Study Guide

Seymour Stedman in Eugene V. Debs' Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act

By Eugene V. Debs

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Seymour Stedman

Loyal Friend…Not Such a Great Lawyer

Stedman defended a bunch Socialists accused of violating the Espionage Act…and didn't do so well by them. Tough luck, Steddy.

He worshiped Debs, whom he met in 1894 when both of them were involved in the Pullman Strike, and pretty much went along with anything Debs told him he wanted for his defense. Debs told him not to make the case about his intention to subordinate the military and to call no witnesses who might have testified that Debs hadn't, in fact, specifically told the people in the audience at Canton to resist the draft.

Basically, Debs wanted it to all be about free speech, so that's what Stedman made it about.

Stedman said to the jury at his opening remarks:

The question is not what this jury thinks about the war, or about Socialism, or about anything other than this one thing: "What does this jury think about the right of Free Speech?" (Source)

Again, at Debs request, Debs was the only one to testify in his own defense. Stedman lost the case and the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But he was such a good friend that Debs made him his vice president during his last run for president in 1920.

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