tv The Contenders CSPAN August 3, 2016 2:00pm-3:32pm EDT
1894 for the united states senate and ran against a railroad attorney named john thurston. gained a lot of attention for the senate campaign in 1894. i would liken it to the lincoln douglas debate. he had a series of debates with john thurston, and those gave him great visibility across the nation among the political class. and so he emerged as a national figure at that time. and the country was desperate for leadership, it was -- all the parties were divided. the republicans were divided, and the populous were on the scene. the republicans had won the presidential contest in nebraska in 1892, but the second place vote getter was the populous, and the democrat, cleveland, was far behind. so the democratic party was in deep trouble in this part of the midwest. >> william jennings bryan, one of 14 presidential candidates who lost the election but changed american politics. we're in lincoln, nebraska.
here are more of the words from william jennings bryan from his famous cross of gold speech. >> they tell us the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. we reply great cities rest on our broad and fertile prairies, burn down your cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city of the country. they say environmentalism is good, but we cannot have it -- we have a gold standard because england has we will restore. and then new england has because the united states has. if they dare to come out in the
open fields and attend the gold standard, the good thing, we will fight them to the utter most, standing behind us, producing masses of this nation and the world supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer the demand for gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the bow of labor this crown of thorns. you shall not crucify mankind up on a cross of gold. >> michael kazin, how long was the speech in 1896 and why was it referred to as a cross of gold? >> about 45 minutes long. and cross of gold was a powerful metaphor for a country where most people were christians and william jennings bryan was a very serious evangelical. for him, those who wanted to keep the country on the gold standard, wanted to keep debtors
in debt, wanted to keep interest rates high, wanted to restrict the money. for bryan and many people who supported him, this was a way of keeping americans who were poor poor, americans in debt deeper in debt. a way of keeping the british economy, the supreme economy in the world because the british economy was based on the gold standard. it sounds like a technical issue, but it was an issue of the haves against the have nots, or that's how bryan saw it. to crucify gold would be, of course, connected to pontius pilate crucifying christ. in the same way, bryan and populists and populist minded democrats and republicans, too, thought that the american economy was being run for the interest of those who already had property or those who already had money, those who already had banks and big industries, so there's a class divide in american politics at that time. now we have a lot of anger about
the economy. the anger wasn't focused on money the same way it was then. after all, remember then, every dollar people had in their pockets could be redeemed for a dollar in the federal treasury, first with gold. bryan wanted that to be redeemed in silver as well, the means a lot more dollars could have been minted and coined because there was more silver in circulation than there was gold. really a call for cheaper money, lower interest rates, and greater economic opportunity for a small business person, a farmer, a worker who wanted to be a small business person or farmer. >> in your book, you talk about his charisma and what he meant at that time, he essentially became a celebrity. >> yes. >> he was receiving as many as 2,000 letters a day during the 1896 campaign. >> yes. >> you write about something he did that was viewed as revolutionary, which was campaigning for the office as opposed to william mckinley who had the front porch strategy in
ohio. can you explain? >> mckinley had a lot of money in the campaign. able to get checks from johnny rockefeller, other bigger industrialists. could write him checks, no restrictions whatsoever on campaign donations back in 1896. bryan, because he was running as a candidate of small farmers and workers, couldn't get that kind of money, so he had to go out and campaign for himself, he wasn't going to be able to depend on a large machine to do that for him. a wonderful speaker, loved to speak. as i said before. for him, this was a positive thing. he made a necessity into a virtue, if you will. he traveled 18,000 miles on passenger trains. didn't have his own jet the way candidates do now, didn't have his own railroad car for most of the campaign either, and spoke to as many as 6,000 times in that one campaign, many times a day, for example. so for him, this was an opportunity to become known and also, the only chance he had to
reach americans directly. >> also the first campaigner to use the railroad in this way. to really campaign across the country. steven douglas had done something similar in 1860 in the crisis of the nation, trying to take a campaign swing through the south and parts of the north and revitalize the democratic party. for the most part, after 1860, american presidential candidates sat on their front porch and other people campaigned for them and bryan went out there and campaigned at every whistle stop town in illinois and ohio and virginia and pennsylvania, new york. traveled all over america, bringing his campaign to the people. >> we want to hear from you on c-span 202-737-0030 in the eastern time zone, and
202-737-0020 in pacific and mountain time zones. we're in lincoln, nebraska, home referred to as fairview. william jennings bryan and his wife moved here in 1902. he served two terms and he was born in salem, illinois. walk us through the early years of william jennings bryan and how he ends up here in nebraska. >> he was born in 1860, into a world being transformed. obviously, the railroad growth, the civil war that followed, 1860-1865. too young to serve in the civil war, and that actually came back to again and again in his public life. he had not served in the military, so many men in politics in his period of political activity had served in the military, so he did not have that opportunity as a young man. instead, he read for the bar, went in to practice as a lawyer in lincoln, nebraska, in the 1880s.
started his own law firm, a partnership with dolph talbot and practiced basic law in a urban, growing urban environment in the prairie. and that's when he became active in politics. >> if i could just add, at the time and in many ways still, going to law school was always a good training to go into politics, you always wanted to go into politics, his father, a judge in illinois, a very close associate of stephen douglas in the 1880s and his father helped write the illinois state constitution in the late 1850s. so really politics was in his blood, i think, and he never thought of doing anything else than politics in a serious way. he became a lawyer because he wanted to get involved in politics. he moved through nebraska, the democratic party weak here, and he thought there would be an opportunity for a young man to rise quickly within the democratic party of the state.
>> let me go back to the way he was able to capture the imagination of the country. three times getting the democratic nomination, has that ever happened where you receive a nomination and lost all three times? >> the person you profiled the first time, henry clay, received before the whig party, a nomination, and twice for the whig party, but of course, a little different in 100 years ago. this was a lot more voters, a lot more media, more money involved. this was really, unlike clay, who had a fairly small country in terms of population, america was an industrial country by the early 20th century. this was a modern campaign, all three of them. in a sense, that clay's campaigns were not. >> you write in your book that 14 million americans voted in that election in 1896, and 75% to 85% of eligible voters cast their ballots.
>> almost 80%. >> some women too. women had the vote in colorado. a couple other western states, which he won, actually. but, yes, 80% and that was actually -- the highest percentage of eligible voters in any election for men, who had never had that highest percentage of voters again. >> if you could touch briefly on his senate bid in 1894. >> sure, he started out campaigning to get both the populist and democratic nomination. both part -- the populists were, of course, an insurgent movement in american politics. rapidly rising. they had secured the house in nebraska. and the irony of his 1894 senate campaign is that the republicans win the legislature and the democrats -- democratic candidate actually wins the governorship. and this reverses what had been
the case before. bryan campaigned, largely, there were two debates, one in lincoln and one in omaha. 7,000 people turned out for the debate in lincoln in october 1894 and 15,000 turned out for the debate in omaha. this was a great event to come to this political campaign and be part of it for the public. bryan started out talking largely in the campaign about the income tax. this was an important issue, the democrats had passed the first income tax since the civil war in 1894, and bryan had been part of that. a 2% flat tax on everyone making more than $4,000 a year. so on the rich. he started his debate with john thurston on that issue. and then he went to the union pacific railroad and its
monopoly power, and the silver issue was down on the list in 1894. it was not as significant as it would become in 1896. >> can we talk about the income tax real quickly? >> yes. >> 1895, the supreme court rules that the income tax was unconstitutional. as you can imagine, a pretty radical thing to do for the highest court in the land to say congress passed the law, the president signs that law, and it's not constitutional. that helped to inflame things on bryan's side in the campaign. >> if you could fast forward, the irony, in 1913, the signing of the 17th amendment which stated what? >> that the direct election of senators, you know, bryan is of course expecting to get elected. and hoping to get elected. the republican majority elects john thurston to be the senator from nebraska, another irony, thurston becomes the republican national committee chair in
1896, so bryan runs for president and gets the nomination and the man he ran against in nebraska in 1894 is the republican committee chair for mckinley. >> we'll go downstairs and look at his study in a moment. does this home reflect william jennings bryan? >> in many ways. a great home, and at the time considered a mansion. as you'll see, it's well furnished. he made a lot of money speaking, so in that sense, it was a prize. it was a prize for his career. but he worked here, worked here with his wife mary, very closely. in fact, you'll see a double desk they worked on together. that's important to mention about him is that he and his wife were partners through his career as is often true of political wives now. you don't think that much in the late 19th century of that being true. it certainly was for the two of them. >> bob puschendorf is joining us. he's in the study of william jennings bryan and his wife. thanks very much for sharing
your time and insight with us on c-span's the contender series. >> thank you for having me. >> how does he use that home, and how often was he in that study writing? >> he would have used the study probably daily when he was in lincoln. the study was the heart of the home. as he said. >> we'll have you walk in if you would and show us what the desk looked like and also some of the artifacts on top of the desk. >> this is the partner's desk that he and his wife shared. they would exchange conversation, compose writings, send letters, and help formulate some of the positions that he may have wanted to take for the day. >> on the top of the desk, a copy of the commoner. what was that? why was it significant in his life? i know he has signed the copy
directly in front of you. >> i think it could be stated in the quote from the first edition of the commoner, which i have right here. it says the commoner will be to satisfy if by identity to the common people, it proves to its right to be the name which it has been chosen. >> you've studied the man, this home, you studied his life. what do you find especially interesting about william jennings bryan and how it's reflected in his home, that he moved into back in 1902? >> the home can really tell us a lot about the lifestyles of mr. and mrs. bryan and their family. one of the most important stories that came out of restoration of this house was the role of his wife and the interpretation of her life which is best represented here in this office. >> the two sat directly across from each other and worked on another together, correct? >> they certainly did.
bryan had said his wife was a beloved wife and help mate. >> how much of the material there is original? >> very few pieces much original bryan furnishings survived. these furnishings in this office have been collected to represent what was originally in the room based on very fine 1908 photographs of these spaces. >> if he was seated in that chair adjacent to you, would he feel comfortable? would it feel like his study at the turn of the century? >> it would be very much like his desk at the turn of the century, even the cluttered desk and the open bible. >> bob puschendorf with the nebraska state historical society, we'll check back in with you throughout the program. thanks very much for opening up this home to c-span cameras. james is joining us from west virginia as we welcome your calls and participation in this, the third of our series, looking
at the life and political career of william jennings bryan. go ahead, james. >> caller: i would like to tell us about thomas mast. >> thomas mast. >> thomas mast was a great cartoonist responsible for, among other things, the most popular image we have of santa claus. he was a german immigrant. very popular images of -- he created the images of the democratic donkey and republican elephant. by the time bryan ran in 1896, i don't know if mast was still alive, but politically, he is best known for these really vitriolic and very effective images of tweed, this corrupt boss of tameny hall in the late 1860s and early 1870s and his images of boss tweed looking like a seedy devil, you might say, really helped to bring tweed down, and he was a democratic candidate at the
time, important prosecutor in new york city, samuel tilden, later on candidate for president in 1876, who prosecuted tweed and was able to bring down the tweed wing as it was known. >> rob next from sacramento, california, go ahead, please. >> caller: my question originates from the american president series during the grover cleveland episode, an historian was asked what grover cleveland thought of william jennings bryan, and he said that grover cleveland hated william jennings bryan and then he was cut off and wasn't able to finish. i was kind of curious what did he hate him for and if in fact is that true? thank you. >> you want to take it? >> i'll start, michael, and you can follow up. he didn't like -- grover
cleveland was a hard-money democratic president. he didn't like bryan's position on the silver issue. he particularly didn't like the income tax bryan had champions in the house and had helped pass. but it was the silver issue and breaking with the cleveland administration's repeal of the sherman silver purchase act that most got the ire of glover cleveland. >> cleveland was representative of the old democratic party. the democratic party of commercial interests from the east, especially new york, where cleveland was from himself from buffalo. people believed thomas jefferson, andrew jackson, that the government shouldn't do very much in the economy. during the depression of the 1890s, grover cleveland says that the people should support the government, but the government should not support the people. and this is different from what bryan believed. bryan was in our parlance today, was a liberal. he was a democratic liberal.
he believed the government should be strong enough to help people who couldn't help themselves and redress the balance between corporate power and the power of workers and small farmers. and so -- also cleveland had broken this strike with several troops, and the attorney general at the time, cleveland's attorney general was a railroad attorney at the same time as he was breaking the strike by railroad workers. so for bryan, cleveland was, in the 1890s at least, representative of all he didn't like about his party and all he didn't like about american politics. >> in order to get a better sense, i want to get your reaction to michael kazin's words. he said we lack politicians today who are willing to lead a charge against secular charges whose power is mightier and more steadily deployed than a century ago.
>> bryan was a champion of those who needed help. he was a man of great conviction and one of the things he was trying to do that was most difficult was to take on the economic powerful class that had emerged in american politics, in the american economy, a way that didn't look like class warfare. that was what was so hard for bryan to be able to do, to not appear to be a demagogue, to do it sincerely, to speak to the people without tearing down, but instead attempting to build up. that was a very hard case to make. and he did it beautifully, but it was a very difficult attempt to try and reveal the inadequacies of american society at the time without looking like someone who is just tearing down the american ideals.
>> those are your words. are there parallels to someone today in american politics that would resemble a william jennings bryan? >> i'm not sure. there are people who want to be william jennings bryan. sarah palin, in some ways, tried to be in 1896. an angry populist, people who believe a small greedy elite is after the majority of americans. but, you know, bryan was a representative of a movement, i think. an antimonopoly movement that believed corporate america was taking the country in a revolutionary direction. we have, for better or worse, come to grips or made our peace with big business, and we can't imagine a society in which big business is not there. that was not true for bryan. >> i think just where we are here in fairview, bryan's home, we looked at the desk where he worked with mary bryan side by side.
most businesses were like that in america in the 1870s and 1860s and 1850s. they were partnerships. they were small partnerships, small firms. that period before 1896 was a period of enormous industrial growth. colossal corporations emerging in american society. the pennsylvania railroad employed more people than the united states post office. these were corporations with enormous resources, enormous wealth and enormous power, and most people had experienced a very different america. one of a small partnership and that change was arresting. bryan was really speaking to that massive transition in american society, american life. >> we could talk about money and politics as very early campaigning in this country. i want to let you listen in to
the 1900 campaign in which william jennings bryan talked about the issue of transparency, knowing who was contributing to whom. on the second of his three campaigns to the white house. >> an election is a public affair. it is held for the benefit of the public and is believed to be a means in which people collect and give directions as to the policies to be adopted. there is no sound reason for secrecy in regard to campaign methods and publicity within itself prove a purifying influence in politics. in the sense of this publicity, has increased the favoritism of corporations. people want to know what influences are at work in the campaign that they can better decide whether either party is so obligated to the great corporations as to make it impossible for it to protect the rights of the people. >> from the 1908 campaign with william howard taft.
has anything changed a century later? >> it does sound like the base of that citizens united, doesn't it? yeah, obviously, people with a lot of money want the government to do things they want the government to do. people with little money do too. there's a lot of influence you have if you have a lot of money obviously. and bryan was in favor of public financing of elections. he didn't want private individuals to give any money to elections. he realized that wasn't going to fly at the time. his idea at the time, was to publicize the donations that people give. make sure that everyone knows it's above board. for example, in 1996, johnny rockefeller wrote a check for $250,000 and gave it to mark hannah, and that was not known until after the election was over. bryan wanted that to be known if it happened. 1907 the serious campaign finance law was passed which banned corporations from giving
money directly to campaigns. individuals could give as much money as they wanted to. the connection between influence and money is still something we argue about all the time and fight about all the time. the court has ruled on it. it's an issue which is certainly not dying. >> william is joining us from detroit. good evening. please go ahead. >> caller: good evening. how are you guys today? >> just fine. thank you. >> thank you. >> caller: i had a question i wanted to ask, because i just caught the program and i wanted to understand. william jennings bryan, was he a supporter of the gold and silver standard in currency in america? >> he wanted the money supply based on both gold and silver, which at the time would have meant that more dollars would have been put in circulation, more money out there and prices would have gone up, but that meant also that people who produced crops would have seen
their prices that they were able to get for their crops go up. it meant interest rates would have gone down, because more money would have been in circulation. it sounds arcane and exotic to us today, but the best way to think about it is bryan wanted cheaper money, more money in people's pockets and interest rates to go down so people could borrow more easily. >> he gets the nomination in 1896 and renominated in 1900. what happened in 1904? >> in 1904 the democrats decided to go with a less exciting candidate, a more conservative candidate who they thought could appeal to a more traditional electorate. they nominated a guy that ran for judge before, alton parker, his name was, from new york. a very gray candidate, i think it's fair to say. a man who did not go around the country giving speeches, but he was more like grover cleveland in many ways. he had some of bryan's politics, not none of bryan's charisma and
none of bryan's appeal to ordinary americans. he got killed in a landslide by roosevelt. >> the party comes back to bryan in 1908. why? >> well, the party is in great need of a leader, and it's a party that's divided by region. it's had a great deal of difficulty uniting around a candidate and making its voice heard in the national election. bryan is that voice. he's a tremendous, charismatic figure. >> yet you had three republicans william mckinley that is assassinated. teddy roosevelt becomes president and william howard taft elected in 1908. let's go back to something else that was, i guess, rather revolutionary. set up the debate that took place and how that occurred technically speaking in 1908. >> there wasn't actually a
debate the way we have debates now. 1908 was the first time in which both candidates recorded speeches on wax cylinders, which things you can still hear very scratchy renditions of them. perhaps you'll play one that the library of congress owns some of these copies. this was the original short-playing record. they didn't last very long. two or three minutes, but they went into studios and recorded them. this was bryan who sold these to campaign supporters. it was a way to hear bryan and taft without speaking to you directly. of course, we take that for granted now, but this was a new idea at the time. >> one of the campaign buttons of william jennings bryan in 1908, we begin with the words of william howard taft followed by william jennings bryan. >> i had known a good many people who are -- i have known a good many regular attendants in church and distant members that religiously, if you choose to use that term, refuse to contribute to foreign makers.
i did not realize the immense importance of foreign missions. the truth is we have to wake up in this country. we are not all there is in the world. there are lots besides us, and there are lots of people besides us that are entitled to our airports and our money and our sacrifice to help them on in the world. >> imperialism is the policy of an empire, and an empire is a nation composed of different races living under varying forms of government. a republic cannot be an empire, for the public wrestles with the theory that government has their powers from the consent of govern and colonialism violates this theory. our experiment is colonialism has been unfortunate. instead of profit, it has brought loss. instead of strength, it has brought weakness. instead of glory it has brought humiliation.
>> the words of william mckinley and taft. taft goes on to win the election in 1908. did william jennings bryan change as a candidate from his first race in 1896 to his third bid in 1908 and what issues dominated the debate? >> the key issue in 1896 was the gold and silver issue and the issue of the depression and sort of class divisions in that sense. regional divisions. the big issue in 1900 was imperialism. the u.s. was fighting in the philippines to try to stop the philippine independence movement from winning a war of insurrection against the u.s. occupation of those islands. that was a big issue in that campaign. 1908 there were several issues. bryan tried to make the power of the trust, the power of big corporations the issue. his slogan "shall the people rule." taft was perceived as progressive at the time. he was the secretary of war under roosevelt. roosevelt is a progressive president.
in many ways similar it to if some of your viewers remember, george h.w. bush in 1988 running as sort of the hand-picked successor to ronald reagan. george h.w. bush was not a tremendously charismatic figure certainly, but if people liked reagan, they thought if you like reagan, i guess i can vote for bush. similarly, people liked roosevelt tend to think, we'll be safe with taft. that's why he won. so bryan tried to use a lot of the same rhetorical techniques. he went out to talk to hundreds of thousands of people in that campaign as he did before, but it wasn't very successful. the country was prosperous again after a sharp recession in 1907. so times are fairly good. taft was popular because he was the hand-picked successor to a very popular president theodore roosevelt, so bryan couldn't get much traction that year.
>> his closest race was 1896, as we look at the election results. we're joined by marie joining us from connecticut. welcome to the conversation. go ahead, marie. >> caller: thank you very much. i'd like to know how did william jennings bryan come to live in miami, florida? >> in fact, boca raton, florida -- coral gables, florida. >> his wife mary contracted very bad, really crippling arthritis when she lived in this house, actually. she couldn't live in the winter climate of nebraska any longer. so miami was beginning to be a place for older people to go if they could afford to, and also he had been in the south before, he had a lot of strong supporters in the south. so they'd go to miami and stay at friends' houses before and they decided to move there. it was a very good move for mary certainly.
>> you tell a story in the book about how he was used to help bring other people to coral gables, including the venetian pool that's still there today. >> he became a promoter. in the 1920s, after he had given up all hope of becoming president, he began to make some money giving speeches for land promoters. this was not one of his, you know, more sort of honorable adventures, perhaps, but after all, he needed to make money and he did. >> again, just to understand this period, we move into 1912, and a democrat finally wins the white house but it's not william jennings bryan. >> right. it's woodrow wilson. and the democrats had struggled for some time, and bryan had led much of the struggle against the republican party, and really for the votes of working people, i think, and the broad middle class. the republicans were able over that period to co-op many of the issues that the populists and
democrats had brought forward and develop their agenda as a progressive party. theodore roosevelt was the master of this, and bryan and the democrats had a very difficult time reaching that broad middle class and convincing voters that they could bring progressive change, not radical change, but progressive change. wilson was able to do that. he was a professor at princeton, he was governor of new jersey, a very moderate reformer but a progressive reformer, and he was able to succeed where bryan was not. >> you want to follow-up? >> the only reason wilson won is because the republican party split in 1912. taft proved not to be a really progressive successor to roosevelt, at least roosevelt doesn't think so and he tries to wrest the nomination away from taft in 1912. fails to, then goes out and becomes a nominee of this new progressive party. so if the republicans had stayed
united, we'll never know what would have happened but it's quite possible wilson would not have been elected. >> michael kazin, the author of the life of william jennings bryan. and josh joins us from phoenix. good evening. welcome to the program. >> caller: good evening. great show. thank you for your show. i wanted to ask something a little different. i wanted to see if the gentlemen could speak to mr. bryan's foreign policy attitude and what he thought about, say, the spanish-american war or american european colonialism. if he ever went abroad, and what would the gentlemen think how he would handle, for example, now
afghanistan and iraq and the invasion? i mean, what was his mindset back then in terms of, you know, how the major colonial powers around the world were going into other countries and, you know, controlling them and such? what was his theory about that, about all of that and how did he feel? in general his foreign policy. thank you very much. >> josh, thanks for the call. he served as our 41st secretary of state. maybe that best reflects his views on foreign policy. >> in some ways really before that it does. after all, he served in the spanish-american war, but once the war ended, he opposed the occupation of the philippines. he was an anti-imperialist. at a time when there was a very large anti-imperialist constituency in the united states. he did travel around the world for the whole year with his family from 1905-1906, financed by william randal vi, who he wrote articles for.
he went to indonesia, which was then controlled by the dutch, india controlled by the british. he stopped and denounced the european powers who controlled those not countries. in principle, he was opposed to rich countries dominating and owning poor countries. that doesn't mean he was opposed to all wars. he was opposed to what he thought of as unjust wars, and when secretary of state, he resigned as secretary of state in 1915 because he thought united states was about to enter world war i. after the lose lusitania had been torpaidoes by a german u-boat. the u.s. did not get into the war at that time, but he resigned as secretary of state because he was so opposed to world war i. he that it it was an insane war the united states shouldn't be part of it. >> what was his relationship like with woodrow wilson both during the campaign in 1912 and his tenure as secretary of
skate? >> 1912 he does come around to supporting wilson in the convention in baltimore in 1912. he supports wilson in that convention, and it helps to put wilson over the top where he needed two thirds of delegate votes to win. it was an old-style convention, 46 ballots. but he and wilson never were close. wilson had not supported bryan in 1896. wilson was a more conservative democrat up until 1908-1909, and so the two didn't really trust each other. wilson came to this house at one point, came to fairview and was not impressed by it. he was an intellectual and bryan was an non-intellectual. he was disparaging of bryan's intelligence and interest in the world. the two were not close. bryan became secretary of state because it was a political appointment. at the time it was not unusual for the leading figure in the
party, who was not the nominee, to be nominated secretary of state by an incoming president. in many ways wilson expected to be his own secretary of state. one of the reasons bryan was unhappy as secretary of state was he didn't get the responsibility he would have wanted. one thing he did do which shows something about his views about war and peace, he put together -- he convinced various foreign powers to sign peace treaties with one another saying they would not go to war with one another. these were symbolic but he gave them each a little bronze plow share with the line from isaiah being your source into plow shares as a symbol of these treaties. in the end, the treaties did not stop world war i. for bryan as a good christian showing a humanitarian face to the world was one way of acting in more humanitarian ways.
>> larry is joining us from delaware. welcome to the program. go ahead, please. >> caller: thank you for listening to me. i have a religious question about bryan's religion, but i first applaud his efforts to level of playing field for the common man against big business. free enterprise defeating communism. what impact does your panel think bryan's fundamental christian religious beliefs have an impact on his election results? >> thanks for the call. we should point out, too, the bible is open to the book of ezekiel in his desk directly below where we're at in his parlor in fairview. what about the role of religion in his life and his wife's life? >> it's a big question. one of the things about bryan that's important is he never
separated religion and politics. we think of that now as some more conservative people think that you should have a christian government and america is a christian nation. but for bryan his christianity was applied christianity. it was the social gospel. he believed if you were a good christian, you want to go out and save the world and help the poor and help workers and level the playing field as the caller mentioned. so for him his religion and politics were not separate. in some ways, i think, this hurt him among some people that were not evangelical protestants, which most americans weren't at the time, but protestants, jews were lest enthusiastic about him because he was such a crusader and he supported prohibition beginning in 1910 and was a very big supporter of what became the 18th amendment to the constitution. this was a very, you know, divisive issue in american life. he came to prohibition because he wanted to purify the american
body politic. to him this was a christian issue. that meant a lot of people from 1910 on didn't trust him because he was a prohibitionist. >> one side note, he did not drink, but he did enjoy eating. >> oh, yeah. sometimes when he was on the campaign trail, giving all these speeches a day, sometimes he ate as many as six meals a day. and he was known, he could devour three chickens at one sitting. >> if you're just tuning in, this is c-span's contenders series, we're looking at 14 candidates for the presidency all 14 lost, but in their own way, they shaped american politics and in many cases resonate today with the issues they put forth. we're coming to you from his home in lincoln, nebraska referred to as fairview. it's now part of the medical center here in the state capital, and our phone lines are open. 202-737-0001 for viewers in the eastern and central time zones
and 202-737-0002 for the mountain and pacific time zones. this is an exterior view of what the home looks like. you can see the bryan lgh medical center directly adjacent. this home is open to the public. it does offer tours for those of you who travel through lincoln nebraska. nadine is joining us from california. >> caller: hello, this is nadine from near palm springs, california, and i have like a kodak picture in my files. he has a relationship with my family. >> how so? >> caller: and i have genealogy. i'm not a mormon and i research my family and i have 6200 names in it. and i would like to know about buying the book or speeches of what you have and how much it is and where i send the money. >> well, before you get an
answer to that question, we want to ask you who is in the photograph, and what is your connection with william jennings bryan, at least through your own family research? >> caller: as far as i know, he's in a car in this picture. it's like a kodak picture, and he's in the car with -- it's a single -- looks like a single seater with the top down. and i always thought the other man was the one whose name i can't remember who didn't believe in religion. i'm 94 years old and almost 95. i can't remember his name now. but i have this, and he's in my family. i have 6,200 names i've researched, and you know, on my computer. i don't say i'd like to have that one. i research them to make sure they're my relative.
>> stay on the line, and we're going to try to get your phone number if there's a way we can get you connected with mr. kazin directly and his book is called "a godly hero" but stay on the line. we'll get your phone number, and she brings up another part of his life. dayton, tennessee, the monkey scopes trial and clarence darrow. >> i was just going to tell her that we have put all of his speeches from 1896 online on our digital project. if she'd like to use her computer to look at those speeches, there are hundreds of them. every speech he gave in the 1896 presidential campaign is online on the railroads in the making of modern america website that we started here at the university of nebraska, lincoln. >> all the material from this series is available online, 14 weeks looking at presidential contenders, thecontenders.cspan.org is the website.
michael kazin, the scopes trial. >> in many ways william jennings bryan is known if he's known at all for americans is because he was one of the prosecutors in this trial in tennessee in july 1925, which was prosecuting a teacher named john scopes who was teaching the theory of evolution in high school, in dayton, tennessee. you know, what's interesting about this is this issue is still very much alive with us, of course. a large number of americans believe that the bible, you know, the book of genesis is the truth, is what -- how the earth was formed. bryan believed that, too. but it's important to remember also that for bryan, one of the things he disliked about the theory of evolution, he thought it was not just darwinism but social darwinism. he believed it taught the survival of the fittest, that might makes right. he put out a series of lectures
about evolution before the scopes trial, which was entitled "brothers versus brute." for him to be a good christian meant that you were against the theory, the social theory of evolution. he didn't really understand the science very well, but he believed rightly or wrongly that the way the science was being applied by some people that did very well in american society, by some people in the military was that those who were doing well in society were those who should do well, who were biologically inclined to come out on top. this is one of the things he disliked about the theory. again, he was a fundamentalist and he believed what the bible said was true. so he thought school children should not be learning something which could counteract that. >> there is an iconic photograph of clarence darrow and william jennings bryan in 1925 in nnessee. how did the two come together for this historic moment in american history? >> well, bryan was asked by the
prosecution to help in the trial. this was a state law that was passed that year in tennessee. they knew that if bryan helped them this would draw a lot of attention to the case. similarly, once clarence daro, this great defense lawyer, defense lawyer for labor candidates, labor figures like eugene debs and many others, when you hear bryan, a former friend, by the way, was going to work for the prosecution, darrow said he had to be on the other side of the aclu, the american civil liberties union, that begun several years before financed the defense of scopes. one thing that people should know about this. people might have seen the famous movie starring spencer tracy as the darrow character and frederick march as the bryan character. in fact, unlike what the movie shows you, scopes never went to jail. scopes was basically a -- he agreed to be a defendant because
he knew a trial was going to take place somewhere in tennessee. his town of dayton, tennessee, where he taught high school was hurting economically. he wanted to bring business to dayton, tennessee. that's why the trial took place there. wanted to bring some business. technology was a factor. cameras were allowed in the courtroom and it was broadcast nationwide on radio. >> one of the thinks that's so. in the courtroom, it was the contest of the courtroom and crocks that made it so difficult for bryan to say what he readily meant and what he was trying to convey about the importance of creation in his thinking, and
about the social darwinist logic that, as he saw it, was infecting american society, as michael pointed out. he ends his life sort of as a man out of context. unlike 1896, the context of the courtroom in dayton, tennessee, proved very challenging for bryan. >> peter is on the point. good evening, welcome. >> caller: how are you doing? >> caller: i'd like to make one point and then i'll get off you're a -- >> we apologize for that phone call. with he go to arlington, texas culling i'm calling because i've
noticed the gold standard appears to have made a comeback recently. and then people will come out arguing gems the gold standard, gems the federal reserve and for the government's ability to preserve its own currency. those people in particular almost always seem to quote william jennings bryan for their argument. my question for the panel was, if they themselves see in i ways in which her del in 1986 was relevant to the america we live in today. >> ron paul has talked about the federal reserve and even governor perry has been critical of ben bernanke. so to the point of what he was talking about a century ago. >> the gold and silver standard, the legacy of that debate was
among other things a federal reserve system, also getting off the gold standard eventualitily, but what bride withdrawn really wanted and those on his side was a more flexible money supply. they wanted in hard times interest rates to be able to go down and more money in circulation, prosperous times, they were happy to have it go up, the kind of thing the fed does today, actually. at the time now, of course we get into economic trouble like we are now, people look for panaceas, you might say, going back to the gold standard, for example. i think in many ways one of the ways we've been able to avoid economic downturns is because we've had a flexible money supply and the fed has been ability to take charge.
one of the big issues was the great contraction of the major economy. we've lived through a similar contraction, and so i think it's not surprising that some of these issues are coming forward when they are right now. i think the difference is, of course, that bryan's efforts to broaden the money supply were mainly aimed at trying to rescue a class of americans who were struggling deeply with their financial well-being in their situation. and so -- so i don't see that quite playing out today in the same way when the gold standard is being brought up. >> two history professors representing georgetown and university of nebraska at lincoln, michael casesen is the author of a book about william jennings bryan, and also author of "the iron way," the making of
modern america." harold is joining us from youngstown, ohio. good evening. >> caller: good evening. it seems rather ironic that many of the parallels from william jennings bryan day and our day are just amazing. we do see the class war fare argumen argument. ed irony to me is amazingers who would like to take that point? >> well, i think it is interesting to look back at that time, because for bryan, making the argument not only about the money supply, but also about the income tax and the mo gnome reply power, add the corruption
in politics and the trust, all of those things together he was accused of -- or of class war fare, opening the door to class warfare and bringing them up. bryan was trying to lead or from what he saw, he was trying to lead americans to see that is class in power -- he had to frame it in a way that he didn't -- they had seen a series of strike in the last 20 years that looked an awful lot like -- and communist organization and conflict.
it turnedous that the strike of 1877, for example, is with the militia and federal govern bringing out gatling guns and mowing down workers that were striking, that didn't set well with american people. so bryan was walking this thin like. >> he was born in illinois, moved for nebraska where he practiced law, ran for congress, served two terms, and became the democratic presidential nominee in 1896. he moved to this home with his wife mary, and my question is, how did they use the home back in 1902 when they first moved here? it's an interesting combination
of uses. and sleeping chaim primary for entertaining. you can see the wide spaces, the open spaces where he would entertain their friends. and of course the office in which we had seen earlier. >> who would have been here in. >> well, there were a number of prominent deaths. wood row wilson being one of them, but a number of social acquaintances. and we talked about fairview, because it did give you -- of course it's the home of the medical center. >> bryan said the house was one
of the most beautiful vistas of farmland he had ever seen. they chose this site for their new home in 1901. >> what is his legacy, will thomas, here in links nebraska? >> i think he's one of the most famous sons. >> i think he's i think nebraskaens are proud that we have generated people of thinks stature, even though he did not win the presidency, it was an important aspecial to have such a character. >> this being a landmark? his legacy? >> i think he does bring the democratic party into nebraska's history. of course there were democrats here before but he elevateses
democratic party in stature in nebraska. here, obviously he's a major figure in nebraska history, and -- but the local legacy, of course is this home and the hospital which bears his name. >> john is joining us from san francisco, as we look at the life and political career of william jennings bryan. go ahead, please. >> caller: bryan publicly defended the ku klux klan in 1924 democratic national convention. did he also privately embrace the practice of lynching in the south? the 1924 convention in new york city was about whether to denounce the klan by name or not. he believed in a democrats should win over the klan rather
than denounce them. it was unfair so say he was a supporter of the klan. he was not. he was a racist against african-americans, and we consider him that now, but he did not support violence against them. he denounced lynchings, but he was a white supremacist. but i wanted to clarify, his racial views are not so simple as to say he was a klansman or in favor of lynching people without a trial. he wanted -- he supported the views of most white southerners and northerners, and order people, and so in that sense he was certain knoll a modern figure. a he broadly believes in white
supremacy, and he's appealing to votes in democratic south on those determines the. >> what would he think of the democratic party today, which counts solve of african americans as a core constituency. >> he would have been surprised. >> he was a democrat with a small d as well as large d. he didn't know very many black people. in 1896, there was a group of what we called silver republicans, african-americans in omaha, who did support him in that campaign. he had african americans to fairview at different occasions to visit, but political he wanted to stay as far from that issue as he could. in fact the 1908 campaign, the great intellectual activist, one of the founders of the naacp
wanted to support bryan and did support, but bryan would not meet with him, did not want to acknowledge his support, because he was afraid he would lose parts of the white south if he did. good evening, chuck is on the phone. >> caller: good evening. this series has been fascinating, appeared your guests are very being. i had heard at one time that "the wizard of oz" was an allegorical depiction of that election. i would be interested in your thoughts on that. >> had either of you heard that? >> that's one of the great myths of american history. unfortunately -- i used to give lectures about this. it's a wonderful way to teach students about the election of 1896. different figures in that -- in
the first oz book corresponding to figures in that campaign. unfortunately if you look at l. frank baum's biography, it doesn't bear out. he was a window dresser. he dressed windows in department stores. for him, the artifice of the design of the department store windows was one way he saw american society developing. for him the wizard of white house was a figure of commercial art i fills, so baum i think would have been surprised by the allegorical meanings that people found. even though it's an entertaining way to look at it, unfortunately it's probably not true. in 1999 we sat down with ka are rove, and he talked about how he tried to take some of the lessons from the campaign for george w. bush to 2000.
>> one of the things the campaign did was established the republican party in presidential elections at least, as the majority party. there was really no majority party in the gilded age from 1868 to roughly '72, until '86. what karl rove wanted to do was produce a new republican majority based on what he would have seen as the most forward-looking in the business community and also a pretty heterogenous group of middle-class american voters. one of the ways was a very large group growing. mckinley tried to apeat to european immigrants tess, and his was abled to in most of them
became republicans for various reasons, so rove saw not just mckinley, but mark hannah, the empresario of mckinley's career produces this new republican majority he was not as successful a president. >> wrm jennings bryan served two terms, went on to run for the presidency on three separate indications beginning in 1896. frank is joining us from salem, illinois. go ahead, please, the birthplace of william jennings bryan. >> caller: yes, his birthplace is open to the public on as you call it --
>> that's a side that people don't really know about. >> then governor of nebraska was -- what was his first name again? coming out of that tumultuous convention. it was more because of his name than because his older brother pushed him. at that time william jennings bryan was a divisive figure in the party, but the bryan name was -- the democrats hoped would enible them to win a lot of
world votes. so charles bryan, his nomination as vice president by the democrats was an attempt to keep some of the progressive farm vote on their side for the most part it did not succeed. go ahead, terry. >> caller: gentlemen, very interesting you stated that william jennings bryan was a fundamental and progressive, and i believe states like kansas and nebraska, which had large fundamentali populations were also during his progressive. today they are extremely conservative. what happened?
>> will thomas, what did happen? . >> that's a great question, i think the impressionism had a great deal to do with the economic conditions of his day. the prosperity changed that, in ways that bryan couldn't have predicted. in terms of today's conservativism, bryan also foreshadows some of that in his commit me commitment but he faith was based around a social gospel movement, helping those in the cities, helping those in needs and that branch of christian
and the iron way, the rail roads, the work of will thomas. you've been patient, chris, thank you for waiting, from austin texas. >> caller: >> caller: thank you for taking my call. there was a similar move in europe, and the advent of christian democracy going on as well. it seems there's no really outlet for -- for a position like that within today's two major parties, but i was wonderi wondering, you know, i think that there's actually a big constituency for that if there was an outlet for it. i wanted to get your take on what you think the possibilities of a bryan type of position would have today in american politics?
>> thanks for the call and the question. >> well, you know every politician today, whatever their ideological position, in a sense has to be at least -- at least has to appear to be a religious person, whether they go to church or not. so in that sense, everybody who has a chance is a religious person, and so far, but i think, though, that it's -- most people on the liberal side of politics, mistrust, people who talk too much about their religion in politics, and most people on the conservative side want that religious talk to be focused primarily on issues of the body, you might say, issues of person piety, of person responsibility, of abortion, same-sex marriage, of this kind of things, stem
cells, and so forth. so the kind of social christianity that, as you say, many christian democrats in europe stood for and certainly bryan stood for, i don't see that really as a real possibility, at least in the near future. one actually figure who is important to realize is we have a national holiday. martin luther king. many so we in some ways there's a lot of differences between bryan and king, race among others, but we have a national holiday after somebody who did try to put together what you might call a conservative not quite fundamentalist, but certain sense of biblical truth and also a very left-wing belief about economic issues. >> on a separate note, the connection between william jennings bryan and arbor day,
what is it? >> this goes to nebraska again. his mentor in the democratic politics in nebraska was a man who was a leading figure, but became the father of arbor day, was a way to bring getting sterling morton, as a way to bring more business, really, to this part of the plains. >> caller: my question was about the australian ballot, the 1908, did bryan ever talk about the need for a secret ballot, or would it affect the outcome? i had read anecdotally, where there were -- where employees put in the right ballot, things like that. is that true?
did bryan ever talk about it? >> thanks for the call. these accusations were made especially in nebraska with regard to the burlington railroad, that it had in fact released all of its men from its western job sites and brought them into omaha or lincoln and told them which way to vote. so that kind of activity led politicians like bryan and others to object and to call for the kind of secret ballot that would allow individuals to vote for who they wanted without the pressure of corporate interests
in the election. our next caller comes to you from reno, nevada. go ahead, please. let's go to nancy. >> caller: i acfrom nancy sawyer, home of the scopes trial. i'm not old enough to remember it, but i know several people that were there, and it was a -- and the drug stores was there for many years, and the table
where it all started, and as i united states it let's do something exciting or unusual. so that's how it got started. as the older people have told my. dayton has since grown into a -- it has a play on the anniversary depicting the trial, and it is a very interesting place for people to come from all over the united states to see, and i -- i just wanted to say that we were kind of dubbed as the monkey town for a long time, but now we're known as home of the scopes trial. i did not know william jennings bryan, but i did meet clarence
dar row at a tea held for him by the women of dayton. we're glad that it happened there, and as i was told, it was kind of started for chattanooga, and chattanooga didn't really want it, so they decided to bring it to dayton. it has brought much economy to the city of dayton. >> well, nancy, thank you for calling and sharing your firsthand account to that famous trial. thoughts from either of you? >> actually talking about tourism, there's a very good museum in the basement of the courthouse in dayton, tennessee, about the trial and about the reception of it around the world. you can also visit the courtroom itself the famous close exami s
examines, and if you think about it -- 3,000 people were probably in attendance. this is the kind of trial -- we don't have that kind of trial today, but it was, as she said a carnival, and did help the economy of dayton a good deal, an economy which needed help. >> let's talk about the legacy of bryan as it kales to women's rights and prohibition and the income talks and -- tax. >> michael kazan beautifully handles this in his books, the legacy itself is damaged by the end of the scopes trial, and particularly h.l. minken's obituary of bryan, which depicts him as just a bumbling back
country kind much misguided figure in 1924, 1925, that period, so his legacy is tarnished, really at the end of his career by this. michael's book i think recovers bryan's legacy beautifully. all of the reforms that he championed, women's rights in particular, the right to vote, the surraj, which was an active issue in the 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, and bryan was at the forefront of it. other issues as well were ones that he was deeply involved in from the beginning. >> i emphasize this in the book, i think one of the legacies is in many ways without bride yang you don't get wills or franklin roosevelt. i think he was a major figure of containinging the party.
he does forge a very strong relationship, a relationship that for the most part as remained for the last century between that movement than party. i think he was a -- into the reportedly -- that is wanting the government to be stronger to serve the interests of working people, of people who are down on their luck. so in some ways, that is an important legacy, which doesn't on which get credit for it. >> this is a what-if president. had he been elected president, what kind of president would he have been? >> i don't think a very good one. i think hi still could put forth ideas, rally people to support those ideas, but he was probably
not a very good administrator. he wasn't very good as secretary of state. as president he would have been a very divisive figure and different for him to work directly with the opposition party in congress. >> time for one more call. mark is joining us from dallas. go ahead, please. pinches did blackburn run against william jennings bryan for the nomination? can you tell me about that? which was on -- back in the day they really were -- the domination was decided at the convention. 1900, by the time they got to kansas city, it was pretty clear
that the nomination would go to bryan again. so. >> mayor cuomo delivers the keynose and in 2004, state senator barack obama delivers the keynote address. many say that propelled him to the presidency. are there parallels to william jennings bryan? >> obama in that sense is a parallel, certainly, though as will said, he was better known to americans than obama was, which might seem surprising, but bryan was gives speeches all over the country to pro-silver crowds. hubert humphrey gave a famous speech for civil rights in 1948, which sort of put the u.s. -- excuse me -- put the democratic party for being on record for civil rights, which had never
been before. we have no other parallel in american political history, where someone gives a great speech i realize what about today? are there parallels to other modern politicians? >> i think obama's speech -- and vaulted him to. >> the sense that both of them -- and the kind of sincerity and speaking across a broad range of public, and really speaking outside of their party as well. both of them are able to do that in those on settings. they're give in other ways, but there is a similarity. >> william thomas is the chair, and michael kazan, you put the book "a godly hero" together when? >> i started doing research on
it around 1996, about 100 years after. it was published in 2006. >> we pressure your perspective. and thank you for the staff here at the william jennings bryan home who opened their doors to the c-span cameras and staff and administration at the center which makes up the campus we are at. obvious called fairview. we want to leave us with more of the words of william jennings bryan. you can check it out on cspan.org, the contender series, but in the words of william jennings bryan, what made an ideal republic? here is what he had to say. >> resting securely on the foundation stone quarried by revolutionary patriots from the mountain of eternal truth. a republic applying in practice and proclaiming to the world that the self-evident propositions that all men are
created equal, endowed with inalienable rights, that governments are instituted among men to secure these rites and governments derive their just power. behold the republic in which civil and religion on you liberty -- and in which the law restrains every hand uplitted for a neighbor's injury. a republic in which every citizen is a sovereign, but in which no one cares to wear a crown. if you missed any part of this program, we'll air it again tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on c-span3.
and proclaiming to the world the self-evident proposition that all men are created equal, that they're endowed with inalienable rights and to secure these rights, and government derive from the consent of the government. william jennings bryan is one of the nebraska's most famous and prominent politicians, probably most famous for the fact he was nominated three times by a major party, the democratic party, but he lost the election all three times. they moved to lincoln in 1887, bryan was a lawyer in central illinois, and he went into kansas to collect some debts in connection with the law practice. he said i'm going to stop in lincoln to visit an old law school friend of mine from law
school in chicago. he saw where lincoln and nebraska were booming. he saw a weak democratic party, so he saw some opportunities there, and he started construction of this house in 1901. he and mary would driveway out into the country on a buggy, and they fell in love with the hill that the house is build on, so they bought ten acres and build the house. construction was started in 1901. it took two years to build it, and then construction was finished in 1903. it's 11,000 square feet. misbryan's budget was $10,000. it was estimated she may have spent as much as $17,000. it's a beautiful house. the main level of the home is used primarily for entertaining,
political events, et cetera. they would host a number of even world leaders would come here, but all kinds of political leaders. i guess the most prominent being wood row wilson came out here to get bryan's support when he was trying to get the nomination in the 1912 convention, which he did get bryan's support, but there were a lot of people international and national leaders that would stop by and see bryan at this home. right now we're in the lower left, where really the main activity of the family took place. we're in the office area, and this is where bryan and mary had their office, did their work. she was a very active partner in his career. very accomplished lady, valedictorian of her college class. got her law degree here at the university of nebraska, studies german so she could read the
european newspapers to see what they were saying about bryan. so she was a very active participant in his political career. this desk is a replica of the desk that was in his study. you can see the two chairs the bryan sat in one, mary sat in the other, reflected the team they were in his political career. there are a couple telephones over there that i would point out that at the time there were two independent telephone companies in lincoln. if you just subscribed to one, you couldn't talk to somebody who just subscribed to the other, so they subscribed to both, of course. here's an example of a political newsletter they published for close to 20 years, which is similar to the standard or the nation or the national review. had a huge