At His Reception in Lincoln

William Jennings Bryan, three time Presidential candidate

William Jennings Bryan

Holy, Holy, Holy
Delivered at Lincoln, Neb., on September 5, 1906, at the non-partisan reception tendered to Mr. and Mrs. Bryan by the citizens of Lincoln on their return from a tour of the world.

IN the Arabic language there are some six hundred words which mean “camel,” and for the last few days I have been wishing that there were that many words in the English language which meant “thank you.” I have had occasion to use the old familiar term “thank you” a great many times since I landed in New York. In London I had occasion to regret that I could speak but one language in that meeting where the representatives of twenty-six nations were assembled; but if I could speak all the languages known to man I would not be able to express the gratitude which my wife and I feel for the generous welcome which has been extended to us on our return home. The home folks met us in the harbor of New York, and I never looked into the faces of a group of friends more gladly in my life. They took charge of us, and they have floated us upon a stream of welcome 1,500 miles long, several leagues wide, and of immeasurable depth, until that stream has emptied itself into this ocean of good-will. To come home to those among whom we live and find this kindly feeling touches our hearts; to find those who differ from us in political opinion vieing with those who agree with us to make our reception delightful, more than pays us for anything that we have been able to do.

It is kind of our dear old minister to offer the invocation and my heart joins his in its ascent to the throne of God in gratitude for that providence which has kept us amid the dangers of foreign lands and brought us safely through the perils of the deep. It is kind in the chief executive of the city to welcome us to this, his rich domain; and it is kind in the governor of this great State to join in giving us a greeting as we come home. The fact that Governor Mickey, with whom I have not always been able to entirely agree, has overlooked the opposition that has sometimes arisen, only shows how much there is in life that we can enjoy together, and how little, after all, political differences ought to count between men. I might describe it thus, that the things that we hold in common are like the sunshine of the day, while partisan differences are like the clouds that come and in a moment pass away.

I am glad to be here with you, and I speak for my wife and children as well as for myself, when I thank you a thousand, thousand times. I do not know how I can repay you for the joy you have given us, unless you will permit me as occasion offers to bring such lessons as I am able to bring from what we have observed in other lands. When we conceived this trip around the earth, it was with the belief that there would be education in it. We thought so highly of it that we were willing to take the children out of school for a year, and I believe that it was worth more than a year’s education. But it has been instructive far beyond what we imagined, and we have been able to store up information that will not only be valuable in the years to come, but will give us something to reflect upon in the closing years of our lives. I have for years appreciated the honor and the responsibility of American citizenship. Twenty-two years ago when I returned to my college to receive the Masters’ Degree I took as the subject of my address, “American Citizenship,” and as I recall the language that I then used I am sure that even then I understood somewhat of the importance of our nation’s position among the nations of the earth. During the nearly a quarter of a century that has elapsed my appreciation of my nation’s greatness has increased, but never has my pride in my nation grown as it has during the past year.

Following the sun in his course around the globe, I have noted everywhere the effect of American influence. Before I left home I had spoken at times of altruism and its part in the world’s affairs. But, my friends, I have learned something of altruism since I was last among you, and I affirm without fear of contradiction that there is no nation on earth which manifests such disinterested friendship for the human race as this dear land of ours. Not only do I affirm that our nation has no equal living, but I affirm that history presents no example like ours. In many ways our nation is leading the world. I have found in every land I have visited a growth of ideas that underlie our government. A century and a quarter ago certain political doctrines were planted on American soil, and those doctrines have grown and spread until there is not a nation on earth that has not felt the impulse that was started in this country at that time. There is not a nation in the world in which the democratic idea is not moving and moving powerfully today. Go into Japan and you will find that they not only have a representative government, but that they are continually endeavoring to make that government more responsive to the sentiment of the people. Go into China, that great nation which has slumbered for twenty centuries, and you will find that there is a stirring there and that the Dowager Empress has within a year sent commissioners abroad to investigate the institutions of other lands with the purpose of granting a constitutional government to the flowery kingdom.

Within a year public opinion in Russia has forced a reluctant czar to grant a douma, and while that douma has been dissolved it has been dissolved with the promise that another shall take its place. Not only do you find the democratic sentiment—and I need not tell you that I use the word in no partisan sense—not only is this spreading, but education is spreading throughout the world.

It is still true that millions, yes, hundreds of millions, sit in darkness. It is true that in one of the nations of the Orient scarcely one in a hundred can read intelligently a letter written to him. It is true that in another Oriental nation less than one per cent. of the women can read and write. It is true that you find many places where there is great intellectual darkness, but, my friends, in every nation which I visited there is growth, there is progress. A viceroy of China declared that in five years he had established four thousand schools in his one district, that in a nation which until recently knew nothing of the public school. I found that even in Turkey they are beginning to realize the necessity for education, and the governor of one of the Turkish States told me that it was necessary that the people of Turkey should be educated if they were going to hold any place among the nations of the earth. Not only are they establishing public schools, but they are establishing private schools. Not only private schools, but schools supported by contributions from abroad.

All over the Orient you will find schools established by Americans and supported by money contributed each year by Americans interested in the cause of education. And after having visited these schools, and the churches which stand beside them at every point at which we stopped in the Orient, we reached Bombay and found there also these schools supported by American money. I told them that if we could not boast that the sun never set upon our possessions we could boast that it never set upon American philanthropy. I am proud of this work that my country is doing, and none of us are wise enough to look into the future and see what may be done by these boys and girls who owe their intellectual training to the benevolence of American citizens. And in the presence of the ladies who grace this occasion let me say, that one who travels abroad, especially in the Orient, learns to appreciate what America does for the woman. There is no other nation in which woman stands as high as she does in the United States. There is no other nation in which woman so nearly approaches the position that the Creator intended her to fill. I have had some difficulty in bringing my countrymen to accept the double standard as applied to money. I think, however, they will agree with me when I apply the double standard to man and woman, and they will forgive me if I consent to a change in the ratio from 16 to 1 to 1 to 1.

Another thought that has impressed itself upon me is the superiority of our religion over the religions of the east. When I visited China I had a high conception of the philosophy of Confucius, but when I had seen Confucianism applied to human life and exemplified in Chinese society; when I had studied the words of Confucius I lost my admiration for the philosophy of Confucius. I found that there were several points where this system came into direct antagonism with the teachings of Christ. I have heard it said that Confucius gave what was equivalent to the golden rule when he said: “Do not unto others that which you would not have others do unto you.” But if you will examine the difference you will find that there is a world wide space between the negative doctrine of Confucius and the positive doctrine of the Nazarene. The negative doctrine is not sufficient. Life means something better than negative harmlessness; it means positive helpfulness prompted by love for mankind.

Once when Confucius was asked what he thought of the doctrine that you should do good to those who injure you, his reply was that you should recompense good with good, and evil with justice; but Christ says love your enemies, and do good to those that hate you. How can you know what justice is if revenge is rankling in your bosom? Christ gave us the doctrine that takes from the heart the desire for revenge; by putting love in its place, He makes it possible for men to know what justice is.

And as we traveled through India and saw the idolatry that one finds there; as we saw them dip up water from the sacred Ganges; as we saw them bathing the limbs of the dead in these waters to consecrate them before they were burned; as we watched them in their devotion and in their superstitions, our hearts turned with love and longing to the little churches of this country where God is worshiped in a different way.

But, my friends, I am not here to speak to you to-night. It has been announced that we are to have the pleasure of shaking hands with you as soon as I have concluded my remarks. I have been taking a survey of this audience. Mrs. Bryan and I have at times shaken hands with as many as 3,600 an hour, and I have been looking over this audience and wondering how high the sun would be in the sky tomorrow morning when we are through. As we have not had our full quota of sleep since we landed in New York I must not postpone that sleep too long. I shall not occupy more of your time than to say that we come home again with delight. We have seen nothing abroad that is so dear to us as home.

To-night we shall not rest on the trembling bosom of the mighty deep; we shall rest rather on these billowy plains of the boundless West, and I am sure that the alfalfa-scented air of these lands will be sweeter than the spicy breezes of Ceylon. And I know that in our home upon the hill where we can meet you and talk over the days when we have been absent we will be far happier than we would be in any castle on the Rhine.

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