conveniently adapted to minor transactions, and the most beneficial use of both together can be insured only by the maintenance of silver at a parity with gold by its limited coinage under suitable safeguards of law. Thus the largest possible employment of both metals is gained, with a value universally accepted throughout the world, which involves the only practical bimetallic currency assuring the most stable standard, and especially the best and safest money for all who earn a livelihood by labor or the product of husbandry. They cannot suffer when paid in the best money known to man, but are the peculiar and most defenseless victims of a debased and fluctuating currency, which offers continual profits to the money changer at their cost.

Realizing these truths demonstrated by long public inconvenience and loss, the Democratic party, in the interested of the masses and of equal justice to all, practically established by the legislation of 1834 and 1853 the gold standard of monetary measurement, and likewise entirely divorced the Government from banking and currency issues. To this long-established Democratic policy we adhere, and insist upon the maintenance of the gold standard and of the parity therewith of every dollar issued by the Government, and are firmly opposed to the free and unlimited coinage of silver and to the compulsory purchase of silver bullion. But we denounce also the further maintenance of the present costly patchwork system of national paper currency as a constant source of injury and peril.

We assert the necessity of such intelligent currency reform as will confine the Government to its legitimate functions, completely separated from the banking business, and afford to all sections of our country a uniform, safe, and elastic bank currency under governmental supervision, measured in volume by the needs of business.