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tv   The Contenders  CSPAN  August 3, 2016 11:05pm-12:38am EDT

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progress and poverty, the american military is tiny. and the only place that it's big is out in the west completing the suppression of native americans. and even then it's not very many people relatively speaking. so i think the military did not loom very large in people's minds. in the late 19th century. it will start to. right around 1880 is when we start to expand our navy. and we start getting certainly navy-wise, building it up in that regard was part of the notion of ourselves emerging as a global power. but i think the military -- i would say george would argue, as did most people in that time period, that the real sources of power that we have to be worried about are these large business tycoons, these large corporations. because this is not just power. it's unelected, untouchable power. unless we decide in the name of the common good, in the name of democracy that we need to rein some of this power in. not eliminate it. not seize control of corporations.
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but find ways to set up some boundaries, some parameters for their behavior. >> all right. thank you very much, folks. [ applause ] our profile of presidential candidates continues thursday night on american history tv with a look at labor leader and socialist party presidential candidate you gene debs. he ran for office five times. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern time here at c-span 3. now, the contenders. our series on key political figures who reason for president and loss, but who nevertheless changed political history. tonight we feature william jennings bryan. this 90-minute program was
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recorded at lincoln, nebraska. this is "american history tv," only on c-span3. good evening, and welcome to what better way to introduce you to the man than hearing directly from him. here's a portion of the speech that he delivered at the democratic national convention back in 1896. it's commonly referred to as the cross of gold speech, which led directly to his first run for the white house at the age of 36. >> we do not come as aggressors. our war is not a war of conquest. we're fighting in defense of our homes, our families, and posterity. we have petitions and our petitions have been sworn. we have entreated and our entreaties have been
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disregarded. we have begged and they have mocked when our calamity came. we beg no longer. we entreat no more. we petition no more. we defy them. we go forth confident that we shall win. >> in the words of william jennings bryan. we're coming to you from his home and office in the state capital of lincoln, nebraska. it is commonly referred to as fairview, because at the turn of the century it gave you a fair view of the land. william jennings bryan and his wife moved here back in 1902. it's now part of the bryan lgh medical center. we're coming to you from the first floor, his parlor, his study is just below us. he did much of his writing, entertaining here and we want to welcome our two guests. michael kazin is a professor of history and also the author of a "godly hero, the life of william jennings bryan." and william thomas is a chair of
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the department of history at the university of nebraska here at lincoln. thank you both for being with us. michael, let me begin with you to set up this speech. the man that delivered it, the setting in chicago, the impact it had on democratic delegates in 1896. >> the country was very divided, there was a great depression, the democrats were split really down the middle. the incumbent president grover cleveland was very unpopular, as presidents usually are during great depressions. so bryan comes into this convention in chicago as sort of a dark horse candidate for the presidency, but everyone knows he's a wonderful orator, he's defending the cause of free silver, which meant the money supply, helping debtors, helping people in trouble economically. he gives this speech which people go wild when they hear it, partly because he had a wonderful voice. the tape you played was in 1843,
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-- 1883, not 1896. the technology didn't exist yet. it doesn't sound like a 36-year-old man in that. he was robust, vigorous, amazing voice that could be heard without amplification by 10,000 people at a time. he really had set this up so he would give a speech at a time in the convention where he knew the majority of delegates were for him, but at the same time, no really riveting speech had been given yet for the silver cause at that time. so he had found his moment. he used it to great effect. >> we will hear more from the cross of gold speech and as you indicated, his words recorded in 1923, but there is a race where he was challenging william mckinley, relatively unknown. served only two terms in the house of representatives here in nebraska, ran for senate, won the popular vote but lost because the legislature in nebraska gave it to the republican candidate.
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>> that's right. >> so 1895-1896 for william jennings bryan. >> sure. it was a tumultuous time in american politics. there had been a major strike, a railroad strike in 1894. that tore the country apart, and revealed to americans just how maybe unstable the economy was and how deep this depression might become. and william jennings bryan ran as a democrat in a populous in 1894 for the united states senate and ran against a railroad attorney named john thurston. so he 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,
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the populists were on the scene. the republicans had won the presidential contest in nebraska in 1892, but the second place vote-getter was the populists, and the democrats, 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.
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we care not upon what line the battle is fought. if they say buy metal is good, but we cannot have it -- we reply that instead of we have a gold standard because england has we will restore. and let england have bimentalism 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.
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>> 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
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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. se it was really a call for cheaper money, lower interest rates, and
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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. he was able to get checks from johnny rockefeller, other bigger industrialists. they 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.
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he was 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
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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 202-737-0001 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. well, thomas, let's take a step back. 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,
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1860-1865. he was 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
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the 1850s 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 but 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.
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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. and, so, this was a modern campaign, all three of them. in a sense, that clay's campaigns were not. and, yet, >> 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,
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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
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in 1894, and bryan had been part of that. it was 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. which was 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. so 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
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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, out of that campaign is that 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've spent some times downstairs in his study, 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
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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.
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>> 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?
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>> the home can really tell us a lot about the lifestyles of mr. and mrs. bryan and their family. i sthi think 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 of 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?
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>> 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
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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
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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 that bryan had championed in the house and 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
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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
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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
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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
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believed corporate america was taking the country in a revolutionary direction. we have, for better or worse, i think come to grips or made our peace with big business, and we can't imagine a society in which big business is not there. where as, 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. you know, so these were corporations with enormous resources, enormous
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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. hear are the words from william jennings 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 their officials 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
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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
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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
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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, there would have been 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
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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
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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
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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.
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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. of course, 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
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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.
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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.
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she didn't want to -- 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
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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
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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
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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
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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. as he went around the world, 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
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the united states was about to enter world war i. after the lusitania had been torpedoed 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 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 state? >> 1912 he does come around to supporting wilson in the convention in baltimore in 1912. in fact, 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
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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 in large part 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
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them each a little bronze plow share with the line from isaiah about there 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 want to say 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
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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 thing that some people, 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. that is, 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
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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
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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 palm springs, california. >> caller: hello, this is nadine from desert hot springs near palm springs in california. and i have, like, a kodak
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picture in my files. there's a -- he has a relationship with my family. >> how so? >> caller: and i have genealogy. i'm not a mormon and i research my family. i have 6,200 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
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believe in religion. >> collar rens dar row. >> i'm 94 years old, so i can't remember his name now. but i have this, and he is in my family. i have 6,200 names i have researched on my computer. and i don't say, oh, i'd like to have that one. i research and make sure they are my relative. >> nay dean, we are going to ask you to stay on the line, and we are going to try to get you a phone number. stay on the line. we'll get your phone number. and she brings up another part of his life. dayton, tennessee. >> well, i was just going to tell nay dean that we have put all of william jennings brian speeches from 1896 online on our
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digital project. so if she would like to look at her computer, there are hundreds of them. every presidential speech is online on the website we started here at the university of nebraska, lincoln. >> all of these available online, 14 weeks. michael, the scopes trial. >> yeah, well many ways william jennings brian is known for many americans because he was one of the prosecutors in this trial in tennessee in 1925, which was prosecuting a teacher named john scopes who was teaching the theory of revolution in high school in dayton, tennessee. and what was interesting about this is this issue is still very much alive with us, of course.
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a large number of americans believe that the bible, you know, the book of genesis is the truth, is what -- is how the earth was formed. and brian believed that, too, but it is important to remember, too, for brian, one of the things he says it wasn't darwinism, it was social darwin. . it taught the survival of the fittist. he put out a series of lectures about evolution before the scopes trial, which was entitled brother versus brute. so 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 who were very -- done very well in american society, by some people in the military was that those who were doing well in society
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were those who should do well, who were buy logically inclined to come out on top. and this is one of the things he december liked about the theory. but, again, he was an fundamental list. he thought school children should not be learning something which would counter act that.
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