William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 2

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 2

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 2

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The young William Jennings Bryan could have left a bench mark in history merely with his "Cross of Gold" speech and crusade for free silver in 1896. How he went on to win the Democratic presidential nomination twice more, in 1900 and 1908, and how he acted as the leader of the loyal opposition to the Republican administrations from 1897 to 1908 was described in the first volume of this study. But in 1908, at the age of forty‐ eight, Bryan still had a generation of service to perform for his country. While Woodrow Wilson's managers played an important part in his nomination at Baltimore, none deserves as much singular credit as Bryan does for being Wilson's Warwick. In addition his influence with the "wild [Bryan] men" in Congress aided Wilson greatly in the passage of the New Freedom reform legislation.

Often described as a bucolic figure with a provincial outlook on foreign affairs, Bryan nonetheless served adequately as secretary of state. That he was inconsistent is shown by his anticolonialism with respect to the Philippines but expansionism in the Caribbean, with the answer lying in his nationalistic support of America's strategic position in the Caribbean. That he was dedicated to peace is shown in his handling of problems with Mexico and Japan and particularly in his writing of conciliation treaties. Debate is still possible about his break with Wilson over the method but not over the objective of avoiding war with Germany in 1915, yet one should note that Bryan's ideas were considered fully by Wilson and that a secretary can advise but cannot direct acceptance of his counsel. At any rate, as so often happened with his domestic reform ideas, his suggestions for insulating the United States from war, although spurned by his contemporaries, were adopted by a later generation.

My thanks are due to many for aid with this volume. A grant in aid of research from the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society enabled me to visit numerous manuscript depositories in the South during a sabbatical leave generously granted by the United States Naval Academy. William Jennings Bryan, Jr., gave permission to use the Bryan Papers at Occidental College, Los Angeles; the late Mrs. Woodrow Wilson . . .

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