The major campaign issue of the 1896 United States presidential elections was the struggling economy. The specific issue of the gold standard and Free Silver became a key and divisive point.
The U.S. economy was in a depression at the time and the gold standard limited the amount of currency that could be issued. William Jennings Bryan made a famous speech in defense of Free Silver as the alternative to the gold standard. However, his party, the Democrats, lost to Republican William McKinley as many voters from both the upper and lower classes feared the change to Free Silver would further harm the economy.