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Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State$
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Samuel DeCanio

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198782

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198782.001.0001

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Free Silver and the Democratic Party

Free Silver and the Democratic Party

(p.200) Chapter 11 Free Silver and the Democratic Party
Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State

Samuel DeCanio

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on the free silver movement and how the silver issue influenced the Democratic Party's ideological shift. More specifically, it considers William Jennings Bryan's demands for the free coinage of silver that marked the Democrats' transition to federal regulatory activism, even as they continued to oppose the use of the federal bureaucracy to satisfy popular demands. One of the most prominent leaders of the free silver movement was William Stewart, the Nevada Republican who had assisted William Ralston pass the Coinage Act of 1873. Stewart would emerge as a vocal critic of the Crime of '73 and a defender of bimetallism. This chapter examines the myths that were created—and adopted by many Americans—regarding the Coinage Act of 1873. It also explains how Stewart addressed his alliance with Ralston and his role in the passage of the Coinage Act, along with his use of public ignorance to ironically become prominent in the free silver movement that was supposed to denounce him.

Keywords:   free silver movement, silver, Democratic Party, William Jennings Bryan, William Stewart, William Ralston, Coinage Act of 1873, bimetallism

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