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A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan Paperback – March 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
There is a tendency in the U.S. today that when we think of William Jennings Bryan, if we think about him at all, we think of the aging demagogue defending Creationism at the "Scopes Monkey Trial". Bryan's image seems coextensive with the actor Frederic March's characterization of a preening, self-righteous zealot in the movie "Inherit the Wind". Michael Kazin's "A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan" does a wonderful job of capturing the political life of a man who captured the ears and hearts of millions of Americans from 1896 until his death in 1925 at the age of 65. Millions of American farmers and laborers saw virtue in Bryan and sought to touch him. Kazin goes a long way towards explaining the social and political phenomenon that was William Jennings Bryan.
Kazin's "A Godly Hero" is both well-written and meticulously researched. Bryan, known to friends and foes alike as the "Great Commoner" was the Democratic Party's candidate for President in 1896, 1900, and 1908. Kazin does an excellent job of presenting Bryan as more than a cartoon-like caricature. Although always a devout, fervent Christian Bryan rose to national acclaim not on the basis of his religious world view but on a populist platform that was more than a bit radical for his time. Kazin points out, of course, that Bryan's political views were informed by his Christian beliefs, but notes that those beliefs led him to fight as a populist for social justice. Bryan's three presidential campaigns called for support for the rights of small farmers and factory workers as they did battle against the big railroads and factory owners.Read more ›
Kazin brings it all up close, and the gallery of American politicians, many of them long forgotten, jump into life. You can almost feel you were at one of those long-drawn-out political conventions of the turn of the century, and his cast of characters are vivid and fleshy. Do you know how in the YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON author Robert Caro manages to animate all manner of pols, give them flesh and blood? Kazin's style will remind you of Caro's way with a tale, only his task might be more difficult for the era was a good 60 years before LBJ's and in some ways more difficult to access. Some of the platforms men stood on seem almost to have a schizophrenic edge to them, and Jennings Bryan, as Kazin admits, has an opaque quality to his thinking that mirrors the perplexities of the common man of his day (I use the words "man" and "men" in shorthand to denote a day before universal suffrage, not that Kazin's biography doesn't include some powerful female figures, such as Bryan's acerbic, "choleric" widow Mary, who spared no one the foul side of her tongue and when she had something to say she let you have it!)
Thus Bryan shamefully stood by when Josephus Daniels urged Democrats in the Carolinas to prevent black voters from going to the polls by any means necessary.Read more ›
Bryan never was a Populist. The Great Commoner was an agrarian Democrat who convinced the Populist Party to support him in the 1896 Presidential election, despite the fact that the Populists ran surprisingly well in 1892 on a platform that really took it to the corporate interests then running roughshod over the American landscape. Bryan's 1896 Democratic Presidential nomination also represented the Party's rejection of the conservative stand-patism of President Grover Cleveland -- really a Republican who differed from the GOP only on the issue of a protective tariff -- in favor of a platform of economic reform based primarily on the call for inflation to ease the plight of debt-ridden farmers. Bryan lost the 1896 election, one of the four or five most important in American history, to William McKinley.
1896, though, was only the start of Bryan's career.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Recently I read in a list that William Jennings Bryan was one of the 100 most influential people in America’s history. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kurt M. Wade
An excellent, thorough look at the life of a complex man who was one of the most important politicians of the early 20th Century.Published 6 months ago by The Cat-Tribe
This biography helps rehabilitate the William Jennings Bryan reputation crafted by Mencken and Darrow. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Brad B.
William Jennings Bryan is a fascinating figure - he lost the race for the presidency three times. It was just a rare then for a Democrat to win from Nebraska as it is now. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Halma21
Uneven is the best way to describe this book. True, it told the story of WJB in detail and it was complete, objective, and well researched. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Sean Claycamp
Quite good and comprehensive, though I,am just a novice this field.Published 23 months ago by Howard Cort
Several years a go, I directed a high school production of "Inherit the Wind." The WJB based character was played a Bible thumping, bigot, and a bit clownish at times. Read morePublished on January 15, 2014 by Jerry D. Young
William Jennings Bryan is a complicated figure in history. After reading this biography, I--much like the author--am still not sure how I feel about him. Read morePublished on August 6, 2013 by Jeremy A. Perron