The Vote for Business 1896


Map Code: Ax01275

The 1896 presidential election ended in the Republican victory of William McKinley against Democrat, William Jennings Bryan. McKinley was the first American president to use modern campaign techniques, spending $3.5 million on his bid for the presidency, five times the Bryan campaign sum. The central issue was whether to take America out of its economic downturn by using free silver (Bryan) or the gold standard (McKinley). Bryan believed that limited gold reserves were impeding economic growth and unlimited coinage of silver would add to the money supply, creating inflation and helping the ‘working man’. McKinley’s campaign was nearly outshone by the populist Bryan, a charismatic speaker. However, by forming a coalition with businessmen, professionals and prosperous farmers, McKinley won, declaring inflationary ‘free silver’ would be detrimental to business. His victory was marginal and secured by taking the central northeastern states and, allegedly, bribing pro-democratic businesses into voting Republican.

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