The Memoirs of William Jennings Bryan

By Mary Baird Bryan; William Jennings Bryan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
EARLY NATIONAL CONVENTIONS

I FORMED early the habit of attending national conventions. It so happened that the Democratic National Convention of 1876 was held in St. Louis, only seventy miles from my birthplace. My father and mother were attending the Philadelphia Exposition at the time, but my enthusiasm reached a point where I decided to go to the convention with some of the other boys--I do not recall that any of them were as young as myself. I sold enough corn to secure the small amount necessary, the railroad fare being only a few dollars and my other expenses being small. I recall that I stayed all night at East St. Louis, sleeping in a room with more than thirty others on cots.

Next day I appeared at the convention hall, but not knowing anyone from whom I could secure a ticket, I had to content myself with standing around watching the distinguished Democrats, to me unknown, go in and out of the convention. But here again my lucky star helped me out. A policeman, taking pity on me, put me in through a window and I had the pleasure of hearing John Kelly make his famous speech against Tilden. That was my initiation into national politics. Since that time I have attended every Democratic National Convention but three, and I was in close touch by wire with two of the three, those of 1900 and 1908. The Cincinnati Convention of 1880, therefore, is the only one that I have actually missed since I was sixteen years old. I was still a college boy in 1880 and Cincinnati was so far from Salem that I was able to withstand the temptation which overpowered me four years before.

When the convention of 1884 was held at Chicago I was living at Jacksonville, but my income was so meager that I decided that I could not afford a trip to Chicago, but here

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