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America is a republic, first and foremost, and the word "empire" today has come to mean something inimical to the concept of a Republic. It has had this meaning at least since the time of William Jennings Bryan, three times candidate for President in the Gilded Age, when Republican America stood apart from Imperial Europe.

In his speech, "Imperialsm," he said, "Behold a republic standing erect while empires all around are bowed beneath the weight of their own armaments - a republic whose flag is loved while other flags are only feared."

But the unchartable, unknowable flow of history has taken America to a more complex world than Bryan could ever have imagined. Today, "are we now an Empire?" is a reasonable question to ask.

Historical Voices
Listen to historical recordings of William Jennings Bryan's speech, "Imperialism."
William Jennings Bryan: America's Story
Educational site detailing the life of William Jennings Brian, including a timeline of his political career.

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