new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
Canton speech lands presidential candidate Debs in jail: 1918 | by Washington Area Spark
Back to photostream

Canton speech lands presidential candidate Debs in jail: 1918

Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs (leaning over railing) speaks to a crowd in Canton, Ohio June 16, 1918 where he opposed U.S. entry into World War I and praised those jailed for opposing the draft.


The United States charged him with 10 counts of sedition for making the speech and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison where he joined several hundred others who opposed the war.


President Woodrow Wilson refused to commute his sentence calling Debs, “a traitor to his country,” despite a million signatures on a clemency petition.


Following President Warren Harding’s election in 1920, Harding ordered a review of Debs status. He granted Debs clemency on Christmas Day 1921.


Debs, who ran five times for U.S president—the last time receiving nearly a million votes from his prison cell, left Atlanta penitentiary and headed to Washington, D.C. to call on Attorney General Harry M. Dougherty and President Warren Harding who had commuted his sentence.


Debs joked that, “I’ve started for here four or five times (to the White House), but this is the first time I ever landed,” (referring to his five times running for President).


After a day and a half in the nation’s capital, Debs headed home to his wife in Terre Haute, Indiana.


Debs was known for organizing the American Railway Union, one of the first industry-wide unions in the U.S. and leading the unsuccessful Pullman Strike. His presidential campaigns on the Socialist Party ticket received the larges percentage of votes of any left wing party in the history of the United States, receiving nearly 6% of the vote in the 1912 election.


For more information and related images, see


For a blog post on Debs visit to Washington, DC following his release from prison, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is courtesy of the National Archives, Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group (National Archives Identifier 2641496).

4 faves
Taken on June 16, 1928