William Jennings Bryan
From a Speech delivered at Lincoln, Nebr., in November, 1906.
IT is the fate of those who stand in a position of leadership to receive
credit which really belongs to their coworkers. Even the enemies of a public
man exaggerate the importance of his work without, of course, intending
it. I have recently been a victim of this exaggeration. Senator Beveridge,
of Indiana, made a speech before the Republican Club of Lincoln, and in
it he paid me some compliments; but he said that I was merely a dreamer
while President Roosevelt did things. I did not pay much attention to the
title which he gave me until I read shortly afterwards that Speaker Cannon
called me a dreamer; then Governor Cummins called me a dreamer, and then
Governor Hanley, of Indiana, did also; and I saw that I could not expect
acquittal with four such witnesses against me, and so I decided to plead
guilty and justify.
I went to the Bible for authority, as I am in the habit of doing, for I
have never found any other book which contains so much of truth or in which
truth is so well expressed; and then, too, there is another reason why
I quote scripture: When I quote democratic authority, the Republicans attack
my authority and they keep me so busy defending the men from whom I quote
that I do not have time to do the work I want to do, but when I quote scripture
and they attack my authority, I can let them fight it out with the Bible
while I go on about my business.
The Bible tells of dreamers, and among the most conspicuous was Joseph.
He told his dreams to his brothers, and his brothers hated him because
of his dreams. And one day when his father sent him out where his brothers
were keeping their flocks in Dothan, they saw him coming afar off and said:
“Behold, the dreamer cometh.” They plotted to kill him—and he is not the
only dreamer who has been plotted against in this old world. But finally
they decided that instead of killing him they would put him down in a pit,
but some merchants passing that way, the brothers decided to sell him to
the merchants, and the merchants carried Joseph down into Egypt.
The brothers deceived their father and made him think the wild beasts had devoured his son.
Time went on and the brothers had almost forgotten the dreamer Joseph.
But a famine came—yes, a famine—and then they had to go down into Egypt
and buy corn, and when they got there, they found the dreamer—and he had
So I decided that it was not so bad after all for one to be a dreamer—if one has the corn.
But the more I thought of the dreamer’s place in history, the less I felt
entitled to the distinction.
John Boyle O’Reilly says that
“The dreamer lives forever,
While the toiler dies in a day.”
And is it not true?
In traveling through Europe you find great cathedrals, and back of each
there was a dreamer. An architect had a vision of a temple of worship and
he put that vision upon paper. Then the builders began, and they laid stone
upon stone and brick upon brick until finally the temple was completed—completed
sometimes centuries after the dreamer’s death. And people now travel from
all corners of the world to look upon the temple, and the name of the dreamer
is known while the names of the toilers are forgotten.
No, I cannot claim a place among the dreamers, but there has been a great
dreamer in the realm of statesmanship—Thomas Jefferson. He saw a people
bowed beneath oppression and he had a vision of a self-governing nation,
in which every citizen would be a sovereign. He put his vision upon paper
and for more than a century multitudes have been building. They are building
at this temple in every nation; some day it will be completed and then
the people of all the world will find protection beneath its roof and security
within its walls. I shall be content if, when my days are numbered, it
can be truthfully said of me that with such ability as I possessed, and
whenever opportunity offered, I labored faithfully with the multitude to
build this building higher in my time.