Cross of Gold

 In the late 1890s, citizens of the United States of America found themselves at the bottom of a financial hole. It was an economic crisis that citizens and politicians alike could not grab the reins on to regain control. Unfortunately, where there is economic crisis, political crisis is usually just around the corner as politicians from all sides attempted to get their own tight grip on the situation. William Jennings Bryan, a former congressman from Nebraska, was among the politicians desperate to put an end to the economic crisis and stood behind the movement of Free Silver to help citizens climb out of their debt1. While the majority of the politicians were more concerned with helping those that funded their campaigns, Bryan was among the very few who were truly concerned for the well-being of his potential voters. He fought for them diligently, knowing that by not allowing silver to be used as currency, people would be pushed over the edge as they would further feel the strain of their out-of-control debts. However, the other politicians wanted gold to remain the only currency, which would mean that citizens would never be able to get out of debt. While silver would mean rampant inflation, it would also increase the nation’s prosperity and provide a quicker solution to the nation’s debt. Unfortunately, gold was the ideal currency for bankers and businesses as there would be no inflation to harm them, and they were reluctant to see it set aside for silver. Bryan was not bothered by the strong stances held by bankers, businessmen, and the politicians who were pro-gold. If anything, Bryan was baffled that politicians, the economy, and citizens alike could greatly benefit from using silver as legal tender, yet still have many people against using silver. Though the arguments against silver could hardly be debated, Bryan felt that the needs of the citizens, the struggling masses, who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country,2 especially the farmers, were more important than the greed of bankers and businessmen. Bryan’s famous speech was spoken completely on behalf of the citizens that needed the financial relief, impressing the importance of adding silver to the legal tender that included gold, stating that politicians shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold3. It was Bryan who made it clear the kind of damage that could be caused by not allowing silver to be circulated as legal tender. As such, Bryan helped to change how citizens were viewed by politicians, making them an important part of the decisions that were made for the nation as a whole.