Host Aled Walker is joined by DPhil students Nonie Kubie and Daniel Rowe to discuss the American presidential election of 1896, a fascinating and pivotal moment in American history.
"Having behind us the commercial interests and the labouring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them: 'You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.' " The year is 1896, and at the Democratic National Convention William Jennings Bryan has just concluded what is now considered to be one of the most powerful political addresses in American history. His subject now seems almost comically dry, a championing of bimetallism -- an underpinning of currency based on both gold and silver -- over the gold-standard policy of the sitting Democratic president Grover Cleveland; yet, from this single issue stemmed a wider social message, a message of support for the rural poor. "I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy out farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country." At only 36 years of age, almost on the force of his fervent rhetoric alone, Bryan became the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. In the election campaign which followed, against Republican William McKinley, one may glimpse the state of the American nation, and its great social and economic divisions, as it turns to enter the twentieth century.