William Jennings Bryan - Vol. 1

By Paolo E. Coletta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15

The Return of the Innocent

I

BRYAN began the campaign of 1908 immediately after the election of 1904. Alton B. Parker's saying that he would never run again left him a clear field, and Theodore Roosevelt's stating that he would not seek re-election led him naively to believe that he would divorce himself from partisan objectives during his "elective term." He therefore told Roosevelt that he had a "Great Opportunity" to be a real reformer. Excluding tariff and currency reform, the rest of the reforms demanded in his own "bold new program" were within reach. Until the federal government acted on these matters he advocated state action on those within the scope of their powers. The states should also seriously consider the subject of old age annuities and state insurance programs and permit cities by franchise to establish municipal water and power plants. 1

On December 10, at the request of the Outlook, Bryan wrote a creed of more than ordinary interest because of its heavy new emphasis on morality. The Democrats had been defeated in 1904 because the reorganizers had shunned the "fixed principle—equal rights to all and special privileges to none." Every great political question had an economic bearing, every economic question was basically a moral question, he said; and moral questions could be settled only by an appeal to "the moral sense" of the nation. Thus only "necessary" taxes should be collected, the "immoral" and "indefensible" trusts should be abolished, a permanent board of arbitration should be established to settle labor problems, and the Philippines should be freed. He propounded a collectivist rather than individualist philosophy and demanded that the Democracy forsake its traditional policy of governmental non‐ interference and accept a stronger central government. The Congress should employ its delegated powers to the fullest extent necessary for the protection of human rights and the public welfare. Lest anyone

____________________
1
Commoner, November 18, 25, December 9, 1904; January 3, February 17, June 9, August 11, 1905.

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