At His Reception in Lincoln
William Jennings Bryan
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
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.