William Jennings Bryan


President Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan resigned in protest of the President’s belligerent response to the German government following the sinking of the Lusitania. What did Bryan know?

My Dear Mr. President:

“It is with sincere regret that I have reached the conclusion that I should return to you the commission of Secretary of State . . . Obedient to your sense of duty and actuated by the highest motives, you have prepared for transmission to the German Government a note in which I cannot join without violating what I deem to be an obligation to my country, and the issue involved is of such moment that to remain a member of the Cabinet would be as unfair to you as it would be to the cause which is nearest my heart; namely, the prevention of war. I, therefore, respectfully tender my resignation, to take effect when the note is sent, unless you prefer an earlier hour. Alike desirous of reaching a peaceful solution of the problems, arising out of the use of submarines against merchantmen, we find ourselves differing irreconcilably as to the methods which should be employed. It falls to your lot to speak officially for the nation; I consider it to be none the less my duty to endeavor as a private citizen to promote the end which you have in view by means which you do not feel at liberty to use. In severing the intimate and pleasant relations which have existed between us during the past two years, permit me to acknowledge the profound satisfaction which it has given me to be associated with you in the important work which has come before the State Department, and to thank you for the courtesies extended. With the heartiest good wishes for your personal welfare and for the success of your Administration, I am, my dear Mr. President, very truly yours,”

William JenningsBryan

Categories: Historical Context and Relevant Resources.
About Ivan Light

Professor Emeritus of Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Over a long career, he has published many books and articles dealing with immigration to the United States, immigrant entrepreneurs, organized crime, big cities, and American social history.

His academic publication record and many downloads are available on his university webpage (click here).

Deadly Secret of the Lusitania is his first book of fiction.