Bryan the thinker
Archive.org has just posted three short Edison cylinder recordings
by William Jennings Bryan. We remember Bryan as a fiery and spine-tingling orator,
but these three short pieces show a different side, a sharp thinker who knew how to distinguish ideas from "issues".
The speech on tariffs is especially instructive, as he separates revenue tariffs from punitive tariffs, and chides the contemporary Republicans for continuing punitive tariffs even when they made our manufacturers less
competitive. Bryan is completely practical, focusing on the needs of our people.
The speech on bank deposits deals with a system adopted a few years earlier by Oklahoma. Bryan recommended national adoption of the system; unfortunately nobody listened. When FDR finally imposed the national FDIC in 1933, Oklahoma banks resisted. I didn't realize until now that they weren't simply confident or obstinate, they were already insured!
= = = = =
Tech note: The audio versions of the Cross of Gold speech available online are based on Bryan's 1923 rerun of the speech for recording, which is 'flatter' than the original. I remember hearing a 78 RPM version in 1964 which was far more 'musical' than this one. The one I heard wouldn't have been the original, but I suspect it was closer in time to the original. In that version the last line was tossed off accelerando
, ending on an unresolved note, as in "You Shall Not CrucifyMankind Upona Crossofgold;-----", which would have led into Bryan's quick and dramatic exit from the podium. Presumably that earlier and stronger version has not been preserved, though it might still be lurking in some dusty archive of records distributed to schools.