Great Leaders and National Issues of 1896/Chapter 8/Bland
Richard P. Bland
Originator of the “Bland Dollar”
Richard Parks Bland was born near Hartford, Kentucky, in 1835, and while very young was deprived by death of both of his parents. It was never his good, or possibly ill, fortune to be nursed in the lap of luxury, for he was obliged to work hard throughout the summer months in order to gain the privilege of attending school during winter; but the lad met all these hardships cheerfully and applied himself so closely to his studies that he easily took rank among the very best scholars in school.
While so many of his classmates, however, were satisfied with such a moderate amount of schooling, it only served to whet the appetite of young Bland. It did not require any profound knowledge in those days for a youth to fit himself to “keep school”—a little book-learning, an aptitude in imparting instruction, and most important of all, the will and muscular power to restrain and hold in subjection the burly lads, being the requirements. Bland possessed all these, and, determined to advance further along the line upon which he had started, he taught school, lived with the closest economy and saved all he could until he had enough to permit him to attain to a higher education.
His academic course completed, young Bland bent all his energies to the study of law, in which in due course he successfully passed examination, and entered upon the career which has proved for so many the path to honor and distinction. He held no public office until elected a Democratic representative from Missouri in the 43d Congress. He entered upon his duties December 1, 1873, and was re-elected regularly thereafter until 1894, when he met defeat at the hands of Joel D. Hubbard, Republican.
The “Bland Dollar”
Mr. Bland is most widely known as a powerful and uncompromising advocate of the free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. As chairman of the coinage committee, he reported the bill for free coinage, in 1875. Under the provisions of this act the secretary of the treasury was to purchase each month sufficient bullion to coin 2,000,000 of silver dollars of 412½ grains each, to be considered as legal tender. This coin is popularly known as the “Bland Dollar.” The Senate, however, substituted the Allison Bill, providing for limited coinage, the amount to be not less than $2,000,000 nor more than $4,000,000 a month. Coinage under this law began in 1878.
Mr. Bland possesses the courage of his convictions, for, in his advocacy of the free coinage of silver, he has never stopped to ask whether such advocacy was acceptable to his party or whether it would help or mar its prospects. He has continued its unswerving champion throughout. This fact has served to direct national attention to him, especially during the last few years. The growth of silver mining in the West, where it has become an industry of stupendous proportions, has strengthened the demand for the unlimited coinage of silver, until the advocates have made themselves felt in both parties. Important as the tariff issue unquestionably is, there are many who maintain that it should be subordinated to the currency question. While the East is strenuously in favor of “sound money,” or the single gold standard, the West is equally strenuous for two standards—gold and silver—with the aim to keep a parity between the two values. This dispute, referred to elsewhere, is one which must play a prominent part in the great questions of the day for an indefinite time to come.