William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11

Kansas City

I

THE WAR stimulated industrial and agricultural production, the increase in the gold supply raised prices and strengthened the gold reserve, and McKinley's popularity reached new heights, particularly when many silver Republicans rejoined the fold after the elections of 1898. Meantime Bryan's refusal to subordinate silver to the new trust, imperialism, and militarism issues lost him many friends. The reorganizers were active in various cities and states, especially in New York, without which he could hardly expect to win the election of 1900, and in Chicago. He had no patronage to offer his heterogeneous following, Cleveland and his kind still bitterly opposed him, and those who had seen fusion fail preferred not to fuse again.

Bryan also lost by demanding absolute obedience from his followers and continued attachment to his principles. For example, he rejected Perry Belmont's invitation to attend a $10-a-plate Jefferson Day banquet of the Democratic Club of New York because Belmont had openly repudiated the Chicago platform and had not publicly announced his conversion to it. Bryan had paid eloquent tribute to Jefferson before the Jefferson Club of Lincoln in 1895. By expounding Jefferson's First Inaugural line by line during the campaign of 1896 and in subsequent speeches he had done more than any other public figure to revitalize the image of the Sage of Monticello in the Jeffersonian revival that rolled on from 1880 to its climax in 1900. 1 "Just as a good Christian would revolt at having the sacraments administered by an infidel, so a good Democrat objects to a Jeffersonian banquet presided over by Perry Belmont," Bryan therefore wrote Belmont. Democracy, he added, was defined in the Chicago platform. Since 6,500,000 voters had supported it and only 133,000 had voted for Palmer and Buckner, it was

____________________
1
Merrill D. Peterson, The Jefferson Image in the American Mind, pp. 251, 253, 259-260.

-238-

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