TLIAD: Damaged Goods are still Good: A Bryan Presidency in 1912

The 'ell is this?

Off the cuff and with no planning

Aren't you from Arizona? Like 10 Megametre from Britain?

The hell is a megametre? Anyways, yes, and as an American I am proud of my countries shameless appetite for foreign, cuisine, women, and ideas. If you don't like it go whine to the EU courts.

Have you ever even written a story on this site?

A couple. Ok 2. Ok they weren't even real stories just mini-timelines in other threads. Got to start somewhere you know.

Not feeling the confidence mate.

Isn't mate an Aussie thing? Are you a Limey or an Australian?

OK so who the hell is this Bryan guy in the title?

William Jennings Bryan, a man who was almost President more times then some parties nominate men for the office. Nowadays he'd be politically unclassifiable, but was a fairly Progressive religious Democrat in the day where the Democrats couldn't handle being even 1 of those things on a regular basis.

So is this like a wank or something?

No. I think. I haven't wrote it yet so who knows. I don't plan it to be completely happy for anyone.

Are you actually going to finish it in a day or will you, like all the others, stretch it out forever and 2 shillings?

Aren't shillings money, not time measurements?

Stop dodging the question.

Which one? There's a lot. In all seriousness I will try to wrap this up in the 24 hour period after I post this (4 Mountain Standard Time, where we use coyote bones to build our clocks, so it may be off by a little).

Good luck and God save the Queen!

What a cliche way to end this. 5 stars, above and beyond.


I'm interested in what kind of Point-of-Divergence you use for this one! Bryan definitely had an interesting brand of social conservatism mixed with economic populism. Then again, so did Theodore Roosevelt. This could push the US party system into an interesting direction.
Bryan's failure to be nominated in 1908 might have been his luckiest break in seeking the Presidency. He was one of the most popular men in the country, even after losing two consecutive races. He spend his time speaking on the Chautauqua circuit for over a decade after his rematch with the late McKinley, and had planned to return after the nomination of an obscure New York judge whom no one remembered voting for. But if not for a scathing illness, which left him bedridden for months, he might have done so and been smashed under the girth of Taft's majority. He managed to return to something resembling his normal travel and speaking schedule near the end of the campaign to drive out voters, but by then the campaign was basically set.


His support of Minnesota governor John A. Johnson, a fellow progressive, was very probably a negligible one. His voice hoarse, his constitution weak and shaky, he struck many as a man desperately trying to do what came as secondhand to him only a few months ago. Despite this, many showed up to his rallies and he retained much popularity with the rank and file Democrats, something that would help in 4 years. Despite so much effort on behalf of the universal minority Democrat, campaigning under "No Regencies in the Republic", a snide insult accusing Taft as nothing more then a patsy being handed the Presidency from Roosevelt, they barely improved from 1904 in any measure.


William Howard Taft/John Sherman (Republican) 352 Electoral Votes, 7,963,037 Popular Votes (56.8%)
John Albert Johnson/Clark Howell (Democratic) 131 Electoral Votes, 5,649,831 Popular Votes (40.3%)​

Johnson became the first Democrat to take the state of Minnesota in a Presidential election, if by a plurality of some thousand votes, but he continued the declining performance of the Democrats, Electoral College-wise, since Grover Cleveland's 3rd nomination. Even worse, Johnson died from his own illness before the Electoral College met, leaving the party with a second dead nominee in a generation. Most of those men voted local favorite sons, respected Senators, but 34 of them gave themselves for Bryan and various running mate. 4 years down the line Taft would be the victim of a spliting party, and Bryan would be near fully recovered and ready for the work of another candidacy. Even those who didn't like the man had to admit the two nominated after him had lost otherwise reliable Democratic states like Missouri.

The midterms showed hope for the Democrats, taking back the House for the first time in 16 years of consecutive losses. They even managed to claw their way back up the Senate. Some people wondered if it was exhaustion, the Republicans running out of ideas, or even just a more confident Democratic Party. But the answer was very likely that the Republicans were increasingly making themselves their own enemies, the Democrats doing a pretty weak job at even that until recent. The pro-Taft Old Guard and the La Follette (soon Roosevelt) Progressives would be fighting tooth and nail for control over the party. Eventually both would lose in Taft's bid for re-election.


The next President waits patiently, like a snake.
Early in the election year firebrand Wisconsin Senator Robert Marion La Follette declared himself against the Taft administration and that he would challenge him for the nomination. It was the classic story, underdog against a ruthless and powerful enemy. But like in real life it wasn't the underdog that wins, but another bigger dog. The bloodhound in 1912 was former President Roosevelt, who after some time on the sidelines decided it was a mistake to leave office, and graciously told Taft to get out his office. Taft, never happy with the office forced on his shoulders, was emboldened to stay and win.

As the Republicans fought each other, the Democrats had a quick and civil affair. Bryan was anointed as nominee with 96% of the delegates on the first ballot, and the race began that day. Bryan made a record number of speeches all across the country, 601, and won the greatest majority of any Democrat in the Electoral Vote. Despite this, he lost and won a few states on incremental numbers. In Wisconsin he was projected to lose, but a leaked comment from La Follette on Bryan, "The most noble and true men running this year", gave him the state by 1,221 votes. California was taken by 419 votes, where the battle was with Roosevelt almost on a one to one (where Taft-ite's voted against the Bull Moose in spite). Illinois was taken by Roosevelt forces by a margin of 2,670 votes after several boxes of Chicago votes were "accidentally" burned down in a building fire.


William J. Bryan/John A. Dix (Democratic) 404 Electoral Votes, 6,760,688 Popular Votes (43.6%)
Theodore Roosevelt/Hiram Johnson (Progressive) 116 Electoral Votes, 4,543,306 Popular Votes (29.3%)
William H. Taft/Nicholas M. Butler (Republican) 11 Electoral votes 3,240,788 Popular Votes(20.9%)
Other 0 EV, 6.2% PV

Bryan, finally learning, did not mention Free Silver once in his over 600 speeches. He talked of economic reform, public ownership of utilities, woman's suffrage, farms, banning Child Labor, and Senate Reform. He would have a record number of amendments introduced, debated, and passed during his term, excluding the Bill of Rights.

Coming next: The Cabinet of President William Jennings Bryan (1913-1917)

Last edited:


public ownership of utilities

It's very interesting so far.

Though, could Bryan really talk of something that radical on the campaign trail?

I'm not really familiar with US politics at the time, so I could be mistaken, of course.
It's very interesting so far.

Though, could Bryan really talk of something that radical on the campaign trail?

I'm not really familiar with US politics at the time, so I could be mistaken, of course.

In my research for wilson world I found that public utilities were kind of like the Net Neutrality of the day. They were seriously debated and had a notable movement in their favor.

With someone like Bryan at the helm they could get done.


Bryan going for Public Ownership is actually something that could transform his campaign. Its a political issue that is popular in and out of both major parties and while just as opposed as supported, its the kind of "Big Picture" issue that can help him move away from his past defeats, and cement the whole walking away from Free Silver.

Overall this project is fun, its something I played around with ages ago on another website thats long gone. I'd love to see where this goes. Count me in the subscribed column.
Alright, you got me to read this. To your credit, it is very interesting - I don't think I've ever seen an American-focused TLIAD before.
Would it be 1913-17 or 1913-19?

OTL, in Feb 1913 the Senate approved a Constitutional Amendment giving the POTUS a single six-year term, with no re-election allowed. It would have easily passed the Democratic HoR, had not President-Elect Wilson intervened to prevent it coming to a vote. As this reform was one of Bryan's pet projects, as well as being part of the Democratic platform, clearly he would not have butted in as Wilson did.
Bryan's Cabinet, Court, and Constitutional Changes
VP: John A Dix (1913-1917)
Sec of State: Woodrow Wilson (1913-1916)
*resigned, replaced with Josephus Daniels (1916-1917, co-serving as Postmaster General)
Secretary of the Treasury: John Burke (1913-1917)
Secretary of War: Oscar Branch Colquitt (1913-1917)
Attorney General: Ben Lindsey (1913-1914)
*appointed to Supreme Court, replaced by Martin Joseph Wade (1914-1917)
Postmaster General: Josephus Daniels (1913-1917)
Secretary of the Navy:Eugene Foss (1913-1917)
Secretary of the Interior: Robert Owen (1913-1917)
Secretary of Agriculture : James H. Hawley (1913-1917)
Secretary of Commerce: William Gibbs McAdoo (1913-1917)
Secretary of Labor: Louis Brandeis (1913-1916)
*resigned to join Supreme Court, replaced with John Hessin Clarke (1916-1917)

Supreme Court Appointments:
*1914: Ben Lindsey
*1916: William V. Allen
*1916: Louis Brandeis

The Constitutional Changes

The Bryan Administration's first major victory came from the 1910 wave, they started the work that came to be the 16th Amendment (income tax) and the 17th Amendment (popular Senate elections). But Bryan was not content to rest on his laurels, after over 10 years of campainging for those too he was ready to force Congress to respond to more of the people's calls. As soon as he was sworn in he met with party leadership to introduce 5 new ones, woman's suffrage, banning child labor, a 6-year term, prohibition, and public utilities. The first two were relatively easy to drag along members of Congress, both sides had major friends to the idea, many western states already fully implementing the idea. But of course there were many against the idea. An urban legend goes around that a Senator once confronted and told Bryan flat out, "Mr. President [the suffrage amendment] smells of Niggerism." Regardless Bryan had heavily campaigned on the idea, meeting with several famous suffragettes and promising them his word he would have it done.

The 18th Amendment was voted on in June 19th, 1913 by Congress, and despite the lashing from the Southern caucus it went to the states, with Oklahoma being the 36th state to ratify it July 9, 1914. Child Labor was another issue that passed quickly. The simple image of a small white girl, crying and with her tiny hands reduced to mangled blacked lumps with something resembling fingers, left many horrified and sicked at the site of it. This one took 27 months, from May 8th, 1914 to August 11th, 1916. The main argument came again from the South and now their northern businessmen allies. They attacked it as an infringement on the rights of businesses, on the right to contract, they attacked it as a predecessor to Socialism and that it would throw the economy into a recession like the great one 2 decades ago. Again the public sided with the President, who saw it as his moral duty to defend the young, to educate them and make them good Christian citizens, not force them to toil for pennies in the workyards. The 19th Amendment was blamed by many for the recession in 1916, but others say it was simply the market overreacting to it.

The 1 term amendment was similar to the attempted Prohibition amendment, good natured and something everyone thought was a good idea. If the President could focus on his job, not of re-election, would he not do better? That was the idea that Congress had when it passed the Amendment in April 10th, 1915. And despite the large vote for it, more so then the previous two amendments, it died pretty much there. 12 states signed it in 5 months, 14 in 10, 19 in 20. For some time it would slow down and just die. Many speculate why it died like that, some say the people didn't want a President to serve a single long term, others say it was a disagreement with the fundamental idea behind it. But most claim that the Democrats did not want to give up Bryan's possible 8 years for only 4, given the Amendment would start in 1916. The ironic part of it all was the text, if closely examined, would have allowed the incumbent President, and the previous ones, to have another shot at the Presidency. Meaning the Democrats signed away a possible 10 years for a maxim of 8.

The last two amendments would take over all other debate for a long time. Prohibition was a nonstarter for most of the country. Someone everywhere loved drinking. Immigrant and native born, man and woman, it was an issue that cut across religious and ethnic lines. For the German and Irish immigrants this was taken as a direct insult at them. This one was battled in Congress up until the 1916 election, after which it was forgotten. For Bryan this was the biggest slap in the face by the "Liquor Lobby." While Congress was never the most clean of places, it was said the summer of 1915 the nearly every saloon was closed in the nation as their owners all drove to D.C. to tell their Congressmen "NO" to this. "You can't even sip water without being accosted by a drink salesmen offer you some 'hometown special relaxation'" was a popular joke made by those linking saloon keepers to brothel-owners.

By the time the public utilities hit Congress everyone was tired of it. 2 Amendments passed, 1 stalled, 1 fought to a standstill, everyone agreed to put this on hold until the next election. And it would be just that issue that Bryan would prioritize over all others. During his spell between 1900 and 1912, he had much time to relax, read, and become acquainted with what reforms were going on in America. While he had been interested with the idea of public ownership, the battles over currency, the opposition he faced over the indefensible position of children working, made him realize that this is what would serve as a killing blow to big business and it's cronies.
Is Bryan going to be re-elected?

He'll be clobbered in the Northeast, but that matters little given that Hughes was to sweep it even against Wilson - only the 4 votes of NH are in contention. OTOH, west of Pittsburgh there are three swing states - IN, MN and WV - which Hughes took by 1% or less (MN by only 0.1%), and if Bryan picks up even one of them, he can lose both NH and CA, yet still win the election. So all in all, I'd say his chances are pretty good.
What's the situation with the utilities?

Can an amendment about that be pushed through before the 1914 midterms?

If these go anything like OTL (and after their huge gains of 1910 and 1912, the Dems are overdue for a fall) it is unlikely that such an Amendment could get two-thirds of both houses. I'm a bit vaguer about the State Legislatures, but very much doubt if the Dems will have control in three fourths of them.

So basically, if it ain't through by Nov1914, it probably doesn't get through at all, and by 1916 is pretty much of a dead issue.
Very interesting - I've done a few American TLIAWs, but only the "Babe Ruth as a Red" and the NFl ones were TLIADs. He's going better than in my "Setting Down Root" one - but a win in 1908 pretty much means he's going to keep pushing "Free Silver" while his illness does give him time to think about other issues, which is good to see.

Foreign affairs will be interesting - am I right in thinking Wilson resigns over Europe because he favors intervention and Bryan opposes it? Also, I suspect a 1916 recession would be due not only to market overreaction but also to the fact the British blockade and German actions make trade with Europe very difficult. Instead of "He Kept Us out Of War," the slogan for 1916 might be, "The Economy Is Europe's Fault.":)
Foreign affairs will be interesting - am I right in thinking Wilson resigns over Europe because he favors intervention and Bryan opposes it?

I don't think either of them actually wants intervention - but I suspect the idea is that Wilson prepared a strongly worded note which Bryan watered down.

Personally, though the elegance of this appeals to me, I kind of doubt it, as I can't see Wilson accepting a Cabinet post. As Lloyd George observed "Whether as President of Princeton University, as Governor of New Jersey, or as President of the United States, - - - he was always Primus, not inter pares, but among subordinates." If Wilson can't lead, he won't follow..
Foreign Policy, and Re-election

"Mr. Wilson," Bryan wrote to a friend after the 1912 election, "is a man who understands the practical hardships of government...while retaining a youth exuberance when it comes to fixing it. I've yet to see someone as intelligent and well-educated and ready to combat the [problems that] face us." Woodrow Wilson only came into the national consciousness in 1910, and a year into his term people were already talking him up as a President. While never an orthodox Bryanite, he was one of many to urge him to run in 1912, not that it was ever likely that Bryan wouldn't.

After a few meanings Bryan confided to longtime friend Josephus Daniels he wanted Bryan in his Cabinet. "Put him in [the Department of] State." Was Daniels advice, his role Postmaster General, both reforming the system and providing jobs for young Democrats (of course so long as they were competent at their jobs). Daniels would also be the first man in a long time to serve 2 cabinet positions at once, after Wilson resigned over Bryan's War policy toward Europe.

Bryan's foreign policy has famously been described as "Benevolent Apathy", which isn't completely true. While most of Latin America was embroiled in coups and Civil War, and many Congressmen and other public officials wanted involvement, Bryan mostly refused. Part of it was his deep involvement with convince Congress, state legislatures, and the average vote to support his Constitutional Amendments, part of it Bryan saw most of the calls for intervention as little more then Wall Street wanting to re-establish their colonies. The only major intervention in Bryan's tenure was in Mexico, and that was after repeated border crossings, violence done to Americans, and the Mexican governments willing disregard for human life. His other major foreign victories came in the Near East, Congress extending independence to the Philippines, something that many didn't care for and thus sat out, and working to reform the Japanese immigration laws. That one went no where, but Bryan visited Japan during his term, the first time an American head of state visited any country. From his records he found it similar to how he found it a few years ago as a private citizen.

Wilson, an internationalist Anglophile, was ecstatic in trying to convince Bryan to support the Entente against the "vile autocracies of Constantinople, Berlin, and Vienna." According to his letters he did not thing much, if anything, of Sofia, militarily or culturally. Bryan simply refused to allow "the Old Worlds prejudices and battles," to seep into American shores. He worked to block any and all aid, money, contraband, and such from reaching the warring European powers. Most Americans were content with that, not our war they said. Wilson kept trying to convince Bryan to join, and several times offered his resignation over the issue. Finally Wilson told the President he was no longer baiting him, and truly wished to go, his wife Ellen was dangerously ill and he wished to take care of her full time.

And soon came the re-election campaign. Where had the time went? Bryan campaigned on his successes in Government reform, lowering tariffs, keeping America out of War, extending goodwill across the American continent, and for the people to choose public ownership. While the Republicans, with New Yorker Hughes being the only acceptably moderate candidate, went at him for his economic radicalism, his naivety, his weakness internationally. The new man on Bryan's ticket was Indiana Governor and Senator Marshall. Marshall was one of a few Senators to avoid angering anyone over some of the more contentous debates, simply by skipping town when it came to vote, always having an excuse ready. This non-offensiveness, and his swing stateness, made him prime material for a running mate. Even if he wasn't o confident in Bryans chances.

When the votes came back everyone was shocked.


William Jennings Bryan/Thomas R. Marshall (Democratic) 411 Electoral Votes, 19,311,929 Popular vote (54.0%)
Charles E. Hughes/Theodore E. Burton (Republican), 120 Electoral Votes, 15,127,678 Popular Vote (42.3%)​

Not many people expected a blowout for Bryan. Part of it can be attributed to the large women's vote, many who saw Bryan as something of a shining White Knight. Others like the Prohibitionists saw he tried to fight for them, but the Liquor Lobby bought out Congress, northern urban workers saw him coming to their aid in things like Municipal Ownership, and even some of Roosevelt's die hard Progressives, who tried to draft him, saw more of Roosevelt in Bryan then in Hughes. Some conservatives even felt his economic reforms were just smoke, and that it wouldn't change much with Congress. A Hughes government would have been unpredictable. Despite again being outspent by his enemies, Bryan managed to beat his own records in the vote and Electoral College.
Last edited: