This Day in History

June 16, 1918: Eugene V. Debs Speech Against WWI

Time Periods: 1910
Themes: Labor, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

Eugene Debs speaking to a crowd in Canton, Ohio.

In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords . . .concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street, go to war.  — Eugene V. Debs in Canton, Ohio on June 16, 1918.

Eugene Debs made his famous anti-war speech protesting World War I which was raging in Europe.

The working class have never yet had a voice in declaring war. If war is right, let it be declared by the people – you, who have your lives to lose.

For this speech he was arrested and convicted in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio under the war-time espionage law.

Read more in Free Speech on Trial: Eugene Debs at Canton, Ohio by Glenn V. Longacre at the National Archives.

Listen to a reading of excerpts by Mark Ruffalo from this classic speech by Eugene Debs via Voices of a People’s History of the United States.