Interesting quotes by Eugene Debs
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
“The most heroic word in all languages is revolution.”
“I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.”
A brief biography of Eugene Debs
Eugene Victor Debs was born November 5, 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was an American socialist, socialist presidential candidate, union labor leader and political activist. Through his endeavors as a socialist presidential candidate and unions, Debs became one of the most well-known socialists in history.
Born to French immigrants, Debs was named after French authors Eugene Sue and Victor Hugo. He received his education in public school, but dropped out when he was fourteen. Debs worked at a grocery store for a few years while taking business classes at night. After he left his job at the grocery store, he got involved with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
In 1878, Debs was elected for the position of associate editor for monthly edition of Firemen’s Magazine. In 1880, he became the head editor of the magazine as well as, Grand Secretary and Treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. The Firemen’s Magazine is where he published The Common Laborer in 1890. Debs would hold these positions until 1894. While he worked with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Debs became well-known in his neighborhood. From 1879 to 1883, he worked as Terre Haute’s city clerk and in 1884 was voted into the Indiana General Assembly where he served one term as a Democrat.
In 1893, Eugene Debs was one of the founders of the American Railway Union—one of the first industrial unions in America. Their first strike against the Great Northern Railroad was successful. However, the strike against Pullman Palace Car Company failed. Since Debs was the leader of the American Railway Union, he was convicted in federal court for going against court orders to not strike and served a six month prison sentence. While incarcerated, he further educated himself, reading topics about socialist theory, and devoted himself to the socialist movement upon his release. In 1897, he took part in establishing the Social Democracy of America, the Social Democratic Party of America in 1898, and the Socialist Party of America in 1901. Eugene Debs attempted running for president as a Socialist Candidate, trying five times to get elected from 1900-1920. His last attempt for the presidency would be while he was in prison. In 1918, Debs was sent back to prison for a speech he wrote, now titled, Speech of Sedition. In this speech he condemned America’s involvement in World War I. He was imprisoned under the Sedition Act of 1918—an addendum to the Espionage Act of 1917.
Eugene Debs died on October 26, 1926 in a hospital in Elmhurt, Illinois. He was transferred there during his imprisonment because of cardiovascular issues. He is buried at Highland Lawn Cemetery in his hometown, Terre Haute, Indiana.