By Stephen Marion Reynolds
Written: 28 July, 1908
First Published: 1908
Source: DEBS: His Life Writings and Speeches 1908 by The Appeal to Reason newspaper, Girard, Kansas. Pages 1-79; Copyright by The Appeal to Reason: “NOTE—Copyright protection is taken upon this volume for the sole purpose of protecting the work of Comrade Debs from prejudiced misues by pirate Capitalist publishers, and will not be invoked against Socialist and Labor Publications and Comrade publishers, they giving us notice.—Appeal to Reason”
Online Version: E.V. Debs Internet Archive, 2003
Transcribed/HTML Markup: David Walters, December, 2003
The life of Eugene Victor Debs is so complicated and entwined with the dominant thought and action of his time, and he has so persistently, with conscious purpose, touched and impressed it with primal vigor, integrity and energy as will make a distinct and lasting work, not merely upon the institutions of this country, but upon the future welfare and development of all the peoples of the whole world.
This is an age of rare vitality, and of swiftly changing variety of events.
There is growing every hour a new consciousness of the purposes of BEING, and there is such healthy, hearty, emphatic enthusiasm in it all as promises vast changes and uplift for humanity.
The converging streams of races are now neighborly and accessible; superstitions are being overthrown, and The People are being prepared; and,
“When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear. I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail. I swear to you they will understand you and justify you, 0 Peoples of the Earth! The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you and encloses all and is faithful to all. He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they. You shall be fully glorified in them.”
Before the battles for freedom, there have always appeared the writers, the orators, the artists, and the singers; Rousseau, defining the “Logic of Liberty;” Tom Paine, calling for freedom from the king; and Patrick Henry, as large as his times, fearlessly announcing new doctrines to take the places of decadent ideals; Lincoln and others pleading for the chattel slave; and in our time, multiplying voices crying aloud for complete freedom from wage-slavery, subtlest and meanest of all forms of human bondage.
We could not have had Appomattox without the conditions that made a Legree and Uncle Tom, and then came Harriet Beecher Stowe to reveal them to the world. We have had our Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, patriots, statesmen, abreast the light of their times. Now we have “so-called statesmen” who “talk” and “fiddle while Rome burns” and the army of the hungry and unemployed increases.
If we trace the poems and the orations we find the poets and the orators, and back of them the conditions that filled their souls with songs and eloquence and gave them power to utter the longings of the human heart. These poets and the orators, the true advocates that speak for the people, seem to see from some high mountain a vision in the lonely hours, when their eyes are unbound, the Deity passing by, leaving commands to be obeyed. These are those who are lifted above themselves as witnesses of the panorama of progress that the unseen hand unrolls; thus only can we account for sweet poems from bitter poets and words of love from the hateful things in life. We then understand why Jesus drove the money changers from the temple and said words of doom to the generation of vipers, and condemned in unmistakable words the greed for wealth.
Foremost among the architects of the present day, striving to build up “Industrial Democracy,” to emancipate man from economic servitude, appears the architect DEBS, knowing that the materials are ready and consciously serving and building for his brothers, the intended ideal “Kingdom on Earth” for man to rule and dominate at last for himself instead of his masters; bribes, menaces, the entreaties of his friends, all exhausted n the vain endeavor to move him from his firm and resolute will.
No one now attempts either.
He stands a towering rock of hope to the down-trodden and outcast workers of the world.
In field, shop, mill, mine and factory, on the railroads and on the ships of the seas his name is synonymous with devotion, love, sacrifice and unswerving integrity to the workers and their cause. Even the outcast rich admire “The Un purchasable” and fear him with a reverence that means much for their future, too, if they could but understand how allinclusive are his labors to abolish classes and class struggles; for he appears in this age pointing steadily and with unblinded vision to the paths of industrial peace, plenty and human brotherhood.
He comes to bring to all that nameless power, that something which one involuntarily feels when in the presence, actual or ideal, of a genuine, strong, true, vital man; such a man remains with those he meets and when he departs leaves the permanent things of life and love with them and they live forever in the imperishable marks and indications of uplifted manhood.
The life of such a living, growing man cannot be written by even his most intimate associates, for he is but an expression of the yearnings of the people, a voice of the proletariat, an embodiment of their needs.
If his physical life should end the task would be even more difficult. So tangible and inspiringly vital is his complete physical, mental and spiritual presence. He has personally touched more lives than any other living man.
No man has ever written more personal letters, throbbing with the ascending song of life, clearly revealing the inner and spiritual processes of growth, than this comrade whose acknowledged conscious kinship to the manifestations of the universe does not end with the sponge on the rock, nor with the highest and most perfect forms of human and God-like life.
Whoever has taken his magnetic hand has never forgotten the experience, but has, for the time at least, ceased to note any serious or passing disagreements and has been conscious of standing in the presence of a fearless searcher for Truth.
The man that comes crying a message in the wilderness and pointing to the inevitable farther heights to which humanity must ascend, meets misunderstanding, insult and rejection, but he is “The Darling of Tomorrow,” when the heights are reached and the risen races run to mark the fields of battle with the pathetic monuments of regret and of grief.
Some day, when perhaps his letters are published, or when the stories of his unselfish, loving life are known to the emancipated workers of the world, their tears of joy and appreciation will wash out the shame of contemporary ignorance and neglect.
It may be that he will be an exception and yet live to see the summits reached and “freedom for all” accomplished. This is not improbable, for he is young and strong, growing and in step with the life-giving growth in intelligence of the workers. These are the days of quick growth and development. Electric wires on land and under the seas are everywhere. The voice may be heard over the distant mountains and even without wires, the thoughts and feelings of mankind are transmitted. Moreover there is something wonderful, as yet little understood, in the illuminating power of “Class Consciousness,” seeming to unify the intents and purposes of men and simplifying the hitherto strangling problems of progress; compelling all forces to move resistlessly in the forward direction of freedom.
Even obstruction and resistance are harnessed for advancement, plainly revealing that there is an approaching change for better things, that men recognize, even while they deny and resist.
It is not long ago since he was born-November 5, 1855 in a , No. 447 North 4th Street, Terre Haute, Indiana. The Democratic party had only begun its descent into decadence and vain protest. The now missionless and moribund Republican party had not yet been born, but there were signs in the Republic of its begetting and pregnancy. There were signs of impending crises in the affairs of masters and chattels. The long-continued struggle for the abolition of chattel slavery, that began with the first chattel slaves in America, culminated in cruel fratricidal war while he was yet a tender child. That period had a formative influence upon him, for there was noise and strife and pain in all this section of Indiana; soldiers encamped and wounded men in hospitals and prisons, and fierce debates and sounds of victory and of defeat.
His father, Jean Daniel Debs, and mother, Marguerite Betterich Debs, natives of Alsace, had many stories to tell to the children at the fireside of France and her joys, sunshine, shadows and sorrows. The father was intimately acquainted with all of French history and had a most complete library of her history. He was upright, loving and lovable; the mother wise and gentle; both intimate companions of the children, and were familiarly called “Dandy” and “Daisy.”
Jean Daniel Debs was born at Colmar, Alsace, France, December 4, 1820.
On A Sailing Ship.
Jean Daniel Debs left Colmar for America November io,
1848, and arrived at New York January 20, 1849.
Marguerite Marie Betterich left Colrnar for America August 7, 1849, and arrived at New York September 11, 1849.
Jean Daniel Debs and Marguerite Marie Betterich were married in New York City September 13, 1849.
They left New York for Cincinnati, Ohio, September 30, 1850; left Cincinnati for Terre Haute, Indiana, May 20, 1851, left Terre Haute March 24, 1854, returning to New York and locating in Brooklyn (Williamsburg, L. I.,) ; left Brooklyn September 25, same year, returning to Terre Haute and locating there permanently.
Ten children were born to them, of these six are living.
Theodore, the only brother, well known as an ardent Socialist and tireless worker for the cause, has always been and is very close and very dear and helpful to “Gene” in all his work. There are four sisters and only a few years’ difference in the ages of all of them; they make the ideal family group. The father did not long survive the mother, she departing this life April 29, 1906, and he following her November 27, 1906.
This family grew up where there were no jealousies and where love was not only felt, but expressed in acts of service and of sacrifice. Sincere affection gives insight, intuition, understanding, and equips for service and shuts out greed and degrading ambition for place and power.
The stories of his childhood and few school years are replete with human interest and would take much space to fully record. From the beginning, the law of his life was work, but he was equally zealous in all the plays and sports of childhood. There were many children and much to do to support them, so his school years were short and ended with his graduation, with credit, from the Old Seminary School in Terre Haute, where the Indiana State Normal School now stands. In May, 1870, he began to work for the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad Company (now Pennsylvania System) first in the shops and later as a locomotive fireman.
He worked continuously until October, 1874. The mother could not conceal the tears of fear in her eyes when, with lantern in hand, he kissed her to go out over the unballasted prairie railroad. So when- he was offered a position by Herman Hulman, of the Hulman & Cox grocery house at Terre Haute, he accepted and filled all requirements until September, 1879, when he was elected city clerk. He served in that office four years. He had joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen when it was first organized at Terre Haute. He had organized the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, now the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen; had helped to organize the Switchmen’s Mutual Aid Association, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, the Order of Railway Telegraphers and other labor unions, and at the Buffalo convention, in 1878, he was made associate editor of the Firemen’s Magazine, and in July, 188o, was appointed Grand Secretary and Treasurer, and Editor and Manager of the magazine, serving in the former capacity until February, 1893, and in the latter capacity until September, 1894.
At the time he took charge of the affairs of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen the order had only 6o lodges and $6,000 debt. In a short time he had been able to add 226 lodges and had wiped out the debt. No such demonstration of love and pathetic regret had ever been known in a national gathering of citizens as that which was shown to him when the order, after having exhausted all efforts of persuasion, reluctantly accepted his resignation from these offices of the order. When he resigned from these offices he was receiving $4,000 per year. It was at the Cincinnati convention, 1892, he tendered his resignation, which was unanimously refused; he was unanimously re-elected to all the offices previously held. He again tendered his resignation and insisted upon its acceptance, with the frank statement that “organization” should be broad enough to embrace all the workers, and that he desired and proposed to give all his energy to the building up of such an organiaztion. The convention unanimously voted to give him, as a mark of appreciation, $2,000 for a trip to Europe, for rest and enjoyment; this he declined. Finally, after unyielding insistence, his resignation from the several offices was accepted, taking effect as above stated.
With the assistance of a few others he organized at Chicago, in June, 1893, The American Railway Union, and his salary was fixed at $75 per month. During the last two years of the organization’s existence he drew no salary at all. His further motives for his action in resigning from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen to organize the A. R. R. U. cannot be better told than in his own words uttered by him at the time:
“I do this because it pleases me, and there is nothing I would not do, so far as human effort goes, to advance any movement designed to reach and rescue perishing humanity. I have a heart for others and that is why I am in this work. When I see suffering about me, I myself suffer, and so when I put forth my efforts to relieve others, I am simply working for myself. I do not consider that I have made any sacrifice whatever; no man does, unless he violates his conscience.”
Great Northern Strike
April 16, 1894, a circular letter was issued to the members of the A. R. U. containing a scale of wages paid on the Great Northern Railroad. This scale showed that the Great Northern Railroad never did pay such wages as other Pacific grand continental lines. According to this scale train despatchers were receiving $8o per month; freight conductors $78; freight brakemen, $42 to $53; engineers, in some cases, only $280 per day; inspectors, $35 per month; operators, $37.50 to $41.50; roundhousemen, a dollar a day; trackmen, a dollar a day, and truckmen, a dollar a day. The cheapest board in Butte, Montana, was $26 a month.
The Great Northern sent out a cipher dispatch to remove all spirited men and to gather together all available men to take their place. The A. R. U. gained knowledge of this step on the part of the Great Northern and decided to call the employes to quit on very short notice. Enclosing this circular letter issued from the Butte City, Montana, headquarters of the A. R. U., the directors closed their appeal to the men in the following words:
“We need your financial and moral support everywhere. It is the greatest strike the world has even seen. Give us your moral and financial support through the general office at Chicago. Act quickly. See if we cannot break the chains that are being forged to reduce wages, not only to slavery, but to starvation.”
Before ordering the strike the following letter, dated April 13, was sent out:
“To C. W. Case, Gen’l Manager of the Great Northern Railway:
“Sir: I am instructed by your employes to say that unless the scale of wages and rules of classes of employes that were in effect prior to the fist cut made August I, 1893, are restored and switchmen at Great Falls and Helena receive the same pay and schedules as at Butte and the management agrees to meet the representatives of the employes at Minot not later than ten days hence and formulate schedules accordingly, all classes of employes will quit work at 12:00 o’clock noon this 13th day of April.”
The notice was only six hours and the employes had no apologies to make in this respect. No reply being received before the hour set, the order to strike was given. Mr. Hill, on receiving information of the walk-out of his employes, issued a notice expressing the wish that faithful employes would remain, making ’eneral promises of promotion usual in such cases. The A. R. U. held revival meetings at all points on the line of the Great Northern and membership increased by the thousands.
On the 22d of April Mr. Debs and Mr. Howard addressed a large gathering of railroad men at St. Paul and added 225 members to the A. R. U. Beaten at every point, Mr. Hill called for a conference. The purpose of that conference on Mr. Hill’s part was to close up somebody’s eye. His business success has been largely bottomed on that characteristic. Those acquainted with Mr. Debs had no fear of the result. Mr. Hill wound up the lengthy conference by proposing arbitration. This was refused by Mr. Debs. Mr. Debs saying at the conclusion of the conference these words:
“Let me say that we do not accept the proposition. Efforts have been made ever since this trouble started to divide the organization and make trouble between the Union and the Brotherhoods. I understand such to be the policy of this company. Now if the other organizations represent the men, let them set your wheels turning. Our men will not go back to work. My idea is that in raising the question of representation you have sought to evade the issue. We presented the terms upon which we would go to work. I am authorized to say that we will settle on these terms and on no others. This grievance is a universal grievance and all the men are united in this action. It will be to no avail to attempt to divide us into factions. If wages are not restored you can no longer have the service of the men. For the past week we have restrained the men from leaving your employ. Now, understand me that I am too much a gentleman to make a threat arid I do not mean this as anything but a plain statement of fact, but if there is no adjustment, those men will withdraw from your service in a body. They are convinced that their demand is a just one. If their request is not complied with,” continued Mr. Debs in slow and measured tones, “they will, without regard to consequences, continue this struggle on the lines already laid down and fight it out with all the means at their command within the limits of the law. We understand your position; you understand ours. We will not withdraw from this conference. We shall be in the city several days and shall be glad to receive any further communications from you.”
Mr. Hill was not slow in understanding and the world knows the facts about this great victory, won with peaceful methods.
Mr. Debs’ Return Home After The A. R. U. Victory,
May 3, 1894.
(From the Terre Haute Express.)
Mid soul-stirring music and the joyous shouts from the lips of 4,000 of his friends and neighbors, men, women and children, Eugene V. Debs, President of the American Railway Union, was welcomed home last night, care-worn and weary, from his 18 days’ struggle for victory in the Great Northern strike.
Mr. Debs marched with the people, refusing to enter the carriage provided, and in the park near the Terre Haute House he delivered the following address:
“Gentlemen, my friends and neighbors: From the depths of my heart I appreciate and thank you for this demonstration of your confidence and respect. I had not the remotest idea that on my return to my native city such a magnificent demonstration awaited me.
“As a rose-bud yields to the tender influences of a May shower, just so does my heart open to receive the expressions of gratitude and esteem from you, my friends and neighbors. I have, as you are aware, just returned from the Northwest, the scene of trouble on one of the greatest railroad systems in the country. The contest on the Great Northern system has no parallel in the history of railroad trouble. From the hour the strike commenced the men were united; they stood shoulder to shoulder-engineers, firemen, brakemen, conductors, switchmen, and even the trackmen and freight handlers, who are generally first to suffer, stood up as one man and asserted their manhood.
“One of the remarkable features, very remarkable, in the contest, was the good feeling which prevailed during the 18 days of the strike, and the good feeling lasted during the trying and anxious hours of arbitration. I am glad, my friends, to be able to say to you tonight, that in all those 18 days there was, from one end of the Great Northern road to the other, not a single drop of human blood spilled. The American spirit of fair play was uppermost in the minds of the manly men who were involved in the trouble, and their fight for wages was conducted without rowdyism or lawlessness. The reduction on the Great Northern Railway was without cause. In resisting it, the employes met solidly organized capital face to face, and man to man, and for i8 days not a pound of freight was moved and not a wheel turned, with the exception of mail trains. As a result of this unification, this show of manliness and courage on the part of the employes, they gained 972 per cent of what they claimed as their rights. The arbitration of the differences was entrusted into the hands of 14 representative business men of the Twin Cities, with Chas. Pillsbury, the merchant miller prince, as chairman. The preliminaries leading up to that memorable meeting of arbitration covered many weary hours, but once in session and facing the great question of wages of thousands of men, these 14 men, all of whom were men of capital and employers of labor, reached a verdict in one hour, a verdict for the employes, by which $146,ooo more money will monthly be distributed among the deserving wage-earners than would have been had they not stood up for what they knew to be justly theirs.
“My glory, my friends, consists in the gladness which I know will be brought into the little cottage homes of the humble trackmen among the hills in the West. I can almost see the looks of gratitude on the faces of these men’s wives and little children. In all my life I have never felt so highly honored as I did when leaving St. Paul on my way home. As our train pulled out of the yards the tokens of esteem, which I prize far more highly than all others, was in seeing the old trackmen, men whose frames were bent with years of grinding toil, who receive the pittance of from 8o cents to a day, leaning on their shovels and lifting their hats to me in appreciation of my humble assistance in a cause which they believed had resulted in a betterment of their miserable existence.
“The American Railway Union does not believe in force except in the matter of education. It believes that when agreements and schedules are signed there should be harmony between all. It believes and will work to the end of bringing the employer and employe in closer touch. An era of closer relationship between capital and labor, I believe, is dawning, one which I feel will place organized labor on a higher standard. When employer and employed can thoroughly respect each other, I believe, will strikes be a thing of the past. For as Mr. Hill, President of the Great Northern, said to me at the conclusion of the arbitration conference, ’You have fought a good fight and I respect you,’ and I answered, ’Mr. Hill, if this shall be your policy I will give you my word of honor that in future your road will be engaged in no more such trouble as has just terminated.’ This strike is not without its fruit and will result in much good all along the line. I hope to see the time when there will be mutual justice between employer and employes. It is said the chasm between capital and labor is widening, but I do not believe it. If anything, it is narrowing down and I hope to see the day when there will he none.
“What has occurred tonight seems to me like a dream, a revelation. You are all too generous, honorable, magnanimous, and my heart rises to my lips in receiving this demonstration from you, my neighbors, from the people of my home, where I was born and have grown from childhood to manhood. A look into the recesses of my heart only can show you the gratitude I have no words to express. I can only assure you my eternal friendship and loyalty. With my heart on my lips I thank you, my friends-honorable men, lovely women, and little children. Had I the eloquence of an Ingersoll I could not express the happiness, the long life and success I wish you one and all. Once more, with gratitude trembling upon my lips, I bid you all good fortune.”
The Pullman Strike
In June, 1894, the great Pullman strike was fought and won, but victory was turned into defeat by the Federal administration using the courts and the soldiers to imprison the leaders and crush the strike. The railroad corporations then resolved to annihilate the A. R. U. Debs was indicted for various crimes, the railroad corporations demanding that he be prosecuted for conspiracy, treason and murder. Many predicted that he would be hanged. He was imprisoned several times and served six months in Woodstock jail for contempt of court. While serving at Woodstock, he was taken daily to Chicago, a distance of 55 miles, under escort of two deputy sheriffs, where he was being tried for conspiracy and other crimes, but when the prosecution learned that Debs and his attorneys were in possession of the secret proceedings of the Railroads’ General Managers’ Association and that they had a number of witnesses to testify as to who had committed the crimes charged to the strikers, the trial was abruptly ended on the plea that a juror had suddenly been taken sick. No effort has ever been made to impanel another jury and so far as the records show, the juror is still sick, and the cases ended by evasion and subterfuge on the part of the Railroad Corporations.
Debs was kept 18 months in the jurisdiction of the court by postponements and various pretexts, calculated to prevent him from re-organizing the A. R. U., and when finally released, the railroad corporations put detectives on his track and for two years they followed him, and whenever he organized the men they were discharged, as were many who even recognized him or who were suspected of having any sympathy with his work or for him personally. He saw that it was vain and hopeless to reorganize the A. R. U. and that all the influence the corporations could combine were opposing it.
Socialism Dawning Upon The Labor Leader’s Mind.
The Great Northern strike, the strike of the A. R. U. in sympathy with the suffering workers at Pullman, the injunction and the proceedings for contempt, the imprisonment of Mr. Debs and his associate officers for contempt of court, the trial for conspiracy and many other events which will hereinafter be set forth in greater detail, developed the vision of the Labor Leader and turned his mind in the direction of political action to solve the wrongs of labor.
In a letter to the “Coming Nation,” now the ‘Appeal to Reason,” November 23, 1895, Mr. Debs first advocated the establishment of the co-operative commonwealth by the exercise of the ballot.
“Liberty, be it know, is for those only who dare to strike the blow to secure and retain the priceless boon. It has been written that ‘Love of Liberty with life is given,’ and that ‘life without liberty is a continuous curse,’ and that ‘an hour of liberty is worth an eternity of bondage.’ It would be an easy task to link together gilded periods extolling liberty until the mind weary with delight, becomes oblivious of the fact that while dreaming of security the blessings we magnified had, one by one, and little by little, disappeared, emphasizing the truth of the maxim that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’
“Is it worth while to iterate that all men are created free and that slavery and bondage are in contravention of the Creator’s decree and have their origin in man’s depravity? If liberty is a birthright which has been wrested from the weak by the strong or has been placed in peril by those who were commissioned to guard it as Gheher priests watch the sacred fires they worship, what is to be done? Leaving all other nations, kindred and tongues out of the question, what is the duty of Americans? Above all, what is the duty of American workingmen whose liberties have been placed in peril? They are not hereditary bondsmen; their fathers were free-born-their sovereignty none denied and their children yet have the ballot. It has been called ‘a weapon that executes a free man’s will as lightning does the will of God.’ It is a metaphor pregnant with life and truth. There is nothing in our government it can not remove or amend. It can make and unmake presidents and congresses and courts. It can abolish unjust laws and consign to eternal odium and oblivion unjust judges, strip from them their robes and gowns and send them forth unclean as lepers to bear the burden of merited obloquy as Cain with the mark of a murderer. It can sweep our trusts, syndicates, corporations, monopolies and every other abnormal development of the money power designed to abridge the liberties of workingmen and enslave them by the degradation incident to poverty and enforced idleness as cyclones scatter the leaves of our forest. The ballot can do all this and more. It can give our civilization its crowning glory-the co-operative commonwealth. To the unified hosts of American workmen fate has committed the charge of rescuing American liberties from the grasp of the vandal horde that have placed them in peril, by seizing the ballot and wielding it to re-gain the priceless heritage and to preserve and transmit it, without scar or blemish to the generations yet to come.
“Snatch from the ashes of their sires, The emblems of their former fires; And he who in the strife expires, Will add to theirs a name of fear, That Tyranny shall quake to hear.”
March 22, 1899, a conference was held at 39 West 26th Street, New York, attended by a large number of representatives of scattered organizations having altruistic tendencies, with a view of organizing a new political party. Mr. Debs attended this conference and in reply to an address made by the chairman of the meeting, Mr. Debs said:
“I wish to be candid with the gentlemen present. I am a Socialist. I am one who believes in the co-operative ownership, not only of the means of production and distribution, but of this planet. Such an amalgamation as this proposed here cannot succeed, and if it did succeed it would mean the sacrifice of principle. I have tried to gather together men of various beliefs. I have tried the step at a time policy, I have been an opportunist, but after years of experience and work and agitation, gentlemen, I have finally landed on the bedrock of Socialism and from that I will not move.”
Dr. W. S. Rainsford, rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church, replied, saying:
“All great reforms have been the result of compromise. History proves that beyond question. I realize, as well as anybody else, the need of radical action, but I also believe that men of kindred sympathies must sacrifice personal opinions and stand together for the common good of all the people, hence I am happy to confess that in these matters I am an opportunist.” The Rev. Dr. Henry Frank said his experience told him George M. Pullman was summoned to give some testimony. that all the great men of today were Socialists, “the statesmen, the writers, the thinkers, and even the fashionably gowned and the jeweled members of the so-called better classes in their hearts are Socialists.” It was not a question of principle as much as a question of program that must be decided upon.
Mr. Debs, who seemed alone in his uncompromising opinions, replied that the results of the compromises spoken of are wage-slavery, such as the world never saw. He would rather have io,ooo Socialists with their faces to the storm and their teeth set, who knew what they wanted and who stood firm, than a million men of varying opinions held loosely together in the hope of making a step at a time. He said he did not care if victory could be given to such men tomorrow. They are not sufficiently well organized and until that was done all hope of lasting results were futile.
At the evening session Mr. Debs declined to vote on the resolution offered to hold the conference at Buffalo, reiterating his belief that the proposed conference will come to naught unless it comes out for bed-rock uncompromising Socialism.
The labor movement received its origin from low wages and over-work. Of the millions who are employed, only a few obtain fair wages. These constitute the “aristocracy of labor.” They care nothing for the great majority whose wages are so low that under most favorable circumstances they are only able to barely live. The labor movement then has two supreme purposes in view,—first, the advance of wages all along the line; second, the reduction of the hours constituting a day’s work. These purposes are fundamental, eliminate them and the labor movement disappears and labor organizations forthwith collapse. We hear much for and against labor in politics. Why so? Simply because laws have been enacted by which wages can be forced down and men compelled to work more hours than is good for soul and body. Who made these unjust laws? The old parties, Democrat and Republican, are both culpable. Does labor desire to continue such a policy? The universal answer is “no.” Then why not vote for a party honestly committed to a policy which would enact just laws and honestly administer them? No rational reply can be made. The labor movement is based upon a few simple propositions,-more wages and a less number of hours for a day’s work, which would inevitably result in better conditions.
In spite of the fact that during Mr. Debs’ imprisonment in Woodstock jail, he had read many books on the philosophy of Socialism, including Carl Marx’s great work, handed to him by Victor Berger, who visited him for the purpose of interesting him in this great question, and in spite of the fact that he advocated the union of workingmen at the ballot box, he did not see at that time any way of incorporating social economics into political expression. He was still a democrat, fighting in the dark, but with the scales gradually falling from his intellectual eyes. He supported the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in the campaign of 1896, believing, as millions did, that Mr. Bryan put man above the dollar, and that Mr. Bryan would truly represent the democratic instincts of the people and do all in his power to undo the wrongs heaped upon labor by Grover Cleveland. He did not advocate Mr. Bryan’s election in any revengeful spirit against Mr. Cleveland, but in the hope that this fresh, young orator from the West would do all he could to emancipate the people from the thraldom of the money power.
Mr. Debs Refers To The Injunction In His Speech The
Evening Of His Return To Terre Haute,
November 23, 1895.
“In our cases at Chicago an injunction was issued at a time when the American Railway Union had its great struggle for human rights and they were triumphant in restraining myself and colleagues from doing what we never intended to do and never did do; and then we were put in jail for not doing it. When that injunction was served on me, to show that I acted in good faith, I went to two of the best constitutional lawyers in the City of Chicago and said, ‘What rights, if any, have I under this injunction? I am a law-abiding citizen; I want to do what is right. I want you to examine this injunction and then advise me what to do.’ They examined the injunction. They said, ‘Proceed just as you have been doing. You are not committing any violence; you are not advising violence, but you are trying to do everything in your power to restrain men from the commission of crime or violating the law.’ I followed their advice and got six months for it. (Laughter and applause.)
“What does judge Lyman Trumbull say upon that subject? Judge Trumbull is one of the most eminent jurists the country has produced. He served sixteen years in the United States Senate; he was chairman of the Senate Committee on judiciary; he was on the Supreme Bench of the State of Illinois; he has held all of the high offices but he is a poor man. There is not a scar nor a blemish upon his escutcheon. No one ever impugned his integrity. What does he say about this subject? To use his exact language he says: ‘The decision carried to its logical conclusion means that any federal judge can imprison any citizen at his own will. If this be true, it is judicial despotism, pure and simple, whatever you may choose to call it.’ When the trials were in progress at Chicago Mr. Geo. M. Pullman was summoned to give some testimony Mr. Pullman attached his car to the New York train and went East, and in some way the papers got hold of the matter and made some publication about it and the judge said that Mr. Pullman would be dealt with drastically. In a few days Mr. Pullman returned and he went into chambers, made a few personal explanations and that is the last we heard about it. Had it been myself, I would have to go to jail. That is the difference. Only a little while ago judge Henford cited Henry C. Payne, of the Northern Pacific, to appear before him to answer certain charges, and he went to Europe and is there yet. Will he go to jail on his return? Of course not. The reason suggests itself. If it were a railroad striker he would be in Woodstock instead of Berlin.
Governor Altgeld, in many respects the greatest governor in the United States, says: ‘The precedent has now been established and any Federal judge can now enjoin any citizen from doing anything and then put him in jail.’ Now what is an injunction? It has all of the force and vital effect of a law, but it is not a law in and by the representatives of thepeople; it is not a law signed by a president or by a governor. It is simply the wish and will of the judge. A judge issues an injunction; serves it upon his intended victim. The next day he is arrested. He is brought into the presence of the same judge. Sentence is pronounced upon him by the same judge, who constitutes the judge and court and jury and he goes to jail and he has no right of appeal. Under this injunctional process the plain provisions of the constitution have been disregarded. The right of trial by jury has been abrogated, and this at the behest of the money power of the country. What is the effect upon the workingmen and especially railway employees to bind them to their task? The government goes into partnership with a corporation. The workingmen are intimidated; if there is a reduction of wages they submit; if unjust conditions are imposed they are silent. And what is the tendency? To demoralize, to degrade workingmen until they have reached the very dead line of degradation. And how does it happen and why does it happen that corporations are never restrained? Are they absolutely lawabiding? Are they always right? Do they never transgress the law or is it because the Federal judges are their creatures? Certain it is that the united voice of labor in this country would be insufficient to name a Federal judge. If all the common people united and asked for the appointment of a Federal judge their voice would not be heeded any more than if it were the chirp of a cricket. Money talks. Yes, money talks. And I have no hesitancy in declaring that money has even invaded, or the influence, that power conferred by money, has invaded the Supreme Court and left that august tribunal reeking with more stench than Coleridge discovered in Cologne and left all the people wondering how it was ever to be deodorized. There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows and let the whales slip through and the Federal judge is as far removed from the common people as if he inhabited another planet. As Boyle O’Reilly would say:
“His pulse, if you felt it, throbbed apart From the throbbing pulse of the people’s heart!
On January 1, 1897, Debs issued a circular to the members of the A. R. U. entitled “Present Conditions and Future Duties,” in which he reviewed the political, industrial and economic conditions and came out boldly for Socialism. Among other things he said:
“The issue is Socialism vs. Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society—we are on the eve of a universal change.”
When the A. R. U. held its convention at Chicago in June, 1897, he and its members favored political action, and the Social Democratic party was organized June 21, 1897, and this was the beginning of what is now known as the Socialist party of America.
Government By Injunction.
The year 1894 marks a great historical change in the attitude of laborers towards government, for it was during that memorable strike that the now famous injunction was used to cripple the efforts of the workers to improve their condition by the lawful methods of the general strike. The late and now great ( ?) Cleveland, in spite of the traditional fealty of the Democratic party to state sovereignty, over the protests of Governor Altgeld of Illinois, who declared that the state was amply able to protect life and property in its territory, sent Federal troops into Chicago and disorder followed, and the strike was lost and, as stated, its leader thrown into prison.
Government by injunction is today the “slogan” of both old parties, and their hypocritical utterances as to this issue are convincing the American working people that with the army as a police force government by corporations has taken the place of government by the people and the farmers exploited by the packers’ and elevator and railroad interests, the miner snubbed everywhere by the coal barons and the vast and increasing army of the unemployed, young and outcast old men are now thinking in terms of political strike, rather than in terms of boycott and idle protest.
The hours of work are now short enough to the workers, and far too short to provide food, shelter and clothing for themselves and families in the midst of industrial stagnation, caused by exhausting the purchasing power of the producers of wealth through the blind greed of those who claim the right to take unto themselves the earth and its exhaustless resources for abundantly supplying the needs of all.
During the eventful years from 1894 to this epoch-making year 1908, the two old parties have come into closer resemblance, until now Mr. Bryan is found claiming that Mr. Roosevelt has adopted his ideas. He is not so insistent, however, on this point as he was a year ago, when he admitted that there had been great additions to the gold supply, hence more money, hence more work, and hence more prosperity. He is now assuming to be more critical of the present government policies of his Republican friends and promises to bring the depressed workers back into more abundant pastures of the clover kind. It is not strange that the dormant minds of the people are being awakened, for the workers are no longer so easily bewildered by the strange talk of “full dinner buckets” and “abundant money.” On all these matters Debs has been heard by hundreds of thousands and his words of prophecy have been more than fulfilled and in every argument he based every prediction upon the iron law of industrial production and distribution of wealth. While he has, during all these years advocated the ballot, he has never forgotten the unanswerable reasons for down-trodden workingmen using the outworn weapons of the strike and all its weapons of boycott and persuasion, but the attitude had been that of the wise understanding and not of the blind approval of the blind leading the blind.
When the A. R. U. went to pieces it had legal obligations for more than $40,000. There was no personal obligation resting upon Mr. Debs in this matter, and yet, for years he wrote and lectured and helped to pay off the last penny of the debt, and to this day there is no unpaid obligation of the defunct A. R. U.
Trial For Conspiracy Taken From The Records.
On Tuesday, July 10, 1894, a special grand jury was impaneled in the United States District Court of Northern Illinois. Judge Grosscup charged the jury as to what is insurrection; conspiracy, etc., and the jury retired to consider such evidence as might be brought before it concerning the conduct of the American Railway Union strike. Edwin Walker, counsel for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, had been appointed by Olney, Attorney-General under Grover Cleveland, special counsel to assist in this prosecution,, and he and Attorney Wright, of the Rock Island Railroad, were in attendance. One witness was examined—E. M. Mulford, of the Western Union Telegraph Company—and contrary to all precedent, produced for the jurors copies of the telegrams which had been sent out from and received at the American Railway Union headquarters since the strike had begun. With no further preliminaries, the jury promptly indicted four American Railway Union officials, and within ten minutes after judge Grosscup received the indictments four warrants were issued, and within an hour Eugene V. Debs, President; George W. Howard, Vice-President; Sylvester Kelliher, Secretary, and L. W. Rogers, Director and Editor of the “Railway Times,” were under arrest. The official headquarters were raided. All books, blanks, papers and correspondence of the Union were seized, as well as all President Debs’ private mail. The officers returned Mr. Debs’ private mail the next morning by order of the court.
On July 17 the four were again arrested for contempt of court on petition of Special Counsel Walker, alleging violating of the restraining injunction which had been issued by judges Grosscup and Woods. In this restraining order persuasion was charged as a crime and union labor, was given notice that it could not use persuasion in order to better their. conditions. The defendants refused to give bail and the four slept’ in Cook County jail, where they remained until Wednesday, July 23, when their attorneys moved to dismiss the contempt proceedings, as they were virtually for the same offense charged in the indictments and that no man could be tried twice for the same offense. Their motion was denied. The defendants pleaded for trial by jury and this was refused. Further hearing of the case was then postponed to accommodate judge Woods until September 5. Later a supplemental information was filed in the contempt case to include the directors of the American Railway Union.
American Railway Union.
In the A. R. U. there were originally sixty-nine persons named in the omnibus indictments for conspiracy to obstruct the United States mail. Before the trial the government counsel entered a nolle pros. as to a number of the persons indicted, leaving the number January 8, 1895, forty-five. There were seven indictments against Debs, Howard and Rogers, and three each against the full Board of Directors of the A. R. U. Debs, Howard, Kelliher and Rogers were first indicted with James Mervin for conspiring to obstruct a mail train on the Rock Island Railroad, and were arrested by the Marshall and placed in the County jail until the court admitted them to bail. The four leaders were under $25,ooo bonds in all of the conspiracy indictments except the omnibus indictment. The defendant directors were represented by S. S. Gregory and C. S. Darrow, and Jno. J. Hanahan was represented by Thos. W. Harper, of Terre Haute. Edwin Walker, District Attorney General J. C. Black and his predecessor, T. E. Milchrist, represented the government.
Mr. Gregory, addressing the court, said:
“I stand ready to prove that one of the attorneys, who is here to represent the United States, has been retained as counsel for one of the railroads interested in this case,-the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul. We object to his sitting in this case.”
Mr. Walker said: “Part of this statement is true and part is not true.”
Mr. Gregory asked that Mr. Walker be interrogated, but the court declined to interfere.
Of the twelve jurors chosen, eight were farmers, one an insurance agent, one a real estate dealer, one a dealer in agricultural implements, and one a painting and decorating contractor. The government was very careful to exclude workingmen from the jury.
Mr. Milchrist, in his opening speech for the government, said:
“Men have a right to strike.”
Mr. Darrow replied in his opening address:
“If this is so, it ends this case, for no one but the evil genius that directs this prosecution believes these men did anything else. There is a statute which makes the obstruction of a mail car punishable by a fine of $100, yet no one had heard of the men who actually obstructed the mails during the strike being indicted under that statute. In order to make felons of honest men, who never had a criminal thought, they passed by that state to seize on one that makes conspiracy to obstruct the mails a crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary. To hound these men into the penitentiary is their purpose, yet they call this respect for law. Conspiracy from the days of tyranny in England down to the day the General Managers’ Association used it as a club has been the favorite weapon of every tyrant. It is an effort to punish the crime of thought. If the government does not, we shall try to get the General Managers here to tell what they know about it. The evidence will show that all these defendants did was in behalf of the employees of that man whose name is odious wherever men have a drop of human blood-Mr. Pullman. No man or set of men or newspaper ever undertook to defend Mr. Pullman except the General Managers’ Association, and their defense gives added proof of his infamy. These defendants published to all the world what they were doing, and in the midst of a wide-spread strike they were never so busy but that they found time to counsel against violence. For this they are brought into a court by an organization which uses the government as a cloak to conceal its infamous purposes.”
It was shown in the evidence from hundreds of telegrams read to the jury, all signed by Eugene V. Debs, that he counseled abstaining from all forms of violence and keeping within their rights as workingmen. There were more than 9,000 telegrams sent out during the strike and all telegrams that were considered of any value to the prosecution were produced by Edward M. Mulford, manager of the Western Union Company. It was shown by the defense that Mr. Wicks, vice-president of the Pullman Company, attended the emergency meetings of the General Managers’ Association in June. Why he was permitted to be present was not explained by the prosecution.
Mr. B. Thomas, president of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railway Company, was put upon the stand and testified in regard to the General Managers’ Association,-that it was organized April 20, 1886; that the purposes were to consider matters relating to railway management and wages, and that the Association had acted as a unit in resisting petitions for the increase of wages. The witness further testified that agencies had been established by the Association for the purpose of hiring new men to take the places of strikers, and that the expenses of the Association were apportioned among the several roads composing it.
Mr. Darrow read fr6m the minutes of a meeting of the General Managers’ Association August 31, 1893, that a general combination of the railroad managers throughout the United States was desirable and a committee of five men was appointed to take steps to carry out this idea. It was also developed that the object of this combination was to regulate wages and make them uniform throughout the country.
From the minutes of the meeting of September 21, 1893, Mr. Darrow read a resolution to the effect that however much it was to be regretted, a reduction in the wages of railway employees generally had become absolutely necessary.
After the examination of the General Managers, Mr. Debs, president of the A. R. U., was called to the stand, February 6, 1895.
In this evidence Mr. Debs, in reply to questions, gave a brief history of his life from November 3, 1855. He testified that more than $4,000,000 passed through his hands during his term of office as secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. He gave a history of the labor development among railway employees up to the time of his resignation from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and his uniting with the American Railway Union in 1892. He stated the object of the American Railway Union to be “A unification of ALL railroad employees for their mutual benefit and protection.” Being asked what led to the formation of the Union and to his conviction that it was necessary to form such an organization, Mr. Debs replied, that the concentration of the smaller railroads into the larger in this country had been going on for the last 20 years, the smaller roads being gradually reduced into the larger; that the wages had been gradually reduced, and in substance stated that the concentration of the railroads logically compelled a closer union among railway workers, us they could not accomplish anything by striking along craft lines.
He further testified that at the time of the strike on the Great Northern Road there were about 150,000 members of the A. R. U.; that the strike commenced April 13, 1894, and lasted eighteen days, culminating in complete victory, peaceful and orderly, and the strike was called off.
He testified that he first learned of the Pullman trouble when he returned from St. Paul, May 5, 1894, and first learned of the strike at Pullman on May 11. He was asked if the strike was brought on in any way by his advice, and Mr. Debs replied: “No, it was done contrary to my advice. I first went to Pullmaln,” said Mr. Debs in his evidence, “on the 14th of May after the strike occurred, and stayed there part of the day and an evening. I went again on May 18.” Mr. Debs stated he investigated conditions at Pullman by inquiry among the employees and their families and also from other independent sources, including the Rev. Carwardine, who had been preaching in Pullman for three years. “Tile result of the investigation,” said Mr. Debs, “was that I came to the conclusion that the Pullman Company was in the wrong; that wages had been unjustifiably reduced below the living point and that rents were much too high in comparison with what was charged for the same class of dwellings elsewhere.” He was not permitted by the court to testify as to the conditions existing among the people at Pullman. Being asked as to the convention of the A. R. U. held in Chicago, he stated that it was held June 12, 1894, and that 425 delegates were present from nearly all the states in the Union, and that newspaper reporters were present at all meetings of the convention except one executive session which was called to consider the financial affairs of the Order and nothing else; that telegrams sent and received by the A. R. U. were subjected to the examination of members of the press ; that nothing was concealed. He said the convention voted $2,000 of the funds for the Relief Committee at Pullman and the money was paid over to them; that the convention voted a levy of 10 cents a day per capita; that that was not collected because of the strike that followed.
Mr. Debs stated that there were speeches made at the convention by several n the situation at Pullman and that subsequently a motion was made to declare a boycott against the Pullman cars at once and that railway men should not haul them. Mr. Debs said that as chairman of the convention he declined to entertain this motion, on the ground that it was a very important matter which should not be acted upon hastily or until every means of effecting an amicable settlement had been exhausted; that he suggested that a committee be appointed to try to settle the matter by arbitration and avert a strike and that such committee was appointed; that the committee reported Saturday, June 16; that the Pullman Company positively declined to confer with any representatives of the American Railway Union and would confer only with their own employees as individuals. Another committee, composed entirely of Pullman employees, visited Mr. Wicks, vice-president of the Pullman Company, and reported that he said the company had nothing to arbitrate, and that he regarded the strikers in the position of “men on the sidewalk, so far as their relations with the company were concerned.”
The Rev. Mr. Carwardine, on the following Wednesday, addressed the convention, told of his experience during his stay of three years in Pullman, and particularly of his knowledge of the condition and surroundings of the people there. He said they were on the point of starvation and appealed to the convention in the name of God and humanity to act. He closed by saying that whatever was done must be done quickly.
Mr. Debs then told of a resolution to declare a boycott on the Pullman cars and the appointment of a committee to notify Mr. Wicks that unless he agreed to arbitrate the matter, the boycott would go into effect at noon June 26. This committee reported that Mr. Wicks still refused and preparations were then made to put the resolution into effect. He was asked if he or anyone else counseled violence or violation of law; he answered that nothing of the sort was advised by himself or any of the other speakers. He said, “Never in all my life have I broken the law or advised others to do so.” His testimony was listened to with marked interest by the jury. After Mr. Debs’ testimony had been completed Deputy Marshal Jones reported to the court that he had made diligent search for Mr. Pullman at his office and couldn’t find him. He said that “nobody appears to know the exact whereabouts of that gentleman.” Johnson, who occupies the honorable office of preventing distasteful callers from having access to his chief by demanding that they shall first be properly accredited to him by a piece of pasteboard, was brought to court and testified that he took Mr. Jones’ card in as usual and that Mr. Sweet, Pullman’s private secretary, carried it to the magnate’s room and returned, saying his employer was not in. He testified in a straightforward manner that Mr. Pullman walked into his office in the usual manner at 10:30 in the morning and on his way passed through the reception room. After that, the factotum declares he never saw the head of the Palace Car Company.
Further Evidence As To Conditions At Pullman, By Jennie Curtis.
She stated that the Pullman employees were indebted to Mr. Pullman $70,000 for rent at the time of the strike; that their wages had been insufficient to enable them to live and pay their living expenses. Mr. Debs was re-called and asked if he sent out an official order June 28, and he said he did; that the official order was given to the city newspapers and the Associated Press over his own signature. Mr. Debs read the manifesto, which had been referred to, and after counseling peaceful methods in all cases and a strict compliance with the laws, the manifesto concluded with these words:
“A man who will violate law is against the interests of labor.”
More than 150 telegrams were read to the jury, signed by Mr. Debs, counseling peaceful methods and standing together if they wished to win.
The government attorneys did all they could to prevent such evidence being introduced. The government attorneys asked Mr. Debs what wages he was getting as a fireman in 1875.He said, “I began at $1 a night.” He said, “I was afterwards paid by the mile.”
Attorney Walker for the prosecution then asked Mr. Debs the following questions:
“Q. Your salary as president of the American Railway Union of $3,000 still continues, does it not?
“A. No, sir; I cut it off myself last September.
“Q. The purpose of your Union was to get the control of all the railroad employees in the hands of the American Railway Union, was it not?
“A. Yes, sir, under the limitations of the Constitution and By-Laws.”
Mr. Debs was then asked if the Great Northern strike was a peaceful strike. He replied it was,—that no intimidation was used; that the company made no attempt to bring in new men; that there were no troops called out. The government attorney then asked:
“Q. You simply took possession of the road and held it?
“A. No, sir; we simply went home and stayed there.
“Q. There was no excitement?
“A. None whatever.”
Mr. Debs was then asked the meaning of the word “strike.” He replied as follows: “A strike is a stoppage of work at a given time by men acting in concert in order to redress some real or imaginary grievance.”
The government attorney then said: “Mr. Debs, will you define the meaning of the word ‘scab?’” He replied as follows: “A scab in labor unions means the same as a traitor to his country. It means a man who betrays his fellowmen by taking their places when they go on a strike for principle. It does not apply to non-union men who refuse to quit work.”
February 8 it was again reported to the court that Mr. Pullman could not be found. Each day there was reported an additional disappearance of employees of the Pullman Company; first, Mr. Pullman was reported gone, then his private secretary disappears, and the court issues subpoenas against the great man’s stenographers, whose services are so valuable that they are generally in attendance upon the head of the company throughout the entire year, but no sooner are the subpoenas issued and the officials are sent to serve them than the individual for whom they are intended are not to be found. The judge looked very grave and when he heard the news of these disappearances of witnesses that the defendants were trying to bring into court and the attorneys for the defense failing to get these employees, issued subpoenas for others around the Pullman buildings.
On convening court judge Grosscup announced that “owing to the sickness of a juror and the certificate of his physician he will not be able to get out for two or three days. I think it will be necessary to adjourn the further taking of testimony in this case.” General Black, for the prosecution, said he thought it would be possible to arrange that the proceedings be continued with eleven jurors. Judge Grosscup thought such proceedings would not be valid. Mr. Darrow, for the defense, proposed that the place of the sick juror should be filled and the case proceed after the evidence had been read over to the new juror. Long argument was then held and on Tuesday morning, the 12th of February, 1895, judge Grosscup discharged the jury, and continued the Debs case to the first Monday in May. This was done over the objection of the defendants. They were confident of an acquittal at the hands of the jury and their confidence was justified by both words and actions of the jurors after they were discharged. As soon as court adjourned they shook hands with judge Grosscup and then made a break for the defendant and their attorneys. For half an hour they held a regular levee, shaking hands and chatting most cordially with Mr. Debs and the other defendants. Counsel for the government were rather left to pose as wall-flowers. Mr. Debs was told by more than one juror that on the notions he held when he went into the jury box, five years in the penitentiary might not have been unexpected, but that since hearing the testimony, his notions were very different. Mr. ‘Walker, attorney for the government, who was nearest the jury, remarked to one of them that now he was free to do so, by reason of their being discharged, he would like to shake hands with them. “We want to shake hands with the judge first,” was the reply he got. Most of the jurors shook hands with the judge, then hastened to find Mr. Debs, the defendants, and their attorneys. One or two jurors shook hands with the prosecution attorneys, but there was a decided heartiness in the demeanor of the jurors toward the defense. Mr. Debs and all of the defendants have ever since believed that the jurors were fair, candid and able and they did everything possible to have the case brought to a conclusion by the jury which had been selected and accepted.
The sudden termination of the Debs case left the question of whether Mr. Pullman was in contempt or not in the shape of unfinished business. Mr. Pullman afterwards said that he had had the grip, had aches in all parts of his body; his nerves were shattered and his heart affected, he had a bad taste in his mouth and felt a disinclination to engage in any physical exertion; made up his mind to go East; thought the trip would do him good; had his private car arranged, attached it to a train which was to leave February 5. He admitted that he was in the Pullman offices, as stated before.
Mr. Pullman has never been able, nor will he ever be able to make any other explanation of his evasion of the law and his failure to do justice to himself and the accused in this historic case.
It is now known that the General Managers’ Association, disguised in the United States lion’s skin, was the prosecution and that it had but one purpose and that was to break up and annihilate the American Railway Union, by sending the leaders to the penitentiary, not only to get them out of the way, but to warn other agitators not to interfere with the General Managers’ Association’s right to do what they pleased with the wages and hours of their employees and with the rates and charges for transporting the products of the field, the mine, the farm and the factory, or the persons of the people as they pleased. If Debs had fled on the day of the trial, as Mr. Pullman did, we would not yet have heard the last of such cowardly conduct.
The case was not called up in May, nor has it ever been called up, nor have the indictments ever been withdrawn. The Railway Managers knew whom they could call upon to enable them to carry out their purposes and they called upon the late Grover Cleveland and in violation of every principle of state sovereignty, he sent the U. S. troops into Chicago to do ordinary police duty and crush out the right of the oppressed workers to peacefully obtain a redress of wrongs. The principal actors in this human drama have changed positions and roles. The accused are remembered and idealized by the people and their accusers are as though they never had been, except for the paltry parts they played.
It was almost impossible for the American people to learn about the truth in this great case, because the railroads controlled then, as they do now, the press. Bribery, falsehood, untruthful news items were spread all over the country and many good people still believe that Debs was the monster of wrong-doing and that Pullman was a magnate whose rights as an employer had been unlawfully invaded.
Some Editorials In Chicago Papers
Appearing During The Trial For Conspiracy.
Editorial in the Evening Press,November 23, 1895, entitled: “The Liberation of Debs":
“In the face of facts developed yesterday, it is idle to say that Eugene V. Debs has lost the esteem of the masses. No such demonstration as was made in his honor yesterday and last night has been seen in this city in many years, if at all. Had he been the victorious soldier returned fresh from conquests instead of a convict liberated from prison, his welcome could not have been more spontaneous, enthusiastic, sympathetic. Whether Eugene V. Debs merited imprisonment in the Woodstock jail; whether judge Woods in adjudging him in contempt of court did or did not debauch the constitution, are questions now under consideration. Rightfully or wrongfully, legally or illegally, Debs was sent to prison and after serving his sentence to the last hour, was discharged yesterday.
“Do all men who transgress the law go to prison? Is the judicial and military machinery of the United States set in motion every time a law is violated? Is the interference with interstate communication a greater crime than open, flagrant, overriding of the will of the people in statute expressed by wealthy individuals and corporations? These questions may be discussed and should be discussed by every man and woman and child who hold law and justice in esteem.
“Not many months ago members of the cabinet, senators and congressmen conspired with representatives of the Sugar Trust to rob the people of millions of dollars. A secretary admitted before a congressional investigation committee that he introduced a representative of this gigantic sugar monopoly to law makers who would aid his cause. A senator confessed to having made money by dealing in sugar stocks when the sugar schedule was under consideration in the senate. The President of the Sugar Trust boldly declared his concern made a practice of giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties to insure favorable legislation. In each instance law was transgressed, yet not a federal soldier was ordered out and not a man went to prison.
“The influence of the Standard Oil Company on courts and legislatures and congress is notorious. Judges have been corrupted and law makers bought by the mighty concern and not a soldier was ordered to arms or another prison cell occupied. Steam and street railway companies have bribed assemblies and councils and stolen public highways and lake fronts and the soldier boys slept on in their fortresses and the prison tailor had no calls for striped suits.
“The day must never come when there is no law. But it must come when justice will rip the bandage from her eyes and see and call for the Havemeyers and the Standard Oil magnates and other transgressors of law, as well as for the Debses.”
And now, July 22, 1908, as I write, the famous decision imposing a fine of $29,240,000 on the Standard Oil Company for violation of the laws of the United States is reversed by the same judge Grosscup who handed the lemons to the striking workers and their leaders in 1894. Do you see?
“Could Not Serve George M. Pullman.”
“At the beginning of the afternoon session the attention of the court was called to the difficulty experienced in securing the attendance of George M. Pullman as a witness. Deputy Marshal Jones told the court he had not been able to get personal service on Mr. Pullman, though he was satisfied he was in the city. He had been to Mr. Pullman’s office and the elevator boy had told him that Mr. Pullman was in his private room, but when he announced his business to Mr. Pullman’s private secretary, the latter went to the sanctum of the sleeping car magnate and returned with the information that Mr. Pullman was not in, but was wintering in Saint Augustine, Fla.
“The Court looked very grave when this announcement was made and remarked that he would see the attorney for the defense in his chambers after court adjourned.”—Chicago Times, Feb. 7, 1895.
* * * * * * * * *
Room For The Magnate.
“The Court then adjourned on account of the absence of George M. Pullman, for whom a subpoena had been issued.
“Of course, adjourn a court to suit the convenience of George M. Pullman, who has grown decidedly since last July. He is now a magnate of the first class in the Republican party, and the Court in having presumed to subpoena him at all ought to have accompanied the service of the process with ample apologies for venturing, even in the name of the United States, to trespass upon the valuable time of a gentleman distinguished not only in his own, his native land, but also throughout civilization as the proprietor of perambulating lodging houses and stand-up whisky bars.
“Of course, a court ought to adjourn in order to consult the convenience of Mr. Pullman. Mr. Pullman himself had regard for his own convenience when, during all the trouble of last July, he remained in the East, while the militia and the constabulary force of Cook County guarded his property so effectively that not even a blade of grass was trampled down, not even a window was broken in all the establishments of the town that bears his name.
“He rose superior to the dictates of common humanity last July, and why should the dictate of a court affect him in February?
“It is absolutely essential that Mr. Pullman should be heard; why should not his Honor adjourn his court and bring its officers and the jury and the whole entourage to Mr. Pullman’s palatial residence and let him have his say while he sips his chocolate?
“Is it not a fault of the republic that the masses do not sufficiently consider the dignity of the magnates? They are superior beings. Ordinary processes of law are made for ordinary individuals. Magnate Pullman has all the dignity of a Chinese mandarin, and he ought not to be approached save with the obsequiousness of a subject of the Celestial Empire prostrating himself at the foot-stool of Chinese majesty”—-Editorial, Chicago Times, February 7, 1895.
“Magnate Pullman is still missing. His whereabouts seem to give no concern to his immediate attendants, but judge Grosscup of the United States Court is showing some anxiety to learn where he is and why it is that he has not been served with a process calling him into court. An examination of Magnate Pullman’s colored doorkeeper made by the judge personally disclosed that he saw the magnate enter his office Monday at 10:30 o’clock, an hour after a deputy marshal called, but he has since mysteriously disappeared, and the marshal has been unable to locate him.
“Why this assumption of right to inquire into the personal movements of so great a man as Mr. Pullman? Ought we not, rather, anxiously unite in efforts to ascertain whether he is entirely safe, for if Magnate Pullman were to disappear into thin air, it is doubtful if the world would continue to revolve upon its axis and make its usual diurnal revolution. Human laws are made for the mass of mankind. Why should Magnate Pullman, who does not belong to the mass, but is a being apart, constructed of superior clay, be subjected to any such belittling regulation? Magnate Pullman keeps more bar-rooms in more states in the Union than any grog shop seller and employs more male chamber-maids than any other magnate in the bed-house business.
“The Tribune finds excuses for the magnate. It says: ‘It is not strange that he should be unwilling to go on the stand and be questioned by Mr. Darrow, Mr. Geeting and the other lawyers for the defense. It is not pleasant for a person who is at the head of a great corporation, who has many subordinates and no superiors, and who is in the habit of giving orders instead of answering questions, to be interrogated by persons who are unfriendly to him, and who may put disagreeable inquiries which he has to reply to civilly.’
“That’s it. Mr. Pullman is superior to the law. Like the king, he can do no wrong, and no processes can lie against him. The Tribune,however, we are bound to say, weakens a little, for it adds: ‘Nevertheless, it is the duty of all men to appear in court when they are wanted there. The subpoena does not discriminate between persons. Furthermore, those who need the defense of the law the most, should be the promptest and the most willing to submit themselves to the occasional unpleasantness of the law, and should try to show that they believe all men are equal before the law.’
“How presumptuous to suggest such a thing to Magnate Pullman, who does not believe that all men are equal before the law. The Tribune further ventures to say that Mr. Pullman ‘should have faced the music like a man.’
“There was some music here last June and July. It was music that never should have been played if Magnate Pullman had been like the ordinary run of human beings, but, being altogether an extraordinary creature, he waved his baton and the band began to play, but, far from facing the music which he himself had set in motion, he retired with a lawyer bodyguard to the East and viewed the concert from a distance of a thousand miles. Really, he had nothing to fear, for, as it turned out, not a single pane of glass in his marvelous town was broken by what he regarded as a fearful mob.
“The outcome of the present matter will be, of course, a demonstration that Magnate Pullman is a bigger man than the United States Court”—Editorial, Chicago Times,February 8.
“Shall Debs Be Tried Again?”
“Owing to the illness of one juror the conspiracy cases against Eugene V. Debs and his associates of the American Railway Union have come to a sudden stop. The propositions of the defense to continue the hearing of the case with eleven jurors, or to swear in a twelfth juror and proceed after the evidence already in had been read to him, were both opposed by counsel for the government and the railroads. As the matter now stands, a new jury will have to be impaneled and the whole thing gone over again, unless the Government decides to abandon the prosecution.
“It is exceedingly unfortunate that the present trial should have been interrupted in this unforeseen fashion. A judicial declaration upon the issues involved would have been of very decided value to all classes of society. As the evidence has been detailed day after day in the very full reports in the columns of the Times,the people have been able to gain a clearer and more exact idea of the incidents of the great strike than was possible in the moments of heated controversy last summer. It does not seem like over-statement to say that there was every indication that the defense would be successful. The charge of conspiracy had not, at the time of the abrupt termination of the case, been at all forcefully substantiated. Interviews with the released jurors establish the fact that they would have acquitted the defendants had the case been carried to its regular conclusion. It is credibly asserted that the prosecution has for some time apprehended such an outcome of the trial, and it was probably for this reason that the attorneys for the Government exercised their undoubted right to protest against continuing with an incomplete jury.
“In this situation the question arises whether the Government shall proceed further with this prosecution. Heavy expense is involved in it and it will consume much of the time of a court already overcrowded with business. It is just, too, to call attention to the fact that the defendants are poor men. The expenses of the defense thus far have been met by voluntary contributions from other poor men, who are in sympathy with the men on trial. There is obvious injustice in enlarging this financial burden by bringing these men again to trial.
“In the opinion of the Times enough has been done to maintain the dignity of the State in this matter. Further prosecution of Debs and his associates would look like persecution. The Government would better abandon the case forthwith. "Editorial, Chicago Times,February 53, 1895.
“Want A Twelth Juror.”
“Then there was a consultation between Court and counsel as to what to do. To discharge this jury and commence allover again would occasion a waste of time and delay which neither Court nor counsel wanted to permit, if there was any possible way of avoiding it. However, counsel for the Government seemed more easily able to reconcile themselves to it than anybody else. There was a very strong impression in the courtroom that the Government counsel had conceived the opinion that the jury would not convict, and were not altogether sorry something had arisen to give them a chance for a new jury.
“General Black at first thought that they could proceed with a jury of eleven, if the defendants would agree. The defendants were ready to agree, but took the view, and judge Grosscup shared it with them that such a stipulation would be a fatal error. Finally, General Black came to this conclusion himself. Then the defense made a proposition itself. This was in effect that the present jury be discharged and a new one at once impaneled, consisting of the eleven of the present jurors and a twelfth man; that for the benefit of this twelfth man the evidence already taken might be read over. In support of this proposition Mr. Gregory read a lot of authorities, some of them interesting in themselves, aside from any aid they might be in the present case.
“The proposition was talked about informally between the Court and counsel, and the more they talked about it the more feasible it seemed. But before it was finally decided on judge Grosscup wanted to sleep over it. So he adjourned court until 10 o’clock this morning.
Darrow Makes A Motion.
“‘In this case, your Honor,’ said Mr. Darrow, when the court resumed at the afternoon session, ‘we wish to make a motion in the event that the Court should decide that it is not competent to proceed with the eleven jurors, that the place of the sick juror should be filled and the case proceeded with after the evidence has been read over to the new juror, we think we have authorities on that point and we will present them to your Honor. The evidence could be read over and that would save the whole time that would be occupied in representing the case to the Court. If General Black admits this to be right, we would like to present these authorities to the Court.’
“‘When the court adjourned after the conference in your Honor’s chambers this morning,’ said General Black, ‘I made an investigation of the points involved and I found one authority upon the point which, it seems to me, settles the question. It is the case of Callan against Wilson, decided by justice Harlan. In that decision the judge discusses the question as to the rights of trial by jury under similar circumstances to this case, touching particularly the right of trial in conspiracy cases, and holds that it is an inalienable right that there should be a trial by jury, which means a jury of twelve men. The authority is so conclusive that I must abandon my position.’ “-Chicago Times, February 12, 1895.
A. R. U.
Mr. Conners On The Strike.
Mr. Conners in speaking of the A. R. U. strike and E. St. John, at that time general manager of the C. R. I. & P. railway and chairman of the General Managers’ Association, said that he denied that Mr. St. John broke the backbone of the strike; on the contrary, he so exaggerated the cause of breaking the A. R. U. that he was let out of his job soon after the strike and was practically wiped out himself as a railroad man.
It is true that Mr. St. John said to the General Managers in meeting assembled on the eve of the strike, these words:
“Gentlemen, we can handle the various brotherhoods, but we cannot handle the A. R. U. We have got to wipe it out. We can handle the other labor leaders, but we cannot handle Debs. We have got to wipe him out, too.”
He closed this article in the following words:
“At the end of the strike the railroads proclaimed their triumph and the annihilation of the A. R. U. but the principle that the A. R. U. stood for still lives and is stronger and more in evidence today than ever, which goes to show that wrong never really wins a victory over right, and iniquity is never long triumphant. There have been many changes since that great struggle against slavery, degradation and privation. Some of the exploiters of labor prophesied the death of the labor movement and it was down and out for a time, but history has repeated itself. Labor unions have again become a power. They are stronger than ever. Many an honest working man and woman went hungry in 1894 for daring to rebel against the humiliating conditions that existed at Pullman. Many a Union man went to jail for disobeying the injunction judges, Grosscup, Woods and Taft, but today we find Pullman has passed to the Great Beyond, where all are supposed to be equal; Woods is dead; Cleveland is dead; Egan has disappeared to God knows where; Grosscup has been under indictment; St. John has passed into the Shadowy Valley, but Eugene Debs still lives, loved by his fellowmen because of his honesty, for his many sacrifices to the cause of humanity. The cause of the working class is still here and here to stay and will be crowned gloriously triumphant long after the oppressors and tyrants and all their fawning retainers have gone the way of flesh and passed from memory.”
In the Railway Times,published at Terre Haute, January i, 1895, appeared the following special notice:
“The general offices of the American Railway Union and the Railway Times have been removed to Terre Haute, Indiana. The directors having been sentenced to prison, the change was made so that the work of the Order could be efficiently and economically done during their confinement. The work of organizing and equipping the A. R. U. will be pushed with unabated vigor. Insurance and secret work will be adopted as soon as it can be done under temporarily trying circumstances.
“All correspondence should be addressed to Eugene V. Debs, Terre Haute, Indiana.
“Terre Haute, Ind., Jan. I, 1895.”
In the evening papers of the country appeared the follow:
Debs Defiant—Issues An Address To The American People
From The Jail.
“Woonstock, ILL.-Eugene V. Debs, George Howard, Sylvester Kelliher, Louis W. Rogers, William E. Burns, James Hogan and Leroy Goodwin are confined in the McHeiiry County Jail. Last evening, as he sat in what Cook County prisoners would call a palace, Mr. Debs issued a manifesto to the American people, which contains the following:
“‘In going to jail for participation in the late strike we have no apologies to make nor regrets to express. No ignominy attaches to us on account of this sentence. I would not change places with judge Woods, and if it is expected that six months, or even six years in jail will purge me of contempt, the punishment will fail of its purpose.
“‘Candor compels me to characterize the whole proceeding as infamous. It is not calculated to revive the rapidly failing confidence of the American people in the federal judiciary. There is not a scrap of testimony to show that one of us violated any law whatsoever. If we are guilty of conspiracy, why are we punished for contempt?
“‘I would a thousand times rather be accountable for the strike than for the decision.
“‘We are, by chance, the mere instrumentalities in the evolutionary processes in operation through which industrial slavery is to be abolished and economic freedom established. Then the starry banner will symbolize, as it was designed to symbolize, social, political, religious and economic emancipation from the thralldom of tyranny, oppression and degradation.’”
The following invitations were issued for a reception in honor of Mr. Debs upon his release from Woodstoek Jail:
Dear Sir: You are cordially invited to attend a reception to be tendered Eugene V. Debs on his release from Woodstock Jail, Friday evening, November twenty-second, at Battery D, Chicago, by the liberty-loving citizens of Chicago and vicinity, in testimony of their sympathy with Mr. Debs and his colleagues in their unjust and unlawful imprisonment and as expression of popular aversion to judicial despotism and devotion to Civil and Constitutional Liberty.
J. D. MAYERS,
Secretary, 405 Thirty-third St., Chicago, Ill.
J. H. SCHWERZGEN,
Chm. Corn. of Arrangements,
33 Rialto Building.
The Reception Committee will leave this city for Woodstock on a special train from the Chicago and Northwestern railway depot at 2:30 p. m., Friday, November 22, for the purpose of escorting Mr. Debs to Chicago. If you desire to accompany the committee, kindly inform the chairman or secretary. Tickets for the round trip, two dollars.”
As the time approached when Mr. Debs’ term in prison would expire, November 22, 1895, great preparations for celebration were made throughout the country, particularly in Chicago. October 31, 1895, Mr. Debs wrote from Woodstock jail the following letter:
ILL., Oct. 31. Thomas J. Elderkin,
President Trade and Labor Assembly, Chicago, Ill.
Dear Sir and Brother: Yourfavor of the 20th inst. in reference to the reception to be tendered my colleagues and myself upon my release and the condition upon which the Trade and Labor Assembly of Chicago will participate therein has been received and noted.
I quote from your letter as follows: “Some say you advocate the abolishment of Trade Union theories, while others declare you are still a friend and strong advocate of Trade Unions. The question of a demonstration by the Trade and Labor Assembly upon the occasion of your release from jail November 22, rests upon your position toward Trade Unions, for if you still believe Trade Unions are adequate for the emancipation of the workingmen the Trade and Labor Assembly will cheerfully join in the demonstration.”
Permit me to decline in advance any “demonstration” on the part of persons whose sentiments are represented in the foregoing proposition. If the Trade and Labor Assembly of Chicago can afford to make such a proposition, I cannot afford to consider it. For twenty-one years I have been defining my “position” in relation to Trade Unions, and on all proper occasions I have given full, free and unequivocal expression to my views, but -I must respectfully decline to do so for a consideration, even though that consideration be in the form of a reception upon my release from a jail in which I have served a sentence of six months for my fealty to the principles of the very Trade Unions which now propose to interrogate me as to my “position” in relation to their interests.
The statement that I am or ever have been hostile to Trade Unions and that I am advocating or intending to advocate their “abolishment” is too palpably false and malicious to merit an instant’s contention. There is, of course, a purpose in having this question raised at this time, but it is difficult for me to conceive that it emanates from a Trade and Labor Assembly. If it had its origin in the General Managers’ Association or some kindred body, it would be in consonance with the fitness of things and I should readily understand it.
Permit me to say, therefore, that the proposed reception is in no sense a personal affair. I understand it to be tendered in recognition of the principles involved in the illegal and unjust imprisonment of my colleages and myself, and as voicing abhorrence of, and protest against, judicial despotism in the United States, which constitutional rights are cloven down in the interest of corporate wealth.
I have not asked for a reception and I am sure I have no ambition to be the guest of anyone who finds it necessary to place me on the witness stand and interrogate me as to whether I am his friend or his enemy, especially after serving six months in jail for advocating his rights and defending his interests. To make myself perfectly clear, if there are those who have any doubt as to my “position,” then, so far as I am concerned, I advise them to take the safe side and stay away from the intended reception.
The charge that I have “changed my views” in regard to Trades Unions, which, as I am informed, prompted the action and attitude of your Assembly, is simply a pretext which will serve the purpose for which it was designed if it creates dissehsion, arouses a sentiment unfavorable to the reception and makes of that occasion a dismal failure. The reason for this so apparent that it will readily suggest itself. I admit that my views are subject to “change,” but not of the legal tender variety.
I beg to assure you that no discourtesy is intended, although if the Trade and Labor Assembly had intended a deliberate affront it could not have adopted a method better calculated to serve that purpose than by attempting to pillory me in public at this time on the question of my allegiance to Organized Labor.
I have the honor to subscribe myself, with best wishes, Yours fraternally,
Eugene V. Debs.
While Mr. Debs was in Woodstock jail he wrote a series of remarkable letters which were published in the daily press and these letters seem now, in the light of industrial development, to have been filled with prophetic vision. The following are a few quotations from some of his letters:
“It is time that Organized Labor should learn the power and the imperative necessity of a united ballot and in this is meant the ballot of all who work for their daily bread, without regard to color or sex. It is also high time that allegiance to parties who make laws for the protection of capitalists and the subjugation of labor should be abandoned and that men should be found to enact and administer laws for the equal protection of labor which creates the capital and carries forward all the industries of the world. In this unification of labor forces for the amelioration of conditions by constitutional and lawful methods, as are contemplated in political action, there is no need of interfering with Trades Unions or any of the numerous social and industrial organizations or encroaching in the slightest degree upon their province or functions. On the contrary, labor organizations would be indefinitely strengthened by such a policy. The proposition is so selfevident as to require no argument for its clucidation. Until that time comes, capitalism will be in power and have absolute control. Capitalism will make the laws and administer them, control the army, bribe the press, silence the pulpit and workingmen will pay the penalty of their ignorance and stupidity in abject slavery.
Debs’ Last Night In Jail.
Eugene Victor Debs’ last hour of imprisonment ended with the first second after midnight of November 22, 1895. He had gone to bed early and was sleeping soundly when the hours of bondage merged into the hours of freedom. He had his breakfast with the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s family and then with his brother Theodore, in a cutter, he drove about Woodstock and called on the various friends he had made while he was in prison. He came in late for dinner. During the afternoon farmers in great numbers came into the town to see the parade of the Chicago working people who were to come out to greet him. School girls and boys, young men and young women and all sorts and conditions of people assembled at the station. The train was greeted with shouts when it turned the curve southeast of the town, and when Reichart’s Band started up the street everybody in the whole town followed to the public square. The train had arrived at 5 o’clock. As the crowd marched toward the jail the released prisoner stood on the stone steps in front of the Sheriff’s residence. A crowd of big, burly workingmen rushed up and took Mr. Debs in their outstretched arms.* The yelling and cheering was something remarkable. Dozens hugged and kissed him. Others simply felt for his hand and if it was no more than a touch they seemed to be satisfied and went away yelling. The crowd called “Lift him up so we can all see him.” Instantly he was hoisted up on the shoulders of the men. After the crowd had partaken of coffee and sandwiches at the several restaurants in Woodstock, the Chicago Special was entered and from Woodstock to Chicago music, singing and cheering drowned the noise of the train. When the trains arrived at the Wells street Station in Chicago, more than 100,000 people blocked the streets and bridges in the vicinity of the depot. The streets were filled with mud and slush and a heavy rain was falling, but the crowd did not seem to pay any attention. Mr. Debs himself refused to enter the carriage hauled by six white horses and as he took his place in the parade he said “If the rest walk, I shall walk. What is good enough for them is good enough for me.”
Battery D was crowded to its utmost capacity and his speech delivered upon that occasion was scholarly, brilliant, beautiful. The following is the closing paragraph relative to his life in prison:
“In prison my life was a busy one and the time for meditation and to give the imagination free reign was when the daily task was over and Night’s sable curtains enveloped the world in darkness, relieved only by the sentinel stars and the Earth’s silver satellite ‘walking in lovely beauty to her midnight throne.’ It was at such times that the reverend stones of the prison walls preached sermons, sometimes rising in grandeur to the Sermon on the Mount. It might be a question in the minds of some if this occasion warrants the indulgence of the fancy. It will be remembered that Aesop taught the world by fables and Christ by parables, but my recollection is that the old stone preachers were as epigrammatic as an unabridged dictionary. I remember one old divine stone who one night selected for his text ‘George M. Pullman,’ and said ‘George is a bad egg; handle him with care. If you crack his shell the odor would depopulate Chicago in an hour.’ All the rest of the stones said ‘Amen’ and the services closed.
“Another old sermonizer who said he had been preaching since man was a molecule declared lie had of late years studied corporations and that they were warts on the nose of national industries and that they were vultures whose beaks and claws were tearing and mangling the vitals of Labor and transforming workingmen’s homes into caves. Another old stone said he knew more about strikes than Carroll D. Wright and that he was present when the slaves built the pyramids; that God himself had taught his hghtnings, thunderbolts, winds, waves and earthquakes to strike and that striking would proceed with bullets or ballots until workingmen, no longer deceived and cajoled by their enemies, would unify, proclaim their sovereignty and walk the earth free men.
“I have borne with such composure as I could command the imprisonment which deprived me of my liberty. Were I a criminal, were I guilty of crimes meriting a prison cell, had I ever lifted my hand against the life or liberty of my fellowmen, had I ever sought to filch their good name I could not be here. I would have fled from the haunts of civilization and taken up my residence in some cave where the voice of my kindred is never heard; but I am standing here with no self-accusation of crime or criminal intent festering in my conscience, in the sunlight, once more among my fellow-men, contributing as best I can to make this celebration day from prison a memorial day, realizing that as Lowell sung:
’He’s true to God who’s true to man;
Wherever wrong is done,
To the humblest and the weakest
‘Neath the all-beholding sun,
That wrong is also done to us;
And they are slaves most bass
Whose love of right is for themselves,
And not for all the race. ‘ ”
(Quoted from the Chicago Chronicle, November 23, 1895.)
The arrival of the train bearing the party with Mr. Debs, which was carefully awaited, was the signal for a mighty yell. The crowd on the platform started it and it was taken tip by those who thronged the stairs leading down to the platform and those who were above in the street. The cheering became deafening. When Debs appeared on the platform of the coach the cheers became a tumult of frantic yells. Those who were nearest the labor leader rushed to him and seized him, in their arms and bore him ‘from the car into the surging, struggling, pushing, cheering, yelling throng. Sitting on the shoulders of men and raised above the heads of the crowd, bareheaded and smiling, Debs acknowledged the salutes of the crowd, bowing and waving his hat. Whichever way the labor leader turned there was a fresh outburst of cheers but so great was the crowd that it remained wedged together. No one could move. The police cried in vain but they could hardly hear their own voices. They pushed and struggled and pleaded with those that were nearest them to make way but the crowd stood as an immovable wall. Those who were near enough reached out to touch the leader’s garment and those who were not were madly striving to do so. The men who were bearing Debs on their shoulders had not gone ten paces from the car when they could go no farther. From every direction the crowd faced toward their idol. Men cried for air and egress from the pressing mass, but no one heard them. The policemen were as powerless as everyone else. Could they have made themselves heard, they might have accomplished something. For twenty minutes there was not a move in the packed center. It was oppressive and suffocating and men were being crushed and trampled. The slender form of the man whose presence brought out the outpouring was all the while held aloft and safe from the crush. A smile was playing over his clean-cut features. His face was aglow with the triumph of the hour. It was only by the efforts of the policemen and the officers of the Trades Unions which were on the outskirts of the crowd that the jam was worked apart and got in motion. They succeeded in getting those who were on the street above to move back, then those who were on the broad stairway were forced upon the street, and finally the congestion on the platform below was gradually relieved; but it was far from being dispersed. Two policemen managed to fight their way to where the labor leader was held and they made a path for two more and the four policemen succeeded by their combined strength in making a way for Debs. Inch by inch they moved, pushing, struggling and almost beating the crowd until they gained the stairs. As they started up, twice the tide of the throng carried them back down to the platform after they had gained the first step. They struggled on and on up the stairs, the great mass swaying and sometimes retreating, and all the time and above all the mighty cheering went on. Never did men strive and struggle to so demonstrate their love for a fellowman just released from a convict’s cell. Their’s was no outward show alone. There was no sycophancy in them. Debs was borne on the shoulders of strong men all the way along the depot platform and up the stairs and along the street. When he reached the Wells street bridge he asked those who bore him to set him down where his old lieutenant, William E. Burns, who was also a prisoner with Debs in Woodstock jail, had gotten near enough to speak to him. They halted then to form a line to march in order to Battery D.
More than fifty of the Labor Unions of Chicago were represented in the six coaches that went out to Woodstock to receive Mr. Debs. The procession that marched through the storm was composed of the members of every Trade Union in the city, wearing badges and marching in his honor.
Commission Appointed By The Government To Inquire Into The Chicago Strike.
In the hearing before the Commission appointed in September, Superintendent of Police, Mr. Brennan, stated that the acts of violence in the strike in Chicago were perpetrated by a lot of hoodlums and vicious people mixed with women and children. Fire Marshal Fitzgerald testified that he attended nearly all of the fires and was on duty at all the fires of any magnitude. He stated that there was no interference with the firemen at any time; the cause of the fires was due to the action of youngsters who lighted waste and other inflammable material and threw it in the cars where it would catch the woodwork. “I stopped a number of boys whom I saw doing such work. There was no interference attempted by railroad men. A number of railroad men helped the firemen pull an engine into position at Forty-fifth street and the Fort Wayne tracks. I did not ask aid at any time during the fires.”
Mr. Miller, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, also testified that he had an extensive acquaintance among railroad men. He said: “The trouble was caused by hoodlums and toughs. In my reports I characterized them as hoodlums. Many of them were boys. Sobriety was the rule among the strikers.” Mr. Miller said: “The speakers at the public meetings advised against violence or lawlessness. I believe they were speaking sincerely.” The testimony of many other reporters was in the same line. Mr. Harding of the Times testified that there was comparatively little disorder at the Stock Yards, but that the newspaper reports contained the accounts of fights and riots almost every night. “Captain O’Neil of the Stock Yards police told me,” said Mr. Harding, “that volleys of shots were fired by the soldiers or the militia every day or night, which, on investigation, proved to have no cause other than the desire to create excitement. A crowd would naturally gather, newspaper reporters would flock around and they would gather something to tell, to brag about in the papers. I know this is so from talks with the men themselvs.”
Mr. Debs was on the stand an entire day. His testimony in the following words brought out very interesting points which the Commissioners elicited by direct question. Mr. Debs said: “Government supervision would not answer the purpose of preventing strikes. No good could come from compulsory arbitration; that is a contradiction in terms. Even if some means of enforcing the decree could be devised, those against whom the decree was rendered would not be satisfied. The basis must be friendship and confidence. Government ownership of railroads would be better than railroad ownership of Government,” said Mr. Debs. Mr. Debs stated that the railroads do not obey the decisions of the Interstate Commerce Commission. If they do not obey this Commission, he did not think they would be likely to obey the decisions of a court of arbitration, unless it suited their convenience.
Commissioner Worthington asked Mr. Debs, “What about strikes in other industries?” Mr. Debs replied, “The replacement of the wage system by the co-operative commonwealth could alone solve the problem; as long as a man is dependent on another for work, he is a slave. With labor-saving machinery, which term is now a misnomer, as it is really labordisplacing machinery, unrestricted emigration and ten men bidding for a job, wages are bound to go lower and lower. Capitalists instinctively feel their affinity. I want the working people to feel the same way. To illustrate-in the late strike we did nothing to interfere with the Chicago Herald’s business, yet the Herald felt its kinship to the capitalists who owned the railroads and made unmitigated war on the railroad employees.”
Commissioner Kernan asked Mr. Debs, “If such a unification of working people was accomplished, would it not have a dangerous power?” Mr. Debs replied, “A little power is more dangerous than great power. If you have 100 switchmen working in a yard and ten or twelve of them are organized, you will have a strike on your hands very soon. The unification of labor would mean the abolition of the wage system.”
Chief Deputy U. S. Marshal Donnelly was one of the most interesting witnesses before the government, because his testimony proved that the railroads run the government. Mr. Donnlly sa.id, “We had a regular force. of men sworn in of between fourteen and fifteen hundred, and then we swore in 4,000 for the railroads. The government armed and paid the regular force and the railroads armed and paid the others. The first lot of men we got were a poor lot., We went on the street and got such men as we could. The better class of men said they wouldn’t serve against the strikers. At first we didn’t ask for any certificates of character or fitness. We received our instructions from Attorney General Olney. Held us to hire all the men we needed. The number we needed was decided on at conferences between the United States District Attorney and Mr. Walker, Special Assistant District Attorney, and attorney for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The railroads would send in a batch of men, saying they were all right, and we gave the stars to the railroads and took their receipt for them. These railway deputies were not under our orders; they made their reports to no one except the chief detectives of the railroads. They derived their authority from the United States. All the violence I saw and the car burning was done by boys-tough kids.”
U. S. Commission Holds Investigation Of Causes Of Strike.
Mr. Debs said in his evidence in August, 1895, before the Strike Commission:
“It is understood that a strike is war, not necessarily of blood and bullets, but a war in the sense that it is a conflict between two contending interests or classes of interest. There is more or less strategy, too, in war and this was necessary in our operations in the A. R. U. strike. Orders were issued from here; questions were answered and our men kept in line from here.”
The attorney, Mr. Milchrist, for the government in the conspiracy trial at Chicago in January, 1895, further said that it was lawful for Mr. Debs to order our members of the A. R. U. but not others. Mr. Milchrist said the A. R. U. had spent $3,000 on telegrams. Mr. Milchrist said the mails were tied up. “Certainly if the trains were tied up,” he said, “the government is not prosecuting the defendants for an overt act, but simply for interfering with the United States mails. It was argued to the jury by Mr. Debs’ attorneys the law was used against the defendants as an excuse for working oppression, as there was no telegram or written or verbal order shown to the jury urging violence or interference with the mails. Mr. Darrow said: “But when men strike for oppressions against others and jeopardize their own livelihoods for the sake of those whom they do not even know, it is so much above the ideals of the railroad managers that they think it is a crime.”
There were many brilliant arguments, many sharp replies during the trial. There were many telegrams read to the jury. Here is an exact copy of one that was read and became a part of the record in the case:
“July 16, 1894.
“C. S. McAuliffe, Wisconsin.
“We have assurances that within 48 hours every labor organization will come to our rescue. The tide is on and the men are acquitting themselves like heroes. Here and there one weakens, but our cause is strengthened by others going out in their places. Every true man must go out and remain out until the fight is over; there must be no half-way ground. Our cause is gaining ground daily and our success is only a question of a few days. Don’t falter in this hour but proclaim your manhood. Labor must win now or never. Our victory will be certain and complete. Whatever happens don’t give any credence to rumors and newspaper reports.
“E. V. Debs.”
This was sent to forty points. Then the troops were called and then telegrams like this were sent over the wires:
“To call out the troops was an old method for intimidation. Commit no violence. Have every man stand pat. Troops cannot move trains. Not scabs enough in the world to fill places, and more help accruing hourly.”
Out of 9,000 telegrams, 150 were read to the jury and they were always proper and called upon the men to commit no violence. Among them was the famous: “Save your money and buy a gun” telegram. This was sent under the Debs’ half-rate frank, but as shown was not authorized by him or sent with his knowledge, and when the whole telegram is read it is seen to be very innocent and harmless. The jury seemed to be amused at the juvenile attempts to fasten acts of violence on Mr. Debs. One witness, Dennis Ryan, was asked if he heard anything about dynamite. He said the Great Northern strike was won by the men standing shoulder to shoulder; that they did no want violence. February 6 the Railroad Managers’ minutes were put in the case. Several defendants were examined. It was shown that the Managers’ Association had been preparing to have a strike, and Mr. Darrow read from their minutes dated August 31, 1893, a resolution declaiming it was desirable that a general combination of managers throughout the United States was desirable and that the wages of the railroad men were to be reduced and made uniform throughout the country. The resolution stated one of the hardest facts the managers had to contend with was the men would complain that they were not receiving equal pay to men on other roads doing similar work.
From the minutes of the meeting of September 21, 5893, a resolution was read to the effect that however much it was to be regretted, a general reduction in the wages of the men had become absolutely necessary. It was then shown by the defense that the Managers’ Association had established agencies to secure men to take the places of those who seemed likely to strike. The number of men so employed was shown by the evidence of Mr. B. Thomas, president and general manager of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad Company. He further testified that the Association was first organized on April 20, 1886, and among its objects wage schedules were to be agreed upon and stood by, by the railroads.
Mr. Debs was called February and gave his testimony clearly and without hesitation. The examination was conducted by Clarence S. Darrow. He testified that the object of the A. R U organization was the unification of all railroad employees for their mutual benefit and protection. The attorneys for the railroads tried hard to exclude many answers, but the court ruled them competent and Mr. Debs said there were several railroad organizations and they were at war with one another and had been for a long time. The same classes of men were eligible to different organizations and the Railroad Managers’ Association played off these organizations against one another. The railroads took advantage of this fact and made contracts with one or the other organizations and these would operate to the disadvantage of the others.
“The concentration of the smaller railroads into the larger had been going on for 20 years, and there had been a gradual reduction of wages.” These things compelled the idea of organization of the A. R. U.
The first strike was on the Great Northern and commenced April 13, 1894, and lasted eighteen days.
“I first learned of the Pullman strike May ii, 1894. It was done contrary to my advice. I investigated conditions at Pullman first May 4, 1894, and again May 18, 1894. I made an investigation among the Pullman employees and was helped by the Rev. Carwardine of Pullman. I came to the conclusion that the Pullman Company was in the wrong, that wages had been unjustifiably reduced at different times below the living point and that rents were much too high in comparison with what was charged for the same class of dwellings elsewhere. The Pullman Company owned the whole town of Pullman, streets, water works, houses and everything.”
Newspaper reporters were admitted to all sessions of the convention held at Chicago June 12, 1894, except one where finances were considered. All telegrams were subjected voluntarily to the examination of the press reporters.
Mr. Debs then gave a resume of his speech at the convention and stated that in his speech he spoke in particular about the victory on the Great Northern having been a peaceful one. He then testified as to the conference held by the convention committee with Manager Wicks of the Pullman Company and the committee reported June 16, that the manager of the Pullman Company said they had nothing to arbitrate. He testified as to the speech made to the convention by Rev. Carwardine; that the Rev, Carwardine told of his three years’ life in Pullman and that the men and their families were at the point of starvation. The convention voted $2,000 for the relief of the Pullman employees. A committee was appointed to notify the Pullman Company that unless arbitration was agreed upon by June 26 a boycott on Pullman cars would be ordered. He further testified that he had advised all committees coming to his headquarters to abstain from any acts of violence and in reply to a question put by the counsel, replied, “No, sir; never in all my life have I broken the law or advised others to, do so.”
His testimony was listened to with marked interest by the jury.
A. R. U.
In the Chicago strike the strikers were not responsible for the burning of the property of the railroads. It was not done until after the arrival of the United States troops. It was done then at the instance of the railroads because the railroads knew that without violence they would lose’ the strike. People who doubt this statement are referred to the reports of Chief Brennan of the Chicago Police, Hon. Carroll D. Wright, head of the Labor Bureau, and the reports of the governor of Illinois, and the report of the Special United States Commission that heard witnesses of all sorts in their investigation of the A. R. U. strike.
The substance of the report of the commission was as follows:
“The third smash-up comes from the commissioners appointed by Cleveland, who make their report to Congress, that the Managers’ Association at Chicago who fought the A. R. U. threw the whole country into turmoil and dismay, stopped traffic and destroyed commerce, was an utterly illegal body. The twenty-four railroads, including the Southern Pacific, Atchison and Southern California, which so ruthlessly pursued the employees to crush and starve them are now pronounced to have had no ‘standing in law.’ And yet, they had the influence to bring into their support the Federal executive and army and navy and all the machinery and power of the Federal courts. The commission says: ‘II we regard its practical workings rather than its profession, as expressed in its constitution, the General Managers’ Association has no more standing in law than an old trunk line pool. It cannot incorporate because railroad charters do not authorize roads to form associations or corporations to fix rates for service or wages, nor to battle with strikers. It is usurpation of power not granted. In fact, this “usurpation” had extended everywhere by courts as well as Railroad Managers’ Associations. The latter can be classed with the other cutthroat organizations of hirelings and Hessians, who for money will start out to kill any citizens at the order of the corporations—the Pinkertons.’”
The commission says: “An extension of the Association, as above suggested, and the proposed legalization of pooling, would result in an aggregation of power and capital dangerous to the people and their liberties, as well as to their employees and rights.” And they might have added that with the aid of the Federal judiciary these twenty-four managers could have subverted the constitution and erected a despotism. The commission thoroughly endorses the legality of the actions of the A, R. U. and refutes the charge that they were guilty of violence or encouraging it. They say:
“It should be noted that until the railroads set the example, the great union of railroad employees was never attempted. * * * The refusal of the General Managers to recognize and deal with such a combination of labor as the American Railway Union, seems arrogant and absurd, when we consider its standing before the law, its assumption, and its past and obviously contemplated future action.”
Another signal reversal of the position assumed by the United States courts in the Chicago cases came in the shape of a reversal by the Federal Court of Appeals in the opinion of justice Harlan against the use of equity proceedings to punish railway employees by means of contempt in injunctions and especially that the act of July 2, 1890, was totally inapplicable. Another was in the opinion filed by Attorney General Olney, who practically reversed himself when he declared in his brief to the United States Circuit Court that the position taken by the receiver of the Reading Railroad was entirely illegal and unjustifiable in his notice to the men that he would dismiss all who remained members of labor organizations of railways. It controverts everything that has been done in the Chicago cases and in other Federal courts on the subject of the A. R. U. and other brotherhoods.
After the appearance of the report of the strike commission, Mr. Debs wrote the following letter to the New York World, in reply to some criticisms of the report of the commission:
To the Editor of the World:
The report of the strike commission is eminently fair and impartial and meets with the unqualified approval of not only the A. R. U. but of all people who believe in the American spirit of fair play and desire the enthronement of justice. The conclusions of the board are based on the testimony and both are presented with absolute impartiality. The result is a triumphant vindication of the American Railway Union and fixes the responsibility for the lawlessness, violence, arson and loss of life with the General Managers’ Association, where it properly belongs. Any intimation that I wrote the report or any part of it, or that I had anything to do with its preparation, directly or indirectly, is totally and maliciously false. I simply rendered my testimony in open session and then and there my connection with the board ceased. I never met or corresponded with any member of the board, either before or after my testimony was given.
Eugene V. Debs.
Mr. Debs made his first political speech for the Democratic party in 1878. He was tendered the nomination for Congress by that party and declined it.
In 1885 he was elected to the Indiana legislature and ran on the Democratic ticket with the avowed purpose of securing needed legislation for the working class in general, and railway employees in particular. In was this year, 1885, June 9, he was married to Katherine Metzel, *\“Kate” he affectionately calls her. She is one of the noblest types of women. She was born in Pittsburg, but her parents were Kentuckians. She is in thorough sympathy with him on social and economic questions and aids him materially in his work. She is always ready to give him up to the Cause and in every way adds to his strength, helping to keep his vast correspondence in order.
The most prized memento of the great strike is a little note from Eugene Field, the Chicago poet, author of “The Little Boy Blue.” It seems that the poet had advance knowledge that Mr. Dehs was to he arrested and he drove to Mr. Debs’ headquarters and as Gene was not in he left the note which read:
“Dear Gene: I hear that you are to be arrested. When that time comes you will need a friend. I want to be that friend.
From a letter from F. L. Thompson, Lansing, Mich., in Lansing Tribune, February 3, 1899, after hearing Mr. Debs’ lecture on “Labor and Liberty:”
“I was pastor at Pullman some years ago and know the truth of all Mr. Debs said of that place. He might have said much more and still have been fully within the truth.”
From hundreds of letters and telegrams that poured in upon Mr. Debs during the A. R. U. strike ann while he was in prison are here given a few, to show how his strength was increased and his courage fortified by loving words from home and friends everywhere:
Now and then out of the veiled universe comes a friend. In that hour, and in oft-repeated hours during our lifetime, he is the builder and the bearer of our dearest thought.
Now and then History, in her long, wavering, stumbling, but ever forward course, gives us a Hugo, an O’Connell, a Phillips, and now at last, thank Heaven, a Debs.
Seeing such men, we can realize why Emerson and Whitman can forever have patience and hope, and look to the sure-coming of the bright days.
Debs greets us and our day is brighter,-sweeter. His every word is a story. Every word a song. Every word is the bearer of purest love. His tones are sweet like tones of bells. His tones are firm like bell-tones. Greeting us, Debs leaves with us a bit of himself which will not leave us while we live. Debs comes to us with greatest love,-and the greatest lover is the greatest man.
Geo. F. Hibner.
Camden, Jan. 13, 1907.
Dear Brother: I know you are very busy. I don’t want to crowd in. But I want to send you my love. There is always time for love. You are a man upon whom love has showered its darling gifts. Cherish them. They are worth wl-iile. They are all that is worth while. You have troubles. I know about them. But you have lovers, and the light is full in your face, and you are leading men on towards the fulfillment of man’s noblest dream. I know that though sorrow comes you are still satisfied. A man with work in him, with love in him, may always be happy. He is always next the throne. Good-night.
Woostock, ILL., Aug. 29, 1895.
Mr. Ed H. Ringer,
Labor Day Committee, Terre Haute, Ind.
Dear Sir and Brother: I am in receipt of your esteemed favor of the 19th inst., in which you say: “We have been unable to get a representative labor speaker for our Labor Day celebration and the committee ordered me to ask you to write us a letter to be read on the occasion.”
In responding to your request I am disposed to recite a page of what all Christendom proclaims “sacred history.”
There existed some twenty-five hundred years ago a king clothed with absolute power, known as Darius, who ruled over the Medes and the Persians. He was not a usurper like Wm. A. Woods, the United States Circuit Judge. Darius was royal spawn. His right to rule was what kings then, as now, claimed to be a “divine right.” All the people in Darius’ empire were slaves. The will of the king was absolute. What the king said was law, just as we now find in the United States of America that what a United States judge says is law. Darius, the Persian despot, could imprison at will; the same is true of Woods; the despot. There is absolutely no difference. Do I hear an exception? Allow me to support my indictment by authority that passes current throughout the Republic. Only a few days ago the venerable judge Trumbull, one of the most eminent jurists and states men America has ever produced, wrote these burning words: “The doctrine announced by the Supreme Court in the Debs case, carried to its logical conclusion, places every citizen at the mercy of any prejudiced or malicious federal judge, who may think proper to imprison him.” This states the case of the officers of the American Railway Union in a nutshell. They violated no law, they committed no crime, they have not been charged, nor indicted, nor tried, and yet they, were arbitrarily sentenced and thrust in jail and what has happened to them will happen to others who dare protest against such inhumanity as the monster Pullman practiced upon his employees and their families.
More than twenty-five hundred years have passed to join the unnumbered centuries since Darius lived and reigned, and now in the United States we have about four score Darius despots, each of whom may at his will, whim or pleasure, imprison an American citizen-and this grim truth is tip for debate on Labor Day.
It will be remembered that (luring the reign of Darius there was a gentleman by the name of Daniel whom the king delighted to honor. The only fault that could be found with Daniel was that he would not worship the Persian gods, but would, three times a day, go to his window, looking toward Jerusalem, and pray. This was his crime. It was enough. The Persians had a religion of their own. They had their gods of gold, brass, stone, clay, wood, anything from a mouse to a mountain, and they would not tolerate any other god. They had, in modern parlance, an “established church,” and as Daniel, like Christ, would not conform to the Persian religion, “the presidents of the kingdom, the governors and the princes, the counselors and the captains,” or as in these later days the corporations, the trusts, the syndicates and combines, concluded to get rid of Daniel and they persuaded Daritis to issue an injunction that no man should “ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days save of thee, 0 king"—and the king, a la Woods, issued the decree. But Daniel, who was made of resisting stuff, disregarded the injunction and still prayed as before to his God. Daniel was a Hero. In the desert of despotism he stands forever:
“As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm:
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.”
But the bigots triumph for a time. The king’s decree must stand, and Daniel, as a penalty for prayer, must be cast into the lion’s den and the bigots, the plutocratic pirates and parasites of that period, thought that would be the end of Daniel. They chuckled as in fancy they heard the lions break his bones and lap his blood. They slept well and dreamed of victory. Not so with the king. lie knew he had been guilty of an act of monstrous cruelty and in this the old Persian despot was superior to Woods. The king could not sleep and was so pained over his act that he forbade all festivities in his palace. In this he showed that he was not totally depraved. The king had a lurking idea that somehow Daniel would get out of the lion’s den unharmed and that he would overcome the intrigues of those who had conspired to destroy him. Early in the morning he went to the mouth of the den. Daniel was safe. His God, unlike the Supreme Court, having found Daniel innocent of all wrongdoing, locked the jaws of the lions and Daniel stood before the king wearing the redemption of truth, more royal than a princely diadem. Then the king who had been deceived by the enemies of Daniel, the sycophants and the vermin of power, gave his wrath free reign and had them cast into the lion’s den where they were devoured by the ferocious beasts.
History repeats itself. I am not a Daniel but I am in jail by the decree of the autocrat. I appealed from one despot to a whole bench for justice, and the appeal was tinheeded. I and my associates were innocent. There was no stain of crime upon our record but neither innocence nor constitution was of any avail. To placate the corporations, the money power, the implacable enemies of labor, we were sent to prison and here alone, contemplating the foul wrong inflicted upon me and my associate officials of the American Railway Union, with head and heart and hand nerved for the task, I write this letter to be read on Labor Day to friends and neighbors in the city of my birtli.
It is not a wail of despondency nor of despair. The cause for which I have been deprived of my liberty was just and I am thrice armed against all my enemies. To bear punishment for one’s honest convictions is a glorious privilege and requires no high order of courage.
No judicial tyrant comes to my prison to inquire as to my health or my hopes, but one sovereign does come by night and by day, with words of cheer. It is the sovereign people-the uncrowned but sceptered ruler of the realm. No day of my imprisonment has passed that the bars and bolts and doors of the Woodstock jail have not been bombarded by messages breathing devotion to the cause of liberty and justice, and as I read and ponder these messages and as I grasp the hands of friends and catch the gleam of wrath in their defiant eyes and listen to their words of heroic courage, I find it no task to see the wrath of the sovereign people aroused and all opposition to the triumphant march of labor consigned to oblivion, and as an earnest of this from every quarter come announcements that the American Railway Union is growing in membership and strength, destined at an early day to be, as it deserves to be, an organization, which by precept, example and principle will ultimately unify railroad labor in the United States and make it invincible. There is a mighty mustering of all the forces of labor throughout the country. Labor is uniting in one solid phalanx to secure justice for labor. When this time comes, and coming it is, peacefully, I hope no judicial despot will dare to imprison an American citizen to please corporations. When this time comes, and coming it is as certain as rivers flow to the sea, Bullion and Boodle will not rule in Congress, in legislatures and in courts, and legislators and judges and other public officers will not be controlled, as many of them are, by the money power. There is to come a day, aye, a labor day, when from the center to the circumference of our mighty Republic, from blooming groves of orange to waving fields of grain, from pinelands of Maine to the Pacific Coast, the people shall be free and it will come by the unified voice and vote of the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer in every department of the country’s industries.
I notice in your letter that you say: “We have been unable to get a representative labor speaker for our Labor Day celebration,” and here let me say that on Labor Day all men who wear the badge of labor are “representative speakers”-not “orators,” perhaps, as the term is accepted to mean, and yet orators in fact, from whose lips fall “thoughts that breathe and words that burn;” coming warm from the heart, they reach the heart and fan zeal in a great cause into a flame that sweeps along like a prairie fire. It has been the good fortune of labor to produce from its ranks men who, though unlearned in the arts or oratory, were yet orators of the highest order, if effect instead of fluency is considered. It is the occasion that makes the orator as it is the battle that makes the veteran. Mark Antony said, “I am no orator like Brutus,” but when he showed Caesar’s mantle to the populists of Rome and pointed out where the conspirators’ daggers had stabbed Caesar, the oratory of Brutus paled before his burning words. And every man, however humble he may esteem himself, may on Labor Day hold up the Constitution of the United States and point to where the judicial dagger stabbed liberty to death, and make the people cry out for the re-enthronement of the constitution—and Terre Haute has a hundred such orators.
I write in the hurry and press of business. Before me are a hundred letters demanding replies. I pass them by to respond to an appeal from my home, and in fancy, as I write, I am with you. I am at home again. My father bending beneath the weight of many years salutes me. My mother, whose lullaby songs nestle and coo in the inner temple of my memory, caresses me-her kiss baptizes me with joy and as if by enchantment:
“Years and sin and folly flee,
And leave me at my mother’s
In this mood I write with the hope that the celebration at Terre Haute will inspire renewed devotion to the interests of labor, and with a heart full of good wishes, I subscribe myself,
E. V. DEBS.
Indianapolis, Ind., July 18, 1894.
To Hon. Eugene V. Debs,
Cook County jail.
My wife, my boys and myself give you our greatest love. The helpless world now acknowledges you, the whole world will crown you.
Franklin W. Hays.
Received at Chicago.
Dated Terre Haute, Ind., July 18, 1894. To Eugene V. Debs.
Stand by your principles, regardless of consequences.
Your Father And Mother.
Resolution Of Inmates Of Woodstock Jail.
We, the undersigned, inmates of Woodstock jail, desire to convey to you our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the many acts of kindness and sympathy shown us by you during your incarceration in this institution.
We selfishly regret your departure from here into the outer world and scenes of labor. Your presence here has been to us what an oasis in a desert is to the tired and weary traveler, or a ray of sunshine showing thro’ a rift in the clouds.
With thousands of others we rejoice and extend to you our most earnest congratulations upon your restoration to liberty.
Hoping you may have a long, prosperous and happy life, success in all of your undertakings, especially “The American Railway Union,” we all join in wishing you Godspeed
and beg to subscribe ourselves,
Charles E. Anderson, Paul Wambach, Edward Madden, W. E. Horton.
To Eugene V. Debs, Esq.,
Woodstock, Ill., Nov. 22, 1895.
Debs And The Poets.
(Clipping from New York Socialist, Jane 20, 1908.)
An infallible instinct for heart-analysis appears to be an attribute of the poets. For the most part they possess an unfailing judgment of character-worth, and whomsoever they know well and call good is apt to be a pretty safe pilgrim to tie to. President Roosevelt, of vituperative vocabulary, may loudly denounce him as an “undesirable citizen,” but when the poets with deeper discernment and prophetic vision pronounce him a “desirable citizen” they voice the sure verdict of the justifying years.
To Eugene V. Debs have the poets been especially kind, for in him have they recognized a kindred spirit. In him they have detected the true impulse of the brotherhood, concerning which no poet can’ well be deceived. They have found that his mind is a garden in bloom, and that his soul is filled with fragrance. So right blithely have they sung him of their best, and many of Fame’s favorites have been proud to call him friend—they who “sit at wine with the Maidens Nine and the gods of the elder days.”
It was James Whitcomb Riley who thus characteristically expressed himself concerning this beloved Apostle of Advancement:
“God was feeling mighty good when he created ‘Gene Debs, and He didn’t have anything else to do all day.”
Another poet of world-wife fame-Eugene Field-who was extremely discriminating in his friendships and exceedingly sparing of compliment, said: “Gene Debs is the most lovable man I ever knew. Debs is sincere. His heart is as gentle as a woman’s and as fresh as a mountain brook. If Delis were a priest the world would listen to his eloquence, and that gentle, musical voice and sad, sweet smile of his would soften the hardest heart.”
There have been paid to Debs enough tender tributes in verse to fill a large volume. At one time when Riley was confined to his room b’ illness, Debs sent him a bouquet of the poet’s favorite flowers, which called forth the following appreciation
(To My Good Friend, Eugene V. Bobs.)
Take a feller ‘ate sick, and laid up on the shelf,
All shaky, and ga ‘sted and pore,
And all so knocked out he can ‘t handle himself
With a stiff upper lip any more;
Shot him up all alone in the gloom of a room
As dark as a tomb, and as grim,
And then take and send him some roses in bloom,
And you kin have fun out o’ him!
You’ve seed him, ‘fore now, when his liver was sound,
And his appetite notched like a saw,
A chaffin’ you, mcbby, for romancin’ round
With a big poscy bunch in yer paw.
But you ketch him, say, when his health is away
And he’s flat on his back, in distress,
And then you can trot out your little bekay
And not be insulted, I guess!
You see, it’s like this, what his weaknesses is,
Them flowers makes him think of the days
Of his innocent youth, and that mother o’ his,
And the roses she used to raise;
So here all alone with the roses you send,
Bein’ sick and all trimbly and faint,
My eyes is—my eyes is—my eyes is-old friend,
Is a-leakin ‘-I’m blamed of they ain’t!
And in the “Hoosier Bard’s” poem “Regardin’ Terry Hut,” appears these lines
And there’s ‘Gene Debs—a man ‘at stands
And jest holds out in his two hands
As warm a heart as ever best
Betwixt hers and the Jsdgmsnt Seat.
The picturesque genius, Capt. Jack Crawford, renowned as “The Poet-Scout,” wrote of Debs:
The same old pard of long ago,
The whole-ooulcd ‘Gene 1 used to know,
With the love of Truth writ on Justice’s scroll,
With a woman’s heart and a warrior’s soul.
At a reception given to Debs by the Denver Press Club Walter Juan Davis recited these lines, written for the occasion:
It is not his craft or creed,
It is not the winged word
That springs from his soul to his lips, at need,
And, flying, is felt and hoard;
But something down in us all
That makes us respect the man
Who says unto great and small:
“You’ve a right to do what you can;
You’ve a right to preserve and keep
Such things as the gods gave you;
You’ve a right to your hours of sleep
And the truth of the things you do;
You’ve a right to the million or dime
That your brain or your brawn has won;
But not in the length of time;
In the light of the moon or sun,
Have you a right to a thing That you steal or wring
From me or from say one.
In 1904 he made stich a campaign as no other man ever endured. He began at Indianapolis September r, and from that date traveled to New York, and thence to California, thence to Portland, Maine, thence to his home, Terre Haute, closing his campaign in his home city before an audience of several thousands, and at least 2,000 could not gain entrance. During this time he did not miss an appointment by even one minute. He spoke every day and some days two, three and even four times. The crowds were so great in the large cities it seemed impossible for him to enter or go from the building at the close of the meetings. On several occasions it became necessary to stop and speak a few minutes to the waiting thousands on the streets. He had gone alone during all this time except from October 17 to November 8, when from Chicago to Portland and thence to Terre Haute, Comrade Reynolds, of Terre Haute, was with him, assisting in all Possible ways to lighten the heavy work.
Owing to the lack of funds of the working class party Mr. Debs had been attending to baggage, hotels, time tables, and the vast correspondence necessarily following him. The old parties had the noise, brass bands, Pullman trains, luxuries of every sort, torch-lights and, plenty of money. The Debs meetings were held in the largest obtainable audience rooms in the larger cities and were paid for by tickets of admission, and these meetings in every case netted to the campaign fund of the Socialist party considerable sums of money, from which Mr. Debs received only the expenses of travel, which were not very heavy.
In spite of the facts stated, most of the great capitalist papers either ignored these meetings or belittled them, or flatly misrepresented them, but the people are quick nowadays to get the truth about these things and there will be more wonderful meetings in the campaign of 1908 than ever before known by a rising militant minor political party. Those who heard him, heard the polished American orator; those who agreed with him were strengthened and confirmed in their beliefs; those who came seeking Truth were moved by his oratory and convinced by his array of facts and unerring logic, in making conclusions from them, while those who disagreed were disarmed of prejudice and commended him as a sincere, earnest man.
In i880 he persuaded Susan B. Anthony to speak in Terre Haute in a series of meetings advocating Woman’s Suffrage, and with her he walked and stood the odium that ignorance and prejudice poured out upon that great human question, at that time not so popular as it now is, when ioo,000 women may surround the Parliament of England and demand that the voices of women be counted in the rules of life that concern them and their children as it does men and their children.
Mr. Debs has always stood for equality of rights, equality of opportunity for men and women everywhere without disinction of race, religion, color, or sex, and no Socialist platform fails to clearly state its attitude upon these great vital questions. Search the old party platforms and you may find terms of evasion but not of real affirmation of these fundamental demands.
Mr. Debs was nominated by the Socialist party for President in 1900, receiving 97,000 votes; again in 1904, receiving 409,000 votes; again in 1908.
Debs has said these immortal words to the working people:
“I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else would lead you out. YOU MUST use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourselves out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads, and your hands.”
To teach, to serve is his mental and moral mission. He seeks no place of power or profit,-did not want to be nominated either time for the presidency, but when the rank and file lead and order, he has never hesitated to obey, and he believes, with unquestioning faith and love for the people, that when they are educated and understand, they will peacefully and intelligently set government about its proper business,the government of the forces of production and the same arrangements of distributing the things the people need, and must have, if they are ever to rise to complete physical, mental and spiritual freedom.
In closing this necessarily brief and meager biographical sketch of this true, living, loving and lovable man, true neighbor, really “desirable citizen,” and unimpeached and unimpeachable representative and servant of the working class, I cannot tell in any better way of “Debs at Home” than in the little pamphlet I wrote in 1904. It needs no change. He has only grown every day in intellectual and spiritual stature, more wise, more patient, more uncompromising and unconquerably aggressive and more loving and lovable and, therefore, able more safely to teach the workers and more to he feared by the exponents of the rapidly-dying system of capitalism tottering to its inevitable grave, dying because it has served its period of usefulness, because it now hurts, degrades and humiliates all of the human family.
Debs at Home
Here, in Terre Haute, where “Gene” Debs lives, everybody admires him. All who know him personally love him. He has no personal enemies; he has enemies, but they do not know him. He has none in Terre Haute. Many here would like to hang his ideas, but the man, the strong personality, the gentleness and cordiality of his greeting when he meets his neighbors and fellow-citizens, disarm all prejudice. Politicians here, as elsewhere, fear him, for they know that his intrepid soul knows and permits no intellectual fears, stoops to no intellectual prostitution. He is as open and fearless when called upon for an opinion upon any matters of local interest as he is when he assails the capitalist system.
I remember first seeing him in the editorial office of the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine. I was struck by his alertness and the unhesitating speed of his work, whether engaged in writing or arranging the details of printing, mailing or distributing the great magazine among the thousands of workers who read and had profitable enjoyment from its pages. I next remember his home-coming after the A. R. U. had won the Great Northern strike. An immense throng met mm at the depot with the Ringgold Band, drum corps and torch-lights. They had a carriage for him, but he protested and took his place in the ranks with the men,-only a look of joy shone on his face, nothing of exultation; he was as unconscious of himself then as he seems ever to be and is. The shouts of “Welcome home” seemed only to elate and inspire his soul to do more for the cause of labor. Then I remember (I was a Republican at the time) reading of the awful strike begun in Chicago in 1894. I shared with others in my ignorance in condemnation of the things reported from Chicago. I commiserated his confinement in jail at Woodstock but believed, as millions equally as ignorant as I was then believed, that the laws had been upheld. 1 know now the detail of the wrongs that in the name of Law and Order were heaped upon the cause of labor then and understand the superb courage and patience of labor’s greatest and most far-seeing leader,—Debs.
When he came from Woodstock jail to Terre Haute it had been raining all day. Mr. Debs’ train arrived at 7:00 o’clock. There were several hundred people at the depot, among them 200 miners with the Coal Bluff Band. Escorted by the band he walked to his home, a few squares from the depot. There he found his aged father and mother, and they clung to him, kissing him again and again. After he had had his supper he was escorted to the Armory through the rain, along the route blazing with Roman candles. After the enthusiastic cheering and greeting had subsided, Mr. Debs made a short speech to the audience and afterwards he was kept busy shaking hands with his friends.
I do not know much of those long, fallow years when he went deep into the movement of things. I became a Socialist in 1899, entirely uninfluenced and alone. I emerged and found myself and a new life, a new outlook, and stand now serenely, knowing that the end of capitalism is in sight and the day of better things is certain.
I feel yet the throb of his heart in his great, strong hand when I told him I had taken my place on the side of the Barricades, where the cause of labor must soon entrench itself. From that time I have seen him intimately at all hours of the day, under all eireamstanees, and found him always sure in knowledge of the future, with unlimited faith in humanity and never once faltering. I know unnumbered things he has done for the “A. R. U. Boys,”—know he has gone to their personal assistance, not only with inspiring sympathy but with substantial help. His mail often brings him words of courage and good cheer from those who have come into the light with him, and these are the things that go deepest to his heart. He keenly suffers with the workers in all their industrial battles, but sees now only the greater lesson to them he himself learned in the A. R. U. strike. In that strike he learned that labor was powerless with the courts, the laws, police, the military and every power of government in the hands of capital, and always ready to weaken, if not destroy, unions, unionism and union leaders. He often speaks of Woodstock jail as the greatest school where he learned to study and understand the value of the only weapon by which labor can ever come to its own,—“The Ballot.”
He loves to tell the stories of his childhood experiences and the experiences of his early manhood as Town Clerk and as a member of the Indiana Legislature one term, his five years’ experience in Hulman’s Wholesale Grocery House, of his joy in firing a locomotive on the Vandalia Railroad, and of his grief because his aged mother could not sleep when he started out with the engine, fearing something might befall him, and how, to make her happy, he quit the job.
I find him very often, even in these days of pressing work, reading all alone to his old father, who is eighty-three years of age and almost blind. It is good to see this man, who is known in more countries and to more human beings than any other living man, surrendering himself completely to his friends when they call upon him. Three weeks ago he and his comrade wife, Katherine Debs (he calls her “Kate”), came to spend the evening with my family. We had many neighbors with us and the precise hour agreed upon “Gene” came down the street on his bicycle and went to the kitchen and without assistance prepared the supper. You, comrades, who have seen this man of heart and soul poised like a panther when he steps upon the platform and hurls the words that scorch and flash like fire, should have seen the gleam of domestic pleasure and joyous comradeship when he stood in the long apron and enthusiastically cooked a good supper in the kitchen of the “Old Red House” on Sixth Street, where so many “Soapbox Travelers and Apostles of Truth” have found shelter and food and repaired their raimeat. And then after supper, until after midnight, we saw his soul aflame upon his face as he recited the wrongs of labor in Colorado and told of the heroism of the outraged comrades and workers in accursed Telluride.
Again, he loves best, I am sure, to go out into the country. We often ‘o together. The last time we drove ten miles under the trees along the Wabash and when his quick eye saw a Kentucky cardinl in the woods, he stopped the horse and sat listening to the clear falling notes of this sweet whistler, and when we heard a mocking bird, like a child, he clasped his hands together and was lost as long as the song lasted in worshipful adoration of the wondrous music that stirred the still atmosphere into responsive vibration. After our dinner at a farmhouse we sat on a fallen “naked sycamore” on the “Banks of the Wabash,” and there I saw deeper into the soul of this great comrade and brother. The universality of his vision was revealed and he poured forth, as though inspired, an analysis of world conditions, a forecast of things certain to occur, that made almost the waters in the river stop, listen and applaud. He described with great particularity the Chicago Republican convention (it was before it occurred, sometime in early May), its certainty to be a dull, apathetic, heartless proceeding, and the St. Louis convention marking the disintegration of a great political party,Bryan’s dying struggle to save the Democracy and the utter impossibility of preventing the coming together of capitalists, powers and influences, the effect upon the minds of the workers, the revelation of the true position of Capital vs. Labor and the tremendous and resistless growth of the Socialist movement. If he had had ten thousand workers before him, he could not have uttered more polished sentences, more words of deep significance, more prothetic epigrams than I heard alone, sitting on the fallen sycamore. But such things are not lost; he has uttered as great things to men who seemed as trees, but some day these same men will move as though a tornadic wind was upon them and then they will remember when and where they heard the first great words that inspired them.
It was near six o’clock when we came home and the toil-stained workers were going in all directions to their cottages, huts, hovels, boat-houses and tents. I shall never forget the look of compassionate understanding that came into his face as he reiterated some of the things he had so eloquently tittered in their behalf to the Wabash sycamore that afternoon, but now his words find open ears and go clear and welcome to hungry hearts. The words of this great comrade are finding lodgment and bearing fruitage, and the time of emancipation is not far off.
You comrades do not mistake the significance of events.
I know a million men and women are alive in America today, and millions more will soon be ready to help create the Co-operative Commonwealth, where men and women, great in soul and mind and strong in bodies and sure in life, shall be industrially free and realize the beneficence and uplifting power of Industrial Democracy. In that day we can know more of and better understand “Debs at Home,” for now he is tireless and literally a wandering agitator, an apostle of truth, an awakener of the dead in spirit.
What would humanity be without such men, produced from their longings and aspirations? When you see him, give him the best love of your heart; inspire and encourage him for yet better efforts in your behalf. His life is of yours, ye toilers; his heart, his brain, his body, his soul are aflame with truth in your cause. Go the journey with him for your own sake. He is bone and marrow, flesh and blood of and for you. You will not soon see his like again. There are everywhere now, in all countries of the world, other great comrades, but nature will not soon conspire again to produce another Debs.
Stephen Marion Reynolds.
Terre Haute, Indiana, July 28, 1908.