From the Front Porch to the Front Page: McKinley and Bryan in the 1896 Presidential Campaign

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Texas A&M University Press, 2006 - 230 pages
The last presidential campaign of the nineteenth century was remarkable in a number of ways.

·It marked the beginning of the use of the news media in a modern manner.

·It saw the Democratic Party shift toward the more liberal position it occupies today.

·It established much of what we now consider the Republican coalition: Northeastern, conservative, pro-business.

It was also notable for the rhetorical differences of its two candidates. In what is often thought of as a single-issue campaign, William Jennings Bryan delivered his famous “Cross of Gold” speech but lost the election. Meanwhile, William McKinley addressed a range of topics in more than three hundred speeches—without ever leaving his front porch.

The campaign of 1896 gave the public one of the most dramatic and interesting battles of political oratory in American history, even though, ironically, its issues faded quickly into insignificance after the election.

In From the Front Porch to the Front Page, author William D. Harpine traces the campaign month-by-month to show the development of Bryan’s rhetoric and the stability of McKinley’s. He contrasts the divisive oratory Bryan employed to whip up fervor (perhaps explaining the 80 percent turnout in the election) with the lower-keyed unifying strategy McKinley adopted and with McKinley’s astute privileging of rhetorical siting over actual rhetoric.

Beyond adding depth and detail to the scholarly understanding of the 1896 presidential campaign itself (and especially the “Cross of Gold” speech), this book casts light on the importance of historical perspective in understanding rhetorical efforts in politics.

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Contents

Why Oratory Made a Difference in the 1896 Campaign
13
Free Silver or Free Trade? The Campaigns Issues
26
The Early Weeks of McKinleys Front Porch Campaign
37
Bryans A Cross of Gold
56
Unmade by One Speech? Bryans Trip to Madison Square Garden
69
McKinleys Front Porch Oratory in September 1896
90
McKinleys Speech to the Homestead Workers
111
Bryans Railroad Campaign in September 1896
128
The Closing Weeks of the Front Porch Campaign
146
The End of Bryans First Battle
160
Identification and Timeliness Revisited
176
Notes
187
Index
221
Copyright

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Page 62 - You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.
Page 56 - Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: 'You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.
Page 190 - Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, vol.
Page 63 - We do not come as aggressors. Our war is not a war of conquest; we are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity. We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them.
Page 91 - You persuade a man . only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his.
Page 31 - My friends, we declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth; and upon that issue we expect to carry every State in the Union.
Page 38 - Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview. (2) It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. Time relations in it are commonly fictitious or factitious; the announcement is given out in advance "for future release...
Page 41 - Byran would take a sleeper; if I took a chair car, he would ride a freight train. I can't outdo him, and I am not going to try." He added: "If I should go now it would be an acknowledgment of weakness. Moreover, I might just as well put up a trapeze on my front lawn and compete with some professional athlete as go out speaking against Bryan.
Page 63 - We go forth confident that we shall win. Why? Because upon the paramount issue of this campaign there is not a spot of ground upon which the enemy will dare to challenge battle.

About the author (2006)

William D. Harpine is a professor of communication at the University of Akron. The author of articles in a number of scholarly journals, he has concentrated on the 1896 election for several years. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

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