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THE FIRST BATTLE.
MY CONNECTION WITH THE SILVER QUESTION BEGINS.
N the 30th day of July, 1890, I was nominated for Congress in the First Nebraska District by the Democratic party. The platform adopted by the nominating Convention contained the following silver plank:
We demand the free coinage of silver on equal terms with gold and denounce the effort of the Republican party to serve the interests of Wall street as against the rights of the people.
I wrote the plank and it expressed my views at that time. The Democratic party in Congress had, only a short time before the holding of our Convention, voted strongly in favor of free coinage and my opponent, Hon. W. J. Connell, had voted with the Democrats. Since we agreed upon the silver question, we confined our campaign almost entirely to the discussion of the McKinley tariff act, for which he had voted When I spoke upon the silver question at all it was only briefly and the argument made was, in substance, that we needed more money rather than less and that the use of both metals for standard money would give more money than the use of one alone.
After the election I determined to make a thorough study of the money question. The first thing read was a little pamphlet issued by the Bimetallic League and entitled "Silver in the. Fifty-first Congress." Professor Laughlin's book on bimetallism was next read and afterwards, the "Report of the Royal Commission of England" and the works of Jevons, Bonamy Price, Cernuschi, De Laveleye, Chevelier, Jacobs and others. By this time the agitation upon the question had reached a point where people were dividing upon the subject and I was pained to find my opinion running contrary to the opinions of many with whom I have been politically intimate, but the more I investigated the question the deeper my convictions became.
In April, 1891, I attended the Western States' Commercial Congress in session at Kansas City, Mo., and there voted for free coinage
MY CONNECTION WITH SILVER QUESTION BEGINS.
and also introduced, and secured the adoption of, the following declaration:
Resolved, That it is the sense of this congress that all legal tender money of the United States should be made a full legal tender for all debts, public and private, any condition in the contract to the contrary notwithstanding; provided that this should not affect contracts already in existence.
On the 17th of September, 1891, I attended the Democratic State Convention held at Grand Island, Nebraska, and, as a member of the committee on resolutions, secured the adoption of the following plank:
We favor the free coinage of silver and demand that it shall be made a full legal tender for all debts, public and private; and we denounce as unjust and dishonest the provisions of the law recently enacted allowing parties to stipulate against payment in silver and silver certificates, thus setting up one standard for the rich man and another for the poor man.
The latter part of the plank reproduced the idea set forth in the resolution adopted by the Western States' Commercial Congress.
In the Spring of 1892 I attended the Democratic State Convention which was held at Omaha on April 14th. This Convention was called to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention. There was a strong sentiment in favor of Mr. Cleveland's renomination and the Convention was organized against silver but Mr. Cleveland's friends, knowing his position, were satisfied to avoid the question. I was made a member of the Resolutions Committee by a vote of the Convention and presented the following minority report:
We declare ourselves in favor of the free coinage of silver.
We had a warm contest over this plank, the vote when finally taken being so close that both sides claimed a majority and the roll was called a second time. On the second roll call the silver plank was declared lost but we have since had reason to believe that it was carried by a small majority. This Convention may be considered the beginning of the contest in Nebraska between the two wings of the Democratic party. I was at that time opposed to Mr. Cleveland's renomination because of his attitude on the money question and favored the nomination of Governor Boies, of Iowa, who was, in my judgment, nearest to our position.
I was renominated for Congress on the day before the meeting of the National Convention. My platform declared for free coinage and the question was made a special feature in the Congressional campaign. Just before the adjournment of the first session of the Fifty-second Congress, my attention was called to a bill introduced by Senator Sherman on the 14th day of July, 1892. The bill will be found in my third speech against unconstitutional repeal.