Defender of the Faith offers a reinterpretation of William Jennings Bryan in his last years as an unchanging Progressive whose roots were deeply embedded in agrarian populism. It changes the standard picture of Bryan in his final years as that of a crusader for social and economic reform sadly transformed into a reactionary champion of anachronistic rural evangelism, cheap moralistic panaceas, and Florida real estate. He pleaded for for progressive labor laws, liberal taxes, government aid to farmers, public ownership of railroads, telegraphs, and telephones, federal development of water resources, minimum wages for labor, and other advanced causes.
Clearly written, based on meticulous research, Lawrence Levine’s book is the most judicious study ever written on William Jennings Bryan.
I read Defender of the Faith with growing excitement and admiration—excitement from the wealth of new material about Bryan in his later phase, and admiration at the author’s understanding, sympathy, and objectivity. This book will compel a major reevaluation of the later, tragic phase of Bryan’s career.
Lawrence W. Levine was an American historian noted for promoting multiculturalism and the perspectives of ordinary people in the study of history.