July 9, 1896: Cross of Gold


The greatest of acceptance speeches for president was doubtless the Cross of Gold speech delivered on July 9, 1896.  Strictly speaking it was not an acceptance speech, but it might as well have been.  It catapulted dark horse candidate Bryan, the youngest nominee of any major party at age 36, into the Democratic nomination for president in 1896.  Perhaps the greatest American orator of his time, William Jennings Bryan was three times the nominee of the Democratic party, 1896, 1900 and 1908, losing each time.  It is a tribute to his hold on his party that he was put forward three times, as American parties are usually unforgiving to candidates who lose a Presidential race, with very few exceptions.  Bryan was an interesting mix of economic radicalism, pacifism and traditional religious fervor.  If he is remembered at all today, it is because of his role in the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the most misinterpreted and misunderstood legal battles in American history.  This does not do justice to the man.  He possessed a keen intellect, and even when he was wrong he never failed to make a convincing case for his position.

Bryan began the process by which the Democratic party, long the conservative party in this country on most issues, began a drift to the Left.  He also ensured that his party retained a strong presence in rural American, a presence that did not come to an end, at least for the time being, until Reagan.  In many ways Bryan, more than any other man, helped shape the Democratic party between the Civil War and the New Deal, and should be regarded as a precursor to FDR.  Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech gained him the Democratic nomination in 1896 and is one of the finest examples of American oratory, whatever one may think, and I do not think much of it, in regard to substance: (more…)

Published in: on July 9, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 9, 1896: Cross of Gold  
Tags: , ,