Debs' Memories of Pullman


The Chicago strike was in many respects the grandest industrial battle in history, and I am prouder of my small share in it than of any other act of my life.

Men, women and children were on the verge of starvation at the "model city' of Pullman. They had produced the fabulous wealth of the Pullman corporation, but they, poor souls, were compelled to suffer the torment of hunger pangs in the very midst of the abundance their labor had created.

A hundred and fifty thousand railroad employees, their fellow members in the American Railway Union, sympathized with them, shared their earnings with them, and after trying in every peaceable way they could conceive of to touch the flint heart of the Pullman company every overture being rejected, every suggestion denied, every proposition spurned with contempt - they determined not to pollute their hands and dishonor their manhood by handling Pullman cars and contributing to the suffering and sorrow of their brethren and their wives and babes. And rather than do this they laid down their tools in a body, sacrificed their situations and submitted to persecution, exile and the blacklist; to idleness, poverty, crusts and rags, and I shall love and honor these moral heroes to my latest breath.

There was more of human sympathy, of the essence of brotherhood, of the spirit of real Christianity in this act than in all the hollow pretenses and heartless prayers of those disciples of mammon who cried out against it, and this act will shine forth in increasing splendor long after the dollar worshipers have mingled with the dust of oblivion.

Had the carpenter of Nazareth been in Chicago at the time He would have been on the side of the poor, the heavy-laden and sore at heart, and He would have denounced their oppressors and been sent to prison for contempt of court under President Cleveland's administration

President Cleveland says that we were put down because we had acted in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust law of 1890. Will he kindly state what other trusts were proceeded against and what capitalists were sentenced to prison during his administration?

Excerpts from Debs: His Life, Writings and Speeches (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1908):204-05