William Jennings Bryan, Framer
bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 19 09:33:35 PST 2006
After Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson, whose world are we living in?
In _A Godly Hero, the Life of William Jennings Bryan_, (Knopf, 2006),
Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown, describes “the
Great Commoner” as he was, as opposed to how H.L. Mencken (and the
play/movie “Inherit the Wind”) said he was at the time of the Scopes
Monkey trial, when Bryan was relegated to caricature status for his
fundamentalist view of the Bible and opposition to Darwin’s theory of
evolution being taught as fact in public school. How would you feel if
your children had to go to a school where they were taught, as fact,
doctrine that was inconsistent with your religious views. This issue did
not go away in Tennessee in 1925.
Before this he had spoken forcefully and with great effect to the
ideals, religious, moral, economic and political, of a significant
portion of America. Behind so many of Bryan’s ideals was that of racial
bigotry, but that, unfortunately, is also a great theme of America.
So strong was Bryan politically that Woodrow Wilson appointed him as
Secretary of State, shortly before America’s entry into WWI. As the
Democratic Party champion beginning in 1896, Bryan was nominated and ran
three times for president. To regard him as merely the laughable,
benighted caricature, a la Inherit the Wind, is a mistake of history,
which Kazin seeks to correct, for our benefit, not Bryan’s.
Among Bryan’s contribution to the subject of this list, he was, since
the 1890s, “the leading proponent” (p. 304) of the Sixteenth Amendment,
providing for the income tax, after it had been held unconstitutional in
Pollock (ratified 1913), the Seventeenth, providing for the direct
election of senators (also ratified 1913), and the Eighteenth,
Prohibition, ratified 1919 and repealed in 1933. He was THE great reformer.
It was his ideas, or those adopted and espoused by him, that the major
parties adopted as theirs, the great example being TR and campaign
against the trusts. Recognition of labor unions, collective bargaining,
minimum wages, maximum hours, workers compensation, insured deposits,
corporate regulation, woman suffrage ((Amend. 19, ratified 1920),
equality for women, international organizations to deter war, cooling
off periods, opposition to American imperialism, and many more, all the
stuff of reform and the impulses that formed roots of the New Deal, were
promoted early and often by WJB.
Millions of common people, mostly old stock white Protestant, who
opposed politics in religion, regarded Bryan as their Savior's leading
spokesman on earth, introducing their religion and morality to our politics.
Apropos of recent discussion here, Bryan proposed “a new amendment that
would make it easier to enact others in the future. Why not alter
Article Five to allow a simple majority in Congress and of state
legislatures to change the Constitution?” P. 223.
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Size: 73 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://lists.ucla.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/private/conlawprof/attachments/20060319/41f27ea1/bobsheridan.vcf
More information about the Conlawprof