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William Jennings Bryan

Remembered only as a precursor of the Religious Right, he was actually one of the most radical mainstream politicians of his age, and three times the Democratic nominee for President. Made Secretary of State when Woodrow Wilson finally won the Presidency for the Democrats in the 1912 election, William Jennings Bryan held that office through the critical months before and after the outbreak of World War One. The war was a heartbreak for Bryan, a dedicated pacifist who deeply believed that war was obsolete as well as immoral. 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,1 in which he slowly drifted towards the edge 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 wa


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William Jennings Bryan. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:40, October 23, 2014, from
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