Richard Franklin Bensel
Cornell University, New York
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2008
Online Publication Date:July 2009
The 1896 Democratic National Convention simultaneously proposed a radically new trajectory for American industrial expansion, harshly repudiated its own incumbent president, and rudely overturned the party’s traditional regional and social hierarchy. The passion that attended these decisions was deeply embedded in the traditional alliances and understandings of the past, in the careers and futures of the party’s most prominent leaders and most insignificant ward heelers, and in the personal relations of men who had long served together in the halls of Congress. This passion was continuously on display in the Chicago Coliseum, shaped by the rhythm of parliamentary ritual and the physical architecture of the convention hall. William Jennings Bryan anticipated the moment when pathos would be at its height and chose that moment to give his “Cross of Gold” address, thus harnessing passion to his personal ambition and winning the presidential nomination.