Eugene Debs, Canton Trial Argument

United States v. Eugene V. Debs, 11 September 1918

Argument of Eugene V. Debs

May it please the Court, and Gentlemen of the Jury:

[1] For the first time in my life I appear before a jury in a court of law to an indictment for crime. I am not a lawyer. I know little about court procedure, about the rules of evidence or legal practice. I know only that you gentlemen are to hear the evidence brought against me, that the Court is to instruct you in the law, and that you are then to determine by your verdict whether I shall be branded with criminal guilt and be consigned, perhaps to the end of my life, in a felon's cell.

[2] Gentlemen, I do not fear to face you in this hour of accusation, nor do I shrink from the consequences of my utterances or my acts. Standing before you, charged as I am with crime, I can yet look the Court in the face. I can look you in the face. I can look the world in the face, for in my conscience, in my soul, there is festering no accusation of guilt.

[3] Permit me to say in the first place that I am entirely satisfied with the Court's ruling. I have no fault to find with the district attorney or with the counsel for the prosecution.

[4] I wish to admit the truth of all that has been testified to in this proceeding. I have no disposition to deny anything that is true. I would not, if I could, escape the results of an adverse verdict. I would not retract a word that I have uttered that I believe to be true to save myself from going to the penitentiary for the rest of my days.

[5] I am charged in the indictment, first, that I did wilfully cause and attempt to cause or incite, subordination, mutiny, disloyalty and refusal of duty within the military forces of the United States; that I did obstruct and attempt to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States. I am charged also with uttering words intended to bring into contempt and disrepute the form of government of the United States, the Constitution of the United States, the military forces of the United States, the flag of the United States and the uniform of the army and navy.

THE COURT: Mr. Debs, permit me to say that the last charge which you have read to the jury has been withdrawn from their consideration by the court.

MR. DEBS: Pardon me. I was not aware of that.

THE COURT: I have directed a verdict of "not guilty" as to that charge.

MR. DEBS: I am accused further of uttering words intended to procure and incite resistance to the United States and to promote the cause of the Imperial German Government.

[6] Gentlemen, you have heard the report of my speech at Canton on June 16th, and I submit that there is not a word in that speech to warrant these charges. I admit having delivered the speech. I admit the accuracy of the speech in all its main features as reported in this proceeding. There were two distinct reports. They vary somewhat but they are agreed upon all of the material statements embodied in that speech.

[7] In what I had to say there my purpose was to educate the people to understand something about the social system in which we live and to prepare them to change this system by perfectly peaceable and orderly means into what I, as a Socialit, conceive to be a real democracy.

[8] From what you heard in the address of counsel for the prosecution, you might naturally infer that I am an advocate of force and violence. It is not true. I have never advocated violence in any form. I always believed in education, in intelligence, in enlightenment, and I have always made my appeal to the reason and to the conscience of the people.

[9] I admit being opposed to the present form of government. I admit being opposed to the present social system. I am doing what little I can, and have been for many years, to bring about a change that shall do away with the rule of the great body of the people by a relatively small class and establish in this country an industrial social democracy.

[10] In the course of the speech that resulted in this indictment, I am charged with having expressed sympathy for Kate Richards O'Hare, for Rose Pastor Stokes, for Ruthenberg, Wagenknecht and Baker. I did express my perfect sympathy with these comrades of mine. I have known them for many years. I have every reason to believe in their integrity, every reason to look upon them with respect, with confidence, and with approval.

[11] Kate Richards O'Hare never uttered the words imputed to her in the report. The words are perfectly brutal! She is not capable of using such language. I know that through all of the years of her life she has been working in the interests of the suffering, struggling, poor; that she has consecrated all of her energies, all of her abilities, to their betterment. The same is true of Rose Pastor Stokes. Through all of her life she has been on the side of the oppressed and downtrodden. If she were so inclined, she might occupy a place of ease. She might enjoy all of the comforts and leisures of life. Instead of this, she has renounced them all. She has taken her place among the poor, and there she has worked with all of her ability, all of her energy, to make it possible for them to enjoy a little more of the comfort of life.

[12] I said that if these women whom I have known all of these years — that if they were criminals, if they ought to go to the penitentiary, then I too am a criminal, and I too ought to be sent to prison. I have not a word to retract — not one. I uttered the truth. I made no statement in that speech that I am not prepared to prove. If there is a single falsehood in it, it has not been exposed. If there is a single statement in it that will not bear the light of truth, I will retract it. I will make all of the reparation in my power. But if what I said is true, and I believe it is, then whatever fate or fortune may have in store for me I shall preserve inviolate the integrity of my soul and stand by it to the end.

[13] When I said what I did about the three comrades of mine who are in the workhouse at Canton, I had in mind what they had been ever since I have known them in the service of the working class. I had in mind the fact that these three workingmen had just a little while before had their hands cuffed and were strung up in that prison house for eight hours at a time until they fell to the floor fainting from exhaustion. And this because they had refused to do some menial, filthy services that were an insult to their dignity and their manhood.

[14] I have been accused of expressing sympathy for the Bolsheviki of Russia. I plead guilty to the charge. I have read a great deal about the Bolsheviki of Russia that is not true. I happen to know of my own knowledge that they have been grossly misrepresented by the press of this country. Who are these much-maligned revolutionists of Russia? For years they had been the victims of a brutal Czar. The and their antecedents were sent to Siberia, lashed with a knout, if they even dreamed of freedom. At last the hour struck for a great change. The revolution came. The Czar was overthrown and his infamous regime ended. What followed? The common people of Russia came into power, the peasants, the toilers, the soldiers, and they proceeded as best they could to establish a government of the people.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY WERTZ: If the Court please, I would like to ask the Court to instruct the defendant that his arguments are to be confined to the evidence in the case. There isn't any evidence in this case about the Bolsheviki at all or the Russian revolution.

THE COURT: I think I will permit the defendant to proceed in his own way. Of course, you are not a lawyer, Mr. Debs. The usual rule is that the remarks of counsel should be confined to the testimony in the case, but it does not forbid counsel from making references to facts or matters of general public history or notoriety by way of illustrating you arguments and comments upon the testimony in the case. So I will permit you to proceed in your own way.

MR. DEbs: Thank you.

[15] It may be that the much-despised Bolsheviki may fail at last, but let me say to you that they have written a chapter of glorious history. It will stand to their eternal credit. The leaders are now denounced as criminals and outlaws. Let me remind you that there was a time when George Washington, who is now revered as the father of his country, was denounced as a disloyalist, when Sam Adams, who is known to us as the father of the American Revolution, was condemned as an incendiary, and Patrick Henry, who delivered that inspired and inspiring oration that aroused the colonists, was condemned as a traitor.

[16] They were misunderstood at the time. They stood true to themselves, and they won an immortality of gratitude and glory.

[17] When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are right. In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time, who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, sometimes put to death. Long after their martyrdom monuments were erected to them and garlands were woven for their graves.

[18] I have been accused of having obstructed the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war. I would oppose the war if I stood alone. When I think of a cold, glittering steel bayonet being plunged in the white, quivering flesh of a human being, I recoil with horror. I have often wondered if I could take the life of my fellow man, even to save my own.

[19] Men talk about holy wars. There are none. Let me remind you that it was Benjamin Franklin who said, "there never was a good war or a bad peace."

[20] Napoleon Bonaparte was a high authority upon the subject of war. And when in his last days he was chained to the rock at St. Helena, when he felt the skeleton hand of death reaching for him, he cried out in horror, "War is the trade of savages and barbarians."

[21] I have read some history. I know that it is ruling classes that make war upon one another, and not the people. In all of the history of this world the people have never yet declared a war. Not one. I do not believe that really civilized nations would murder one another. I would refuse to kill a human being on my own account. Why should I at the command of anyone else or at the command of any power on earth?

[22] Twenty centuries ago there was one appeared upon earth we know as the Prince of Peace. He issued a command in which I believe. He said, "Love one another." He did not way, "Kill one another," but "Love one another." He espoused the cause of the suffering poor just as Rose Pastor Stokes did, just as Kate Richards O'Hare did — and the poor heard him gladly. It was not long before he aroused the ill-will and the hatred of the usurers, the profiteers, the high priests, the lawyers, the judges, the merchants, the bankers — in a word, the ruling class. They said of him just what the ruling class says of the Socialist today, "He is preaching dangerous doctrine. he is inciting the common rabble. He is a menace to peace and order." And they had him arraigned, tried, convicted, condemned, and they had his quivering body spiked to the gates of Jerusalem.

[23] This has been the tragic history of the race. In the ancient world Socrates sought to teach some new truths to the people, and they made him drink the fatal hemlock. It has been true all along the track of the ages. The men and women who have been in advance, who have had new ideas, new ideals, who have had the courage to attack the established order of things, have all had to pay the same penalty.

[24] A century-and-a-half ago, when the American colonists were still foreign subjects, and when there were a few men who had faith in the common people and believed that they could rule themselves without a king, in that day to speak against the king was treason. If you read Bancroft or any other standard historian, you will find that a great majority of the colonists believed in the king and actually believed that he had a divine right to rule over them. They had been taught to believe that to say a word against the king, to question his so-called divine right, was sinful. There were ministers opened their bibles to prove that it was the patriotic duty of the people to loyally serve and support the king. But there were a few men in that day who said, "We don't need a king. We can govern ourselves." And they began an agitation that has been immortalized in history.

[25] Washington, Adams, Paine — these were the rebels of their day. At first they were opposed by the people and denounced by the press. You can remember that it was Franklin who said to his compeers, "We have now to hang together or we'll hang separately bye and bye." And if the Revolution had failed, the revolutionary fathers would have been executed as felons. But it did not fail. Revolutions have a habit of succeeding, when the time comes for them. The revolutionary forefathers were opposed to the form of government in their day. They were denounced, they were condemned. but they had the moral courage to stand erect and defy all the storms of destruction; and that is why they are in history, and that is why the great respectable majority of their day sleep in forgotten graves. The world does not know they ever lived.

[26] At a later time there began another mighty agitation in this country. It was against an institution that was deemed a very respectable one in its time, the institution of chattel slavery, that became all-powerful, that controlled the president, both branches of congress, the supreme court, the press, to a very large extent the pulpit. All of the organized forces of slavery, all the powers of government, upheld chattel slavery in that day. And again there were a few appeared. One of them was Elijah Lovejoy. Elijah Lovejoy was as much despised in his day as are the leaders of the I. W. W. in our day. Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in cold blood in Alton, Illinois, in 1837, simply because he was opposed to chattel slavery — just as I am opposed to wage slavery. When you go down the Mississippi River and look up at Alton, you see a magnificent white shaft erected there in memory of a man who was true to himself and his convictions of right and duty unto death.

[27] It was my good fortune to personally know Wendell Phillips. I heard the story of his persecution, in part at least, from his own eloquent lips just a little while before they were silenced in death.

[28] William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Thaddeus Stephens — these leaders of the abolition movement, who were regarded as monsters of depravity, were true to the faith and stood their ground. They are all in history. You are teaching your children to revere their memories, while all of their detractors are in oblivion.

[29] Chattel slavery disappeared. We are not yet free. We are engaged in another mighty agitation today. It is as wide as the world. It is the rise of the toiling and producing masses who are gradually becoming conscious of their interest, their power, as a class, who are organizing industrially and politically, who are slowly but surely developing the economic and political power that is to set them free. They are still in the minority, but they have learned how to wait, and to bide their time.

[30] It is because I happen to be in this minority that I stand in your presence today, charged with crime. It is because I believe as the revolutionary fathers believed in their day, that a change was due in the interests of the people, that the time had come for a better form of government, an improved system, a higher social order, a nobler humanity and a grander civilization. This minority that is so much misunderstood and so bitterly maligned, is in alliance with the forces of evolution, and as certain as I stand before you this afternoon, it is but a question of time until this minority will become the conquering majority and inaugurate the greatest change in all of the history of the world. You may hasten the change; you may retard it; you can no more prevent it thatn you can prevent the coming of the sunrise on the morrow.

[31] My friend, the assistant prosecutor, doesn't like what I had to say in my speech about internationalism. What is there objectionable to internationalism? If we had internationalism there would be no war. I believe in patriotism. I have never uttered a word against the flag. I love the flag as a symbol of freedom. I object only when that flag is prostituted to base purposes, to sordid ends, by those who, in the name of patriotism, would keep the people in subjection.

[32] I believe, however, in a wider patriotism. Thomas Paine said, "My country is the world. To do good is my religion." Garrison said, "My country is the world and all mankind are my countrymen." That is the essence of internationalism. I believe in it with all of my heart. I believe that nations have been pitted against nations long enough in hatred, in strife, in warfare. I believe there ought to be a bond of unity between all of these nations. I believe that the human race consists of one great family. I love the people of this country, but I don't hate the people of any country on earth — not even the Germans. I refuse to hate a human being because he happens to be born in some other country. Why should I? To me it does not make any difference where he was born or what the color of his skin may be. Like myself he is the image of his creator. He is a human being endowed with the same faculties, he has the same aspirations, he is entitled to the same rights, and I would infinitely rather serve him and love than to hate him and kill him.

[33] We hear a great deal about human brotherhood — a beautiful and inspiring theme. It is preached from a countless number of pulpits. It is vain for us to preach of human brotherhood while we tolerate this social system in which we are a mass of warring units, in which millions of workers have to fight one another for jobs, and millions of business men and professional men have to fight one another for trade, for practice — in which we have individual interests and each is striving to care for himself alone without reference to his fellow men. Human brotherhood is yet to be realized in this world. It never can be under the capitalist-competitive system in which we live.

[34] Yes; I was opposed to the war. I am perfectly willing, on that account, to be branded as a disloyalist, and if it is a crime under the American law punishable by imprisonment for being opposed to human bloodshed, I am perfectly willing to be clothed in the stripes of a convict and to end my days in a prison cell.

[35] If my friends, the attorneys, had known me a little better they might have saved themselves some trouble in procuring evidence to prove certain things against me which I have not the slightest inclination to deny, but rather, upon the other hand, I have a very considerable pride in.

[36] You have heard a great deal about the St. Louis platform. I wasn't at the convention when that platform was adopted, but I don't ask to be excused from my responsibility on that account. I voted for its adoption. I believe in its essential principles. There was some of its phrasing that I would have otherwise. I afterwards advocated a re-statement. The testimony to the effect that I had refused to repudiate it was true.

[37] At the time that platform was adopted the nation had just entered upon the war and there were millions of people who were not Socialists who were opposed to the United States being precipitated into that war. Time passed; conditions changed. There were certain new developments and I believed there should be a restatement. I have been asked why I did not favor a repudiation of what was said a year before. For the reason that I believed then, as I believe now, that the statement correctly defined the attitude of the Socialist Party toward war. That statement, bear in mind, did not apply to the people of this country alone, but to the people of the world. It said, in effect, to the people, especially to the workers, of all countries, "Quit going to war. Stop murdering one another for the profit and glory of ruling classes. Cultivate the arts of peace. Humanize humanity. Civilize civilization." That is the essential spirit and the appeal of the much-hated, condemned, St. Louis platform.

[38] Now, the Republican and Democratic parties hold their conventions from time to time. They revise their platforms and their declarations. They do not repudiate previous platforms. Nor is it necessary. With the change of conditions these platforms are outgrown and others take their places. I was not in the convention, but I believed in that platform. I do today. But from the beginning of the war to this day, I have never, by word or act, been guilty of the charges that are embraced in this indictment. If I have criticized, if I have ever condemned, it is because I have believed myself justified in doing so under the laws of the land. I have had precedents for my attitude. This country has been engaged in a number of wars, and every one of them has been opposed, every one of them has been condemned, by some of the most eminent men in the country. The War of the Revolution was opposed. The Tory press denounced its leaders as criminals and outlaws. And that is what they were under the divine right of a king to rule men.

[39] The War of 1812 was opposed and condemned; the Mexican War was bitterly condemned by Abraham Lincoln, by Charles Sumner, by Daniel Webster and by Henry Clay. That war took place under the Polk administration. These men denounced the president; they condemned his administration; and they said that the war was a crime against humanity. They were not indicted; they were not tried for crime. They are honored today by all of their countrymen. The War of the Rebellion was opposed and condemned. In 1864 the Democratic Party met in convention at Chicago and passed a resolution condemning the war as a failure. What would you say if the Socialist Party were to meet in convention today and condemn the present war as a failure? You charge us with being disloyalists and traitors. Were the Democrats of 1864 disloyalists and traitors because they condemned the war as a failure?

[40] I believe in the Constitution of the United States. Isn’t it strange that we Socialists stand almost alone today in defending the Constitution of the United States? The revolutionary fathers who had been oppressed under king rule understood that free speech and the right of free assemblage by the people were the fundamental principles of democratic government. The very first amendment to the Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievance.

That is perfectly plain English. It can be understood by a child. I believe that the revolutionary fathers meant just what is here stated – that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

[41] That is the right that I exercised at Canton on the 16th day of last June; and for the exercise of that right, I now have to answer to this indictment. I believe in the right of free speech, in war as well as in peace. I would not, under any circumstances, gag the lips of my bitterest enemy. I would under no circumstances suppress free speech. It is far more dangerous to attempt to gag the people than to allow them to speak freely of what is in their hearts. I do not go as far as Wendell Phillips did. Wendell Phillips said that the glory of free men is that they trample unjust laws under their feet. That is how they repeal them. If a human being submits to having his lips sealed, to be in silence reduced to vassalage, he may have all else, but he is still lacking in all that dignifies and glorifies real manhood.

[42] Now, notwithstanding this fundamental provision in the national law, Socialists’ meetings have been broken up all over this country. Socialist speakers have been arrested by hundreds and flung into jail, where many of them are lying now — In some cases not even a charge was lodged against them — guilty of no crime except the crime of attempting to exercise the right guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States.

[43] I have told you that I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that I know enough to know that if Congress enacts any law that conflicts with this provision in the Constitution, that law is void. If the Espionage law finally stands, then the Constitution of the United States is dead. If that law is not the negation of every fundamental principle established by the Constitution, then certainly I am unable to read or to understand the English language.

(To the Court) Your Honor, I don’t know whether I would be in order to quote from a book I hold in my hand, called “The New Freedom,” by Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States.

THE COURT: I will grant you that permission.

[44] MR. DEBS: I want to show the gentlemen of the jury, if I can, that every statement I made in my Canton speech is borne out in this book by Woodrow Wilson, called “The New Freedom.” It consists of his campaign speeches while a candidate for the presidency. Of course he uses a different language than I did, for he is a college professor. He is an educated gentleman. I never had a chance to get an education. I had to go to work in my childhood. I want to show you that the statement made by Rose Pastor Stokes, for which she has been convicted, and the approval of which has brought condemnation upon me, is substantially the same statement as made by Mr. Wilson when he was a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

(Reading) “Today, when our government has so far passed into the hands of special interests; today, when the doctrine is implicitly avowed that only select classes have the equipment necessary for carrying on government; to-day, when so many conscientious citizens, smitten with the scene of social wrong and suffering, have fallen victims to the fallacy that benevolent government can be meted out to the people by kind-hearted trustees of prosperity and guardians of the welfare of dutiful employees, — today, supremely, does it behoove this nation to remember that a people shall be saved by the power that sleeps in its own deep bosom, or by none; shall be renewed in hope, in conscience, in strength, by waters welling up from its own sweet, perennial springs.”

[45] So this government has passed into the hands of special interests. Rose Pastor Stokes’ language is somewhat different. Instead of “special interests” she said “profiteers.” She said that a government that was for the profiteers could not be for the people, and that as long as the government was for the profiteers, she was for the people. That is the statement that I endorsed, approved and believed in with all my heart. The President of the United States tells us that our government has passed into the control of special interests. When we Socialists make the same contention, we are branded as disloyalists, and we are indicted as criminals. But that is not all, nor nearly all.

(Reading) “There are, of course, Americans who have not yet heard that anything is going on. The circus might come to town, have the big parade and go, without their catching a sight of the camels or a note of the calliope. There are people, even Americans, who never move themselves or know that anything else is moving.”

Just one other quotation.

(Reading) “For a long time this country of ours has lacked one of the institutions which freemen have always and everywhere held fundamental. For a long time there has been no sufficient opportunity of counsel among the people; no place and method of talk, of exchange of opinion, of parley. Communities have outgrown the folk-meet and the town-meeting. Congress, in accordance with the genius of the land, which asks for action and is impatient of words, — Congress has become an institution which does its work in the privacy of committee rooms and not on the floor of the Chamber; a body that makes laws, — a legislature; not a body that debates, — not a parliament. Party conventions afford little or no opportunity for discussion; platforms are privately manufactured and adopted with a whoop. It is partly because citizens have foregone the taking of counsel together that the unholy alliances of bosses and Big Business have been able to assume to govern for us.”

“I conceive it to be one of the needs of the hour to restore the processes of common counsel, and to substitute them for the processes of private arrangement which now determine the policies of cities, states, and nation. We must learn, we freemen, to meet, as our fathers did, somehow, somewhere, for consultation. There must be discussion and debate, in which all freely participate.”

[46] Well, there has been something said in connection with this about profiteering – in connection with this indictment.

(To the Court) Would it be in order for me to read a brief statement, showing to what extent profiteering has been carried on during the last three years?
THE COURT: No. There would be no consensus of opinion or agreement upon that statement. It is a matter that is not really in the case, and when you go to compile a statement, you are then undertaking to assume something without producing evidence to substantiate it.

[47] MR. DEBS: Now, in the course of this proceeding you gentlemen have perhaps drawn the inference that I am pro-German, in the sense that I have my sympathy with the imperial government of Germany. My father and mother were born in Alsace. They loved France with a passion that is holy. They understood the meaning of Prussianism, and they hated it with all their hearts. I did not need to be taught Prussian militarism. I knew from them what a hateful, what an oppressive, what a brutalizing thing it was and is. I cannot imagine how anyone could suspect that for one moment I could have the slightest sympathy with such a monstrous thing. I have been speaking and writing against it practically all of my life. I know that the Kaiser incarnates all there is of brute force and of murder. And yet I would not, if I had the power, kill the Kaiser. I would do to him what Thomas Payne wanted to do to the king of England. He said, “Destroy the king, but save the man.”

[48] The thing that the Kaiser embodies and incarnates, called militarism, I would, if I could, wipe from the face of the earth, — not only the militarism of Germany, but the militarism of the whole world. I am quite well aware of the fact that the war now deluging the world with blood was precipitated there not by the German people, but by the class that rules, oppresses, robs and degrades the German people. President Wilson has repeatedly said that we were not making war on the German people, and yet in war it is the people who are slain, and not the rulers who are responsible for the war.

[49] With every drop in my veins I despise kaiserism, and all that kaiserism expresses and implies. I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere. It does not make any difference under what flag they were born, or where they live, I have sympathy with them all. I would, if I could, establish a social system that would embrace them all. It is precisely at this point that we come to realize that there is a reason why the peoples of the various nations are pitted against each other in brutal warfare instead of being united in one all-embracing brotherhood.

[50] War does not come by chance. War is not the result of accident. There is a definite cause for war, especially a modern war. The war that began in Europe can readily be accounted for. For the last forty years, under this international capitalist system, this exploiting system, these various nations of Europe have been preparing for the inevitable. And why? In all these nations the great industries are owned by a relatively small class. They are operated for the profit of that class. And great abundance is produced by the workers; but their wages will only buy back a small part of their product. What is the result? They have a vast surplus on hand; they have got to export it; they have got to find a foreign market for it. As a result of this these nations are pitted against each other. They are industrial rivals – competitors. They begin to arm themselves to open, to maintain the market and quickly dispose of their surplus. There is but the one market. All these nations are competitors for it, and sooner or later every war of trade becomes a war of blood.

[51] Now, where there is exploitation there must be some form of militarism to support it. Wherever you find exploitation you find some form of military force. In a smaller way you find it in this country. It was there long before war was declared. For instance, when the miners out in Colorado entered upon a strike about four years ago, the state militia, that is under the control of the Standard Oil Company, marched upon a camp, where the miners and their wives and children were in tents. And by the way, a report of this strike was issued by the United States Committee on Industrial Relations. When the soldiers approached the camp at Ludlow, where these miners, with their wives and children, were, the miners, to prove that they were patriotic, placed flags above their tents, and when the state militia, that is paid by Rockefeller and controlled by Rockefeller, swooped down upon that camp, the first thing they did was to shoot those United States flags into tatters. Not one of them was indicted or tried because he was a traitor to his country. Pregnant women were killed, and a number of innocent children slain. This in the United States of America, — the fruit of exploitation. The miners wanted a little more of what they had been producing. But the Standard Oil Company wasn’t rich enough. It insisted that all they were entitled to was just enough to keep them in working order. There is slavery for you. And when at last they protested, when they were tormented by hunger, when they saw their children in tatters, they were shot down as if they had been so many vagabond dogs.

[52] And while I am upon this point, let me say just another word. Workingmen who organize, and who sometimes commit overt acts, are very oftentimes condemned by those who have no conception of the conditions under which they live. How many men are there, for instance, who know anything of their own knowledge about how men work in a lumber camp—a logging camp, a turpentine camp? In this report of the United States Commission on Industrial Relations, you will find the statement proved that peonage existed in the state of Texas. Out of these conditions springs such a thing as the I. W. W.—when men receive a pittance for their pay, when they work like galley slaves for a wage that barely suffices to keep their protesting souls within their tattered bodies. When they can endure the condition no longer, and they make some sort of a demonstration, or perhaps commit acts of violence, how quickly are they condemned by those who do not know anything about the conditions under which they work!

[53] Five gentlemen of distinction, among them Professor John Graham Brooks, of Harvard University, said that a word that so fills the world as the I. W. W. must have something in it. It must be investigated. And they did investigate it, each along their own lines; and I wish it were possible for every man and woman in this country to read the result of their investigation. They tell you why and how the I. W. W. was instituted. They tell you, moreover, that the great corporations, such as the Standard Oil Company, such as the Coal Trust, and the Lumber Trust, have, through their agents, committed more crimes against the I. W. W. than the I. W. W. have ever committed against them.

[54] I was asked long ago if I was in favor of shooting our soldiers in the back. I said, “No, I would not shoot them in the back. I wouldn’t shoot them at all. I would not have them shot.” Much has been made of a statement that I declared that men were fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder. I made the statement. I make no attempt to deny it. I meant exactly what I said. Men are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder; and the time will come, though I shall not live to see it, when slavery will be wiped from the earth, and when men will marvel that there ever was a time when men who called themselves civilized rushed upon each other like wild beasts and murdered one another, by methods so cruel and barbarous they defy the power of language to describe. I can hear the shrieks of the soldiers of Europe in my dreams. I have imagination enough to see a battle field. I can see it strewn with the wrecks of human beings, who but yesterday were in the flush and glory of their young manhood. I can see them at even-tide, scattered about in remnants, their limbs torn from their bodies, their eyes gouged out. Yes, I can see them, and I can hear them. I look above and beyond this frightful scene. I think of the mothers who are bowed in the shadow of their last great grief—whose hearts are breaking. And I say to myself: “I am going to do the little that lies in my power to wipe from this earth that terrible scourge of war.”

[55] If I believed in war I could not be kept out of the first line trenches. I would not be patriotic at long range. I would be honest enough, if I believed in bloodshed, to shed my own. But I do not believe that the shedding of blood bears any actual testimony to patriotism, to love of country, to civilization. On the contrary, I believe that warfare in all of its forms is an impeachment of our social order, and a rebuke to our much vaunted Christian civilization.

[56] And now, gentlemen of the jury, I am not going to detain you too long. I wish to admit everything that has been said respecting me from this witness chair. I wish to admit everything that has been charged against me except what is embraced in the indictment from which I have read to you. I cannot take back a word. I cannot repudiate a sentence. I stand before you guilty of having made this speech. I stand before you prepared to accept the consequences of what there is embraced in that speech. I do not know, I cannot tell, what your verdict may be; nor does it matter much, so far as I am concerned.

[57] Gentlemen, I am the smallest part of this trial. I have lived long enough to appreciate my own personal insignificance in relation to a great issue, that involves the welfare of the whole people. What you may choose to do to me will be of small consequence after all. I am not on trial here. There is an infinitely greater issue that is being tried today in this court, though you may not be conscious of it. American institutions are on trial here before a court of American citizens. The future will tell.

[58] And now, your Honor, permit me to return my hearty thanks for your patient consideration. And to you, gentlemen of the jury, for the kindness with which you have listened to me.

[59] My fate is in your hands. I am prepared for the verdict.

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