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William Jennings Bryant badly wanted America to be the nice guy of the world. He wanted it really, really badly.
You could almost imagine him giving this speech while holding up a peace sign and sporting some groovy long hair. But he was no hippy. He was a devout Christian who believed that American republicanism did not allow for imperialist policies.
These were the values that he wanted to convey in his speech. (Maybe people would have been more persuaded if he had been wearing a tie-dyed shirt that said "Give peace a chance, man.")
When William Jennings Bryan gave a speech to a room full of people, everyone listened. That is…if the room was full of Democrats. Bryan's "Imperialism" speech was an act of political propaganda coded into enlightened rhetoric, empty moralism, and insincere concern for anyone overseas. What a jerk.
William Jennings Bryan's "Imperialism" showed the American people a political style rarely seen: one of compassion and ethical rationalism. It's not accurate to say that Bryan was the Cowardly Lion. He was the Tin Woodman, concerned mostly with the heart.
Following the Spanish-American War, the U.S. got one of those awkward gifts from Spain. You know, the kind that you don't really want but can't just give back?
Well, the problem was that the gift was the island nation of the Philippines. What were they to do?
Bryan tries everything to convince America that getting all involved in the Philippines is a terrible, terrible idea:
He does everything but get on his hands and knees to beg the U.S. to do the right thing.
William Jennings Bryan pretty much sings John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" to an American audience debating whether to go to war and annex the Philippines.