The Free Silver Crusade

When Harvey arrived in Chicago in 1893, the nation was in the midst of a serious depression. Harvey and other western business leaders became convinced that prosperity could be restored by returning to the free coinage of silver, which had been stopped in 1873.

Farmer's Alliance

Many farmers, especially in the south and west, agreed. Farmers organized the Farmer’s Alliance to work for change. Soon the members of the alliance decided that a new political party was needed, and the Populist Party was born.

One of its key demands was the unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of 16 to 1 (that is to say, 16 ounces of silver would have the same value as 1 ounce of gold). Most supporters of Free Silver also called for regulation of railroad rates, breaking up of monopolies, and other reforms to benefit farmers and workers.

Harvey's Financial Theories

It was against this backdrop that William Harvey became a spokesman for reform. Soon he became nationally known for his financial theories. His 1894 book Coin’s Financial School brought him fame and his nickname. Sale of this and other books also brought Harvey wealth.

Free Silver Movement

By 1895 Harvey was so associated with the Free Silver movement that he was selected to champion the cause in several debates. This increased his influence even further. As the election of 1896 neared, leaders in the movement discussed how the friends of Free Silver in the Democratic, Republican, and Populist Parties could all be united.

William Jennings Bryan

Some proposed creating yet another new party. But Harvey suggested instead that silver supporters unite around a democratic candidate who would select a populist running mate and promise cabinet seats to populists and silver republicans. That candidate was William Jennings Bryan, who won the nomination after his stirring “Cross of Gold” speech. Harvey became an enthusiastic supporter of Bryan, and it has even been suggested that he was the ghost writer for that famous speech.