The Memoirs of William Jennings Bryan

By William Jennings Bryan; Mary Baird Bryan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
GROWTH OF ORATORICAL POWER

MUCH valuable time has been spent in discussing whether or not an acquired trait may be transmitted to descendants. As one moves along in life, he grows less and less sure of a conclusion. One instance clearly supports one side of the controversy--only to be flatly contradicted by a later instance.

Therefore I do not attempt to say how far a certain slender, dark-eyed boy was influenced by the fact that his father had a great interest in oratory and was himself a forceful speaker. Judge Bryan took his son with him to court, and the boy from his seat on the steps of the platform, listened to the arguments of the counsel and to the decisions of the bench.

The first recorded efforts of declamation show that at the age of seven or eight he committed to memory his geography lesson, and then was placed on a little table where he declaimed the same.

Looking through our letters, I find light upon the feeling which he had for his father.

"Our church has no pastor, so we had a kind of prayer meeting in the forenoon on Sunday. I spoke. Afterwards Mr. Chance (Jakie's father) said: 'While our young brother was speaking, I thought of his good old father. How he used to encourage us by repeating the promises of the Bible, and my heart went up in silent prayer that the mantle of Elijah might fall on Elisha, and then I prayed that he might become a shining light and that his influence might be felt far and wide for good.' I tell you, I could not help weeping, nor was I alone, for I felt so un-

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