The First Battle/Chapter 14

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The First Battle by William Jennings Bryan
Chapter 14: : The Silver Party Convention

On July 22, 1896, the National Silver Party Convention met at St. Louis in pursuance of the call issued by the Bimetallic Union. Hon. Francis G. Newlands, of Nevada, was chosen temporary chairman. Mr. Newlands has for many years been an active champion of bimetallism and has delivered several very strong speeches in support of the doctrine. Upon taking the chair he said:

For permanent chairman the convention selected William P. St. John, Esq., of New York. Mr. St. John, until recently connected with one of the large banks of New York City, has been a most earnest advocate of free coinage and, in spite of the local opposition which he has encountered, has defended bimetallism with great courage and ability. He at last, in a business way, suffered martyrdom for his convictions, relinquishing a large salary as president of the bank rather than keep silent upon a matter which he believed to be of vital importance to the country. I give below the speech which he delivered upon taking the chair:

After the permanent organization had been completed a committee was appointed to confer with the Populist Convention, then in session in the same city.

On the second day of the convention little was done in the transaction of business, the convention being disposed to wait to consult further with the Populists. During the day a speech was delivered by Congressman Charles A. Towne, of Minnesota. Mr. Towne gained a national reputation through a speech which he delivered in the House of Representatives on the 8th day of February, 1896. The speech was very widely circulated immediately after its delivery and still more extensively during the campaign. It treated with great force and clearness the subject of falling prices. The contest for permanent chairman of the Silver Convention lay between him and Mr. St. John, and when the latter was chosen the former was made permanent vice-chairman. Mr. Towne was present at the Republican National Convention, though not a delegate, and constantly conferred with the silver Republicans. Throughout the campaign his services were in constant demand and his time wholly devoted to the success of bimetallism.

In addition to the speech of Mr. Towne, addresses were made by Judge Joseph Sheldon of Connecticut, a pioneer in the silver cause; Mrs. Helen M. Gougar of Indiana, who rendered most efficient service during the entire campaign, and ex-Governor John P. St. John of Kansas, also an able champion of bimetallism.

At the afternoon session on Thursday a poll was taken to determine the former party affiliations of the delegates present, and the result showed 526 who had been Republicans, 146 who had been Democrats, 49 who had been Populists, 9 who had been Prohibitionists, 9 who had been Independent, 1 who had been a Nationalist, and 1 who had been a Greenbacker.

On Friday Senator Stewart, of Nevada, was called for and delivered a speech in which he described the Chicago Convention as he witnessed it. A poll was taken to ascertain how many had seen military service, and it was learned that 196 had served in the Union army during the late war, 49 in the Confederate army, and 4 in the Mexican war.

Senator John P. Jones, of Nevada, chairman of the committee on Resolutions, presented the following platform, which was adopted by unanimous vote.

The nominations were next taken up. My name was presented by Hon. Edward C. Little, of Kansas, who spoke as follows:

The nomination was seconded by Hon. L. C. Pace of Nebraska, Messrs. McGinley of Michigan, Basher of Iowa, Turner of Ohio, Baker of Califonia, Wedderburn of Virginia, Doniphan of Missouri, McBride of Washington, Towne of Minnesota, Clarno of Oregon, and Mrs. Stansberry of Colorado. No other name being placed before the convention, the nomination was made by acclamation.

The convention then proceeded to the nomination of a candidate for Vice-President, but no speeches were delivered. Mr. Alexander Troop, of Connecticut, presented the name of Hon. Arthur Sewall, of Maine; the nomination was seconded by Mr. H. T. Niles, of Ohio. Mr. Sewall was made the nominee by acclamation.

In mentioning those who participated in the Silver Convention, I have been compelled to rely upon newspaper accounts of the convention and, therefore, much to my regret, have been sometimes unable to give the initials of persons referred to.


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