Speeches by William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley

Both speeches, by William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley are election agitation, and are consequently intended to make a proper impact on the audience. William Jennings Bryan was a candidate from the Democratic party, while McKinley was from the Republican party which was in power at that time. Due to that Bryan’s speech was to contrast the ideas of the ruling party to those of the Democrats and to show the demerits of actual politics. Meanwhile McKinley’s speech was naturally stressing on the strengths of existing state of things and thus he paid more attention to what they have achieved through the years of power.

First of all we should evaluate the form in which the two candidates express their ideas. The speech of Bryan is longer and is much more pathetic than McKinley’s. Bryan is really passionate in his manner and uses many effective rhetorical tools. He appeals to the words and ideas of national authorities like Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, Henry, and Franklin, deliberately quotes the Bible and the Constitution, grabs the audience’s attention by academic questions (“If, in this country where the people have a right to vote, Republican leaders dare not take the side of the people against the great monopolies which have grown up within the last few years, how can they be trusted to protect the Filipinos from the corporations which are waiting to exploit the islands?”); he skillfully manipulates with various apt metaphors and other figures like “turn the thoughts of our young men from the arts of peace to the science of war”; “I am not willing that this nation shall cast aside the omnipotent weapon of truth to seize again the weapons of physical warfare”;
“Is the sunlight of full citizenship to be enjoyed by the people of the United States and the twilight of semi-citizenship endured by the people of Puerto Rico, while the thick darkness of perpetual vassalage covers the Philippines?” and other. All these shrewd moves make him sound rather persuasive and rational, at the same time influencing emotional perception of the audience.
McKinley’s speech has a bit another tone. It is shorter and sounds more confident as it is aimed to confirm the nation in the success of the politics he presents. McKinley neatly lists their achievements (on currency firmed up, on surplus and satisfaction of public needs, on reduced taxation and industry prosperity). At the same time he is logical enough to mention some fails as well, but easily finds explanation to those deficits and underlines that if the current politics will be pushed forward, those problems will be successfully overcome too.

In comparison with the position of McKinley, William Jennings Bryan looks a little bit vulnerable and looses credit in front of the assurances presented by president. While Bryan’s speech is posed as a voice of the common people, McKinley shows himself a patron of the nation, and by calling his audience “my fellow-citizens” he allegedly equals himself with the common people who must appreciate such attitude and meanwhile feel grateful for such treatment. He presents himself as a part of the unitary nation (“the responsibility for their presence, as well as for their righteous settlement, rests upon us all””no more upon me than upon you”), but it is quite obvious it is who he decides and leads. Hence, Bryan may cause credit and understanding of the people, but they may get doubt whether he is as powerless as they are and prefer a stronger candidate.

The two general questions disputed by the candidates are the Philippine Islands and Cuba. Bryan ardently stands for the independence and civil rights of the Filipinos. McKinley also regards the issue, but he acquits himself by telling that “We are not waging war against the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands. A portion of them are making war against the United States.”

Bryan warns on the threat of “paralyzing influence of imperialism” and draws a picture of what the imperialism can result in, with the army enlarged (“militarism will inevitably change the ideals of the people”) and consequent burdens experienced. One of his strongest arguments is the threat to the ideals of liberty and equality put into the basis of the American states: “A large standing army is not only a pecuniary burden to the people and, if accompanied by compulsory service, a constant source of irritation but it is even a menace угроза to a republican form of government.” He feels his own responsibility for not violating the nation’s ideals: “it shall be
my constant ambition and my controlling purpose to aid in realizing the high ideals of
those whose wisdom and courage and sacrifices brought this republic into existence.”
Apart from that, it is interesting to trace how logically he demolishes the main arguments claimed by the Republicans. As for education brought to the Filipinos, he says: “If we are to govern them without their consent and give them no voice in determining the taxes which they must pay, we dare not educate them lest they learn to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and mock us for our inconsistency.” But McKinley also actively manipulates the conscience of the people, and all in all, both speeches are brilliant examples of oratory.

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