While he may never have won that presidential election, William Jennings Bryan made a lasting impact on the politics of the United States. Eventually serving as the 41st United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, he was a popular democratic with enthusiastic views and a rich political history. He was known as one of America’s finest ‘celebrity politicians,’ a startling personality that still resonates on the United States political sphere.
Bryan began his career in politics as a lawyer, but quickly rose through the ranks to become a member in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1890. Despite his disadvantage of being a Democrat in a mainly Republic state (Nebraska), he was nominated for three different presidential parties, but was shot down from his presidential candidacy by vehemence and defamation by the Republican Party. His next two presidential bids also met with failure. Even his time as Secretary of State for President Wilson was short-lived, and his disagreements with presidential policies eventually led him to resign. From there he focused on speaking about other issues, such as evolution, prohibition and education.
Bryan’s personality was generally fiery and passionate. He was extremely patriotic, avidly supported the Spanish-American War and even attempting to enlist for World War I at age 57. He was known for his long, enthusiastic speeches on all topics, mainly religion and politics. He considered himself a moral man that believed good people needed religious foundations in their lives in order to be successful, functioning members of society. His strong religious beliefs and desire for peace led him to reject the rising trend of evolutionary thinkers. He believed civilization suffered from a belief in evolution and even convinced several public school systems to outlaw the teaching of evolution entirely. Another view affected by his religious standpoint was on alcohol consumption; Bryan enthusiastically supported prohibition when the 18th Amendment was passed, believing it would physically and morally improve United States citizens.
William Jennings Bryan was both a successful and unsuccessful political figure, mainly earning fame for his policies, speeches, conducts and deeply rooted beliefs. He was a lecturer on many theological subjects and led several philosophical campaigns. He even brought his ideas on evolution to court with the Scopes Trial of 1925. However, his words and actions led many to see Bryan as close-minded and ignorant, a typical example of Southern un-enlightenment. His political and personal careers were often stunted as a result of the image, as well as his seemingly hard-headedness involving his position on certain issues. No matter the view, however, Bryan still serves as a famous political persona in United States history.