Editorial Introductions to Eugene V. Debs, "The Issue"

Introduction to "The Issue" by the editors of Appeal to Reason, 16 May 1908.

All of Girard and half of the county assembled in the court house park last Saturday afternoon. A hastily improvised platform had been erected, and, to the music of bands and lusty cheering of the citizens of this little town, irrespective of party affiliation, 'Gene Debs was escorted forward and introduced to the enthusiastic crowd by Mayor Ryan. The mayor was preceeded [sic] by E. N. Richardson, who, in a few moments' speech, voiced the sentiment of every man and woman and child in Girard when he said:

Ladies and Gentlemen—My Friends and My Comrades:—Here is a man whom you all know—many of you may not yet agree with him in his political beliefs; many of you will not vote for him, but you all love him—you love him because you can't help yourself; you love him because he is the most lovable man America has ever produced; you love him because he has a heart in him as big as a mountain, a heart so big that it holds such boundless love for all humanity that there is no room for hatred of any man, woman, or child in all the world. This, friends and fellow citizens, is not a Socialist meeting; it is a good fellowship meeting—we are here today regardless of our political beliefs as the friends and admirers of a fellow citizen whom we all have learned to love, to admire and respect. This gathering demonstrates to ourselves and the world that it is possible for intelligent men and women to get together regardless of political differences and for a little while let the spirit of good fellowship prevail.

Comrade Debs had been kept in complete ignorance of the little surprise party. For a few moments he seemed overwhelmed at the expressions of good will and the smiling faces on every hand. But he quickly recovered from the slight embarrassment, and began to talk. And such a talk! As a father talks to his children, Debs talked to those gathered under the shade of the spreading elms in the court house yard. It wasn't a wildly enthusiastic gathering, such as one would expect to see on an occasion like this. It was rather a gathering of men and women in dead earnest, who realized the deep significance of the occasion and were determined to let no single word which fell from the speaker's lips escape them. One could almost feel the spirit of the revolution—it impressed me as a counterpart of those meetings of colonial patriots just prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. "Momentous and significant." These words sum up the Girard meeting at which the citizens of this village, without a dissenting voice, expressed their congratulations to their fellow townsman, nominated for the presidency by the Socialist national convention.

At the close of the address a group of little children, bearing baskets of flowers and wreaths, and their little faces suffused with smiles, marched to the platform and literally smothered their friend with roses. Tears came to the big brother's eyes as he gathered the little ones to him. An hour later, I passed 'Gene sitting on the curb with a dozen bright haired lassies clinging to his arms and shoulders! Mark my words: "You can pin your faith to the man loved by children."

Editorial Introduction from The Issue, published by Charles H. Kerr, Chicago 1908.

NOTE—Girard, Kansas, is a quiet little city built about a capacious plaza or square. This plaza is carpeted with Nature's emerald and roofed with the protecting branches of the catalpa and the elm tree. When the news came that Debs had again been chosen as the candidate of the Socialists for that statioin in our public affairs of most comprehensive service to the people, the citizens, without reference to political faiths, gathered upon this green out of compliment to their fellow-townsman who had been thus honored for the third time by such signal confidence on the part of so many earnest people of the nation at large. These good people of Girard had seen bevies of children following this arch "undesirable citizen" to and from his work, and about the town in his resting hours, for almost the entire period of his residence here, and now it had come to pass that he was loved by every man, woman, and child here. They sent for him. Eli Richardson, the "Hot Cinders" Socialist, affectionately known for so long a time as "Baldy," explained in a few dramatic words the occasion of the gathering, and presented Debs with the remark, "You can pin your faith to a man loved by children." The address which follows, wholly impromptu, is perhaps the most remarkable ever delivered, and came hot from the foundry of his mighty genius and fresh from the loom of his kindly, loyal, loving soul.

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