In 1896, William Jennings Bryan ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States. Bryan, a former Democratic congressman from Nebraska, gained his party's presidential nomination in July of that year after electrifying the Democratic National Convention with his Cross of Gold speech.

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  • In 1896, William Jennings Bryan ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States. Bryan, a former Democratic congressman from Nebraska, gained his party's presidential nomination in July of that year after electrifying the Democratic National Convention with his Cross of Gold speech. He was defeated in the general election by the Republican candidate, former Ohio governor William McKinley.Born in 1860, Bryan grew up in rural Illinois and in 1887 moved to Nebraska, where he practiced law and entered politics. He won election to the House of Representatives in 1890, and was re-elected in 1892, before mounting an unsuccessful US Senate run. He set his sights on higher office, believing he could be elected president in 1896 even though he remained a relatively minor figure in the Democratic Party. In anticipation of a presidential campaign, he spent much of 1895 and early 1896 making speeches across the United States; his compelling oratory increased his popularity in his party.Bryan often spoke on the issue of the currency. The economic Panic of 1893 had left the nation in a deep recession, which still persisted in early 1896. Bryan and many other Democrats believed the economic malaise could be remedied through a return to bimetallism, or free silver—a policy they believed would inflate the currency and make it easier for debtors to repay loans. Bryan went to the Democratic convention in Chicago as an undeclared candidate, whom the press had given only a small chance of becoming the Democratic nominee. His 'Cross of Gold' speech, given to conclude the debate on the party platform, immediately transformed him into a favorite for the nomination, and he won it the next day. The Democrats nominated Arthur Sewall, a wealthy Maine banker and shipbuilder, for vice president. The left-wing Populist Party (which had hoped to nominate the only silver-supporting candidate) endorsed Bryan for president, but found Sewall unacceptable, substituting Thomas E. Watson of Georgia.Abandoned by many gold-supporting party leaders and newspapers after the Chicago convention, Bryan undertook an extensive tour by rail to bring his campaign to the people. He spoke some 600 times, to an estimated 5,000,000 listeners. His campaign focused on silver, an issue that failed to appeal to the urban voter, and he was defeated.The 1896 race is generally seen as a realigning election. The coalition of wealthy, middle-class and urban voters that defeated Bryan kept the Republicans in power for most of the time until 1932. Although defeated in the election, Bryan's campaign made him a national figure, which he remained until his death in 1925. (en)
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  • Democratic Party; also endorsed by Populist Party and National Silver Party (en)
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  • Arthur Sewall (en)
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  • William Jennings Bryan (en)
  • (Director of the Maine Central Railroad) (en)
  • U.S. Representative for Georgia's 10th (en)
  • U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st (en)
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  • I will add for the encouragement of those who still believe that money is not necessary to secure a Presidential nomination that my entire expenses while in attendance upon the convention were less than $100. (en)
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  • William Jennings Bryan, The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896 (en)
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  • In 1896, William Jennings Bryan ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States. Bryan, a former Democratic congressman from Nebraska, gained his party's presidential nomination in July of that year after electrifying the Democratic National Convention with his Cross of Gold speech. (en)
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  • William Jennings Bryan presidential campaign, 1896 (en)
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