Biography of William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925)

American politician. He/She was born on March 19, 1860, Salem (Illinois State), and died on July 26, 1925, in Dayton (Tennessee State). Leader of the Democratic Party, was successively defeated by Republican candidates in the presidential elections of the years 1896, 1900 and 1908. As Secretary of State under President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, was the person in charge of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, signed with Nicaragua in 1914.

After studying law in Jacksonville and Chicago, in 1883 he/she graduated in law, beginning the practice of law in the first city, until 1887, date in which moved to Lincoln (Nebraska State), where he/she was elected in 1891, Member of the Nebraska House of representatives within the ranks of the Democratic Party, period in which became the leader of the movement for the minting silver coins (bimetallism), in clear opposition to the industrial and large magnates from the East of the country, favourable to the strengthening of the gold as the only metal acunable free.

His first electoral defeat suffered in the year 1894, to be as a candidate for the Senate in a district historically inclined to vote Republican. The following two years he/she worked as editor of the Omaha World-Herald, popular publication of clear democratic sign, up to, in the year 1896, the National Convention of his party appointed him presidential candidate to face Republican opponent, the Governor of Ohio William McKinley, who ended up being elected. In that same Convention, he/she gave a famous speech The Cross of Gold (the golden cross), in favour of the theory of the bimetallism. Four years later, in 1900, he/she returned to confront by President McKinley, with a program that included customs reform, war imperialism and the financial trust and promising to enact a large number of laws of social character in favour of more unprotected, as workers and women classes, being defeated again. After the second failure, Bryan decided to deviate temporarily from active politics to return, this time as director, to the Omaha World-Herald, and founding, in 1901, the Commoner, an influential weekly newspaper in Lincoln, which was accused of demagogy cheap on the deep social differences in the country. In the year 1906, Bryan agreed for the third time, to be democratic candidate for the Presidency, fighting and losing again to the Republican candidate William Howard Taft.

But, despite its ongoing political failures, Bryan worked effectively, both from the Rotary controlled, as personal campaigning by all parts of the country, in the political campaign that led to the White House, in the elections of 1912, the Democratic candidate Thomas Woodrow Wilson, who appointed him Secretary of State in recognition of his work (Foreign Minister), between the years 1913 to 1915.

Convinced pacifist, the first year of his administration at the forefront of American diplomacy dedicated it to submit proposals for the maintenance of world peace, signing a total of 30 arbitration Treaty with foreign countries, among which highlighted the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, signed on August 5, 1914, with Nicaragua. Likewise, Bryan launched the idea of establishing international peace committees to resolve all disputes that may arise between the countries, in anticipation of the future society of Nations.

On June 8, 1915, Bryan presented his resignation to President Wilson for being completely at odds with the policy of this and most of his Cabinet, favorable all the United States entry into world war I after the incident of the sinking of the Lusitania by German submarines. Even so, Bryan attacked never personally, since even supported him in the campaign for re-election in 1916.

Retired from politics in a definitive way, Bryan continued fighting for the attainment of social reforms that later would be approved by Congress, as for example the implementation of the national income tax, prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages and the implementation of the suffrage to women.

He spent the last years of his life defending with a firmness not exempt from a great passion the American religious movement called fundamentalism; theological current opposed to the Darwinian theories and any scientific interpretation of the Bible and defending the literal interpretation of the Scriptures.

Of all the writings he/she left, we can highlight the following: Letters of a chinese official (1906), The old world and its ways (1907), Under other flags (1908) and The Bibley and your enemys (1921).


HERNÁNDEZ Sánchez-Barba, Mario: History of the United States of America: the bourgeois Republic to presidential power. (Madrid: Ed. Marcial Pons. 1997).

JONES, Maldwyn. A: history of the United States (1607-1992). (Madrid: Ed. Cátedra. 1995).

Carlos Herraiz García.