William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

The "Cross of Gold" and the Triple Alliance

I

EARLY in the morning of July 7 large crowds converged on the Chicago Coliseum, then the largest permanent exhibition building in the world. While Mary Bryan found a seat in the galleries, Benjamin Tillman, down front, glowered like a medieval chieftain, Joseph Bailey amused the silverites by displaying a silver dollar as a collar button, and even Henry George looked happy because, said a critic, his "silver eggs, long since laid, now give evidence of an early hatchment." 1

National Chairman William F. Harrity called the convention to order. Immediately after the prayer, the irrepressible antagonism between the gold and the silver forces flamed fiercely in three hours of debate over the majority report of the National Committee, which named David Bennett Hill for temporary chairman. When applause from Eastern delegates subsided, Henry D. Clayton of Alabama offered John Daniel as a substitute and loosed the enthusiasm of the silver men. Not satisfied with merely cheering and shouting, they stomped their feet on the wooden floor and caused a sound like that of a rush of wild steers over a bridge.

William C. Whitney selected brilliant orators to defend Hill, but their appeals fell upon deaf ears. The result was a rout—Daniel 556 and Hill 349—and silver was just forty-eight short of a two-thirds majority. The gold men stared silently as three jubilant silverites escorted Daniel to the chair to the tune of "Britons Shall Never Be Slaves." The scepter of power in the Democracy, according to conservatives, had passed "from the strong, certain hands of the East, to the feverish, head‐ strong mob of the West and South, from Cleveland to Tillman, from Hill to Altgeld." 2 Although Bryan lost the temporary chairmanship, Daniel's victory prevented the slippery Hill from controlling the convention and placing the party in the hands of vested interests rather than in those of the people, and Bryan said the gold men could have

____________________
1
New York Sun, New York World, San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 1896.
2
New York Sun, July 7, 1896.

-127-

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