William Jennings Bryan


William Jennings Bryan : biography

March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925

Presidential election of 1900

Conservatives in 1900 ridiculed Bryan’s eclectic platform He ran as an anti-imperialist in 1900, finding himself in alliance with Andrew Carnegie, as well as others who had fought against silver. Republicans mocked Bryan as indecisive, or a coward, a point which L. Frank Baum satirized viciously in the Bryan-like Cowardly Lion in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in the spring of 1900.John G. Geer and Thomas R. Rochon, "William Jennings Bryan on the Yellow Brick Road," The Journal of American Culture Volume 16 Issue 4, (June 2004) Pages 59 – 63

Bryan combined anti-imperialism with free silver, saying:

The nation is of age and it can do what it pleases; it can spurn the traditions of the past; it can repudiate the principles upon which the nation rests; it can employ force instead of reason; it can substitute might for right; it can conquer weaker people; it can exploit their lands, appropriate their property and kill their people; but it cannot repeal the moral law or escape the punishment decreed for the violation of human rights.Hibben, Peerless Leader, 220

In a typical day he gave four hour-long speeches and shorter talks that added up to six hours of speaking. At an average rate of 175 words a minute, he turned out 63,000 words a day, enough to fill 52 columns of a newspaper. In Wisconsin, he once made 12 speeches in 15 hours.Coletta 1:272 He held his base in the South, but lost part of the West as McKinley retained the Northeast and Midwest and rolled up a comfortable margin of victory. McKinley won the electoral college with a count of 292 votes compared to Bryan’s 155. Bryan’s hold on his party was weakened, while his erstwhile allies the Populists had virtually disappeared from the arena.

Chautauqua circuit

Bryan needed money and his powerful voice and 100% name recognition were assets that could be capitalized. Bryan became a celebrity on the ""Chautauqua circuit" giving paid speeches on current events in hundreds of towns and cities across the country. He usually charged $500 per speech in addition to a percentage of the profits.

Bryan owned land in Nebraska and a ranch in Texas; both were paid for with earnings from speeches and his own weekly newspaper, The Commoner.


After the trial, Bryan continued to edit and deliver speeches, traveling hundreds of miles in the next few days. On Sunday, July 26, 1925, he returned from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Dayton, where he attended a church service, ate a meal, and died in his sleep that afternoon (the result of diabetes and fatigue) — just five days after the Scopes trial had ended. School Superintendent Walter White proposed that Dayton should create a Christian college as a lasting memorial to Bryan; fund raising was successful and Bryan College opened in 1930.

Bryan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His tombstone reads "He kept the Faith." He was survived by, among others, a daughter, Congresswoman Ruth Bryan Owen, and her four children: son John Bryan Leavitt and daughter Ruth Leavitt, by her first husband, Newport, Rhode Island artist William Homer Leavitt, and two children by her second husband, British Royal Engineers officer Reginald A. Owen.

John Bryan Leavitt had been adopted by his grandfather, William Jennings Bryan, after his parents divorced. He dropped ‘Leavitt’, shortening his name to simply John Bryan. He became an actor. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,740782,00.html?iid=chix-sphere


Fighting the theory of evolution: 1918–1925

Before World War I, Bryan believed moral progress could achieve equality at home and, in the international field, peace between all the world’s nations.

Bryan opposed the theory of evolution for two reasons. First, he believed that what he considered a materialistic account of the descent of man through evolution undermined the Bible. Second, he saw Social Darwinism as a great evil force in the world promoting hatred and conflicts, especially the World War.Coletta, William Jennings Bryan vol 3 ch 8