William Jennings Bryan

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Bryan, William Jennings

(brī`ən), 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman suffrage, public knowledge of newspaper ownership, prohibition, federally insured bank deposits, regulation of the stock market, pure food and drug laws, and several others.

Presidential Hopeful

He practiced law at Jacksonville, Ill., and in 1887 he moved to Lincoln, Nebr. Bryan was a U.S. Representative from 1891 to 1895 but was defeated for the U.S. Senate in 1894. The next two years he spent as editor in chief of the Omaha World-Herald. Having ardently identified himself with the free silverfree silver,
in U.S. history, term designating the political movement for the unlimited coinage of silver. Origins of the Movement

Free silver became a popular issue soon after the Panic of 1873, and it was a major issue in the next quarter century.
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 forces in Congress, he became their most popular speaker in a preconvention drive to control the Democratic national convention at Chicago in 1896.

At the convention his famous "Cross of Gold" speech so swayed the delegates that his nomination for President was assured, even though he was only 36 years old. The Populist partyPopulist party,
in U.S. history, political party formed primarily to express the agrarian protest of the late 19th cent. In some states the party was known as the People's party.
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 also nominated him, but the conservative gold Democrats ran John M. Palmer. The chief issue of the campaign was Bryan's proposal for free and unlimited coinage of silver, which he thought would remedy the economic ills then plaguing farmers and industrial workers. He lost the bitterly fought contest to Republican William McKinleyMcKinley, William,
1843–1901, 25th president of the United States (1897–1901), b. Niles, Ohio. He was educated at Poland (Ohio) Seminary and Allegheny College. After service in the Union army in the Civil War, he returned to Ohio and became a lawyer at Canton.
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, whose campaign was skillfully managed by Marcus A. HannaHanna, Marcus Alonzo
(Mark Hanna), 1837–1904, American capitalist and politician, b. New Lisbon (now Lisbon), Ohio. He attended Western Reserve College for a short time, then entered his father's wholesale grocery and commission business at Cleveland in 1858.
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Bryan controlled the Democratic convention in 1900 and saved the silver plank from removal by Eastern gold factions, but he agreed to put the campaign emphasis on anti-imperialism. Defeated again by McKinley, Bryan in 1901 started the Commoner, a widely read weekly that kept him in the public eye. His reduced party power in 1904 resulted in the compromise nomination of Alton B. ParkerParker, Alton Brooks,
1852–1926, American jurist, U.S. presidential candidate (1904), b. Cortland, N.Y. He practiced law in Kingston, N.Y., and was (1877–85) surrogate of Ulster co., N.Y.
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, a conservative New Yorker, upon a platform dictated by Bryan. Parker, however, disavowed the silver plank, and Bryan unwillingly acquiesced. Parker's overwhelming defeat by Theodore Roosevelt turned the Democrats again to Bryan, who in 1908 was nominated a third time. Roosevelt's candidate, William H. TaftTaft, William Howard,
1857–1930, 27th President of the United States (1909–13) and 10th chief justice of the United States (1921–30), b. Cincinnati. Early Career

After graduating (1878) from Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School.
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, defeated him.

Secretary of State

The last Democratic convention in which Bryan played an important role was that of 1912, where his switch to Woodrow WilsonWilson, Woodrow
(Thomas Woodrow Wilson), 1856–1924, 28th President of the United States (1913–21), b. Staunton, Va. Educator

He graduated from Princeton in 1879 and studied law at the Univ. of Virginia.
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 helped gain Wilson the nomination. Upon his election Wilson named Bryan secretary of state. Bryan was influential in holding the Democrats together during the first 18 months of Wilson's administration, when unity was essential to the enactment of the president's reform legislation. He had little previous experience in foreign affairs but studied international questions conscientiously. With some 30 nations he negotiated treaties providing for investigation of all disputes. Antiwar leanings made Bryan more conciliatory than Wilson toward Germany. His Latin American policies, particularly those involving Nicaragua, caused a good deal of friction. Disliking the strong language of the second Lusitania note drafted by Wilson, in which he felt the president had abandoned America's neutral position, Bryan resigned on June 9, 1915, rather than sign it. However, he supported Wilson in the 1916 election and after war was declared.

Later Years and the Scopes Trial

In the 1920 Democratic convention at San Francisco he fought in vain for a prohibition plank, and in 1924 at New York City he supported William G. McAdoo against Alfred E. Smith, but he was no longer the party's leader. In his later years Bryan, a Presbyterian, devoted himself to the defense of fundamentalism. He addressed legislatures urging measures against teaching evolution and appeared for the prosecution in the famous Scopes trialScopes trial,
Tennessee legal case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools. A statute was passed (Mar., 1925) in Tennessee that prohibited the teaching in public schools of theories contrary to accepted interpretation of the biblical account of human creation.
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 in Tennessee. Although he won the case in the trial court, Bryan's beliefs were subjected to severe ridicule in a searching examination by opposing counsel, Clarence DarrowDarrow, Clarence Seward,
1857–1938, American lawyer, b. Kinsman, Ohio. He first practiced law in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1887 he moved to Chicago, where he was corporation counsel for several years and conducted the cases that the city brought to reduce transit rates.
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. Five days after the trial, Bryan died in his sleep.


See the memoirs (1925, repr. 1971), begun by Bryan and finished by his widow; biographies by W. C. Williams (1936), P. W. Glad (1960), P. E. Coletta (3 vol., 1964–69), L. W. Koenig (1971), and W. Kazin (2006); studies by L. W. Levine (1965) and P. W. Glad, ed. (1968).

Charles Wayland Bryan

William Jennings Bryan's brother, Charles Wayland Bryan, 1867–1945, b. Salem, Ill., was for many years W. J. Bryan's political secretary and business agent. He was publisher and associate editor of the Commoner, mayor of Lincoln, Nebr., and governor of Nebraska.

Bryan, William Jennings


Born Mar. 19, 1860, in Salem, Ill.; died July 26, 1925, in Dayton, Tenn. American statesman. Lawyer by education.

In 1891, Bryan became a member of Congress from the Democratic Party. Demagogically supporting the antitrust and Populist movements, he gained popularity among the petite and middle bourgeoisie, farmers, and part of the working class. He ran unsuccessfully three times (in 1896, 1900, and 1908) for the office of president of the USA. From 1913 to 1915 he was secretary of state in W. Wilson’s cabinet. He supported the economic and political expansion of the USA in Latin America. On the eve of World War I, Bryan proposed a plan for solving world conflicts by means of arbitration. Bryan’s so-called pacifism came into conflict with the anti-German position of the USA and led to his resignation. The reactionary nature of Bryan’s views was revealed when he acted as prosecutor in the anti-Darwinian “Monkey Trial” (1925).

Bryan, William Jennings

(1860–1925) defended Creationism in famous Scopes trial. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 383–384]

Bryan, William Jennings

(1860–1925) political leader, orator; born in Salem, Ill. After practicing law, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., 1891–95) and began to develop his reputation as "the Great Commoner," using his oratorical skills on behalf of the causes of the common folk. He opposed high tariffs and he called for an income tax, direct popular election of senators, a Department of Labor, prohibition, and women's suffrage. Out of office, he turned to journalism and lecturing and when he showed up at the Democratic national convention of 1896 and delivered his famous "Cross of Gold" speech on behalf of free silver, the agrarian West prevailed over the urban East and he ended up with the presidential nomination. He lost, as he would when he ran again in 1900 and 1908. After helping Woodrow Wilson gain the Democratic nomination in 1912, he became Wilson's secretary of state (1913); devoted to establishing arbitration as the solution to international disputes, he resigned in 1915 rather than go along with Wilson's belligerent warnings to Germany; when America entered World War I, however, he supported Wilson. In 1920 he moved to Florida where, participating in the real-estate boom, he made a fortune; he continued his career as a lecturer, known especially for his support of prohibition and of a literal interpretation of the Bible. It was in this last capacity that he made his final public appearance, speaking for the prosecution at the Scopes anti-evolution "monkey trial" in 1925.
References in periodicals archive ?
A progressive internationalist by birth and temperament, similar to Gahagan, fascism and the Second World War fundamentally altered Albert's worldview, which, like Gahagan's, had been heavily influenced by William Jennings Bryan.
124)--as Jake had professed earlier to a passenger on the train to Bayonne--Bill, with a drumstick of chicken in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, pays mock-tribute to William Jennings Bryan, prominent fundamentalist and champion of creationism in the infamous "Monkey Trial" of 1925, whose death Jake Barnes has recently read about in the newspaper:
In 1896, President Grover Cleveland lost control of his party to a populous movement under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan, who was committed to severing our ties to the British financial community.
After his third loss, in 1908, as the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan enjoyed telling the story of the drunk who three times tried to enter a private club.
It was as if Henry Adams had fallen for William Jennings Bryan.
However, there have often been strong ideological movements in American politics, represented by politicians such as William Jennings Bryan, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern.
5% in the less dramatic victory of Taft over William Jennings Bryan in 1908, and significantly reduced from the nearly 80% turnout in the contested election of 1896 between Bryan and William McKinley.
His narrative centers on two key individuals following different trajectories in their political fortunes: William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential candidate whose lack of support at a campaign stop at Madison Square Garden, perhaps due to the overwhelming heat, helped derail his campaign; and the young police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, who is portrayed as one of the few city officials to adequately respond to the dangers posed to the working poor by the heat wave.
Then came the presidential election of 1896, when the Democrats selected the agrarian insurgent William Jennings Bryan as their candidate.
He charts the debate from the Scopes Monkey Trial, where Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan argued about evolution, to the late-'90s Kansas School Board clash to the more recent confrontation in Dover, Pa.
Lee play that fictionalizes the story of the epic 1925 court battle over evolution between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.
During the 1910s, Ford, who employed an army of public relations men to keep him and his company in the news, appeared in American newspapers more frequently than all but four other men: Charles Evans Hughes, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

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