WILLIAM J. BRYAN AS A REFORMER
One would hardly dare to assert that such a future for the reforming agitation is already prophesied by the history of reform; but the divergence between different classes of the reformers is certainly widening, and some such alignment can already be distinguished. Hitherto I have been classing reformers together and have been occupied in pointing out the merits and failings which they possess in common. Such a method of treatment hardly does justice to the significance of their mutual disagreements, or to the individual value of their several personalities and points of view. In many instances their disagreements are meaningless, and are not the result of any genuine conviction; but in other instances they do represent a relevant and significant conflict of ideas. It remains to be seen, consequently, what can be made out of their differences of opinion and policy, and whether they point in the direction of a gradual transformation of the agitation for reform. For this purpose I shall select a number of leading reformers whose work has been most important, and whose individual opinions are most significant, and seek some sort of an appraisal both of the comparative value of their work and of the promise of their characteristic ideas. The men who naturally suggest themselves for this purpose are William J. Bryan, William Travers Jerome, William Randolph Hearst, and Theodore Roosevelt. Each of these gentlemen throughout his public life has consistently stood for reform of one kind or another; and together they include almost every popular brand or phase thereof. Reform as a practical agitation is pretty well exhausted by the points of view of these four gentlemen. They exhibit its weakness and its strength, its illusions and its good intentions, its dangerous and its salutary tendencies.