William Jennings Bryan

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William Jennings is regarded as one of the twentieth century’s “celebrity politicians.” Bryan was a prominent American politician in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Bryan, a gifted orator, was also credited with introducing the’stumping tour’ to America. He spent his entire life in the spotlight and was politically active until his death. Often referred to as the “common man’s hero,” Bryan was a staunch supporter of laissez-faire and worked tirelessly to achieve it. He ran for President of the United States three times as a Democratic Party candidate (1896, 1900, and 1908), but failed to win in each of his three attempts. Nonetheless, he was appointed Secretary of State by democratic President Woodrow Wilson, where he demonstrated his ability to make sound judgments. He was opposed to Darwin’s theory of evolution, which made him somewhat unpopular; he was also frequently chastised for his religious zeal. He refused to accept Darwinism because he saw it as a threat to Christianity and democracy. He even launched an anti-evolution campaign to prevent Darwin’s theory from being taught in schools and churches. Despite his religious extremism, he never truly lost his followers’ full support, respect, and approval. He was one of the few politicians of his generation who were admired more for their persona than for their political views.

Childhood & Adolescence

William was born to Silas Lillard Bryan and Mariah Elizabeth Bryan and was baptized at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church when he was fourteen years old.

He was largely self-taught until 1874, when he was admitted to Whipple Academy in Jacksonville, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Illinois College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1881.

He enrolled at Union College of Law and was admitted to the Illinois State Bar in 1883 upon completion of his studies. He remained in Illinois and practiced law until 1887, when he relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Career of William

He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1890 as a democratic candidate. He was an excellent orator who always took the initiative when delivering speeches.

In 1896, during a period of decline in the silver market, he addressed the Democratic National Convention, advocating for ‘free silver,’ which he believed was necessary for the nation’s prosperity.

In 1896, he ran for President and was (and continues to be) the youngest candidate ever, but lost. In 1898, he backed the Spanish-American War, but opposed the United States’ annexation of the Philippines.

He condemned their imperialism, stating that the United States should not follow the British and their colonialism.

He ran for President in 1900 on an anti-imperialist platform but lost to Republican candidate William McKinley. In 1908, he made his third and final unsuccessful bid for the presidency.

Following his defeat in the presidential election, he maintained a busy schedule as a Chautauqua (adult education movement in the United States) speaker, promoting religious ideologies.

He was appointed Secretary of State in 1913 for his ardent support of Thomas Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election. He resigned from office in 1915 and campaigned for Woodrow Wilson as a private citizen the following year.

In 1918, following his national campaign, the United States Constitution’s 18th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.

In 1920, he issued a scathing critique of Darwin’s theory of evolution, describing it as a threat to democracy and Christianity.

He began an anti-evolution campaign in 1921 and unsuccessfully ran for the position of Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in order to uproot this philosophy.

In 1925, he was a witness in the ‘Scopes trial,’ in which a high school teacher, John Scopes, was found guilty of violating Tennessee’s ‘Butler’s Act,’ which made teaching human evolution illegal.

Though Bryan initially won the case, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, resulting in Scopes’ acquittal.

Significant Works of William

As Secretary of State, one of his major accomplishments was convincing 28 signatories to abstain from hostilities during pre-World War I arbitration of disputes.

He was also instrumental in negotiating the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of 1914, which authorized the United States to construct a canal through Nicaragua and to establish naval bases in the Gulf of Fonseca and on the Corn Islands.

Throughout his presidential campaigns, he advocated for Free Silver (for the nation’s advancement), anti-imperialism (in protest of the Philippines’ annexation), and antitrust law (to maintain market competition).

Toward the end of his political career, he took part in the contentious ‘Scopes’ trial, during which he denounced Darwinism and evolution theory.

Personal History and Legacies

On October 1, 1884, Bryan married Mary Elizabeth Baird, with whom he had three children. He died in his sleep five days after the ‘Scopes’ trial and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, where his tombstone reads “He kept the Faith.”

Oklahoma’s ‘Bryan County’ is named after the politician. Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee is also named for him, as is his Nebraska home, which has been designated a historic landmark.

Estimated Net Wolrth

We estimate that William Jennings Bryan has a current net worth of $684,000 largely based on the estimated salary and income of $205,200 William is estimated to have earned as a Politician.


This well-known American politician was and continues to be the youngest presidential candidate in history. This eminent American politician was the first to campaign in a car as a presidential candidate!