The Rhetorical Eugene Debs

(November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926)

Debs Timeline

Political Career of Eugene Debs
Date Event
1855 born in Terre Haute, IN to Jean Daniel and Marguerite Marie Bettrich Debs, emigrants from Alsace
1870 Left school to begin work on the Vandalia railroads
1871 Promoted to fireman on a train crew, attending business school during the day
1873 Laid off during the Panic of 1873, moved to St. Louis to find work
1874 Returned to Terre Haute and began work for wholesale grocer Hulman & Cox
1875 Secretary of Vigo Lodge no. 16 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen
1877 Opposed the violence and lawlessness of the Railroad Strike of 1877
1879 Won election to City Clerk of Terre Haute as a Democrat. Served two terms.
1880 Became secretary general of the BLF
1884 Elected Representative to Indiana General Assembly as a Democrat. Served 1885-1887.
1885 Married Kate Metzel, daughter of a Terre Haute drugstore owner
1886 Wrote in the BLF Magazine against the convictions in the Haymarket case on the basis of free speech.
1888 Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Burlington Railroad Strike
1893 Helped found American Railway Union
1894 With ARU helped organize the Pullman Strike
1894 While serving six months in jail for the Pullman Strike, became a Socialist
1897 Founding member, Social Democracy of America
1898 Founding Member, Social Democratic Party of America
1900 First Presidential Campaign
1901 Founding Member, Socialist Party of America
1904 Second Presidential Campaign
1905 Founding Member, Industrial Workers of the World
1908 Third Presidential Campaign
1911 Sided with Socialists in Split with IWW
1912 Fourth Presidential Campaign
1916 Campaigned for Congressman from Indiana
Sedition Trial
1918, 16 Jun Canton, Ohio Address
1918, 01 July Indictment Filed
1918, 9-12 September Trial in Progress
1918, 12 September Verdict Filed
1918, 14 September Sentencing
1919, 27-28 January Supreme Court Arguments
1919, 10 March Supreme Court Decision
Political Career Continued
1920 Fifth Presidential Campaign while imprisoned under the Sedition Act


On this Site

Communist Party of America. Open Letter to Eugene V. Debs, April 25, 1920.
Debs, Eugene V. "The American Movement."
Debs, Eugene V. Address in Canton, Ohio.
Debs, Eugene V. Canton Trial Argument, United States v. Eugene V. Debs, 11 September 1918.
Debs, Eugene V. "The Issue", Girard, Kansas, 16 May 1908.
Debs, Eugen V. Statement to the Court.

In Print and on the Web

Debs, Eugene V., Bruce Rogers, and Stephen M. Reynolds. Debs: His Life, Writings and Speeches: With a Department of Appreciations. The Appeal to reason, Girard, Kan, 1908.

Debs, Eugene V., and J. R. Constantine. Letters of Eugene V. Debs. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1990.
Sound recording: Eugene Debs, excerpt from "Winning a World," Recorded in 1904. G. Robert Vincent Voice Library, Michigan State University.

Web Resources

Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), Justia U. S. Supreme Court.
Eugen V. Debs Foundation, Eugene V. Debs Museum, Terre Haute, IN.
Eugene V. Debs Project at Marxists Internet Archive.


Boase, Paul H. The Rhetoric of Protest and Reform, 1878-1898. Ohio University Press, 1980.

Brommel, Bernard J. "Eugene V. Debs: The Agitator as Speaker." Central States Speech Journal 20 (1969): 202-214.

Brommel, Bernard J. "The Pacifist Speech-Making of Eugene V. Debs." Quarterly Journal of Speech 52 (1966): 146-154.

Darsey, James. "The Legend of Eugene Debs: Prophetic ethos as Radical Argument." Quarterly Journal of Speech 74 (1988): 434-452.

Darsey, James. "Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery, and the Troublesome Case of Eugene Debs." Rhetoric and Public Affairs, vol. 9, no. 3, 2006, pp. 463-470

Darsey, James. The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America. New York University Press, 1997.

Devinatz, Victor G. "“An Open Letter to Eugene V. Debs”: Debs' Relationship to the U.S. Communists, Circa 1919–1924." Workingusa: The Journal of Labor and Society, vol. 18, no. 2, 2015, pp. 267-289.

Eastman, Max. The Trial of Eugene Debs with Debs' Address to the Court on Receiving Sentence. Liberator pamphlet no. 3. New York: Liberator 1918.

“Eugene Debs Dies after Long Illness.” New York Times 21 October 1926, p. 25.

Freeberg, Ernest. Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent. Harvard University Press, 2008.

Ginger, Ray. The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene Victor Debs. Rutgers University Press, 1949.

Gould, Lewis L. Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics. University Press of Kansas, 2008.

Kulik, Brian. “Socialist Editor Eugene Debs: One-Million Votes in Jail.” Media History Digest 5, no. 2 (Spring 1985): 18–50.

Lee, R., and J. Andrews. "A Story of Rhetorical-Ideological Transformation: Eugene V. Debs as Liberal Hero." Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (1991): 20-37.

Lomas, Charles W. The Agitator in American Society. Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Longacre, Glenn V. "Free Speech on Trial: Eugene Debs at Canton, Ohio." Prologue Magazine, Winter 2017-2018, vol. 49, no. 4. [].

Morgan, H. Wayne. Eugene V. Debs: Socialist for President. Syracuse University Press, 1962.

Papke, David R. The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America. University Press of Kansas, 1999.

Salvatore, Nick. Eugene Debs: Citizen and Socialist. University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Tunnell, Kenneth D., and Edward L. W. Green. "Critical Criminology in the Life and Work of Eugene Victor Debs." Critical Criminology, vol. 23, no. 1, 2015, pp. 39-55.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License