Cross of Gold Speech - Recording

Date of Recording: 1921
Duration: 9:21
Call Number: VVL00951

The "Cross of Gold Speech" is William Jennings Bryan's most well-known political speech. Recorded in 1921, the speech was originally delivered before the democratic convention in 1896 and highlights the politician's not only populist stance, but his strong position on the issue of the "Gold-Standard." In his strident attack on the concept that gold was the only sound backing for currency, Jennings Bryan speaks here for the "broader class" of businessmen across the country, specifically farmers, agricultural workers, miners and small town merchants. These workers, he argues, are all but ignored by a government that serves the interests of big cities and large corporate enterprise. It is the "real" business men of the small town and agricultural communities that inherit and demonstrate the true "pioneer spirit" of America: "They tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. We reply that our great cities rest upon our broad and great 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 of the country." Jennings Bryan closed with the admonition, "you shall not press upon the bow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." This speech was profoundly effective, and though the politician was only 36 years old, he was nominated by the delegates as their candidate for president.

Good Artifact of Sentimental American Religion - Recording

Date of Recording: 1920
Duration: 1:13
Call Number: VVL00934

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Immortality - Recording

Date of Recording: 1903
Duration: 2:00
Call Number: VVL00952

This speech perhaps best exemplifies Bryan's characteristic use of a highly rhetorical and elevated metaphorical style, as he compares the regenerative power of Nature to the immortality of the human Soul. He states, "I am as sure that there is another life, as I am that I live today. . . If the grain of wheat can thus pass unimpaired through three thousand ressurections, I shall not doubt that my soul has power to clothe itself with a body suited to its new existence when this earthly frame has crumbled into dust."

Imperialism - Recording

Date of Recording: 1901
Duration: 1:58
Call Number: VVL00953

Jennings Bryan directly rallies against what he terms as the imperialist policies of then President McKinley. He argues: "A republic cannot be an empire, for government derives their just powers from the consent of the governed, and colonialism violates this theory." Bryan's position on the issue of imperialism is ambiguous, however, as he also states that "we do not want the Phillipinos for citizens," for the nation "cannot afford another race question to add to the other race questions we already have." Instead, the United States should support the independence of the Phillipines by offering military and economic protection that would facialite their transition into a republic.

Mysteries - Recording

Date of Recording: 1910
Duration: 2:57
Call Number: VVL00991

A Christian fundamentalist, Bryan here stresses that science does not explain the origin of life: "We are tempted to presume that we know everything, but there is so much that is unknown, and that should increase our reverence. Science is yet to reveal the great secret of life."

Popular Election of Senators - Recording

Date of Recording: 1910
Duration: 1:58
Call Number: VVL00950

In this speech, Williams Jennings Bryan calls for an amendment to the constitution ensuring that United States senators would be elected by popular vote and not state legislatures. The election of senators by state legislatures, according to Bryan, served corporate interests and "thwarted the will of the people." For Bryan, such an amendment would serve as the "gateway to popular reform." The Seventeenth Amendment was passed by both congress and house shortly after this speech, and was fully ratified by 1913.

Swollen Fortunes - Recording

Date of Recording: 1902
Duration: 2:01
Call Number: VVL00954

Here Bryan speaks out against Republican-supported legislation that has allowed for the uneven distribution of wealth. An egalitarian, Bryan calls for new legislation that will ensure each citizen the right to gain "return from society proportionate to his contribution to the welfare of society." This, in turn, would promote a moral principle, where "those who are strong should voluntarily assist those who are weak, that those who are fortunate should voluntarily assist those who are unfortunate."

The Trust Question - Recording

Date of Recording: 1910
Duration: 3:23
Call Number: VVL00992

Here Bryan defines the evils of monopolies,including higher prices, lower wages, and inferior product quality. Monopolies have "polluted the poltical process," he states, contributing to campaign funds and influencing election results. A menace to the popular government, trusts must be held in check by legislation that prohibits the monopoly of corporations. Bryan also responds to republican criticism of democratic policy on this issue (see William Taft, vvl 986).


  • Introduction to Early Voices

  • America and Its Early Voices

  • Introduction to Early Recording
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Eugene Debs
  • Thomas Edison
  • Samuel Gompers
  • William McKinley
  • William Taft
  • Booker T. Washington