William Jennings Bryan

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
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.


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. The Book of Public Speaking (Vol. 2)
  • 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.
  • If they believe it (evolution), they go back to scoff at the religion of their parents.
    • William Jennings Bryan From the transcript of the Scopes Monkey Trial fifth day's proceedings (16 Jul 1925) in John Thomas Scopes, The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case: a Complete Stenographic Report of the Famous Court Test of the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act, at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925, Including Speeches and Arguments of Attorneys (1925), 175.
  • The first objection to Darwinism is that it is only a guess and was never anything more. It is called a “hypothesis,” but the word “hypothesis,” though euphonioous, dignified and high-sounding, is merely a scientific synonym for the old-fashioned word “guess.” If Darwin had advanced his views as a guess they would not have survived for a year, but they have floated for half a century, buoyed up by the inflated word “hypothesis.” When it is understood that “hypothesis” means “guess,” people will inspect it more carefully before accepting it.
    • William Jennings Bryan 'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
  • The only part of evolution in which any considerable interest is felt is evolution applied to man. A hypothesis in regard to the rocks and plant life does not affect the philosophy upon which one's life is built. Evolution applied to fish, birds and beasts would not materially affect man's view of his own responsibilities except as the acceptance of an unsupported hypothesis as to these would be used to support a similar hypothesis as to man. The evolution that is harmful—distinctly so—is the evolution that destroys man’s family tree as taught by the Bible and makes him a descendant of the lower forms of life. This … is a very vital matter.
    • 'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
  • Why, these men would destroy the Bible on evidence that would not convict a habitual criminal of a misdemeanor. They found a tooth in a sand pit in Nebraska with no other bones about it, and from that one tooth decided that it was the remains of the missing link. They have queer ideas about age too. They find a fossil and when they are asked how old it is they say they can't tell without knowing what rock it was in, and when they are asked how old the rock is they say they can't tell unless they know how old the fossil is.
    • In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. In fact, the tooth was misidentified as anthropoid by Osborn, who over-zealously proposed Nebraska Man in 1922. This tooth was shortly thereafter found to be that of a peccary (a Pliocene pig) when further bones were found. A retraction was made in 1927, correcting the scientific blunder.
  • The real question is, Did God use evolution as His plan? If it could be shown that man, instead of being made in the image of God, is a development of beasts we would have to accept it, regardless of its effort, for truth is truth and must prevail. But when there is no proof we have a right to consider the effect of the acceptance of an unsupported hypothesis.
    • 'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.

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.


  • Judge: Do you want Mr. Bryan sworn?
Darrow: No.
Bryan: I can make affirmation; I can say "So help me God, I will tell the truth."
Darrow: No, I take it you will tell the truth, Mr. Bryan. You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?
Bryan: Yes, sir, I have tried to.
Darrow: Then you have made a general study of it?
Bryan: Yes, I have; I have studied the Bible for about 50 years, or sometime more than that, but, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was but a boy.
Darrow: You claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
Bryan: I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there: some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: "Ye are the salt of the earth." I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people.
Darrow: But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah--excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
Bryan: When I read that a "big fish" swallowed Jonah--it does not say whale. That is my recollection of it. A big fish, and I believe it, and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man and make both what He pleases.
Darrow: Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he there remained how long--three days--and then he spewed him upon the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
Bryan: I am not prepared to say that; the Bible merely says it was done.
Darrow: You don't know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?
Bryan: You may guess; you evolutionists guess...
Darrow: You are not prepared to say whether that fish was made especially to swallow a man or not?
Bryan: The Bible doesn't say, so I am not prepared to say.
Darrow: But do you believe He made them--that He made such a fish and that it was big enough to swallow Jonah?
Bryan: Yes, sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another.
Darrow: Just as hard?
Bryan: It is hard to believe for you, but easy for me. A miracle is a thing performed beyond what man can perform. When you get within the realm of miracles; and it is just as easy to believe the miracle of Jonah as any other miracle in the Bible.
Darrow: Perfectly easy to believe that Jonah swallowed the whale?
Bryan: If the Bible said so; the Bible doesn't make as extreme statements as evolutionists do.
Darrow: The Bible says Joshua commanded the sun to stand still for the purpose of lengthening the day, doesn't it, and you believe it.
Bryan: I do.
Darrow: Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?
Bryan: No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.
Darrow: Do you believe that the men who wrote it thought that the day could be lengthened or that the sun could be stopped?
Bryan: I don't know what they thought.
Darrow: You don't know?
Bryan: I think they wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts.
Darrow: Have you an opinion as to whether or not the men who wrote that thought--
Thomas Stewart: (a prosecution lawyer)--I want to object, your honor. It has gone beyond the pale of any issue that could possibly be injected into this lawsuit, except by imagination. I do not think the defendant has a right to conduct the examination any further and I ask your honor to exclude it.
Bryan: It seems to me it would be too exacting to confine the defense to the facts. If they are not allowed to get away from the facts, what have they to deal with?
Judge: Mr. Bryan is willing to be examined. Go ahead.
Darrow: Can you answer my question directly? If the day was lengthened by stopping either the earth or the sun, it must have been the earth?
Bryan: Well, I should say so.
Darrow: Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: You have not?
Bryan: No; the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow.
Darrow: I see. Have you ever pondered what would naturally happen to the earth if it stood still suddenly?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: Don't you know it would have been converted into molten mass of matter?
Bryan: You testify to that when you get on the stand, I will give you a chance.
Darrow: Don't you believe it?
Bryan: I would want to hear expert testimony on that.
Darrow: You have never investigated that subject?
Bryan: I don't think I have ever had the question asked.
Darrow: Or ever thought of it?
Bryan: I have been too busy on things that I thought were of more importance.
Darrow: You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?
Bryan: Yes, sir.
Darrow: When was that flood?
Bryan: I would not attempt to fix the date. The date is fixed, as suggested this morning.
Darrow: About 4004 B.C.?
Bryan: That has been the estimate of a man that is accepted today. [A witness had testified on Bishop Ussher's theory that the Earth was formed in 4004 B.C.] I would not say it is accurate.
Darrow: That estimate is printed in the Bible?
Bryan: Everybody knows, at least, I think most of the people know, that was the estimate given.
Darrow: But what do you think that the Bible itself says? Don't you know how it was arrived at?
Bryan: I never made a calculation.
Darrow: A calculation from what?
Bryan: I could not say.
Darrow: From the generations of man?
Bryan: I would not want to say that.
Darrow: What do you think?
Bryan: I do not think about things I don't think about.
Darrow: Do you think about things you do think about?
Bryan: Well, sometimes. (Laughter.)
Policeman: Let us have order....
Thomas Stewart: {prosecution attorney}--Your honor, he is perfectly able to take care of this, but we are attaining no evidence. This is not competent evidence.
Bryan: These gentlemen have not had much chance--they did not come here to try this case. They came here to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it and they can ask me any question they please.
Judge: All right. (Applause.)
Darrow: Great applause from the bleachers.
Bryan: Darrow--I have never called them yokels.
Bryan: That is the ignorance of Tennessee, the bigotry.
Darrow: You mean who are applauding you? (Applause.)
Bryan: Those are the people whom you insult.
Darrow: You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does believe in your fool religion.
Judge: I will not stand for that.
Darrow: For what he is doing?
Judge: I am talking to both of you.
Darrow: Do you know anything about how many people there were in Egypt 3,500 years ago, or how many people there were in China 5,000 years ago?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: Have you ever tried to find out?
Bryan: No, sir. You are the first man I ever heard of who has been interested in it. (Laughter.)
Darrow: Mr. Bryan, am I the first man you ever heard of who has been interested in the age of human societies and primitive man?
Bryan: You are the first man I ever heard speak of the number of people at those different periods.
Darrow: Where have you lived all your life?
Bryan: Not near you. (Laughter and applause.)
Darrow: Nor near anybody of learning?
Bryan: Oh, don't assume you know it all.
Darrow: Do you know there are thousands of books in our libraries on all those subjects I have been asking you about?
Bryan: I couldn't say, but I will take your word for it....
Darrow: Have you any idea how old the earth is?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: The book you have introduced in evidence tells you, doesn't it?
Bryan: I don't think it does, Mr. Darrow.
Darrow: Let's see whether it does; is this the one?
Bryan: That is the one, I think.
Darrow: It says B.C. 4004?
Bryan: That is Bishop Ussher's calculation.
Darrow: That is printed in the Bible you introduced?
Bryan: Yes, sir.
Darrow: Would you say that the earth was only 4,000 years old?
Bryan: Oh, no; I think it is much older than that.
Darrow: How much?
Bryan: I couldn't say.
Darrow: Do you say whether the Bible itself says it is older than that?
Bryan: I don't think it is older or not.
Darrow: Do you think the earth was made in six days?
Bryan: Not six days of 24 hours.
Darrow: Doesn't it say so?
Bryan: No, sir.
Judge: Are you about through, Mr. Darrow?
Darrow: I want to ask a few more questions about the creation.
Judge: I know. We are going to adjourn when Mr. Bryan comes off the stand for the day. Be very brief, Mr. Darrow. Of course, I believe I will make myself clearer. Of course, it is incompetent testimony before the jury. The only reason I am allowing this to go in at all is that they may have it in the appellate court as showing what the affidavit would be.
Bryan: The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me anytime as to my belief in God, and I will answer him.
Darrow: I want to take an exception to this conduct of this witness. He may be very popular down here in the hills--
Bryan: Your honor, they have not asked a question legally and the only reason they have asked any question is for the purpose, as the question about Jonah was asked, for a chance to give this agnostic an opportunity to criticize a believer in the world of God; and I answered the question in order to shut his mouth so that he cannot go out and tell his atheistic friends that I would not answer his questions. That is the only reason, no more reason in the world.
Malone: (another defense counsel) Your honor on this very subject, I would like to say that I would have asked Mr. Bryan, and I consider myself as good a Christian as he is, every question that Mr. Darrow has asked him for the purpose of bringing out whether or not there is to be taken in this court a literal interpretation of the Bible, or whether, obviously, as these questions indicate, if a general and literal construction cannot be put upon the parts of the Bible which have been covered by Mr. Darrow's questions. I hope for the last time no further attempt will be made by counsel on the other side of the case, or Mr. Bryan, to say the defense is concerned at all with Mr. Darrow's particular religious views or lack of religious views. We are here as lawyers with the same right to our views. I have the same right to mine as a Christian as Mr. Bryan has to his, and we do not intend to have this case charged by Mr. Darrow's agnosticism or Mr. Bryan's brand of Christianity. (A great applause.)
Darrow: Mr. Bryan, do you believe that the first woman was Eve?
Bryan: Yes.
Darrow: Do you believe she was literally made out of Adam's rib? Bryan--I do.
Darrow: Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
Bryan: No, sir. I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Darrow: You have never found out?
Bryan: I have never tried to find out.
Darrow: You have never tried to find out?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: The Bible says he got one, doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
Bryan: I cannot say.
Darrow: You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
Bryan: Never bothered me.
Darrow: There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
Bryan: That is what the Bible says.
Darrow: Where she came from you do not know. All right. Does the statement, "The morning and the evening were the first day," and "The morning and the evening were the second day," mean anything to you?
Bryan: I do not think it necessarily means a 24-hour day.
Darrow: You do not?
Bryan: No.
Darrow: What do you consider it to be?
Bryan: I have not attempted to explain it. If you will take the second chapter--let me have the book. [Reaches for a Bible.] The fourth verse of the second chapter says: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens," the word day there in the very next chapter is used to describe a period. I do not see that there is any necessity for construing the words, "the evening and the morning," as meaning necessarily a 24-hour day, "in the day when the Lord made the heaven and the earth."
Darrow: Then, when the Bible said, for instance, "and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours?
Bryan: I do not think it necessarily does.
Darrow: Do you think it does or does not?
Bryan: I know a great many think so.
Darrow: What do you think?
Bryan: I do not think it does.
Darrow: You think those were not literal days?
Bryan: I do not think they were twenty-four-hour days.
Darrow: What do you think about it?
Bryan: That is my opinion--I do not know that my opinion is better on that subject than those who think it does.
Darrow: You do not think that?
Bryan: No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in 6 million years or in 600 million years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.
Darrow: Do you think those were literal days?
Bryan: My impression is they were periods, but I would not attempt to argue against anybody who wanted to believe in literal days.
Darrow: I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?
Bryan: I believe that.
Darrow: Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
Bryan: No, sir.
Darrow: Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?
Bryan: No, sir. I have no way to know. (Laughter.)
Darrow: Now, you refer to the cloud that was put in heaven after the flood, the rainbow. Do you believe in that?
Bryan: Read it.
Darrow: All right, Mr. Bryan, I will read it for you.
Bryan: Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. 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, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.
Darrow: I object to your statement. I am examining you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.
Judge: Court is adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Quotes about Bryan[edit]

  • History had been unkind to William Jennings Bryan, characterizing him as a Bible-thumping buffoon. 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 tax, and for getting the United States off the gold standard, which was a terrible burden on the American working class.
    • James Robert Brown (2004). Who rules in science? Harvard University Press, p. 189 books.google.
  • 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 humanitarianism. 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.
  • He leads a new crusade, his bald head glistening... One somehow pities him, despite his so palpable imbecilities... But let no one, laughing at him, underestimate the magic that lies in his black, malignant eye, his frayed but still eloquent voice. He can shake and inflame these poor ignoramuses as no other man among us...
    • H. L. Mencken Henry Louis Mencken and S.T. Joshi (ed.), H.L. Mencken on Religion (2002), 18.
  • The Earth Speaks, clearly, distinctly, and, in many of the realms of Nature, loudly, to William Jennings Bryan, but he fails to hear a single sound. The earth speaks from the remotest periods in its wonderful life history in the Archaeozoic Age, when it reveals only a few tissues of its primitive plants. Fifty million years ago it begins to speak as “the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.” In successive eons of time the various kinds of animals leave their remains in the rocks which compose the deeper layers of the earth, and when the rocks are laid bare by wind, frost, and storm we find wondrous lines of ascent invariably following the principles of creative evolution, whereby the simpler and more lowly forms always precede the higher and more specialized forms.
The earth speaks not of a succession of distinct creations but of a continuous ascent, in which, as the millions of years roll by, increasing perfection of structure and beauty of form are found; out of the water-breathing fish arises the air-breathing amphibian; out of the land-living amphibian arises the land-living, air-breathing reptile, these two kinds of creeping things resembling each other closely. The earth speaks loudly and clearly of the ascent of the bird from one kind of reptile and of the mammal from another kind of reptile.

This is not perhaps the way Bryan would have made the animals, but this is the way God made them!

    • Henry Fairfield Osborn The Earth Speaks to Bryan (1925), 5-6. Osborn wrote this book in response to the Scopes Monkey Trial, where William Jennings Bryan spoke against the theory of evolution. They had previously been engaged in the controversy about the theory for several years. The title refers to a Biblical verse from the Book of Job (12:8), “Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee.”
  • Today the earth speaks with resonance and clearness and every ear in every civilized country of the world is attuned to its wonderful message of the creative evolution of man, except the ear of William Jennings Bryan; he alone remains stone-deaf, he alone by his own resounding voice drowns the eternal speech of nature.
  • Every breath you draw, every accelerated beat of your heart in the emotional periods of your oratory depend upon highly elaborated physical and chemical reactions and mechanisms which nature has been building up through a million centuries. If one of these mechanisms, which you owe entirely to your animal ancestry, were to be stopped for a single instant, you would fall lifeless on the stage. Not only this, but some of your highest ideals of human fellowship and comradeship were not created in a moment, but represent the work of ages.
    • Henry Fairfield Osborn Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 133-34. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
  • Direct observation of the testimony of the earth ... is a matter of the laboratory, of the field naturalist, of indefatigable digging among the ancient archives of the earth's history. If Mr. Bryan, with an open heart and mind, would drop all his books and all the disputations among the doctors and study first hand the simple archives of Nature, all his doubts would disappear; he would not lose his religion; he would become an evolutionist.
    • Henry Fairfield Osborn 'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91. Written in response to an article a few days earlier in which William Jennings Bryan challenged the theory of evolution as lacking proof.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about: