William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 3

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 3

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 3

William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 3

Excerpt

The opportunity is rarely given to a thrice defeated presidential candidate to influence political developments in the nation at large or even to exercise power in his party's councils. Despite his having resigned as secretary of state at a most critical time in the nation's history, William Jennings Bryan nevertheless made his weight felt in various ways until his death. Woodrow Wilson's re-election in 1916 owed much to him; his support aided in unifying the Democracy to win the last election it did win until 1932. Ably aided by his brother, Charles Wayland Bryan, he was an acknowledged force in Nebraska politics as well until 1921, and thereafter, as a resident of Florida, represented that state in the Democratic National Convention of 1924 and could have won election to the United States Senate had he wished.

In foreign affairs Bryan well voiced the feeling of many that Wilson should have compromised on the Covenant of the League of Nations in order to make it acceptable to a Republican-controlled Senate. Although he had little faith in collective security, he spoke for the mild reservationists and would have the United States join the League and then work to improve it. After the failure of the United States to join the League, he strenuously supported world disarmament and continued to press the adoption of his conciliation treaty plan, and his belief that the Allied war and postwar debt would never be repaid strengthened his determination that the United States follow a noninterventionist foreign policy.

But Bryan's last decade was marked more by crusading for moral than for political or diplomatic causes. Devoted to the ideal of peace, he opposed moves to prepare for war and entrance into World War I; devoted to abstinence, he demanded the enforcement of prohibition; devoted to woman suffrage as an ethical advance in politics, he finally saw this reform accomplished; devoted to chastity, he demanded a single moral standard for men as well as for women. Yet the paramount issue of his last years, especially after 1921, was the defense of "revealed" religion.

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