Bryan: The Folly of Youth


 "Willie in Wonderland…"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 17, 1896, p. 1017

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This cartoon belies the claim by Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan that a direct relationship exists between the prices of wheat and silver. While on his campaign speaking tour, he argued that free coinage of silver would raise both the price of silver (which would please western miners) and of wheat (which would please farmers). In the October 24 issue of Harper's Weekly, editor Carl Schurz pointed out “that since the early part of July the price of wheat has risen from thirteen to sixteen cents a bushel” over its previous level, while the price of silver has fallen four cents an ounce. That situation is illustrated here by an army of wheat sheaves advancing in price and toward a shocked Bryan, while “Silver” gophers leap downward into holes in the ground. The caption’s reference to “enemies’ country” is what Bryan called New York City, where he began his campaign tour. In this cartoon, however, it resembles his home state of Nebraska.

The relative youth of Bryan (36 years old) is mocked by use of the nickname “Willie,” depiction of him as a boy playing at being a soldier, and reference to Lewis Carroll’s book for children, Alice in Wonderland (the title character of which began her journey like the gophers in this cartoon). The latter two aspects also imply that the presidential candidate is disconnected from reality. Editor Schurz expressed frustration at Bryan’s refusal to explain his prophetic pronouncements, such as the alleged relation between wheat and silver prices. Early in the campaign, Schurz called the Democratic nominee a man of good character, but an intellectual lightweight. After reading speeches delivered by Bryan during the candidate’s campaign tour, the editor concluded that the Democrat “has demonstrated his utter incapacity to discuss the money question.”













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