Survey of the Debs Correspondence (18-24)


I spent an hour this week on the deck with a cigar and a beer reviewing the published Debs correspondence for 1897 to 1904, the time period that is covered in Selected Works Volume 3. There are a couple of fairly interesting takeaways which I will very briefly outline here with a view to incorporating them in the historical introduction to that volume.

•          •          •          •          •

Takeaway No. 1 — Bob Constantine was a really good historian.


The late Indiana State professor J. Robert Constantine, the dean of Debs studies.

I have complete faith in the letters selection by the late J. Robert “Bob” Constantine, the editor of the three volumes of Debs letters. I’ve reviewed the Debs Papers microfilm multiple times for the 1877 to 1896 period covered by Selected Works Volumes 1 and 2 and found precised one letter that I felt he “missed” — one of a series of communications that Debs had with E.E. Clark, head of one of the railway brotherhoods. It was totally “inside baseball,” with themes at least partially covered in other letters that were published.

That was it. Exactly one letter that I am tucking into the Works that Constantine skipped.

Similarly, I can’t find a single thing for this current interval that Constantine failed to include which should have included.

What he published is all the important material there is for the early period.

If Constantine’s selection of Debs letters can axiomatically be accepted as a complete survey of  surviving examples — which I believe is correct — that published material should be very closely analyzed. It’s not a loose agglomeration, the contents of which may be disputed by reasonable people, who might prefer alternate documents. Rather, it should be considered the universal set of the important material which has survived.

•          •          •          •          •

Takeaway No. 2 — There aren’t very many Debs letters for the 1897-1904 period.


Stock header for the syndicated article “Advice to First Voters,” distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Representatives of five political parties participated in the series with Debs writing on behalf of the Socialists.

So, what did Constantine put into print for the 1897 to 1904 period? Here’s a raw count of letters.


Letters by EVD: 2

Correspondence with his ARU friend Frank X. Holl, a loyal follower and a cable to Harry Demarest Lloyd attempting to bring him into the SDA as member of the group’s ill-fated “Colonization Commission.”


Letters by EVD: 2

Letters to EVD: 3

Rather empty correspondence with journalist Harry Demarest Lloyd and a first letter to Samuel Milton Jones (1846-1904), the maverick “Golden Rule” mayor of Toledo, Ohio.


Letters by EVD: 9

Letters by Theodore: 1

Letters to EVD: 3

Mostly a correspondence with “Golden Rule” Jones of Toledo. EVD had a stilted relationship with Jones, admiring the mayor’s actions and agenda while ultimately taking umbrage to his refusal to identify his efforts with the Social Democratic Party, instead deciding to remain independent on principle. The correspondence carried over into 1900 when the two seem to have broken over Jones’ refusal to abandon the William Jennings Bryan ticket and Debs’ related cattiness in a couple articles.


Letters by EVD: 3

Letters by Theodore: 1

Letters to EVD: 3

Theodore piece is his official report to the convention of the Chicago SDP, a highly important document. EVD correspondence with Tommy Morgan of the Springfield SDP campaign committee. Absolutely pivotal EVD letter to TD of Nov. 9 which I have already covered in detail in a previous blog post.


Letters by EVD: 5

Letters to Theodore: 4

Theodore pieces are correspondence from Elizabeth Thomas, Victor Berger’s strong right hand in the Milwaukee organization and Leon Greenbaum, National Secretary of the new SPA to TD in his capacity as the former National Secretary of the Chicago SDP.


Letters by EVD: 6

Letters by Kate Debs: 1

Two letters to Theodore, three to their father, and a thank you note for a photograph given to Debs by leading German Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky.


Letters by EVD: 7

Letters to EVD: 4

First letters to Socialist United Mine Workers official Adolph Germer (1881-1966), later National Secretary of the SPA during the 1919 split of the Communists and to Morris Hillquit, the latter a thank you note for copy of Hillquit’s History of American Socialism that he was comped. Two communications from SPA National Secretary Will Mailly and correspondence back and forth with Harry Demarest Lloyd and labor historian Richard Ely.


Letters by EVD: 9

Letters by Theodore: 2

Letters to EVD: 3

Three of the letters loving personal correspondence to his parents. Four EVD and one TD letter to Adolph Germer, plus New Years greetings to Morris Hillquit: “There was a time, I confess, when I did not like Morris Hillquit. I did not know him. I do know him now and am trying to make up for past remissness.”


Letters by EVD: 43, as follows:

Father or Both Parents — 7

Morris Winchevsky — 5

Adolf F. Germer — 5

Samuel Milton Jones — 4

Henry Demarest Lloyd — 4

Morris Hillquit — 3

Edwin or Catherine Markham — 3

Theodore Debs — 2

Frank X. Xoll — 1

Stephen Marion Reynolds — 1

Thomas J. Morgan — 1

Marry Harris Jones — 1

Karl Kautsky — 1

Richard T. Ely — 1

Clara Spalding Ellis — 1

Ignatius Donnelly — 1

John Lloyd Thomas — 1

Cinton Pinckney Farrell — 1

Letters to EVD: 16, as follows:

Samuel Milton Jones — 5

William Mailly — 3

Henry Demarest Lloyd — 2

Thomas J. Morgan — 1

James Whitcomb Riley — 1

Frank X. Xoll — 1

Richard T. Ely — 1

Warren Atkinson — 1

George Candee — 1

Letters by Theodore: 4

Letters to Theodore: 5

Letters by Kate Debs: 1



The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 2 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.

  • “Graft vs. The Same Thing” — Oct. 1903 — 1,193 words
  • “An Ideal Labor Press” — May 1904 — 1,226 words
  • “The Socialist Party and the Working Class” — Sept. 1, 1904 — 6,299 words
  • “The Tragedy of Toil” — Oct. 1904 — 1,366 words
  • “Advice to First Voters” — Oct. 25, 1904 — 862 words

Word count: 259,957 in the can + 11,117 this week = 271,074 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>

About carrite

Independent scholar from Corvallis, Oregon with a strong interest in early 20th century political history.
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