Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 6, 1903)
eum that ho did not care t accept. At Mr. Bry- '
au's Biiggestion tho money vt'as given to Mrs. Ben
nett in trust for him instead of being given direct
to him, and that provicion is now being con
tested by tho widow and other residuary legatees.
If tho sum had been given directly, as -Mr. Ben
nett intended when ho proposed it, there would bo
no ground for contest, but an" attempt is being
mado to -take advantage of the indirect form of..
the bequest. If the $50,000 clause is invalid
as a trust, ' one-half of the sum will go to Mrs.
Bennett, one-fourth to Mr. Bennett's sister, and
one-fourth to Mr. Bennett's half-brother these
being the residuary legatees. . .
Tho contest was not mentioned to Mr. Bryan
, until nearly two months after the death of tho
testator, and tho widow and heirs were at onco
informed that Mr. Bryan would not accept tho
mcmey without tho widow's consent, but that in.
case of objection from her, he would distribute
tho sum. according to the expressed wishes of Mr.
Bennett. While tho question involved in tho case
Is purely a legal one, and a very technical one at
that, namely: whether under the Connecticut de
cisions tho will and tho letter together establish
& trust, yot hostile newspapers, for political pur
poses, have sought to attack Mr. Bryan's connec
tion with tho will as viewed from tho standpoint
of morality. It has been charged that Mr. Bryan
is trying to cheat a widow and other relatives put
of their rights. Now, what are the facts? Ac
cording to the will the widow is to receive $76,
000 as a specific bequest, and as residuary legatee
is tb receive an additional sum estimated by Mr.
Bennett at $25,000. This Mr. Bennett declared in
his letter to her would give her a larger income
than she could spend and enable her to make
bountiful provision for those whom she desired
to remember in her will. Mr. Bennett's sister is
toi. receive a specific bequest of $20,000, and. her
part in the residuary sum is estimated at $12,500.
The' 'sister's only daughter received "a specific be-l-questvof
$1,000. A half-brother, is to receive. .a
specific bequest of $12,500, .and his part in the
residuary sum is estimated at $12,500, while his
wife received a specific bequest of $3,000 $161,500
thus going to the persons who are contesting the
Tho sum left to Mr. Bryan, on condition that
ho would accept it, was not taken from any- of
the relatives nor are they the poorer for his .be
ing named'' in the -will. If the sum had not been
given to him, the testator would have distributed
it among public institutions. Mr. Bennett made it
clear in his will and in his letter to his wife that
he. had given to his relatives all that he intended
them to have. That he acted within his legal
rights in not giving all of his money to his rel
atives is not disputed; whether he treated his rel
atives fairly or not is a question which he could
depido . better than anyone else, because no one
know as well as he the relations existing be
tween him and his kinfolks or could estimate as
well as he the use they would make of money
left to them.
Tho unfriendly newspapers have also inti
mated that Mr. Bryan secured tho bequest by ex
erting an undue influence over Mr Bennett. This
would be a serious charge if true, but the evidence
shows that Mr, Bennett traveled fifteen hundred
miles on his own initiative for the purpose of hav
ing tho will drawn and that tho proposed bequest
came as a surprise to Mr. Bryan. The evidence
also shows that tho will, while drawn in Nebraska,
'- was executed in the city of New York at least two
days after Mr. Bennett had departed from Nebras
ka. Mr. Bennett, after executing the will, deposited
it in a vault Jn New York where it lay for,, more
Jthan three yearsMr. Bennett alone having a key
to the vault-box. Curing this period Mr. Bennett
referred to tho will but once by letter (the letter
will be found quoted in the argument) and never
otherwise so far as Mr. Bryan can recall. Dur
4ng that period of more than-three years Mr.
Bryan did not see Mr. Bennett more than .two, or
three times a year on an average, while Mr. Ben
nett was with his wife constantly and wjth hia
relatives frequently No one can say with any
truth that injustice is being done to the widow :
or relatives, neither can it be doubted that Mr.;
Bennett's act was freevoluntary arid deliberate.
The only question of a moral character which
can arise is: Should Mr. Bryan haver given a con
ditional acceptance (as he did) to ttfe proposed
bequest, dr should he have refused it absolutely?
To decide this question , Intelligently the reader
must .know all the facts, and thoso that would
assist one in reaching a decision are presented
Mr. Bennett, a childless man, had by his .in
dustry, . ability and integrity accumulated- a. for
tune of about $300,000 $100,000 more than he
desired to leave to his widow and relatives; he
'was and had been tor, years deeply interested, in
political questions and. earnestly devoted ta demr
ocratic principles; after distributing $30,000 among
educational institutions and giving more" than
$20,000 1or other purposes of a public nature, ho
set apart $ii0,Cu0 for the advancement of his po-
litical principles through Mr. Bryan if the latter
would accept it, otherwise tor educational and
Mr. Bennett knew that Mr. Bryan was devot
ing his 'life to the study and discussion of ques
tions of government and was endeavoring to 'se
cure the triumph of the political principles that
were dear to Mr. Bennett's heart; MVr Bennett
knew that Mr. Bryan, becau's'oZof . his. presidential
campaign, was in position to labor in a wider field
than Mr. Bennett could hope to do although Mr.
Bryan could not surpass' him ' in tseal or. earnest
ness; ' Mr. Bennett also knew that Mr.. Bryan's
political work not only placed him under obliga
tions that compelled a large annual outlay of
money, if accepted. by jfa 3r yan, 'woifidr enable
the latter to devote a larger part of his time' to
unremunerative latiof of a public character. Was
it, under the circumstances, wrong for Mi Bryan
to accept the bequest conditionally? .'.
Since 189G' Mn Bryan has given nearly . as
much, if not quite as much, time to work''7 that
brought no compensation as to work 'for which fie
received pay, cnd a. large parf of his expense ac
count is .chargeable to the public nature of his
work. During the nearly seven "years1 that, have
elapsed since 1896, he has given in cash more
than $20,000 to political organizations and more
than $12,000 to education charity and. religion,
while his net savings amount to something like
$45,000, more than half, of which, sum is invested
in his home and household goods and is therefore
not income-bearing. With the e::eption of -the
campaign year of 1900 and the war year of 1898
.(during nearly half qf 1898 he was in the
army), there has not been a year since 1896 when
he could not have mado more than the Bennett
bequesfc had he abandoned political questions and .
devoted himself entirely to money-making. His
failure to make as much as he might have mado !'
is. not 'a matter of regret to him, because he has
derived more satisfaction from his political work
than ho could have done from a course which,
however remunerative, would have-, taken him
away from the consideration of public questions,
but reference is .made, to the matter for ..the pur
pose of showing why Mr. Bennett desired to -make
. this bequest and why Mr. Bryan Jelt constrained',
to accept it on condition that he needed it' at the
time of the testator's death...
Before there was any intimation of a con
test, Mr. Bryan had notified Mrs. Bennett of his.
intention to regard the sum as a fund for the pay
ment of work to bo. dqno for the public, his plan
being to deliver without compensation enough
lectures in collego towns to make up the sum of
$50,000 at the price which he usually receives'from
0LUME 3, NUMBER 1
lecture bureaus, and this plan will be cam,
whether the money is received or not bee V
Bennett did hiS part, and if the b?2
Will not be through any fault of thell Mt
If the readers of The Commoner are surl
that Mr, Bryan's savings have not SffJ
more during the last seven years, they nuBt ?
Member that the republican papers have had
political motive for attempting t3 exaggerate hi,
income and ,us possessions, The Commoner its!
has been described asTa bonanza, whereas owin
to the low subscription nrice and tho vi..Mi .
trust advertisements and other objectionable ad.
vertising, the income from the paper has been
considerably below what it might have been had
it been run with an eye single to proQt. During
the nearly three years covered by the existence o!
the paper, Mr. Bryan has not felt justified in
drawing put more than r.'bout $5,000 a year, the
balance being held in The Commoner's reserve
fund as a guarantee that each subscriber will rc
ceive his paper during the period covered by tho
subscription. . '.
As Mr.. Bryan stated in the argument beforo
the court, fie has no choice left him but to carry
out he wishes of the testator even though to do
so he must come into conflict with the relatives of
the deceased and with an. attorney who is not in
sympathy with the political views held by Mr,
Bennett- while he "lived and. still entertained by,
Mr. 'Bryan. . ' ' '
" ' t ...'
Weary Republican Editors.
. : The St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch is a republican
paper. The Dispatch seems, however, to have .
grown weary of the methods employed by re
publican leaders in the treatment of the tariff
quostiqn. ,In aTrecent editorial, the Dispatch, re- j
ferring to one of Secretary Shaw's addresses in
Ohio, says that- ..the portion of his remarks sent
out in the tress Teports contain ''nothing but
arguments- that have been worn threadbare."
According to tho Dispatch, Mr. Shaw "stands
with, the ultras and irreconcilables. He heckles
the, old home market straw again as if it made a
particle of difference where on this globe men
ate." , The Dispatch points, put that "m uths must
be filied whether they open in Austria, Italy, or
Germany and no law yet. -has been found to pre
vent steady multiplication, of. these entrances to
hungry stomachs. Whether the bread made from
wheat, grown in-Minnesota 'Is -eaten in the United
States; the United Kingdom-or on the continent, "
affects not a penny the prices the farmer who
raises tho wheat gets for it Time was when
farmers thought it did. That;day is about passed."
The Dispatch explains that it is inclined to
credit Secretary Shaw with a desire to protect
the' "great basal industries of the country from
the reactions, of crazy speculators first upon the
banks and then upon business.'? But the Dispatch
says Mr. Shaw's 'course lays him open to tho
charge now being made by the opposition press
that he merely sought to save the speculators
from the consequences of their own folly; that
Mr. Shaw accepted state and city bonds for de
posited securities; segregated internal revenue by
a trick in bookkeeping; aejd it out of the treas
ury whence under the constitution It could only
be drawn by appropriation-; refunding maturing
bonds, prolonging debt and Interest paying.
" The Dispatch declares: "Only a tariff laid for
other ends than revenue could crea'o conditions
which would render such financiering possible.
And that tariff the secretary holds unimpcacn-
able; a veritable bull Apis whjch no unsanc
hand must profane. He thus leads the justification
of his actions to the suspicion that he was more
interested in the Street than the people."
And then this republican paper, in a hurst o
candor, says: "Thus the republican party, dom
inated by the beneficiaries of special PrivIleJ
Is compelled to lose an -opportunity to close
Powered by Open ONI