William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9

The Hero of a Lost Cause

I

ON AUGUST 7 the gold Democrats decided to convene in Indianapolis on September 2 and establish a party in opposition to Bryan. That same day Bryan started his march "from Nebraska to the sea" in a train containing James B. Weaver, Horace Boies, other supporters, and many newspaper reporters. He had chosen to be notified in New York, he said, "in order that our cause might be presented first in the heart of what now seems to be the enemy's country, but which we hope to be our country before this campaign is over." 1 The East tore the phrase "enemy's country" from context and threw it back at him for the rest of the campaign.

In every state along his route, despite a heat wave that killed ten persons in New York alone on August 9 and 25 on August 10, large crowds gathered to hear Bryan. In Canton, where Richard Parks Bland joined him, he yielded to a sudden impulse and called with the Missourian upon a very surprised William McKinley. "My dear," said McKinley to his wife, "this is Mr. Bland whom Mr. Bryan defeated for the Democratic nomination for president." Turning to Bland he said, "Bland, you should have been nominated; you were the logical candidate and the strongest man your party had." Bland replied: "I am satisfied if my party is." 2

Bryan avoided extensive discussion of political questions on his trip, but he made his first mention of the fact that the laborer was being coerced to vote against him, and his stated objective of "capturing and holding the common man" frightened conservatives. He was "a complacent soul who pandered to ignorance and appealed boldly to mob unrest and passion with his cry of 16 to 1 in order to counter the loss of those with business, professional, and law abiding sense,"

____________________
1
Omaha Bee, August 8, 1896; William J. Bryan, The First Battle, p. 300.
2
New York Times, Omaha World-Herald, August 6-9, 1896; William V. Byars (ed.), An American Commoner: The Life and Times of Richard Parks Bland; a Study of the Last Quarter of the Nineteenth Century, p. 298.

-161-

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