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Republic & Democracy in the 20th Century: William Jennings Bryan

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1 Republic & Democracy in the 20th Century: William Jennings Bryan
“The armor of a righteous cause” (Political Science 565)

2 Long-term outcomes of the Civil War
Federal government decisively rendered superior to state governments Blacks being citizens, racial equality becomes civil rights issue Necessities of war lead to dramatic expansion, bureaucratization of federal gov’t Push to homogenize law across states Expanded power of corporations, closer ties to government

3 William Jennings Bryan
Lawyer Populist orator, the Great Commoner Spoke for the rural people of the midwest & west, massively popular Democratic presidential nominee 1896, 1900 and 1908 Peace activist & anti-imperialist Wilson’s Secretary of State Scopes Trial Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow

4 Bryan The money question: should the dollar be backed by gold or by silver? Major issue in late-19th C. American politics Gold: stable, “Sound Money” Backed by the banks, industry, landlords Silver: inflationary, “Free Silver” Backed by debtors, farmers, workers Themes of the ‘Cross of Gold’ speech Equality The people = farmers, laborers The State should serve & protect the people America belongs to the common people, not to elites Major business interests are capturing the government

5 I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were a mere measuring of abilities; but 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. The cause of the masses is the cause of all human beings Moral righteousness above all

6 Crusade, believers vs. unbelievers
“With a zeal approaching the zeal which inspired the crusaders who followed Peter the Hermit, our silver Democrats went forth from victory unto victory until they are now assembled, not to discuss, not to debate, but to enter up the judgment already rendered by the plain people of this country. In this contest brother has been arrayed against brother, father against son. The warmest ties of love, acquaintance, and association have been disregarded; old leaders have been cast aside when they have refused to give expression to the sentiments of those whom they would lead, and new leaders have sprung up to give direction to this cause of truth. Thus has the contest been waged, and we have assembled here under as binding and solemn instructions as were ever imposed upon representatives of the people.” Crusade, believers vs. unbelievers

7 We do not come as individuals
We do not come as individuals. As individuals we might have been glad to compliment the gentleman from New York [Senator Hill], but we know that the people for whom we speak would never be willing to put him in a position where he could thwart the will of the Democratic party. I say it was not a question of persons; it was a question of principle, and it is not with gladness, my friends, that we find ourselves brought into conflict with those who are now arrayed on the other side. A conflict not over policy, but between good & evil

8 Bryan “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.” A matter of ideals, which are more important than even life Equality To the charge that silver will disrupt business, “We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis” Power in language

9 Bryan To whom does America belong? To "the idle holders of idle capital” or to "the struggling masses, who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country”? What is here the appropriate role of government intervention? On whose behalf should it act? To whom does it belong? “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 upon them.” for Bryan that the state should act to preserve and protect those who are the most numerous and at the same time most vulnerable.

10 Bryan “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.” The rural people are the base of the American way of life Morally Economically The producer of wealth seen as prior to the aggregator of wealth A matter of justice

11 Bryan Our ancestors, when but three millions in number, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation; shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to seventy millions, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers? [...] 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. What is called to mind by this imagery?

12 Scopes Let me, in the first place, congratulate our cause that circumstances have committed the trial to a community like this and entrusted the decision to a jury made up largely of the yeomanry of the state. Virtue of the agrarian masses “This is not an interference with freedom of conscience. A teacher can think as he pleases and worship God as he likes, or refuse to worship God at all.” Issue is not with the individual, but with his function as public servant The “state can direct what shall be taught and also forbid the teaching of anything ‘manifestly inimical to the public welfare.’” (1) What is the public welfare? Who decides? How much influence should the community have over the education of its children?

13 Science has brought many useful & beneficial things to modern life, and “Christianity welcomes truth from whatever source it comes, and is not afraid that any real truth from any source can interfere with the divine truth that comes by inspiration from God Himself.” But: “Evolution is not truth; it is merely an hypothesis—it is millions of guesses strung together.” (3) Bryan’s claim here rests on a misunderstanding of the scientific term “theory” A scientific theory is a hypothesis that has been tested many times and has a large amount of evidence to support it Functionally factual Newton

14 Separation of Church & State
The “evolutionary hypothesis, carried to its logical conclusion, disputes every vital truth of the Bible. Its tendency, natural, if not inevitable, is to lead those who really accept it, first to agnosticism and then to atheism. Darwin “drags man down to the brute level, and then, judging man by brute standards, he questions whether man’s mind can be trusted to deal with God and immortality? How can any teacher tell his students that evolution does not tend to destroy his religious faith?” (5-6) “Christians must, in every state of the Union, build their own colleges in which to teach Christianity; it is only simple justice that atheists, agnostics and unbelievers should build their own colleges if they want to teach their own religious views or attack the religious views of others.” (2)

15 “Do bad doctrines corrupt the morals of students
“Do bad doctrines corrupt the morals of students? We have a case in point. Mr. Darrow, [and lead attorney for the defense] one of the most distinguished criminal lawyers in our land, was engaged about a year ago in defending two rich men’s sons who were on trial for as dastardly a murder as was ever committed.” Leopold & Loeb, 1924 Nathan Leopold had been an enthusiastic reader of Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil Darrow’s defense: “Is there any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche’s philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it?[..] Then who is to blame? The university would be more to blame than he is; the scholars of the world would be more to blame than he is. The publishers of the world are more to blame than he is. Your Honor, it is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.” For Bryan, this exactly supports his argument that a belief in the atheistic dominance of the strongest leads to violence and depravity (8-9)

16 Darrow defense Richard Loeb: “I do not know what remote ancestor may have sent down the seed that corrupted him, and I do not know through how many ancestors it may have passed until it reached Dickey Loeb. All I know is, it is true, and there is not a biologist in the world who will not say I am right.” Bryan: “That doctrine is as deadly as leprosy; it may aid a lawyer in a criminal case, but it would, if generally adopted, destroy all sense of responsibiity [sic] and menace the morals of the world.” (10)

17 Evolution teaches that change can occur only over millions of years, stifling hopes for change today
“Its only program for man is scientific breeding, a system under which a few supposedly superior intellects, self-appointed, would direct the mating and the movements of the mass of mankind—an impossible system!” (11) Eugenics

18 Darwin: “The weak members of civilized society propagate their kind [via vaccinations, asylums, poor laws]. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts” Bryan: “All of the sympathetic activities of civilized society are condemned because they enable “the weak members to propagate their kind.” Then he drags mankind down to the level of the brute and compares the freedom given to man unfavorably with the restraint that we put on barnyard beasts.” (12) Evolution erodes Christian pity & solidarity

19 Evolution, “if taken seriously and made the basis of a philosophy of life, it would eliminate love and carry man back to a struggle of tooth and claw.” (12) “What else can the spirit of evolution can account for the popularity of the selfish doctrine, ‘Each one for himself, and the devil take the hindmost,’ that threatens the very existence of the doctrine of brotherhood.” (14) Embracing evolution will not only enable capitalist competition & exploitation, but legitimate it as morally good.

20 “The world needs a savior more than it ever did before.” (14)
“In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before.” It has given us planes and submarines, “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. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene.” “The world needs a savior more than it ever did before.” (14) The eroding of Christianity will unleash powers of exploitation and destruction “Again force and love meet face to face, and the question, “What shall I do with Jesus?” must be answered.” (15)

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