To His Neighbors

William Jennings Bryan, three time Presidential candidate

William Jennings Bryan

Holy, Holy, Holy
Delivered at Lincoln, Neb., on November 2, 1908, as the closing speech of the campaign.

I SHALL not make a political speech tonight. After such a generous welcome, I prefer to speak to you as a man to those who live beside him. There are unpleasant experiences in public life, but its rewards far outweigh them, and nothing has occurred in my life that I appreciate more than the cordial reception that you have given me in my home city at the close of this campaign. To have lived among you with the publicity that attaches to a presidential campaign, and then to have such evidence of your good will, makes this night memorable. While it has sometimes been humiliating to have it thrown up to me in other parts of the country that my home city has never given me a majority—

Voices: We shall give it to you this time.

Thank you. While I repeat, it has been humiliating, yet, as a matter of fact, I have always had a large complimentary vote from the Republicans of Lincoln. When I ran for Congress in 1890, I was defeated in this county by only a little more than 400, and when I ran for Congress again in 1892, I was defeated in this county by only a little more than 300; and even in the heat of presidential campaigns, I have always had a large number of votes from men who were not connected with the political party of which I am a member. If this fact were known, there would not have been so much criticism of the fact that I have never carried this city with its large normal Republican majority. I want to thank the Republicans, who, in the past, have given me their votes. Without the votes of many Republicans I would not have been elected in 1892, for my majority was only 140; and without that election I would not have been nominated for the presidency in 1896. I can feel grateful, therefore, to the Republicans who gave me my start, and whose votes were absolutely necessary to my election on that occasion. Whatever the Republicans of Lincoln may do in the future, they have done enough in the past, by laying the foundation for my political career, to make me their debtor while I live.

My friends, I am at the end of my third presidential campaign. Tomorrow 15,000,000 of voters will decide whether I am to occupy the seat that Washington and Jefferson and Jackson and Lincoln occupied. You will have your part in my victory or in my defeat. It may be that the election will turn on Nebraska, and it may be that Nebraska will turn on votes, so few in number that the city of Lincoln may decide the result. If fate decrees that my name shall be added to the list of Presidents, and Nebraska added to the list of States that have furnished Presidents, I shall rejoice with you. If, on the other hand, the election shall be against me, I can feel that I have left nothing undone that I could have done to bring success to my cause. And I shall find private life so full of joy that I shall not miss the presidency.

I have been the child of fortune from my birth. God gave me into the keeping of a Christian father and a Christian mother. They implanted in my heart the ideals that have guided my life. When I was in law school, I was fortunate enough, as I was in my college days, to fall under the influence of men of ideals who helped to shape my course; and when but a young man, not out of college yet, I was guided to the selection of one who, for twenty-four years, has been my faithful helpmate. No presidential victory could have brought her to me, and no defeat can take her from me. I have been blessed with a family. Our children are with us to make glad the declining years of their mother and myself. When you first knew me, they called me, in derision, “The Boy Orator of the Platte.” I have outlived that title, and my grandchildren are now growing up about me. I repeat, that I have been fortunate, indeed. I have been abundantly rewarded for what little I have been able to do, and my ambition is not so much to hold any office, however great, as it is to know my duty and to do it, whether in public life or as a private citizen.

If I am elected, I shall be absent from you but four years. If I am defeated, you will help me to bear my defeat. And I assure you that the affection that my countrymen have shown is to me dearer than all earthly office. I shall be content, if I can deserve the continuation of that affection. I have been touched by the demonstrations that have been given in other parts of the country, but in twelve years and in three campaigns, I have never had a welcome anywhere more generous, more enthusiastic than you have given in Lincoln tonight.

1 believe I am going to be elected. More than that, I believe it is going to be more than a bare victory; I believe that there is a stirring of the conscience of the American people, a moral awakening, an uprising that means a sweeping victory. But that victory would be robbed of much of its sweetness if it were won outside of Nebraska entirely; that victory would lack much if Lincoln did not contribute to it; it would be robbed of much of its sweetness if my little precinct at Normal did not contribute to it. It will make life among you more pleasant if I can feel that this city has at last relieved me of the sneers and criticism that are hurled at me when I travel. If you, among whom I have lived; if you, who have known my every word and thought and act—if you believe me worthy of that high office, I will swear in your presence that no one who votes for me will ever have occasion to be ashamed of the vote he casts.

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