|Name:||William Jennings Bryan|
|Birth Day:||March 19, 1860|
|Death Date:||Jul 26, 1925 (age 65)|
Nebraska Representative who ran unsuccessfullyfor president three times and served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. William Jennings Bryan is credited with inventing the idea of the stumping tour at a time when politicians gave most of their speeches from home.
As per our current Database, William Jennings Bryan died on Jul 26, 1925 (age 65).
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William Jennings Bryan was a gifted orator, which helped him a lot in his law practice.
William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois, on March 19, 1860, to Silas Lillard Bryan and Mariah Elizabeth (Jennings) Bryan. Silas Bryan had been born in 1822 and had established a legal practice in Salem in 1851. He married Mariah, a former student of his at McKendree College, in 1852. Of Scots-Irish and English ancestry, Silas Bryan was an avid Jacksonian Democrat. He won election as a state circuit judge and in 1866 moved his family to a 520-acre (210.4 ha) farm north of Salem, living in a ten-room house that was the envy of Marion County. Silas served in various local positions and sought election to Congress in 1872, but was narrowly defeated by the Republican candidate. An admirer of Andrew Jackson and Stephen A. Douglas, Silas passed on his Democratic affiliation to his son, William, who would remain a life-long Democrat.
After graduating from Whipple Academy, Bryan entered Illinois College, which was also located in Jacksonville. During his time at Illinois College, Bryan served as chaplain of the Sigma Pi literary society. He also continued to hone his public speaking skills, taking part in numerous debates and oratorical contests. In 1879, while still in college, Bryan met Mary Elizabeth Baird, the daughter of an owner of a nearby general store and began courting her. Bryan and Mary Elizabeth married on October 1, 1884. Mary Elizabeth would emerge as an important part of Bryan's career, managing his correspondence and helping him prepare speeches and articles.
Bryan established a successful legal practice in Lincoln with partner Adolphus Talbot, a Republican whom Bryan had known in law school. Bryan also entered local politics, campaigning for Democrats like Julius Sterling Morton and Grover Cleveland. After earning notoriety for his effective speeches in 1888, Bryan ran for Congress in the 1890 election. Bryan called for a reduction in tariff rates, the coinage of silver at a ratio equal to that of gold and action to stem the power of trusts. In part due to a series of strong debate performances, Bryan defeated incumbent Republican Congressman William James Connell, who campaigned on the orthodox Republican platform centered around the protective tariff. Bryan's victory made him only the second Democrat to represent Nebraska in Congress. Nationwide, Democrats picked up seventy-six seats in the House, giving the party a majority in that chamber. The Populist Party, a third party that drew support from agrarian voters in the West, also picked up several seats in Congress.
Bryan sought re-election in 1892 with the support of many Populists and he backed Populist presidential candidate James B. Weaver instead of the Democratic presidential candidate, Grover Cleveland. Bryan won re-election by just 140 votes, while Cleveland defeated Weaver and incumbent Republican President Benjamin Harrison in the 1892 presidential election. Cleveland appointed a cabinet consisting largely of conservative Democrats like Morton, who became Cleveland's secretary of agriculture. Shortly after Cleveland took office, a series of bank closures brought on the Panic of 1893, a major economic crisis. In response, Cleveland called a special session of Congress to call for the repeal of the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which required the federal government to purchase several million ounces of silver every month. Though Bryan mounted a campaign to save the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats successfully repealed it. Bryan was, however, successful in passing an amendment that provided for the establishment of the first peacetime federal income tax.
As the economy declined after 1893, the reforms favored by Bryan and the Populists became more popular among many voters. Rather than running for re-election in 1894, Bryan sought election to the United States Senate. He also became the editor-in-chief of the Omaha World-Herald, although most editorial duties were performed by Richard Lee Metcalfe and Gilbert Hitchcock. Nationwide, the Republican Party won a huge victory in the elections of 1894, gaining over 120 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In Nebraska, despite Bryan's popularity, the Republicans elected a majority of the state legislators and Bryan lost the Senate election to Republican John Mellen Thurston. Bryan was nonetheless pleased with the result of the 1894 election, as the Cleveland wing of the Democratic Party had been discredited and Bryan's preferred gubernatorial candidate, Silas A. Holcomb, had been elected by a coalition of Democrats and Populists.
After the 1894 elections, Bryan embarked on a nationwide speaking tour designed to boost free silver, move his party away from the conservative policies of the Cleveland administration, lure Populists and free silver Republicans into the Democratic Party and raise Bryan's public profile before the next election. Speaking fees allowed Bryan to give up his legal practice and devote himself full-time to oratory.
After graduating from college at the top of his class, Bryan studied law at Union Law College (which later became Northwestern University School of Law) in Chicago. While attending law school, Bryan worked for attorney Lyman Trumbull, a former senator and friend of Silas Bryan's who would serve as an important political ally to the younger Bryan until his death in 1896. After graduating from law school, Bryan returned to Jacksonville to take a position with a local law firm. Frustrated by the lack of political and economic opportunities in Jacksonville, in 1887 Bryan and his wife moved west to Lincoln, the capital of the fast-growing state of Nebraska.
By 1896, free silver forces were ascendant within the party. Though many Democratic leaders were not as enthusiastic about free silver as Bryan was, most recognized the need to distance the party from the unpopular policies of the Cleveland administration. By the start of the 1896 Democratic National Convention, Congressman Richard P. Bland, a long-time champion of free silver, was widely perceived to be the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination. Bryan hoped to offer himself as a presidential candidate, but his youth and relative inexperience gave him a lower profile than veteran Democrats like Bland, Governor Horace Boies of Iowa and Vice President Adlai Stevenson. The free silver forces quickly established dominance over the convention and Bryan helped draft a party platform that repudiated Cleveland, attacked the conservative rulings of the Supreme Court and called the gold standard "not only un-American but anti-American."
In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Bryan argued that the election represented "a contest between democracy and plutocracy." He also strongly criticized the U.S. annexation of the Philippines, comparing it to the British rule of the Thirteen Colonies. Bryan argued that the United States should refrain from imperialism and should seek to become the "supreme moral factor in the world's progress and the accepted arbiter of the world's disputes." By 1900, the American Anti-Imperialist League, which included individuals like Benjamin Harrison, Andrew Carnegie, Carl Schurz and Mark Twain, had emerged as the primary domestic organization opposed to the continued American control of the Philippines. Many of the leaders of the league had opposed Bryan in 1896 and continued to distrust Bryan and his followers. Despite this distrust, Bryan's strong stance against imperialism convinced most of the league's leadership to throw their support behind the Democratic nominee.
At Governor Silas A. Holcomb's request, Bryan recruited a two thousand man regiment for the Nebraska National Guard and the soldiers of the regiment elected Bryan as their leader. Under Colonel Bryan's command, the regiment was transported to Camp Cuba Libre in Florida, but the fighting between Spain and the United States ended before the regiment was deployed to Cuba. Bryan's regiment remained in Florida for months after the end of the war, thereby preventing Bryan from taking an active role in the 1898 midterm elections. Bryan resigned his commission and left Florida in December 1898 after the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris.
Bryan had supported the war to gain Cuba's independence, but he was outraged that the Treaty of Paris granted the United States control over the Philippines. While many Republicans believed that the United States had an obligation to "civilize" the Philippines, Bryan strongly opposed what he saw as American imperialism. Despite his opposition to the annexation of the Philippines, Bryan urged his supporters to ratify the Treaty of Paris; he wanted to quickly bring an official end to the war and then grant independence to the Philippines as soon as possible. With Bryan's support, the treaty was ratified in a close vote, bringing an official end to the Spanish–American War. In early 1899, the Philippine–American War broke out as Filipinos under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo sought to end American rule over the archipelago.
McKinley won the election by a fairly comfortable margin, taking 51 percent of the popular vote and 271 electoral votes. Democrats remained loyal to their champion after his defeat; many letters urged him to run again in the 1900 presidential election. William's younger brother, Charles W. Bryan, created a card file of supporters to whom the Bryans would send regular mailings to for the next thirty years. The Populist Party fractured after the election; many Populists, including James Weaver, followed Bryan into the Democratic Party, while others followed Eugene V. Debs into the Socialist Party.
Because of better economic conditions for farmers and the effects of the Klondike Gold Rush, free silver lost its potency as an electoral issue in the years following 1896. In 1900, President McKinley signed the Gold Standard Act, which put the United States on the gold standard. Bryan remained popular in the Democratic Party and his supporters took control of party organizations throughout the country, but he initially resisted shifting his political focus from free silver. Foreign policy emerged as an important issue due to the ongoing Cuban War of Independence against Spain, as many Americans supported Cuban independence. After the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, the United States declared war on Spain in April 1898, beginning the Spanish–American War. Though wary of militarism, Bryan had long favored Cuban independence and he supported the war. He argued that "universal peace cannot come until justice is enthroned throughout the world. Until the right has triumphed in every land and love reigns in every heart, government must, as a last resort, appeal to force".
The 1900 Democratic National Convention met in Kansas City, Missouri, the westernmost location that either major party had ever held a national convention. Some Democratic leaders opposed to Bryan had hoped to nominate Admiral George Dewey for president, but Bryan faced no significant opposition by the time of the convention and he won his party's nomination unanimously. Bryan did not attend the convention, but he exercised control of the convention's proceedings via telegraph. Bryan faced a decision regarding what issue his campaign would focus on. Many of his most fervent supporters wanted Bryan to continue his crusade for free silver, while Democrats from the Northeast advised Bryan to center his campaign on the growing power of trusts. Bryan, however, decided that his campaign would focus on anti-imperialism, partly to unite the factions of the party and win over some Republicans. The party platform contained planks supporting free silver and opposing the power of trusts, but imperialism was labeled as the "paramount issue" of the campaign. The party nominated former Vice President Adlai Stevenson to serve as Bryan's running mate.
Bryan's defeat in 1900 cost him his status as the clear leader of the Democratic Party and conservatives like David B. Hill and Arthur Pue Gorman moved to re-establish their control over the party and return it to the policies of the Cleveland era. Meanwhile, Roosevelt succeeded McKinley as president after the latter was assassinated in September 1901. Roosevelt prosecuted antitrust cases and implemented other progressive policies, but Bryan argued that Roosevelt did not fully embrace progressive causes. Bryan called for a package of reforms, including a federal income tax, pure food and drug laws, a ban on corporate financing of campaigns, a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of senators, local ownership of utilities and the state adoption of the initiative and the referendum. He also criticized Roosevelt's foreign policy and attacked Roosevelt's decision to invite Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House.
It has been suggested by some economists, historians, and literary critics that L. Frank Baum satirized Bryan as the Cowardly Lion in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. These assertions are based partly on Baum's history as a Republican supporter who advocated in his role as a journalist on behalf of William McKinley and his policies.
After the election, Bryan returned to journalism and oratory, frequently appearing on the Chautauqua circuits. In January 1901, Bryan published the first issue of his weekly newspaper, The Commoner, which echoed Bryan's long-standing political and religious themes. Bryan served as the editor and publisher of the newspaper, but Charles Bryan, Mary Bryan and Richard Metcalfe also performed editorial duties when Bryan was traveling. The Commoner became one of the most widely-read newspapers of its era, boasting 145,000 subscribers approximately five years after its founding. Though the paper's subscriber base heavily overlapped with Bryan's political base in the Midwest, content from the papers was frequently reprinted by major newspapers in the Northeast. In 1902, Bryan, his wife and his three children moved into Fairview, a mansion located in Lincoln; Bryan referred to the house as the "Monticello of the West," and frequently invited politicians and diplomats to visit.
Bryan traveled to Europe in 1903, meeting with figures such as Leo Tolstoy, who shared some of Bryan's religious and political views. In 1905, Bryan and his family embarked on a trip around the globe, visiting eighteen countries in Asia and Europe. Bryan funded the trip with public speaking fees and a travelogue that was published on a weekly basis. Bryan was greeted by a large crowd upon his return to the United States in 1906 and was widely seen as the likely 1908 Democratic presidential nominee. Partly due to the efforts of muckraking journalists, voters had become increasingly open to progressive ideas since 1904. President Roosevelt himself had moved to the left, favoring federal regulation of railroad rates and meatpacking plants. Yet Bryan continued to favor more far-reaching reforms, including federal regulation of banks and securities, protections for union organizers and federal spending on highway construction and education. Bryan also briefly expressed support for the state and federal ownership of railroads in a manner similar to Germany, but backed down from this policy in the face of an intra-party backlash.
A growing rift in the Republican Party gave Democrats their best chance in years to win the presidency. Though Bryan would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination, his continuing influence in the party gave him a role in choosing the party's nominee. Bryan was intent on preventing the conservatives in the party from nominating their candidate of choice, as they had done in 1904. For a mix of practical and ideological reasons, Bryan ruled out supporting the candidacies of Oscar Underwood, Judson Harmon and Joseph W. Folk, leaving two major candidates competing for his backing: New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson and Speaker of the House Champ Clark. As Speaker, Clark could lay claim to progressive accomplishments, including the passage of constitutional amendments providing for the direct election of senators and the establishment of a federal income tax. But Clark had alienated Bryan for his failure to lower the tariff and Bryan viewed the Speaker as overly friendly to conservative business interests. Wilson had criticized Bryan in the past, but he had compiled a strong progressive record as governor. As the 1912 Democratic National Convention approached, Bryan continued to deny that he would seek the presidency, but many journalists and politicians suspected that Bryan hoped a deadlocked convention would turn to him.
To help Mary cope with her worsening health during the harsh winters of Nebraska, the Bryans bought a farm in Mission, Texas in 1909. Due to Mary's arthritis, in 1912 the Bryans began building a new home in Miami, Florida, known as Villa Serena. The Bryans made Villa Serena their permanent home, while Charles Bryan continued to oversee The Commoner from Lincoln. The Bryans were active citizens in Miami, leading a fundraising drive for the YMCA and frequently hosting the public at their home. Bryan undertook lucrative speaking engagements, often serving as a spokesman for George E. Merrick's new planned community of Coral Gables. His promotions probably contributed to the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, which collapsed within months of Bryan's death in 1925.
Bryan remained an influential figure in Democratic politics and, after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the 1910 midterm elections, he appeared in the House of Representatives to argue for tariff reduction. In 1909, Bryan came out publicly for the first time in favor of Prohibition. A lifelong teetotaler, Bryan had refrained from embracing Prohibition earlier because of the issue's unpopularity among many Democrats. According to biographer Paolo Colletta, Bryan "sincerely believed that prohibition would contribute to the physical health and moral improvement of the individual, stimulate civic progress and end the notorious abuses connected with the liquor traffic."
In 1910, he also came out in favor of women's suffrage. Bryan crusaded as well for legislation to support the introduction of the initiative and referendum as a means of giving voters a direct voice, making a whistle-stop campaign tour of Arkansas in 1910. Although some observers, including President Taft, speculated that Bryan would make a fourth run for the presidency, Bryan repeatedly denied that he had any such intention.
In the 1912 presidential election, Wilson faced off against President Taft and former President Roosevelt, the latter of whom ran on the Progressive Party ticket. Bryan campaigned throughout the West for Wilson, while also offering advice to the Democratic nominee on various issues. The split in the Republican ranks helped give Wilson the presidency and Wilson won over 400 electoral votes despite taking just 41.8 percent of the popular vote. In the concurrent congressional elections, Democrats expanded their majority in the House and gained control of the Senate, giving the party unified control of Congress and the presidency for the first time since the early 1890s.
Upon taking office, Wilson named Bryan as Secretary of State. Bryan's extensive travels, popularity in the party and support for Wilson in the 1912 election made him the obvious choice for what was traditionally the highest-ranking position in the Cabinet. Bryan took charge of a State Department that employed 150 officials in Washington and an additional 400 employees in embassies abroad. Early in Wilson's tenure, the president and the secretary of state broadly agreed on foreign policy goals, including the rejection of Taft's Dollar diplomacy. They also shared many priorities in domestic affairs and, with Bryan's help, Wilson orchestrated passage of laws that reduced tariff rates, imposed a progressive income tax, introduced new antitrust measures and established the Federal Reserve System. Bryan proved particularly influential in ensuring that the president, rather than private bankers, was empowered to appoint the members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
After World War I broke out in Europe, Bryan consistently advocated for U.S. neutrality between the Entente and the Central Powers. With Bryan's support, Wilson initially sought to stay out of the conflict, urging Americans to be "impartial in thought as well as action." For much of 1914, Bryan attempted to bring a negotiated end to the war, but the leaders of both the Entente and the Central Powers were ultimately uninterested in American mediation. While Bryan remained firmly committed to neutrality, Wilson and others within the administration became increasingly sympathetic to the Entente. The March 1915 Thrasher incident, in which a German U-boat sank a British passenger ship with an American citizen onboard, provided a major blow to the cause of American neutrality. The May 1915 sinking of RMS Lusitania by another German U-boat further galvanized anti-German sentiment, as 128 Americans died in the incident. Bryan argued that the British blockade of Germany was as offensive as the German U-boat Campaign. He also maintained that by traveling on British vessels, "an American citizen can, by putting his own business above his regard for this country, assume for his own advantage unnecessary risks and thus involve his country in international complications." After Wilson sent an official message of protest to Germany and refused to publicly warn Americans not to travel on British ships, Bryan delivered his letter of resignation to Wilson on June 8, 1915.
During the 1916 presidential election members of the Prohibition Party attempted to place Bryan into consideration for its presidential nomination, but he rejected the offer via telegram.
Despite their differences over foreign policy, Bryan supported Wilson's 1916 re-election campaign. Though he did not attend as an official delegate, the 1916 Democratic National Convention suspended its own rules to allow Bryan to address the convention; Bryan delivered a well-received speech that strongly defended Wilson's domestic record. Bryan served as a campaign surrogate for Wilson in the 1916 campaign, delivering dozens of speeches, primarily to audiences west of the Mississippi River. Ultimately, Wilson narrowly prevailed over the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Bryan wrote Wilson, "Believing it to be the duty of the citizen to bear his part of the burden of war and his share of the peril, I hereby tender my services to the Government. Please enroll me as a private whenever I am needed and assign me to any work that I can do." Wilson declined to appoint Bryan to a federal position, but Bryan did agree to Wilson's request to provide public support for the war effort through his speeches and articles. After the war, despite some reservations, Bryan supported Wilson's unsuccessful effort to bring the United States into the League of Nations.
After leaving office, Bryan spent much of his time advocating for the eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right of unions to strike and, increasingly, women's suffrage and Prohibition. Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment, providing for nationwide Prohibition, in 1917. Two years later, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide. Both amendments were ratified in 1920. During the 1920s, Bryan called for further reforms, including agricultural subsidies, the guarantee of a living wage, full public financing of political campaigns and an end to legal gender discrimination.
Bryan served as a member of the Board of Trustees at American University in Washington, D.C. from 1914 until his death in 1925. For some of these years, he served concurrently with Warren G. Harding and Theodore Roosevelt.
Bryan remained married to his wife, Mary, until his death in 1925. Mary served as an important adviser to her husband; she passed the bar exam and learned German to help his career. She was buried next to Bryan after her death in 1930. William and Mary had three children: Ruth, William Jr. and Grace. Ruth won election to Congress in 1928 and later served as the ambassador to Denmark during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. William Jr. graduated from Georgetown Law and established a legal practice in Los Angeles, later holding several federal positions and becoming an important figure in the Los Angeles Democratic Party. Grace also moved to Southern California and wrote a biography of her father. William Sr.'s brother, Charles, was an important supporter of his brother until William's death, as well as an influential politician in his own right. Charles served two terms as the mayor of Lincoln and three terms as the governor of Nebraska and was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 1924 presidential election.
Kazin argues that, compared to Bryan, "only Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had a greater impact on politics and political culture during the era of reform that began in the mid-1890s and lasted until the early 1920s." Writing in 1931, former Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo stated that "with the exception of the men who have occupied the White House, Bryan ... had more to do with the shaping of the public policies of the last forty years than any other American citizen." Historian Robert D. Johnston notes that Bryan was "arguably [the] most influential politician from the Great Plains." In 2015, political scientist Michael G. Miller and historian Ken Owen ranked Bryan as one of the four most influential American politicians who never served as president, alongside Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.
Bryan appears as a character in Douglas Moore's 1956 opera The Ballad of Baby Doe. Bryan also has a biographical part in "The 42nd Parallel" in John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy. Vachel Lindsay's "singing poem" "Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan" is a lengthy tribute to the idol of the poet's youth. Edwin Maxwell, played Bryan in the 1944 film Wilson, Ainslie Pryor played Bryan in a 1956 episode of the CBS anthology series You Are There. The short story "Plowshare" by Martha Soukup and part of the novel Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein are set in worlds where Bryan became president. Bryan also appears in And Having Writ by Donald R. Bensen.
Nonetheless, prominent individuals from both parties have praised Bryan and his legacy. In 1962, former President Harry Truman said Bryan "was a great one—one of the greatest." Truman also claimed: "If it wasn't for old Bill Bryan, there wouldn't be any liberalism at all in the country now. Bryan kept liberalism alive, he kept it going." Tom L. Johnson, the progressive mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, referred to Bryan's campaign in 1896 as "the first great struggle of the masses in our country against the privileged classes." In a 1934 speech dedicating a memorial to Bryan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said
The William Jennings Bryan House in Nebraska was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1963. The Bryan Home Museum is a by-appointment only museum at his birthplace in Salem, Illinois. Salem is also home to Bryan Park and a large statue of Bryan. His home at Asheville, North Carolina, from 1917 to 1920, the William Jennings Bryan House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Villa Serena, Bryan's property in Miami, Florida, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bryan was named to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1971 and a bust of him resides in the Nebraska State Capitol. Bryan was honored by the United States Postal Service with a $2 Great Americans series postage stamp.
Kazin also emphasizes the limits of Bryan's influence, noting that "for decades after [Bryan]'s death, influential scholars and journalists depicted him as a self-righteous simpleton who longed to preserve an age that had already passed." Writing in 2006, editor Richard Lingeman noted that "William Jennings Bryan is mainly remembered as the fanatical old fool Fredric March played in Inherit the Wind." Similarly, in 2011, John McDermott wrote that "Bryan is perhaps best known as the sweaty crank of a lawyer who represented Tennessee in the Scopes trial. After his defence of creationism, he became a mocked caricature, a sweaty possessor of avoirdupois, bereft of bombast." Kazin writes that "scholars have increasingly warmed to Bryan's motives, if not his actions" in the Scopes Trial, due to Bryan's rejection of eugenics, a practice that many evolutionists of the 1920s favored.
A statue of Bryan represented the state of Nebraska in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. In 2019 a statue of Chief Standing Bear replaced the statue of Bryan in the National Statuary Hall.
Currently, William Jennings Bryan is 161 years, 4 months and 10 days old. William Jennings Bryan will celebrate 162nd birthday on a Saturday 19th of March 2022.
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