These days Bryan is perhaps most famous for being on the wrong side of the Scopes “monkey trial,” and his defense of creationism is treated here as populist bumpkinism. Less remarked upon is the fact that the trial’s great, enlightened hero, Clarence Darrow, was actually a member of the People’s Party who ran for Congress under its banner.
John Peter Altgeld was the Democratic governor of Illinois, a figure of Establishment disrepute for pardoning three men convicted in the Haymarket Affair and opposing federal intervention in the 1894 Pullman Strike, one of whose leaders was Eugene V. Debs.
A funny thing about that proud, scholarly consensus of the 1890s: it was wrong. As we now know, the gold standard was an archaic system that needlessly ruined millions of lives. The United States eventually replaced it with a fiat currency, just as the Populists had advocated. The cranks turned out to be right.