Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Chicago, 1900) is a parable about Money Reform and the 1890s Midwestern political movement led by William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925); three times candidate for President of the United States (see his poster at bottom of this page). From 1891-1895 Bryan served in the House of Representatives, where he advocated the coinage of silver at a fixed ratio with gold, in order to break the bankers' monopoly and manipulation of the gold-backed currency.
Bryan and his supporters accused Eastern banks and railroads of oppressing farmers and industrial workers. Bryan believed that a switch to silver-backed currency would make money plentiful. Although correct, Money Reformers today would argue that money need not, and should not, be backed by either silver or gold, but only by the people, their skills, and their resources.
In 1896 Bryan delivered the following words at the Democratic National Convention: "Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the labouring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their [i.e. the bankers'] demand for a gold standard by saying to them: 'You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.'"
Although only 36 years old, this speech resulted in his nomination for the presidency. He contested, and lost to, William McKinley. He stood again for the Democrats in 1900 and 1908, losing both times.
Carroll Quigley wrote about the 1896 Presidential election in Tragedy and Hope: A History of The World in Our Time (MacMillan, 1966, p. 74): "Though the forces of high finance and of big business were in a state of near panic, by a mighty effort involving large-scale spending they were successful in electing McKinley."
L. Frank Baum was editor of a South Dakota newspaper and he wrote the first of his Oz series on Bryan’s second attempt in 1900.
Oz is short for ounce, the measure for gold and silver

No comments: