The Silverites were a political movement in the United States in the late 19th century that advocated for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. This movement emerged in response to the economic depression of the 1890s, which many believed was caused by a shortage of money in circulation.
At the time, the United States was on a bimetallic standard, meaning that both gold and silver could be used to back the country's currency. However, the government had passed a law in 1873 that limited the coinage of silver, leading to a decrease in the amount of silver in circulation and a corresponding increase in the value of gold. This meant that debts became more difficult to pay off, and farmers and other debtors in particular were hit hard.
## William Jennings Bryan and the silver crusaders
The Silverites, led by figures such as William Jennings Bryan, argued that the solution to this problem was to allow for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. This would increase the amount of money in circulation, making it easier for debtors to pay off their debts and boosting the economy as a whole. However, the Silverites faced opposition from gold-standard advocates, who argued that unlimited coinage of silver would lead to inflation and a devaluation of the currency.
The debate over silver coinage was a major issue in the 1896 presidential election, with Bryan running on a platform that included the free coinage of silver. Although Bryan ultimately lost the election to William McKinley, the Silverites had a lasting impact on American politics, and their ideas continued to be debated for decades to come.
The Silverites were influential in the Democratic Party during the 1890s, with figures like William Jennings Bryan, a prominent politician and orator, championing their cause. Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech during the 1896 Democratic National Convention is a vivid example of Silverite rhetoric and arguments. However, the Silverite movement eventually lost steam as the United States and other countries moved towards a [[gold standard]] or a [[fiat currency]] system in the early 20th century.