William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Road to the Nomination

I

ON MAY 17, 1894, Bryan declined to run again for the House. "If I am foot-loose I can help make combinations, and I might stand a good chance for senator," he had written Gilbert M. Hitchcock in April. 1 He preferred retirement to confinement to a single district. His future political affiliation depended on the outcome of the contest within the Democracy; he would join that wing that promised most for reform. He blasted the Cleveland wing but had kind words and advice for the Populists. If the latter preferred defeat by remaining in the middle of the road to victory by fusion, he would support the best man, regardless of party, who had a chance to win. He trusted his future career to that degree of cooperation between the silver Democrats and fusion Populists sufficient to enable him to take control of the whole of the Nebraska Democracy away from Cleveland. 2

Liberals applauded Bryan's stand. Grover Cleveland and J. Sterling Morton represented laissez faire, a gold standard, interest-bearing bonds, and the East; Bryan stood for progressive reforms, bimentallism, governmental economy without borrowing, and the plain people of the South and West. He should be permitted to retire from the House only if he meant to run for the Senate. 3

On June 21 about three hundred leading Nebraska politicians, judges, editors, businessmen, and civic leaders met by prearrangement in Omaha. The press of the Middle West made much of the fact that, while unofficial, their meeting represented an organized movement by silverites to win control of the official party machinery. "The Talk of All Nebraska" and a topic headlined in the press of the West and South, the convention formed the Nebraska Democratic Free Coinage League, complete from Executive Commitee to precinct captains. The

____________________
1
Letter of April 14, 1894, William Jennings Bryan Papers, Nebraska State Historical Society.
2
Omaha World-Herald, May 18, 1894.
3
Ibid., May 24-26, 1894; Nebraska State Journal, May 18-20, 22, 23, 1894.

-99-

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