On the eve of the election, this Judge cover cartoon contrasts the sentiments and behavior of presidential William Jennings Bryan toward the dark-skinned Filipino natives (left) and blacks in the American South (right).
In arguing against the McKinley administration’s policies in the Philippines, Bryan proposed to establish stability by ending the undeclared war and then grant the island chain its independence from American authority. He argued that the two steps could be accomplished quickly. At the same time, Southern Democrats were using intimidation, violence, fraud, state laws, and local ordinances to suppress the vote of black men, who were overwhelmingly Republicans. The period of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries was also the height of Jim Crow racial segregation in the South, the formal aspects of which were legislated by the dominant Democratic Party. Democratic platforms consistently condemned perceived federal violations of states’ rights, which could mean different things, but the criticisms were often aimed at Republican attempts to protect voting rights in the South. Even the anti-imperialists who had been abolitionists decades before often ignored the plight of Southern blacks while calling for Philippine independence and justice for Filipino natives. Only 40% of eligible voters in the South cast ballots in 1900; most who did not were black.
Bryan’s view of the native Philippine population, however, was not as respectful as this illustration portrays. The 1900 Democratic National Platform stated explicitly that the Filipinos could not become United States citizens without endangering American civilization. The document endorsed expansion into “desirable territory” that could become states and whose people were “willing and fit to become American citizens.” Bryan and the Democrats considered the Filipinos not only unwilling, but also unfit. The candidate’s racial prejudice was manifested in both his disdain for dark-skinned peoples around the world and his indifference toward American blacks. Years later, he helped convince the Democratic National Convention of 1924 not to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.