Final Protest Against Unconditional Repeal

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Final Protest Against Unconditional Repeal
by William Jennings Bryan


Speech before the U. S. House of Representatives, November 1, 1893.

Mr. Speaker, when this question came up today, on the motion of the gentleman from West Virginia, a demand for the previous question was made at the time the main question was submitted. There were some of us who believed that those in favor of the bill should take all of the responsibility, and provide all of the means for its passage through this body. In our opinion it is a measure fraught with infinite possibilities for mischief if not remedied by subsequent legislation.

We have believed it would bring to this country more of misery, as some one has said, "than war, pestilence, and famine;" and feeling impressed with the importance of the measure to our people we felt justified in exercising every parliamentary right given to us under the rules of the House to prevent its passage. We have seen those who believed with us in the Senate stand up for two months protesting against the passage of the measure and in opposition to what we consider a crime. We saw them refusing within two hours of the time when the vote was finally taken to consent to allow a vote. We saw them insisting that those who favored the measure should pass it without any shadow of consent from its opponents.

This proceeding is not new. This House has time and again, on important questions, seen the minority refuse to take any part in the proceedings or aid in any manner to pass through the House measures to which they were conscientiously opposed. They have even refused to vote, so that those in favor of the proposition might be compelled to make a quorum of their own members. It was our desire to compel those in favor of the bill to use every means in their power to carry out the purpose in view, so that there should be hereafter no chance for any one to assert that we had yielded one inch in our opposition to the measure and thereby permitted it to become a law.

I made dilatory motions and intended to do so until the Committee on Rules brought in a rule, and the House adopted it, making it impossible to carry such proceedings any further. I was on my feet, and I thought in time, to make a dilatory motion when the demand for the previous question was submitted by the Chair. I found that there were too few of those who were opposed to the measure willing to join in dilatory opposition to the extent even of calling for the yeas and nays.

Realizing that there are too few of us in the opposition who are willing to longer delay a vote, we believe it is useless to carry our opposition further. If I thought that refusing to vote would compel the friends of the measure to bring a quorum here, and that by so refusing I could prevent the passage of this bill or delay it, carrying out what I believe to be my duty to my constituents, I would gladly refuse to vote and would gladly do anything else in my power to prevent the perpetration of what I believe to be a crime against the people.

Having said this much, Mr. Speaker, and explained why I will not carry dilatory tactics further, I simply desire to add, in conclusion, that if we are right in the opposition we have made to this bill time will vindicate the correctness of our position. I hope that we are wrong. I hope that the influences back of the measure are not what we believe them to be. I hope its purposes are better than we think they are. I hope that this legislation will be far more beneficial to the people of this country than we can believe it will be. If we are right, and the bill now about to be passed produces the misfortunes which we believe will follow its enactment, I warn the people responsible for its passage that there will be a day of reckoning.

You may think that you have buried the cause of bimetallism; you may congratulate yourselves that you have laid the free coinage of silver away in a sepulchre, newly made since the election, and before the door rolled the veto stone. But, sirs, if our cause is just, as I believe it is, your labor has been in vain; no tomb was ever made so strong that it could imprison a righteous cause. Silver will lay aside its grave clothes and its shroud. It will yet rise and in its rising and its reign will bless mankind.

Source: William J. Bryan, The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896 (Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1896), pp. 120–121.

See also[edit]

Related speeches by Bryan


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1925, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.