The following is an article I wrote for www.LewRockwell.com.
9 July 1896. William Jennings Bryan, the young, free-silver proponent from Nebraska had just finished his vitriolic assault on the gold standard at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois by raising the applause to a fever pitch with the following iconic line: “Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
He was carried around the room on the shoulders of the cheering delegates, and two days later accepted the nomination to serve as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. But not every Democrat rejoiced. While Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech has been labeled one of the most important political statements in American history, many in his own party thought Bryan had subverted “Democratic principles” by playing fast and loose with the facts and by pandering to the masses. A famous political cartoon in Puck Magazine depicted Bryan as a snake swallowing the Democratic Party whole.