William Jennings Bryan dominated the Democratic Party-and arguably American politics at large-for nearly three decades. Thrice he sought the presidency. Thrice he lost. Perhaps no other American politician has had greater influence by losing. Precisely two moments from the life of William Jennings Bryan define this politician's place in the public's eye: Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech from the 1896 Democratic Convention in Chicago and his humiliation at the hands of Clarence Darrow in the trial of John Scopes at Dayton, Tennessee.
W.J.B. lost nearly every political campaign he undertook. In defeat, he led coalitions of farmers, laborers, believers, and agitators. Indeed, he inspired them. He never served as President, and given his woeful performance as Secretary of State, America is likely blessed to have known him strictly as a presidential candidate. W.J.B. was the prophet of free silver and the scourge of evolution, but he was much, much more. Today, as during the days of his life, W.J.B. is the voice of the people.
W.J.B., Vox Populi,
86 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol86/iss1/8