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Comparing And Contrasting The Careers, Views And

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Comparing and Contrasting the Careers, Views and

Accomplishments of William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson

Two very influential men, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, born 1856, and William Jennings Bryan, born 1860 came onto the scene at one of the most critical points in American history. Thomas Woodrow Wilson was what you would call a late bloomer, yet in his later years that late "bloom" turned out to be a remarkable blossom. In other words, the impact he had on human society was colossal. William Jennings Bryan was a brilliant orator. His amazing speeches won him widespread recognition. While these two men worked along side each other in the realm of politics, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not, their lives would forever transform America.

Woodrow Wilson began his career as a professor, loving to read and write about the workings of the government. His contributions to this field included helping women into the field of academia that would eventually lead to the modern skilled and working woman and also writing several highly regarded books in the subjects of history and government. As a liberal reformer in education, he figured one way to further improve American government was to start where it all began, "modernizing and purifying the American academy" (Johnson, p. 629). Wilson soon became the governor of New Jersey, and what the City bosses thought would be a little puppet in their hands, actually became their "absolute master, displaying in the process a skill at intrigue, maneuver, and elevated skullduggery..." (Johnson, p. 633). The prestige that he gained from bringing this honest administration in the corrupt state made him the top-runner for the presidential nomination in 1912.

William Jennings Bryan, after graduating as the valedictorian and class orator from Illinois College, moved to Nebraska and became the first Democratic congressman in Nebraska's twenty years of statehood. After these two terms in Congress, Bryan became editor of the Omaha World-Herald and traveled the Chautauqua lecture circuit promoting populist ideas. In 1896, he gave a brilliant speech on behalf of the 'free silver' men at the National Convention in Chicago. "He championed the idea that the dollar should be backed by more plentiful silver rather than gold, as was the present U. S. policy... Tumultuous applause erupted on the convention floor and continued for thirty minutes"! (Linder). This astounding speech won him the democratic nomination, the first of three failed attempts. The second and third tries were spent at campaigning progressive issues such as anti-imperialism, consumer protection, regulation of trusts, and finance reform. "Although his dream of the presidency was never realized, Bryan succeeded in transforming the Democratic Party from a conservative party of Civil War losers to a coalition more focused on the interests of blue-collar workers, farmers, and religious and ethnic minorities" (Linder).

When Wilson ran for president in 1912, Bryan "preformed his last great service to the Democratic Party by helping secure Wilson's nomination" (Johnson, p. 635. Even though Wilson had been in politics only three years, and had never sat in Congress, his "lecture room skills served him well for platform oratory...his fine voice and admirable, often spontaneous, choice of words could hold audiences of up to 35,000 spellbound" (Johnson, p.634), something he and Bryan held very much in common. Wilson won the presidency, made Bryan his Secretary of State, and formed a great strong administration. He was on a mission to revolutionize the way of thinking for a strong federal government "with wide powers of intervention, as the defender of the ordinary man and woman against the excesses of corporate power" (Johnson, p. 636). Instead of limiting the government and state rights, as in what Jefferson and Jackson stood for, Wilson was the one to introduce America to big, benevolent government. Under Wilson, a personal income tax was implemented. Also, the Federal Reserve System was created as well as the Underwood Tariff Act. The Federal Trade Commission and the Clayton Antitrust Act were created to protect against cornering, monopolies, and oligopolies and the Federal Farm Loan Act and Adamson Act were created to protect the farmers and industrial workers. Bryan supported all these reforms as well as women's suffrage. By virtue of this legislation, Wilson was reelected as president for a second term under the slogan "he kept us out of war."

This slogan, however, was not going to hold its promise forever. In May of 1915, despite Wilson's pacifism and claims of neutrality, the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat confirmed that the U.S would indeed enter the war; it was only a matter of time. When U-boats kept sinking many of American ships and, to beat it all, tried to convince Minister Arthur Zimmerman of the Mexican government that Texas should be handed back to Mexico, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on April 2nd.

At this point, Wilson and Bryan came to a disagreement. Bryan, an extreme pacifist, completely disagreed with Wilson's decision to go to war. "While generally supported Wilson's decision to intervene in Mexico in 1914, he nevertheless argued for peaceful diplomacy,



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