The Silver Party

The National Silver Party met in St. Louis at the same time as the Populists, and they followed the Populists' endorsement of Bryan with their own. The party drew its strength from the West and primarily from Nevada, where discovery of the Comstock Lode had made silver the key to the state's economy. Many Western Republicans--like Henry Teller of Colorado--broke partially with their party to become "silver Republicans," but Silver Party supporters separated completely from their old parties to form a new structure.

Nevada was the only state to elect Senators and Congressional representatives from the Silver Party. Most, like Senator William Stewart, were former Republicans, but many of their supporters were Democrats who found themselves comfortable supporting a free-silver Democrat--Bryan. The Silver Party's presence fed Eastern accusations--made most prominently by Joseph Pulitzer's New York World--that Bryan was backed by mine-owners of the "silver trust." The World used this tactic to castigate both candidates for accepting support from "the trusts," though the funds raised by Mark Hanna were vastly greater sums.

Platform of the National Silver Party

The National Silver Party in convention assembled hereby adopts the following declaration of principles:

First--The paramount issue at this time in the United States is indisputably the money question. It is between the gold standard, gold bonds and bank currency on the one side, and the bimetallic standard, no bonds and Government currency on the other side.

On this issue we declare outselves to be in favor of a distinctively American financial system. We are unalterably opposed to the single gold standard and demand the immediate restoration to the constitutional standard of gold and silver by the restoration by this Government, independent of any foreign power, of the unrestricted coinage of gold and silver as the standard money at the ratio of 16 to 1 and upon terms of exact equality as they existed prior to 1873; the silver coin to be a full legal tender, equally with gold, for all debts and use, public and private; and we favor such legislation as will prevent for the future the demonetization of any kind of legal tender money by private contract.

We hold that the power to hold and regulate a paper currency is inseparable from the power to coin money, and hence that all currency intended to circulate as money should be issued and its volume controlled by the general Government only, and should be legal tender.

We are unalterably opposed to the issue by the United States of interest-bearing bonds in time of peace, and we denounce as a blunder worse than a crime the present Treasury policy, incurred by a Republican House, of plunging into debt by hundreds of millions in the vain attempt to maintain the gold standard by borrowing gold; and we demand the payment of all coin obligations of the United States, as provided by existing laws, in either gold or silver coin, at the option of the Government and not at the option of the creditor.

Second--That over and above all other questions of policy, we are in favor of restoring to the people of the United States the time-honored money of the Constitution--gold and silver; not one but both--the money of Washington and Hamilton, and Jefferson and Monroe, and Jackson and Lincoln, to the end that the American people may receive honest pay for an honest product; that the American debtor may pay his just obligations in an honest standard and not in a standard that has appreciated 100 per cent above all the great staples of our country; and to the end, further, that silver standard countries may be deprived of the unjust advantage they now enjoy in the difference in exchange between gold and silver--an advantage which tariff legislation cannot overcome.

We therefore confidently appeal to the people of the United States to leave in abeyance for the moment all other questions, however important and even momentous they may appear, to sunder if need be all former ties and affiliations and unite in one supreme effort to free themselves and their children from the domination of the money power--a power more destructive than any which has ever been fastened upon the civilized men of any race or in any age. And upon the consummation of our desires and efforts, we invoke the gracious favor of divine Providence.

"The Friend of Silver."
How [Indiana Congressman W. D.] Bynum Posed Before a Colorado Audience Five Years Ago.

The Denver News of Oct. 15, 1891, printed the above cartoon and report of Mr. Bynum's speech in that city on the day before:
Mr. Bynum said: "I have always been in favor of free coinage of silver [applause].... I have voted for free coinage from the time the question has been before congress, and will do so every time the question comes up. [Renewed cheers.] I am willing to restore a silver basis."
--American Nonconformist, 22 October, 1896

Senator Stewart Makes a Rousing Speech.
The Convention Nominates Them by Acclamation.

ST. LOUIS, July 24--It was 10:11 o'clock when Chairman St. John called the Silver Convention to order. Rev. Dr. Court led in prayer.... By invitation Senator Stewart of Nevada addressed the convention. He said that Wall street was represented by a powerful lobby at the Chicago Convention, but could do nothing with the honest Democratic patriots. He made a plea for harmony among the silver forces and predicted victory. He said he went to Chicago with little hope that a silver platform would be adopted, but he was agreeably disappointed. There never was a more patriotic band of men on earth than the delegates who controlled the Chicago convention. The Wall street corporation money was no use there. At the mention of Bland's name, the delegations arose, cheered, shouted and flourished umbrellas and flags.

The Senator said that Bryan's convention speech was the greatest oration in history. "I know William J. Bryan," he said, "he believes what we believe. He is as true to his principles as the needle to the pole."

...Under the resolution adopted yesterday the roll of States was called to find out how many old soldiers occupied seats as delegates. The poll showed 109 Union veterans, 18 Confederate veterans, and 4 Mexican war veterans.

... Judge Scott of Omaha was called to the platform. He said, "Oh God send pestilence and disease and vermin and war and famine among us if you will, but in thy good providence, Oh God, deliver us from another four years of oppression under Grover Cleveland."

He called for three cheers for Bryan, which were given.... The convention adjourned until 3:30 p.m. when the rules were suspended and Bryan nominated by acclamation. Sewall was also nominated by acclamation for Vice President.

--Nevada State Journal, July 25, 1896

A Mine Owner's Plea. (Any old tune.)

I have come from far Nevada, where I own a silver mine,
And I dream of bullion all the day.
For I see each silver nugget stamped with such a neat design
And Uncle Sam the freight will gladly pay.
When fifty cents are worth a dollar, don't you know,
Earth will be a paradise divine
For the man from far Nevada or the man from Idaho
With his little


Laborers and farmers, please bring your little votes
To help the poor and needy Western man.
From now until November on you he fondly dotes
And you shall profit with him, if you can.
For though the mill be idle and the farmer's home must go
Earth will be a paradise divine
For the man from far Nevada or the man from Idaho
With his little


--New York World, October 11, 1896


© 2000, Rebecca Edwards, Vassar College