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William Jennings Bryan's Ideals and Impact

In the end, America's drift towards war against Germany led to his resignation.

From that point many authors begin the final phase of Bryan's career,1in which he slowly drifted out of the center of American public life. His tenure as Secretary of State was thus a bitter experience for him, a deep blow to his ideals. To us, it is likely to appear deeply contradictory: Bryan, the antiimperialist idealist, was highly prone to U.S. military interventions in Latin America. Yet in foreign as in domestic policy, Bryan was in many ways ahead of his time.

Woodrow Wilson was himself an idealist among statesmen, but he did not appoint Bryan as Secretary of State with the intent of launching a moral crusade. The appointment was in fact thoroughly political.2 Bryan was a leader of a wing of the Democratic Party, and a sometime rival of Wilson. Giving him the highest post of the Cabinet was in part a reward, in part an act of fencemending.

In order to understand Bryan and his policies, it is

necessary to understand the elements of change and continuity ________

1For example, Paolo Coletta and Lawrence Levine.

2Lawrence W. Levine, Defender of the Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 4.

in the relations of the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democrats of the early twent


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