Saturday, April 25, 2015

R.C. Bowman on W.J. Bryan

Welcome to Stretchback Saturday, and another installment of the cartoons of Roland C. Bowman for the Minneapolis Tribune in 1900. As always, the cartoons are embiggenable when enclicked.
Since we're gearing up for 2016 these days, here's a look back at the 1900 presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan. Bryan, then 40 years old, won the Populist presidential nomination unanimously; and after the early withdrawal of Admiral George Dewey from the race, Bryan faced no real opposition for the Democratic nomination, either.
Chairman Jones: "This nigh horse isn't fast enough to trot in this team. Guess I'll have to trade him."

In my first batch of Bowman cartoons on this blog, I had included two cartoons featuring former Duluth, Minnesota Congressman Charles Towne from Bowman's "Meanderings of Willie and Little Steve" series. (To recap: Towne was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1894, lost reelection as an Independent in 1896 and 1898, and was appointed Senator as a Democrat for eight weeks in 1900-01; then he moved to New York and served one term in Congress as a Democrat.)

In the cartoon above Towne is the "nigh horse" about to be traded away by national Democratic Chairman James Jones. Towne was the Populist Party's overwhelming choice for its Vice Presidential nomination in 1900, but when the Democrats nominated former Vice President Adlai Stevenson instead, Towne declined the Populist nomination.

Poor, poor donkey

Bryan's advocacy of Free Silver was the overarching theme in his 1896 campaign; but by 1900, the discovery of gold in the Yukon and South Africa had completely changed the economic equation. "16 to 1" refers to the exchange rate of silver to gold proposed by the Free Silver advocates, opposed by Republicans and "Gold Democrats" such as former President Grover Cleveland.

The Democrats' 1900 convention in Kansas City reiterated much of the platform adopted at its 1896 convention in Chicago when it had first nominated Bryan for the presidency. The earlier convention had been the site of Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech.

Stefan Lorant posits that Bryan knew all along that his 1900 campaign was doomed to fail; but his enthusiastic campaigning never wavered as personally toured the country, delivering stirring and passionate speeches to enthusiastic crowds from the back of trains. This was in stark contrast to traditional presidential campaigns, and especially to incumbent President William McKinley, who stayed at home and let others campaign for him.

While Bryan was undoubtedly the more dynamic figure, McKinley benefited greatly from the robust national recovery during his first term from the Panic of 1893, as well as from the U.S. victory over Spain in the "splendid little war" of 1898.
The Ghost: "Tell me, William, what Demo-Pop was it who helped ratify me."
Bryan: "Why! O goodness!! The--the--tut-tut ba-ba-ba--it--was--me."
The Ghost: "Then you are SOME to blame, aren't you?"
Bryan: "Ya-ya-ya ye-ye-YES."

The Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War turned Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines over to the United States. Bryan and the Democrats opposed the creation of an American Empire, and Senate ratification of the treaty in 1899 was in doubt. Republicans appeared to be a vote short when, in the last minutes before the final vote, Bryan persuaded a group of Democrats to vote for ratification -- allegedly so that he would have fodder for his anti-imperialist campaign the next year.

There are plenty more Bryan cartoons in this book -- check back here again soon for the rest of the campaign.

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