tv The Contenders CSPAN August 3, 2016 8:00pm-9:31pm EDT
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 resources 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 do something about it. 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. 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 eugene debs. he ran for office five times in the early 20th century. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern time here on c-span3. coming up this weekend on "american history tv" on c-span3, the life and legacy of alexander hamilton. >> hamilton's argument was that the war had been a common struggle. all the states were fighting together for the liberty of all, for the whole country.
so he assumed the debts of the 13 states along with the federal debt. they would all be treated as one debt. they would be paid off at the same time. >> saturday evening, a little after 7:00 eastern. author and national review senior editor richard brookhiser on the economic achievements of alexander hamilton. and then at 10:00 on "real america," the 1945 war department film "the last bomb" documents the final months of the b-29 super fortress air campaign against japan, including the 1945 atomic bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki. and sunday morning at 10:00, the third and final presidential debate between al qaeda and republican texas governor george w. bush. >> law-abiding citizens ought to be allowed to protect themselves and their families. i believe that we ought to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, that's why i'm for instant background checks at gun shows. >> i think that some common sense gun safety measures are
certainly needed with the flood of cheap handguns that have sometimes been working their way into the hands of the wrong people. but all of my proposals are focused on that problem, gun safety. >> also this weekend at 8:00 eastern, c-span series "the contenders," key figures who ran for the presidency and lost but changed political history. saturday night, the 1928 democratic nominee and former new york governor al smith. and sunday, the 1940 republican presidential nominee wendell wilkieie. >> as i was driving up the streets of hoboken, practically every store window, vacant store window has pictures of my opponent and his associates on the new deal ticket. i don't know of any more appropriate place to put those pictures. >> for a complete american history tv schedule, go to
cspan.org. "the contenders," our on key political figures who ran for president and lost, but who nevertheless changed political history. tonight, we feature former secretary of state william jennings bryan, who was a three-time presidential candidate. this 90-minute program was recorded at bryan's home in lincoln, nebraska. this is "american history tv," only on c-span3. good evening, and welcome to the third installment of c-span's "the contender" series. tonight, we look at the life, legacy, and times of william jennings bryan, the three-time presidential nominee from nebraska. 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 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, and entertaining here in this house. we want to wake our two guests. michael kazin is a professor of history at georgetown university, and is also the author of "a godly here roe: the life of william jennings bryan." and william thomas is a chair of 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, in 1896. 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 know he's a wonderful orator, he's defending the cause of free silver, which meant inflating 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 actually reported in 1893, 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. so he really had set this up so that 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. >> will thomas, we're going to hear more from the "cross of gold" speech. and as you indicated, his words recorded in 1923. but here is a race in which he was challenging william mckinley. he was relatively unknown. served only two terms in the house of representatives here in nebraska. ran for the senate, won the popular vote but lost because the legislature here in nebraska gave to it the republican candidate. 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 and a populist in 1894 for the united states senate. and he ran against a railroad
attorney named john thurston. he gained a lot of national attention really with this senate campaign in 1894. i would liken it to the lincoln doug debates. 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, 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 that the great cities rest upon 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. we care not upon what line the battle is fought. if they say bi-metalism is good, but we cannot have it, we reply instead of having a gold standard, because england has, we will restore bimetalism. and then let england have bimetalism 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, having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a geld 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 poorer, keeping americans who are in debt, deeper in debt. it was 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 very technical issue, but really it was an issue of the haves against the have-nots. at least that's the way bryan saw it. to crucify a man with a cross of gold would be 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 we, which would have meant a lot more dollars could have been minted and coined because there was nor silver in circulation than there was gold. so it was really a call for cheaper money, lower interest rates, and greater economic opportunity for a small business person, for a small farmer, and for a worker who wanted to be a small business person or a farmer. >> in your book, you talk about his charisma. >> yes. >> 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 also write about something that he did that was viewed as revolutionary, which is 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 big industrialists could just write him checks. there were 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. he was a wonderful speaker. he loved to speak, as i said before. so for him this was a positive thing. he made a necessity into a virtue, if you will. he traveled at least 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, as will said, to become known.
and also, it was the only chance he had he thought to really reach americans directly. >> he's also the first campaigner to use the railroad in this way and 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. and traveled all over america, bringing his campaign to the people. >> as always, we want to hear from you here on c-span. 202 is the area code. 737-0031. and 202-7370020 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. 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. >> well, he was born in 1860. and to a world that was being transformed. obviously, the railroad growth, the civil war that followed, 1860-1865. he was too young to serve in the civil war. and that's something that actually he 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 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 than politics in a serious way. he became a lawyer because he wanted to get involved in politics. he moved to nebraska partly because he knew the democratic party was very 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 there was a whig party, the 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. >> and yet as you write in your book, mr. kazin, that 14 million americans voted in that election in 1896. and about 75% to 85% of eligible voters at the time 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 from then to the present. we've 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. so bryan campaigns largely -- it's interesting. 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 make a point about 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. and 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. >> michael kazin, you've spent some time in his home. we'll go downstairs and look at his study in a moment. does this home reflect william jennings bryan? >> in many ways. it is a great home of the time. it was a mansion, and 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 the important thing too i think to mention about him is he and his wife were partners in 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 is with the nebraska state historical society. and he is in the study of william jennings bryan and his wife. thanks very much for sharing your time and insight with us here on c-span's "the
contenders" 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 that are 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. i think one of the most important stories that came out of the 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 mentioned, had said that his wife was a beloved wife and help mate.
>> how much of the material there is original? >> very few of the pieces of original bryan furnishings survive. these furnishings in this office have been collected to represent what was originally in the room based on some 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 study 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 or not. but politically, besides those images, nast is best known for these vitriolic and very effective images of boss tweed, this corrupt boss of tammany hall in the late 1860s and early 1870s, and his images of boss tweed looking like a seed di
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 the 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 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 grover 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 who believed thomas jefferson, andrew jackson, that the government shouldn't do very much in the economy. in fact during the depression of the 1890s, grover cleveland said 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 he wanted to redress the balance between corporate power and the power of workers and small farmers. and so -- also cleveland had broken this railroad strike we had talked about, the pullman 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 the 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. >> well, thomas, in order to get a better sense of the man, i want to use michael kazin's words from his book and get your reaction. he said we lack politicians who lack conviction and are blessed with charisma 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 in 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've been talking about money and politics since the 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. here are the words of william jennings bryan from his second
of three campaigns for 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 growth of favor-seek corporations. the people ought to know what influences are at work in the campaign that they may better decide whether either party has so obligated self to the great corporation 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 at least publicize the donations that people give. let's make sure that everyone knows it's above board. for example, in 1996, johnny rockefeller wrote a check, on standard oil, a check for $250,000 and gave to it mark hannah. and that was not known until after the election was over. so bryan wanted that at least to be known if that happened. 1907 the first serious campaign finance law had been 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: yes, 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 i think 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 theodore roosevelt. >> the party comes back to william jennings bryan in 1908. why? >> well, michael, 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 you could hear bryan, you could hear taft, without them having to go out and speak 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 have 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 just powers from the consent of the governed 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 william howard 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 1908 campaign? >> 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 had been the secretary of war under theodore roosevelt. roosevelt is a progressive president. in many ways similar it to if
some of your listeners remember, 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. >> in fact, his closest race was 1896, as we look at the election
results from 1900 and 1908. 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 -- >> or coral baseballs, florida. >> his wife mary contracted very bad, really crippling arthritis when she lived in this house, actually. she didn't want to -- really 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. did bryan. so they'd go to miami and stay at friends' houses in miami 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 had been governor of new jersey. he was a very moderate reformer, but a progressive reformer. and he was able to succeed where bryan was not. >> you want to follow-up? >> i should emphasize the only reason woodrow 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 who teaches politics and history at georgetown university, the author of "a godly hero: the life of william jennings bryan." and will thomas is the chairman of the history department here in lincoln, nebraska. 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 as i said before 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. and actually, he did travel around the world for a whole year with his family, from 1905-1906, financed by william randall hearst, 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 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 thought world war i was an insane war the united states should not be part of. >> take it one step farther. 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 when he supports wilson in that convention, it helps to put wilson over the top at a type when you 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 bryan's 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 pretty much symbolic, but he gave each of them a little bronze plowshare with the line from isaiah about being your source into plowshares 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 do have a religious question about bryan's religion, but i first applaud his efforts to level of playing field for the efforts to level the plainfield for the common man against big business, free enterprise and democracy. what impact does your impact think bryan's fundamental christian religious believes have an impact on his election results. >> thanks for the caller. we should point out that the bible is opened to the book, we are in the parlor of his home in fairfie fairfield. what about the role of religion of his life and his wife's life. >> bryan never separated religion of politics. we think about that now as
something, people more conservative or think that you should have a christian government. for bryan, his christianity is what he called a -- it was a social gospel. if you are christian, you want to go out and help the world and save the poor and level the plainfield as the call is mentioned. for him, his religion and politics were not separate. in some way, this hurt him among some people who were not angelical protestants. he was such a crusader. he support prohibition, again, in 1910, he was a big supporter of the 18th amendment of the constitution. this was a very, you know, decisive issue in american life. he came to publish because he want to purify the american body politics and for him, it was a
christian issue. that meant that a lot of people from 1910 on didn't trust him and even people voted for him before because he was a prohibitionist. >> he did not drink but he did enjoy eating. >> oh yeah. >> sometimes when he was on a campaign trail, sometimes he ate as many as six meals a day. he was known, he could devour three chickens at one sitting. >> if you are just tuning in, we are looking at 14 candidates for the presidency. all four lost but in their own way, they shape american politics and resonate today with the issues they put forth. we are coming to you in his home as lincoln, nebraska, fair view, our phone lines are opened. 202-737-0071. for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zone.
this is an exterior view of what the home looks like. you can see the medical center is adjacent. this home is opened to the public. it offers tourers for those of you who travel to lincoln nebraska. t nadine is joining us from palm spring, california. >> caller: hello, i am near palm spring, california. i have a kodak picture in my file. he has relationship with my family. >> how so? >> i am not a mormon, it is just my hobby and i researched my family and i have 6200 names in it. i would like to know about buying the speeches of what you have and how much it is and where i send the money. >> well, before you get in answer to that question. who's in the photograph and what
is your connection with william jennings bryan through your own family research. >> caller: as far as i know, he's in a car in his picture. it is like a kodak picture. and looks liking a single theater with a top. i always thought that the other man was the one whose name i could not remember that did not believe in religion. >> caller: i am 94-year-old and almost 95-year-old. i cannot remember his name though. he's in my family. i have 6200 names i have researched and you know on my computer and i don't say oh, i would like to have that one. i research and be sure that they are my relatives. >> well, nadine, i am going to ask you to stay on the line
because we are going to try to get your phone number. we'll get you connected with mr. kazin. stay on the line and we'll get your phone number. she brings up another part of his life. dayton, tennessee. >> well, i was going to tell nadine that we have put jennings bryan's speeches online. if she would like to look at those speeches, there are hundreds of them. it is online and on the railroad of the making in modern america website that we started here in university of nebraska, lincoln. >> it is all available online 14 weeks looking at kocontenders. contentders.org is the website.
>> he was one of the prosecutors in the trial in tennessee and july of 1925 which was prosecuting a teacher, john scope, who was teaching theory revolution in high school, in dayt dayton, tennessee. it was interesting about this is this issue is still alive with us of course. large number of americans believe that the bible, you know, the book of genesis is the truth. bryan believed that, too. it is important to also, for bryan one of the things he dislike about theory revolution was it was not just darwinism but it is social darwinism. it taught of the survival of the fitti
fittest and he put out a lecture about evolution which was entitled "brother verses booth." you were against the social theory of evolution. he did not understand the science very well. he believed rightly or wrongly of the way science applied by some people who were very well in society but some people in the military, those doing well in society are those who should do well and bio logically -- >> there is an iconic photograph of william jennings bryan in tennessee. how did the two come together for this historic moment in america history. >> well, bryan was asked by the prosecution to help in the
trial. the state law just passed that year. they knew if bryan helped them, this would draw a lot of attention to the case. clarence daryl, when he heard bryan, a former friend by the way was going to be with the prosecution, daryl said he had to get him. financed the defense of scopes. one thing that people should know about is people may have seen "inherit the wind," in fact, unlike what movie shows you, scope wes went to jail and scopes agreed to be the defendant because he knew the trial is going to take place some where in tennessee.
his town of dayton tennessee where he thought high school was hurting economically so he wants to help bring business in tennessee. scopes agreed to be defendant. >> and technology was as factor of this trial. cameras were allowed inside the courtroom and it was broadcast nationwide on radio. >> right, one of this things that's so remarkable about this trial is not only it is broadcast on the radio and tens of thousands of americans listen to it. it also, it was a courtroom and for brian to try to defend his christianity and creationism in the courtroom, it was the context of the courtroom and cros cros cross-examination that made it difficult for bryan to say what he meant and what he was trying to convey of the importance of creation in his thinking and about the social darwinist logic as he saw was affecting america's society as michael
pointed out. so, it was a very difficult context in which to make that argument and so bryan ends his life really in a sort of a man out of context, making an argument in a place where unlike 1896 where the context was perfect for bryan to make the cross of gold speech. the context of the courtroom in dayton, tennessee proved very challenging. peter is on the phone joining us? new jersey, welcome. >> caller: hello, how are you doing? >> yes, you are on the air. >> caller: yeah, i would like to make one point and i will get off. >> we apologize for that phone call. we'll go to mark in texas. >> caller: i noticed that the gold standard debate have made a come back network like cnbc
whether the gold standard should come back. people arguing against the gold standard and against the federal reserve and for the government's able to print its own currency. those people always seem to quote william jennings bryan. is it relevaalevant to the amer that we live in today. >> governor kerry has been critical of ben vernacki. you know what bryan really
wanted and those who were on his side and debate want was flexible money supply. they wanted in hard times and interest rates seem to be going down and that's the kind of thing that the feds does today. at the time a lot of america is a great reform. >> people look for, you might say going back to gold standard, for example. >> i think as historians, i think that many ways one of the reasons we were able to avoid series economic downtown and the great depression is we have had -- the feds have been able to take charge. i don't know if will may have a different point of view. >> one of the big issues that bryan was trying to confront with the silver issue and the gold standard was the great contraction of the great american economy. we lived through a similar
contraction in the american economy recently. so i think it is not surprising that some of these issues are coming forward when they are right now. i think the difference is and 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 i don't see that quite playing out today in the same way when the gold standard is being brought up. >> our history professor and the university of nebraska and lincoln and the author of "a godly hero." and will tomas is teaching history here. he's the author of the "iron way" and "the making of modern america." >> harold is joining us in
youngstown america. it is just amazing. where again we are arguing soft money verses hard money. we see the class warfare argument. this time, the argument is coming from the rich. the irony in my mind is just amazing. >> who would like to take that point? >> well, i think it is interesting to look back at this time because for bryan, making the argument, not only about the money supply and the silver issue but the income tax and about the monopoly power that he saw all around and the corruption in politics and the trust. all of those things together, he
was accused by the republicans of practicing a form of a class warfare by even mentioning these things and bringing it up. bryan was trying to lead and from what he saw, he was trying to lead americans to see that the class empower was not necessary looking out for their own interest and that was his argument. he had to frame it in a way that it did not become class warfare. americans did not want class warfare, they see a series of strikes in the last few years. something that they fear from europe. comm communist organization and conflict. that fear of class warfare is fie vooi vital to the periods of the
1990s. the strike with militia, bringing out guns and mowing down american workers who were striking, that did not sit well with american people. and, so bryan was walking this thin line trying to raise the issue but not the accused class of warfare. >> william jennings bryan was born in se lalem, illinois. he became our nominee in 1896. he moved to this home in 1902 with his wife mary and bob bushchendorf. my question is how did they use the home?
the first floor was meant primarily for entertaining. you can see the white spaces and the open spaces where they would entertain their friends and the lower level was a family area, including the dining room and the office in which we have seen earlier. >> as you researched the uses of this home and visitors of the home, who vuwould have been her? >> well, there were a number of prominent guests and woodrow wilson is one of them. a number of social acquaintances as well as visitors to the house. >> we talked about the name of the home of fair view, it gave you a sense of nebraska landscape and now it is the home of the medical center. >> that's correct. >> bryan said that the house was one of the most beautiful of farm country that he had ever seen. east of lincoln and chose this site for their new home in 1901.
what is his legacy, will tomas here in lincoln nebraska? >> well, i think he's one of the most famous sons, his name is widely recognized by both nebraskans, and nationwide. >> i think they are proud of his people of his stature even though he did not win the presidency. it was an important aspect of nebraska's political life with such character. >> his legacy, will tomas. >> well, i think he does bring the democratic party into nebraska's history and of course, there were democrats here before. william jennings bryan's campaign but he elevates the democratic party in stature of nebraska. obviously, he's a major figure
in nebraska history but the local legacy, of course, is this home and the hospital, which bares his name. john is joining us as we look at the life of william jennings bryan. >> caller: bryan defended the ku klux klan in the convention -- >> he did not defend the clan in 1924. the debate, the democratic convention in new york city was about whether to denounce the clan by name or not. he believed that democrats should go over the plan rather than denounce them. he certainly has support over the claim. it is unfair to say he was supporters of the claim and he
was not. he was oasis, african-american. we consider him that now. >> but, he was a white supremasis. he wanted and he supported the views of most white southerns and northerns at the time as well which was they thought european americans were superior to other people. in that sense, he was certainly not a modern figure. >> yeah, i think he's certainly a democratic political figure in the sense from that period and in the sense that broadly believes in white supremacy.
>> what do you think of the democratic party today which counts so much of african-americans as a court constitue constituent. >> for him-a democratic, majority of the people of the country were white and he was mostly concerned of their welfare. he did not know very black people. the nebraska side was interesting. in 1896, there were a group called silver republicans, african-americans in omaha that supported him. but, politically, he wanted to stay as far from that issue as he could, in fact, 1908, wb duboise, bryan did not meet
with him or acknowledge his support because he's afraid he would lose parts of the white south. >> chuck is on the phone, good evening, good to hear from you. >> caller: this series is fascinating and your guests are interesting. this topic is great. i had heard one time that al frank's novel and the "wizard of oz" is about the election of 1896. jennings bryan were depicted as the lion. i want to hear your thoughts on that. >> that's one of the great myth of the america history. i used to give lectures about that. different figures in the first oz book corresponding to figurers of that campaign. unfortunately, if you look at al
frank's biography, it does not bare out. he was a window dresser, he dressed windows in department stores and for him, the art of the design of the department store windows was one way he saw american society developing. for him, t"the wizard of oz" wa a figure of that sense. surprised by the allegory meeting that people found in his first story. it is entertaining to look at but it is probably not true. >> the 1999, we sat down with carl rose, he tried to take some of the lessons from that campaign for george bush in 2000s, can you touch on that? >> one of the things the campaign did was established republican party of the
presidential election and most congressional election. there was really no majority party in america of the gilded age from 1868, what carl robe wanted to do was based on the new republican majority mc -- he was able to in 1996 and 1900 to win over german voters who had the most in the democratics before.
and so roesch saw -- producing this new republican majority. >> we are coming to you from williams nebraska, he went onto run for presidency on three separate occasions. at the age of 36, frank is joining us. sal salem, illinois, the hometown of william jennings bryan. >> yes, we have his birthplace opened to the public on -- my question is how much influence did wj have in getting his brother nominated in 1924 of the
vice president candidate? >> oh yes, that's a sideline that people don't know about. 1924, the governor of nebraska, what's his first name again? i am terrible, i am forgetting his first name. >> charles bryan, the younger brother of william jennings bryan, coming out of that convention in 1924, he was more because of his name than because william jennings bryan's older brother pushing him. but bryan's name, the democratic hoped would enable him to win in the midwest. they're afraid of the
progressive -- so, charles bryan in 1924 was his nomination as vice president, the democrats was attempt by the democrats to keep some of the progressive farm book on their side and for the most part, it did not succeed. >> terry is joining us from eastern pennsylvania, go ahead terry. >> caller: gentlemen, very interesting talk. you stated that william jennings bryan was a fundamentalist and progressive. i believe that states like kansas and nebraska which had large fundamentalist population for also during his day for very progressive. today, they are extremely conservative, what happened to cause this change? >> will thomas, what did happen?
>> well, that's a great question. i think the progressivism that bryan had a great deal deal to do with the economic condition of his day. >> the prosperity that came forward in american life changed that in the 20th century in ways that bryan could not predicted. in terms of today's conser conservativism, also shadowed that. >> helping those in the cities and helping those in need and that branch of christian thought and experience did not grow in the same way as the fundament
fundamentalist movement. >> chris is joining us in aus n austin. oh, did you want to follow up? >> what will said is quite right. another thing to think about is both liberalism and conservative change their views towards active christianity of public life. liberals generally and white liberals got on public -- and became more identified with big cities and pluralistic and religious landscape where as conservatives who were not particularly even evangelicals. the issues were different, too. >> the life of william jennings bryan. the work of michael kazin and the iron way and the making of modern america.
the work of will thomas. chris, you have been patience and thank you for waiting from austin texas, go ahead. >> caller: and there was a similar move in europe of a christian and democracy droing on as well. it seems there is no outlet of position like that of today's two major parties. i think there is actually a big contin constituent for that.
>> thanks for the call and question. >> in a sense has to be 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 to become president is a religious person. so far, is a christian. but, i think though it is most people on the liberal side of politics, mistrust people talking too much about their religion in politics and most people on the conservative side wants that religious talk to be focused primarily, i think on issues of the body of personal piety of personal responsibility of abortion and same-sex marriage and of this kind of thing, stem cells and so forth. the kind of social christianity
that many christians and democrats stood for or bryan stood for. i don't see that as a real possibility at least in the near future. one actual figure who is important that we have an important holiday named after him. montiff king jr. in some ways there is a lot of differences between bryan and king. we have a holiday named after somebody that tried to put together a conservative, not quite fundamentalist of a conservative sense of biblical truth and a left wing belief about economic ishsues. >> athis goes to nebraska again. his mentor in democratic
politics in nebraska was man who was a leading figure and never elected in his own right and became the father of arbeday and a way to bring more business to really to this part of the plains. >> larry is joining us at everett, washington. good evening. >> caller: my question was about the australian ballot or the lack of one of 1980 and 1986 or 1900, did bryan ever talk about the need or a secret ballot or at that time would affect the outcome? i read where there is bee been -- employees putting in the right ballot for mckinley and things like that. did bryan ever talked about it? >> thanks for the call. who would like to talk about it.
>> bryan did talk about the secret blallot. it was not a major issue. it came up in contexts like the potential corruption of companies that would bring in voters to vote for elections or require voters to vote in a certain way that is their employees. these accusations were made in nebraska with regard to the burlington railroad. in fact, released all of its men from its western job sites and brought them into omaha and lincoln and told them which way to vote. that kind of activity led politicians like bryan and others to object and call for the kind of secret ballot that would allow individuals to vote for who they want it without the pressure of corporate interest in the election. >> our next caller comes to us
from reno nevada, go ahead, please, you are on the air. >> caller: -- >> caller, are you with us? >> we'll try one more time. lets go to nancy joining us from another town important to william jennings bryan, dayton, tennessee. >> caller: i am nancy sawyer, home of the the scopes trial. i am not old enough to remember it, i am just 70 something. i know certain peopseveral peop there and it was a carnival and drugstore that were there for many years. the table where it all started and as i understand it just started -- lets do something
exciting or unusual, lets do this and so that's how it got started as the older people have told me and dayton had grown into a booming little town and had a plague on the anniversary depicting the trial and it is a very interesting play for people to come from all over the united states to see and i just wanted to say that we were kind o of -- the monkey town for a long time but now we are known as a home of the scopes' trial. i did not know womilliam jennin
but i did meet clarence. as i was told that it started with chattanooga. chattanooga did not want it so they decided to bring it today ton and it has brought a bunch coming to the city of dayton. >> well, nancy thank you for calling in and thank you for sharing your first account to that famous trial. thoughts from either of you? > >> well, as you start to talk about tourtourism, there is a ry good museum in dayton, tennessee about the trial and the perception of the world. you can visit the courtroom itself and i have sat in the judge's chair. the famous examination, daryl
cro cross-examini cross-examining. it was not held inside, it was 3,000 people in attendance listening and watching this examination. >> this is the kind of trial. we don't that today. it was as you said a carnival and it did help the economy of a good deal. it was an economy that needed help. >> lets talk about the legacy of wom williams jennings bryan especially coming to women's right and federal income tax. >> will thomas. >> michael kazin beautifully handled this in his book. it is damaged at the end o f the scop scopes' trial depicts bryan as a back country kind of misguided figure in 1924 and 125. his legacy is tarnished really
at the end of his career by this. michael's book recovered bryan's legacy beautifully. all of the reform that is he challenged and women's right and suffrage and it was an act tiff issue of the 1870s and 1890s and bryan was at the forefront of it and other issues as well were ones that he's deeply involved in from the beginning. >> i think it emphasizes in the book. one of the legacies of bryan supported is that you don't get wilson or franklin roosevelt. he was really the major figure in remaking the democratic party of a party that we think of today of those who don't like it, the big government party and those who like it is a more economic local party. in 1908 for the first time of a strong relationship of organized
labor and the democratic party. so you know he was not obviously, the only figure who did this. he was a key figure in the 1890s of the kind of par the i that we are thinking of today and of the working people and people who were down on their luck. in some ways that's a very important legacy which he does not get credit for. this is a what if question, had he been elected president, what kind of president would he be? >> i don't think a very good one. his skills as an agitator, his skills were someone come rally those people to support those ideas. he was not a good administrator and secretary of state.