William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13

Low Ebb: 1901-1904

I

AFTER the election of 1900 Bryan refused various offers in the field of journalism and declined to run for the Senate, saying, "I made my fight for the presidency and lost. I am not going to take other men's positions away from them." He continued to lecture and to write. He also brought to fruition an idea he had harbored since 1895, a small weekly journal of opinion that would sell for only five cents a copy or a dollar a year, and that would provide him with a permanent and profitable business that would multiply his political influence by reaching thousands of people every week. There was no doubt, therefore, that he meant to continue in agitation the issues left unsettled since 1896. 1

Knowing that he could not both manage and edit The Commoner, as he named his journal, Bryan engaged his brother, Charles Wayland Bryan, as business manager, J. R. Farris as superintendent of publication, and Richard L. Metcalfe as his associate editor, the last at double his Omaha World-Herald pay. He and Metcalfe saw eye to eye; it is difficult to tell whether an editorial is written by Bryan or Metcalfe or, for that matter, by Charles Wayland Bryan or by Mary Bryan, who contributed frequently. Bryan was rarely in The Commoner offices, in downtown Lincoln, but he made them a model by providing good working conditions, paying 50 per cent over prevailing wage rates, and having his workers observe an eight-hour day. He wrote his editorials at home or mailed or telegraphed them to Charles if he were away. With press work hired out, he had to invest nothing in plant and ma-

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1
Each of the three weeklies furnished to party workers, the National Democrat, National Watchman, and Working Democracy, was in financial straits in 1900. Abbot, Jones, and Johnson, of the National Committee, and Bryan could not agree on a merger, and each eventually disappeared, The Commoner taking over the National Watchman. Abbot to Bryan, November 11, 1900, December 30, 1901, Blair Lee to Bryan, January 10, 1901, J. K. Jones to Bryan, November 12, 1901, William Jennings Bryan Papers; Commoner, February 3, September 6, 1901.

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