Wilson vs. Debs
Two other things are important to add to Bryan’s story about Woodrow Wilson’s reprehensible treatment of Eugene V. Debs.
1. Bryan points out that Debs ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912. His Democratic opponent? Woodrow Wilson, who won. As I pointed out in a speech on the issue a few years ago, an analogy in today’s political context would be, had Al Gore had won in 2000, for Al Gore to have thrown Ralph Nader in prison.
2. Debs was sentenced on November 18, 1918. Do you notice anything interesting about that date? It was seven days after the Armistice.
My impression of Wilson from the various articles I’ve read over the years is that he was one of the most vindictive people ever to be president.
Also interesting is this, from a talk I gave at California State University, Monterey Bay, on the 220th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution:
And what was Debs’s crime? He had given a speech in which he challenged Wilson’s military draft and challenged the war. In one of its most shameful decisions, Schenck v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 9-0 to uphold the Espionage Act’s restrictions on free speech. Indeed it was in the Schenck decision that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes made his famous statement that, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre.” Great line, but Holmes never connected it with the case at hand. Schenck was arguing against the military draft on the grounds that it violated the Thirteenth Amendment by imposing involuntary servitude. Holmes never said how that it was like falsely crying fire. It seems to me that there was a fire.