William Jennings Bryan’s Second Populist Run
at the White House
Click to enlarge:
“No Crown of Thorns / No Cross of Gold / Equal Rights to All / Special Privileges to None”
William Jennings Bryan tried for the White House in 1896, 1900, and 1908. The leading supporter of “free silver” against the gold standard, and a champion of the “little guy” against moneyed Eastern businessmen and bankers, Bryan came closest to victory in 1896. [WILLIAMS JENNING BRYAN].
“The Issue--1900: Liberty, Justice, Humanity.”
Columbus, Ohio, Neville Williams, 1900. Chromolithograph, printed by the Strobridge Lithograph Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 20 x 30 in; edges slightly trimmed, very faint mat toning; laid down on canvas.
Surrounding the central vignette of the candidate flanked by American flags, nearly every theme of Bryan’s long political career is represented in fantastic graphics. Quotes from his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech on monetary policy and the free coinage of silver surround his name; a rooster and plow reveal his appeal to the nation’s long-suffering Midwestern farmers; and “Blind Justice” looks longingly at Bryan’s portrait. A bronze liberty bell dated 1776 juxtaposes a silver one labeled “1900 No Imperialism.”
Below, a white-clad Lady Democracy fashioned as a Jael-style avenger prepares to destroy monopolistic trusts by hacking the tentacles off an octopus that protects large American industries such as the U.S. Biscuit Company, American Tobacco, the American Steel Trust, and perennial progressive punching bag Standard Oil. (An octopus representing monopolies dates to the early 1880s but gained traction in the early years of the 1900s, notably in Puck magazine’s famous 1904 cartoon of Standard Oil’s tentacles surrounding the U.S. Capitol building.)
The anti-imperialist plank is shown by figures representing Cuba, Mexico, and probably the Philippines appealing to the Statue of Liberty, shouting “give us liberty or give us death,” paraphrasing Patrick Henry’s famous line. The print itself boldly proclaims “Equal Rights to All, Special Privileges to None.”
William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) of Nebraska was a powerful orator and prominent populist who failed in bids for the presidency in 1896, 1900, and 1908. His support for farmers and laborers led him to oppose trusts and seek monetary, trade, tariff, and railroad rate regulation. After his third presidential bid, he became Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State in 1913. A pacifist, in 1915 Bryan resigned after Wilson began to move towards fighting Germany in WWI after the sinking of the Lusitania. Bryan supported Prohibition and was an ardent anti-Darwinist. He died in 1925 five days after the conclusion of the Scopes Monkey Trial, where he defended Tennessee’s anti-evolutionary position.