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U.S. Presidential Election 1896

The presidential election of 1896 was a dramatic election, in which Republican candidate William McKinley defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan to become the twenty-fifth President of the United States. The campaigns focused on the economy and especially the divisive issue of the gold standard and free silver.
The election ushered in what historians call the Progressive Era, or the Fourth Party System, the political realignment that occurred during the 1896 election.

Since the Panic of 1893, the economy of the United States had been struggling and the country had fallen into a depression. Democratic President Grover Cleveland supported the use of the gold standard, which had been in use in the United States since the Coinage Act of 1873. The gold standard limited the money supply, but it made international trade easier because other countries also pegged their currency to gold. Some suggested switching to a bimetallic monetary standard, which would fix the dollar to both gold and silver. This would allow for inflation, which they said would help the country out of its depression and promote economic development. The majority of the Democratic Party supported this switch. Since incumbent President Cleveland disagreed, he lost the support of his party.

The Democratic Party was then left with the task of choosing a candidate to represent their principles at the Democratic National Convention. William Jennings Bryan, who had served as a congressman for the state of Nebraska, took this opportunity to step forward as a leader. A great speaker, Bryan gave a powerful speech, known as the Cross of Gold speech, in support of the struggling working class and Free Silver. The speech was met with stunned silence followed by rowdy cheers, and is today considered one of the best political speeches in history. With his speech, Bryan went from relative obscurity to the Democratic nominee with widespread support. Bryan was the youngest presidential nominee in U.S. history at thirty-six years old. The party then chose Arthur Sewall of Maine as his running mate.

Since the Panic of 1893, the economy of the United States had been struggling and the country had fallen into a depression. Democratic President Grover Cleveland supported the use of the gold standard, which had been in use in the United States since the Coinage Act of 1873. The gold standard limited the money supply, but it made international trade easier because other countries also pegged their currency to gold. Some suggested switching to a bimetallic monetary standard, which would fix the dollar to both gold and silver. This would allow for inflation, which they said would help the country out of its depression and promote economic development. The majority of the Democratic Party supported this switch. Since incumbent President Cleveland disagreed, he lost the support of his party.

The Democratic Party was then left with the task of choosing a candidate to represent their principles at the Democratic National Convention. William Jennings Bryan, who had served as a congressman for the state of Nebraska, took this opportunity to step forward as a leader. A great speaker, Bryan gave a powerful speech, known as the Cross of Gold speech, in support of the struggling working class and Free Silver. The speech was met with stunned silence followed by rowdy cheers, and is today considered one of the best political speeches in history. With his speech, Bryan went from relative obscurity to the Democratic nominee with widespread support. Bryan was the youngest presidential nominee in U.S. history at thirty-six years old. The party then chose Arthur Sewall of Maine as his running mate.



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