How Bryan spoke about the white race

William Jennings Bryan begins his Memoirs (1925) with the statement that his purpose is to show his indebtedness to things outside himself:

[G]ood fortune has had more to do with such success as I may have achieved than any efforts of my own…. Opportunity comes independently of one’s own efforts; and his preparedness to meet opportunity is due, as I shall show, largely to others…. I have been wonderfully fortunate in the opportunities that have come to me….

To begin the story of my good fortune. I was born in the greatest of all ages. No golden ages of the past offered any such opportunity for large service and, therefore, for the enjoyment that comes from consciousness that one has been helpful.

I was born a member of the greatest of all the races—the Caucasian Race, and had mingled in my veins the blood of English, Irish, and Scotch. One has only to consider the limitations upon one’s opportunities imposed by race to understand the incalculable benefit of having the way opened between the child and the stars.

I was born a citizen of the greatest of all lands. So far as my power to prevent was concerned, I might have been born in the darkest of the continents and among the most backward of earth’s peoples. It was a gift of priceless value to see the light in beloved America, and to live under the greatest of the republics of history.

And I was equally fortunate, I shall show, in my family environment. [My ancestors] were honest, industrious, Christian, moral, religious people—not a black sheep in the flock…. The environment in which my youth was spent was as ideal as any that I know.

Back then, whites—including the most prominent and respected men of America—spoke naturally and without embarrassment of their identification with and pride in the white race.

Indeed, in the same year that Bryan’s Memoirs were published, President Calvin Coolidge said in his inaugural address, on March 4, 1925:

It would be well if we could replace much that is only a false and ignorant prejudice with a true and enlightened pride of race.

In his distinction between “false and ignorant prejudice” and “true and enlightened pride,” Coolidge underscores a point I made recently. Statements about race, like statements about any subject, must past the test of appropriateness, fitness, and morality. While we may differ on where we draw the line, he who denies that there is a line is not a civilized man but a barbarian.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 09, 2009 03:37 PM | Send

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