William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

The Solemn Referendum: The Election of 1900

I

BRYAN had been honored singularly, for only twice before had a major party renominated a candidate originally defeated. He was in addition the choice of all the anti-McKinley parties worth mentioning. Without spending a dollar, without the support of largely circulated newspapers, and without guaranteed financial backing, he had kept the leadership of the Democracy. Defeat appeared certain, yet he accepted the nomination out of "duty," he told Charles M. Rosser, because "I can save more senators, congressmen and governors that way than perhaps may be done by any other candidate and the party machinery will be left in better condition." 1

Had Bryan veered from his dedication to the ratio of 16 to 1 his honesty, sincerity, and candor would have been impugned. "Your heroic stand ... not only saved our cause but made you the grandest figure in the civilized world. I believe we are going to win.... God bless you," John Peter Altgeld wrote. 2 He had to keep faith in order to retain the support of the reform parties, yet his success was taken as a personal as well as political victory. Editor Charles H. Gere of the Nebraska State Journal, who bore Bryan no love, attested to his personal magnetism by saying, "Once remove hero worship from the politics [of Nebraska] and Republican control will be permanent," 3 and Judge Edgar Howard told the Omaha Jacksonian Club: "It is time for us to quit saying we are not hero worshippers. Truthfully I confess to you ... that I am. No man has ever confronted me in public or private life who has exercised such an influence over me.... He brightens and betters all those who come into contact with him. Then why not go before the world and preach this man—the personification of purity—as well as his principles?" 4 Said Henry M. Teller: "If there

____________________
1
Charles M. Rosser, The Crusading Commoner, p. 86.
2
Letter, July 7, 1900, William Jennings Bryan Papers.
3
Nebraska State Journal, July 11, 1900.
4
Omaha World-Herald, July 11, 1900.

-263-

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