Eugene Victor Debs - Encyclopedia Britannica 1911




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"EUGENE VICTOR DEBS (1855-), American labour leader and socialist, was born at Terre Haute, Ind., Nov. 5 1855, of Alsatian parents. On leaving the public schoolshe became in 1871 a locomotive fireman, and four years later took a position in a wholesale grocery. In 1879 he was elected city clerk of Terre Haute on the Democratic ticket, and in 1881 was reelected. During 1885 he was a member of the Indiana Legislature. Meanwhile, in 1880 he was elected secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and was chosen editor of the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine. When the American Railway Union was organized in 1893 he was elected president, serving four years. Under his leadership a strike on the Great Northern railway was won in 1894. The same year he led the strike which, beginning in the Pullman car plants, soon involved the railways leading into Chicago (see 6.124). Debs was arrested on the charge of conspiracy to kill, was acquitted, was later convicted of contempt of court for violating an injunction, and was sent to gaol for six months (May - Nov. 1895).: At this time his study of socialism began, and in 1897 he allied himself with the movement, for a year acting as chairman of the National Council of the Social Democracy of America. After this was reorganized into the Social Democrat party in 1898 he was an influential member. In 1900 he was Socialist candidate for president of the United States, receiving 96,116 votes; was again candidate in 1904, 1908 and 1912,. but declined the nomination in 1916. In 1907 he was appointed on the editorial staff of the Appeal to Reason, and his contributions attracted wide attention. In 1914 he became editor-in-chief of the National Rip-Saw, a socialistic ,paper published at St. Louis. After America's entrance into the World War he upheld pacifism, and in Sept. 1918, after a speech at Canton, 0., he was charged with violation of the Espionage Act, was convicted, and sentenced to serve 10 years in the penitentiary. The sentence was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court March ro 1919, and he entered prison April 13. In 1920, although still imprisoned, he was again nominated presidential candidate by the Socialists and received 915,302 votes, ranging from 25 in Vermont to 203,400 in New York. He was released on Christmas Day 1921, his sentence having been commuted by President Harding, but his forfeiture of rights of citizenship was not affected. He is the author of Unionism and Socialism: a Plea for Both (1904); Liberty; and Industrial Unionism (1911).

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