More to Explore
People and Groups
J. Edgar Hoover was direct of the Federal Bureau of Investigations from 1924 until his death in 1972.
Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865 to assist former slaves in post-Civil War America.
Judah P. Benjamin was a prominent American lawyer who held several positions in the Confederate cabinet during the American Civil War.
For better or for worse, these historic romances altered the course of history.
(1860-1925), Democratic party leader and secretary of state, 1913-1915. Born in Illinois, Bryan inherited from his parents an intense commitment to the Democratic party and a fervent Protestant faith. After graduating from Illinois College and Union Law School, he married and, seeing no political future in Illinois, moved to Nebraska in 1887. In 1890, when the new Populist party disrupted Nebraska politics, Bryan won election to Congress; he was reelected in 1892. In Congress, he earned respect for his oratory and became a leader among free-silver Democrats. In 1894 he led Nebraska's Democrats to support the state Populist party.
Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic convention with his stirring Cross of Gold speech favoring free silver and thereby captured the presidential nomination. Also nominated by the Populists, Bryan agreed with their view that government should protect individuals and the democratic process against monopolistic corporations. 'The Boy Orator of the Platte' traveled eighteen thousand miles and spoke to thousands of voters, but lost; William McKinley's victory initiated a generation of Republican dominance in national politics. Bryan's 1896 campaign, however, marked a long-term shift within the Democratic party from a Jacksonian commitment to minimal government toward a positive view of government.
During the Spanish-American War, Bryan served as a colonel in a Nebraska regiment, but after the war, he condemned McKinley's Philippine policy as imperialism. Nominated again by the Democrats in 1900, Bryan hoped to make the election a referendum on imperialism, but other issues intervened, including his own insistence on free silver and attacks on monopolies. McKinley won again.
After his defeat, Bryan launched a newspaper, the Commoner (based on his nickname 'the Great Commoner') and made frequent speaking tours. Although he was a superb orator, he was neither a deep nor an original thinker. He used the Commoner and the lecture circuit to affirm equality, to advocate greater popular participation in governmental decision making, to oppose monopolies, and to proclaim the importance of faith in God. 'Shall the People Rule?' became the watchword of his third campaign for president, in 1908, when he lost to William Howard Taft.
In 1912, Bryan worked to secure the Democratic presidential nomination for Woodrow Wilson, and when Wilson won, he named Bryan secretary of state. As secretary, Bryan promoted conciliation, or cooling-off, treaties, in which the parties agreed that, if they could not resolve a dispute, they would wait a year before going to war and would seek outside fact-finding. Thirty such treaties were drafted.
When the European war broke out in 1914, Bryan, like Wilson, was committed to neutrality. But he went beyond Wilson in advocating restrictions on American citizens and companies to prevent them from drawing the nation into war. When Wilson strongly protested Germany's sinking of the Lusitania, Bryan resigned rather than approve a message he feared would lead to war.
Thereafter, Bryan worked for peace, prohibition, and woman suffrage, and he increasingly criticized the teaching of evolution. In 1925, he joined the prosecution in the trial of John Scopes, a Tennessee schoolteacher charged with violating state law by teaching evolution. In a famous exchange, Clarence Darrow, defending Scopes, put Bryan on the witness stand and revealed his shallowness and ignorance of science and archaeology. Bryan died soon after the trial ended.
The Reader's Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!
This Day in History
Lawrence of Arabia dies, 1935
T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a retired Royal Air Force mechanic living under an assumed name. The legendary war hero,…
Own the official Larry Bobblehead and GIT-R-DONE!
Keep up with the latest History shows, online features, special offers and more.Sign up