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Eugene V. Debs Essay

2783 words - 11 pages

Congress must not interfere with freedom of religion, speech or press, assembly, and petition. 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 grievances.This is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It is without question the single most important safeguard to the rights of the citizens of this country. Without this Amendment, America would not be a democracy, but a dictatorship. In speaking his mind, Eugene Debs won a great victory for the First Amendment rights for the people of the United States.Eugene Victor Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 5, 1855. His parents, Jean Daniel and Marguerite Marie Bettrich were Alsacian immigrants. Debs inherited his hunger for knowledge from his father, however his interest lied not in the 'three R's' of education. His interest lied in many places, one of which was the railroad. In 1870, at the age of fourteen, Debs left high school to work for the Vandalia Railroad against his parents will. In 1874, he quit railroading. This brief period of working in railroad was an important part of his life for the reason that it gave him a taste of the workingman's life. Although he was not working on the railroads anymore, he did not cut off his association to the railroad. He joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and was elected as secretary of the local lodge. His first contact with politics came in 1879 when he was elected to the city clerk's position of Terre Haute. In 1881, he was reelected and then went on to the Indiana state legislature in 1885. Through all of this, he remained involved with the Brotherhood in which he was the secretary-treasurer. He was also selected as the assistant editor of the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine and became the editor in 1880. He helped the Brotherhood get out of a major financial crisis and was well on his way to making a reputation as a labor leader. At the age of 30, Debs married Kate Metzel. The marriage was childless and much of Debs' time was spent away from home (Currie, 17). In June 1893, Debs became the co-founder of the first industrial union in America, the American Railway Union (ARU). The union was involved in a sympathy strike to support the employees of the George Pullman railroad company. The strike involved 100,000 workers whose refusal to work halted all railroad traffic in and out of Chicago except for U.S. Mail trains. The strike, known as 'Debs Rebellion,' was ended when federal troops were sent in by President Grover Cleveland. Debs and seven others (known as the 'Woodstock Eight') were convicted of contempt of court for refusing to obey a court order to end the strike. In Debs' six month stay in the jail at Woodstock, Illinois, he converted to Socialism (A Short Look..., 1).Eugene Debs'...

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