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William Jennings Bryan

You cannot judge a man's life by the success of a moment, by the victory of an hour, or even by the results of a year. You must view his life as a whole.

William Jennings Bryan (19 March 186026 July 1925) was an American lawyer, statesman, and politician. He was a three-time Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States noted for his deep, commanding voice.

QuotesEdit

Patriotism calls for the faithful and conscientious performance of all of the duties of citizenship, in small matters as well as great, at home as well as upon the tented field.
  • Success is brought by continued labor and continued watchfulness. We must struggle on, not for one moment hesitate, nor take one backward step.
  • In this, our land, we are called upon to give but little in return for the advantages which we receive. Shall we give that little grudgingly? Our definition of patriotism is often too narrow. Shall the lover of his country measure his loyalty only by his service as a soldier? No! Patriotism calls for the faithful and conscientious performance of all of the duties of citizenship, in small matters as well as great, at home as well as upon the tented field.
  • A man who murders another shortens by a few brief years the life of a human being; but he who votes to increase the burden of debts upon the people of the United States assumes a graver responsibility.
  • The poor man who takes property by force is called a thief, but the creditor who can by legislation make a debtor pay a dollar twice as large as he borrowed is lauded as the friend of a sound currency. The man who wants the people to destroy the Government is an anarchist, but the man who wants the Government to destroy the people is a patriot.
  • Next to the ministry I know of no more noble profession than the law. The object aimed at is justice, equal and exact, and if it does not reach that end at once it is because the stream is diverted by selfishness or checked by ignorance. Its principles ennoble and its practice elevates.
Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.
Plutocracy is abhorrent to a republic; it is more despotic than monarchy, more heartless than aristocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It preys upon the nation in time of peace and conspires against it in the hour of its calamity.
  • You cannot judge a man's life by the success of a moment, by the victory of an hour, or even by the results of a year. You must view his life as a whole. You must stand where you can see the man as he treads the entire path that leads from the cradle to the grave — now crossing the plain, now climbing the steeps, now passing through pleasant fields, now wending his way with difficulty between rugged rocks — tempted, tried, tested, triumphant.
    • "The Law and the Gospel".
  • Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.
    • "America's Mission", speech delivered by the leader of the Democratic Party at the Washington Day banquet given by the Virginia Democratic Association at Washington, D.C., February 22, 1899. (Thomas B. Reed, ed. Modern Eloquence Part One. p. 95)
  • And who can suffer injury by just taxation, impartial laws and the application of the Jeffersonian doctrine of equal rights to all and special privileges to none? Only those whose accumulations are stained with dishonesty and whose immoral methods have given them a distorted view of business, society and government. Accumulating by conscious frauds more money than they can use upon themselves, wisely distribute or safely leave to their children, these denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw a light upon their crimes.

    Plutocracy is abhorrent to a republic; it is more despotic than monarchy, more heartless than aristocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It preys upon the nation in time of peace and conspires against it in the hour of its calamity. Conscienceless, compassionless and devoid of wisdom, it enervates its votaries while it impoverishes its victims. It is already sapping the strength of the nation, vulgarizing social life and making a mockery of morals. The time is ripe for the overthrow of this giant wrong. In the name of the counting-rooms which it has denied; in the name of business honor which it has polluted; in the name of the home which it has despoiled; in the name of religion which it has disgraced; in the name of the people whom it has opprest, let us make our appeal to the awakened conscience of the nation.

    • Speech at Madison Square Garden, New York, 30 August 1906, at a reception welcoming Bryan on his return from a year's trip around the world. Speeches of William Jennings Bryan, Funk & Wagnalls, 1909, pp. 90-91
  • I have been so satisfied with the Christian religion that I have spent no time trying to find arguments against it.… I am not afraid now that you will show me any. I feel that I have enough information to live and die by.
    • Scopes trial testimony (July 1925).
  • The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world. I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee to slur at it.
    • Scopes trial testimony (July 1925).
  • Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endangers its cargo.
  • In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane — the earth's surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times a bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future.
    • Scopes Monkey Trial Summation

Illinois College Graduating Oration (1881)Edit

Character is the entity, the individuality of the person, shining from every window of the soul, either as a beam of purity, or as a clouded ray that betrays the impurity within.
  • Appearance too often takes the place of reality — the stamp of the coin is there, and the glitter of the gold, but, after all, it is but a worthless wash. Sham is carried into every department of life, and we are being corrupted by show and surface. We are too apt to judge people by what they have, rather than by what they are; we have too few Hamlets who are bold enough to proclaim, "I know not seem!"
  • If we delight in gossip, and are not content unless each neighbor is laid upon the dissecting table, we form a character unenviable indeed, and must be willing to bear the contempt of all the truly good, while we roll our bit of scandal as a sweet morsel under the tongue.
  • But if each day we gather some new truths, plant ourselves more firmly upon principles which are eternal, guard every thought and action, that it may be pure, and conform our lives more nearly to that Perfect Model, we shall form a character that will be a fit background on which to paint the noblest deeds and the grandest intellectual and moral achievements; a character that cannot be concealed, but which will bring success in this life and form the best preparation for that which is beyond.
  • Character is the entity, the individuality of the person, shining from every window of the soul, either as a beam of purity, or as a clouded ray that betrays the impurity within. The contest between light and darkness, right and wrong, goes on; day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, our characters are being formed, and this is the all-important question which comes to us in accents ever growing fainter as we journey from the cradle to the grave, "Shall those characters be good or bad?"

Cross of Gold Speech (1896)Edit

The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.
Speech at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (9 July 1896)
  • This is not a contest between persons. The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error. I come to speak to you in defence of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity.
  • We object to bringing this question down to the level of persons. The individual is but an atom; he is born, he acts, he dies; but principles are eternal; and this has been a contest over a principle.
  • There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests up on them.
  • You come to us and tell us that 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 in the country.
  • If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost. 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 gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Quotes about BryanEdit

  • History had been unkind to William Jennings Bryan, characterizing him as a Bible-triumping buffon. Bryan was anything but the bumpkin he is made out to be in common accounts of the Scopes trial... William Jennings Bryan was a great American hero, someone in whom people on the Left can take a sympathetic interest. A century ago, he was a leading populist politician... He was a strong opponent of the runaway capitalism of his day and fought hard and effectively for progressive social change, including votes for women, progressive income taz, and for getting the United States off the gold standard, which was a terrible burdon on the American working class.
    • James Robert Brown (2004). Who rules in science?. Harvard University Press, 189-190
  • Unfortunately for the Republicans, William Jennings Bryan was a great orator and took the early lead in the public's eye. Bryan, flashing steel-blue eyes and well-kept teeth, vowed to fight the money kings of Wall Street and wholly supported unlimited coinage of silver.
    • Peter Krass (2011), Carnegie. Ch. 24: Illegal Rebates and a Fight with Rockefeller. John Wiley & Sons.
  • The national Democratic Party, having absorbed the Populist Party and rebuffed its own northeastern conservative wing, became the bearer of agrearian demands in national politics. Thus it was that so much of the old populist program could be enacted years after the Populist Party and the Farmers' Alliance had faded away. The politically committed farmer and the extraordinary figure of William Jennings Bryan — at once a national party chief, agrarian social- movement leader, and the country's foremost progressive reformer — made this translation possible.
    • Elizabeth Sanders, Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877-1917, p. 413
  • Called by his admirers the Great Commoner, William Jennings Bryan was a tireless defender of the poor against the rich and a prophet of reform and hu- manitarianism. Without a doubt he was the voice of the Democratic party at the turn of the century, and hys style and dedication kept him at center stage for thirty-five years of turbulent American politics.
    • Steven O'Brien, Paula McGuire, James M. McPherson, Gary Gerstle (1991). American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present., VNR AG. p. 49
  • Bryan was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant, bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses.… Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not.
    • Memorial by H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun (27 July 1925)
  • As for William Jennings Bryan, of whom so much piffle, pro and con, has been written, the whole of his political philosophy may be reduced to two propositions, neither of which is true. The first is the proposition that the common people are wise and honest, and the second is the , proposition that all persons who refuse / to believe it are scoundrels. Take away the two, and all that would remain of Jennings would be a somewhat greasy bald- headed man with his mouth open.

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