Appeal to Reason

Appeal to Reason was founded by Julius Wayland in 1897. The socialist journal was a mixture of articles and extracts from radical books by people such as Tom Paine, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Ruskin, William Morris, Laurence Gronlund and Edward Bellamy.

Julius Wayland moved to Girard, Kansas, and in 1900 employed Fred Warren as his co-editor. Warren was a well-known figure on the left and managed to persuade some of America's leading progressives to contribute to the journal. This included Jack London, Mary 'Mother' Jones, Upton Sinclair, Kate Richards O'Hare, Scott Nearing, Joe Haaglund Hill, Ralph Chaplin, Stephen Crane, Helen Keller and Eugene Debs. By 1902 its circulation reached 150,000, making it the fourth highest of any weekly in the United States.

According to John Graham, the author of Yours for the Revolution (1990): "During political campaigns and crisis, copies of single issues reached 4.1 million - a world record... The Appeal succeeded at a time when millions of people spoke of the cooperative commonwealth with hope, expectation, and meaning."

In 1904 Fred Warren commissioned Upton Sinclair to write a novel about immigrant workers in the Chicago meat packing houses. Wayland provided Sinclair with a $500 advance and after seven weeks research he wrote the novel, The Jungle. Serialized in 1905, the book helped to increase circulation to 175,000. When published by Doubleday in 1906, the novel was an immediate success. Within the next few year it was published in seventeen languages and was a best-seller all over the world.

In 1905 William Haywood (general secretary of WFM) and Charles Moyer (president of WFM), were both been kidnapped in Colorado and taken to Idaho to stand trial for the murder of Frank R. Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho. This upset Warren as a few years earlier the authorities had refused to arrest and charge William S. Taylor, the former governor of Kentucky, with the murder of the progressive politician, William Goebel. Taylor fled to Indiana where he became a wealthy insurance executive.

Fred Warren wrote an article about the William Goebel case in Appeal to Reason and advertised a reward of $1,000 for anyone willing to capture William S. Taylor and to take him back to Kentucky. As a result of this article Warren was himself arrested and charged with encouraging others to commit the crime of kidnap. After a two year delay was found guilty and sentenced to six months hard labour and a $1,500 fine. Soon afterwards the governor of Kentucky, Augustus Everett Willson, pardoned Taylor, Caleb Powers, and four other people for their part in the murder.

Appeal to Reason (2nd May, 1914)
Appeal to Reason (2nd May, 1914)

Julius Wayland and Fred Warren were once again in trouble in 1911 when they published a series of articles in the Appeal to Reason about corruption and homosexuality in Leavenworth Prison. Although senior figures running the prison were dismissed, Wayland and Warren were charged were charged with sending "indecent, filthy, obscene, lewd and lascivious printed materials" through the post.

As the popularity of the Appeal to Reason increased, so did the attacks on Julius Wayland and Fred Warren. The paper's offices were repeatedly broken into in an effort to find evidence of criminal activity. Research was carried out about Wayland's ancestors and reports in the Los Angeles Times claiming that they had been involved in cases of arson and murder. In 1912 the newspaper reported that Wayland was guilty of seducing an orphaned girl of fourteen and who had died during an abortion in Missouri.

Julius Wayland, depressed by the recent death of his wife and the continuing smear campaign against him, committed suicide on 10th November, 1912. He left a suicide note that said: "The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort." After Wayland's death his children won considerable damages after they sued the newspapers about these libelous stories.

At the time of his death, Appeal to Reason was selling 500,000 copies a week. The following year circulation reached 760,000. However, the new owner of the journal, Walter Wayland, fell out with Fred Warren. In August, 1913, Warren resigned and Louis Kopelin became the new managing editor. Wayland, unlike his father, was not a committed socialist and sold a third of the journal to a wealthy banker, Marcet Haldema-Julius.

On the outbreak of the First World War the Appeal to Reason opposed America's entry into the conflict. This was also true of most journals in the United States but after the USA declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, the journal came under government pressure to change its policy. This became more of a problem after the passing of the Espionage Act. Under this act it was an offence to publish material that undermined the war effort. Other radical papers such as The Masses decided to cease publication but in order to continue, Louis Kopelin decided to support the war.

After the war, the attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, became convinced that Communist agents were planning to overthrow the American government. Palmer recruited John Edgar Hoover as his special assistant and together they used the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918) to launch a campaign against radicals and left-wing organizations.

On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists were arrested in what became known as the Palmer Raids. Palmer and Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large number of these suspects were held without trial for a long time. The vast majority were eventually released but Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer, and 245 other people, were deported to Russia.

As a result of this Red Scare people became worried about subscribing to left-wing journals and sales of Appeal to Reason fell dramatically. Walter Wayland, who had no strong interest in politics or publishing, decided to cease publication in November, 1922.

Primary Sources

(1) Julius Wayland, The Appeal to Reason (16th May, 1896)

In the midst of plenty you are starving. In the midst of natural wealth and mechanical means waiting idly for the had of Labor many of you are deprived of employment, while those of whom work is given must toil increasingly for a decreasing pittance. The more you produce the less you get. Why. Simply because the plenty of your own creation, those machines of your own make, and nature itself, the common inheritance of men, have been appropriated by a class - the capitalistic class. That class, which you have enriched, keeps you in poverty. That class, which you have raised to power, keeps you in subjection.

(2) Eugene Debs, Appeal to Reason (29th December, 1900)

The machine became more perfect day by day; is lowered the wage of the worker, and in due course of time it became so perfect that it could be operated by unskilled labor of the woman, and she became a factor in industry. The owners of these machines were in competition with each other for trade in the market; it was war; cheaper and cheaper production was demanded, and cheaper labor was demanded.

In the march of time it became necessary to withdraw the children from school, and these machines came to be operated by the deft touch of the fingers of the child. In the first stage, machine was in competition with man; in the next, man in competition with both, and in the next, the child in competition with the whole combination.

Today there is more than three million women engaged in industrial pursuits in the United States, and more than two million children. It is not a question of white labor or black labor, or male labor or female or child labor, in this system; it is solely a question of cheap labor, without reference to the effect upon mankind.

(3) Kate Richards O'Hare, wrote an article on child labour that was published in Appeal to Reason. The material on Roselie Randazzo, an Italian immigrant, was collected while she worked in an artificial flower factory in New York City (19th November, 1904)

Walking up the steps I came upon Roselie, the little Italian girl who sat next to me at the long work table. Roselie, whose fingers were the most deft in the shop and whose blue-black curls and velvety eyes I had almost envied as I often wondered why nature should have bestowed so much more than an equal share of beauty on the little Italian. Overtaking her I noticed she clung to the banister with one hand and held a crumpled mitten to the lips with the other. As we entered the cloak room she noticed my look of sympathy and weakly smiling said in broken English. "Oh, so cold! It hurta me here," and she laid her hand on her throat.

Seated at the long table the forelady brought a great box of the most exquisite red satin roses, and glancing sharply at Roselie said; "I hope you're not sick this morning; we must have these roses and you are the only one who can do them; have them ready by noon."

Soon a busy hum filled the room and in the hurry and excitement of my work I forgot Roselie until a shrill scream from the little Jewess across the table reached me and I turned in time to see Roselie fall forward among the flowers. As I lifted her up the hot blood spurted from her lips, staining my hands and spattering the flowers as it fell.

The blood-soaked roses were gathered up, the forelady grumbling because many were ruined, and soon the hum of industry went on as before. But I noticed that one of the great red roses had a splotch of red in its golden heart, a tiny drop of Rosie's heart's blood and the picture of the rose was burned in my brain.

The next morning I entered the grim, gray portals of Bellevue Hospital and asked for Roselie. "Roselie Randazzo," the clerk read from the great register. "Roselie Randazzo, seventeen; lives East Fourth street; taken from Marks' Artificial Flower Factory; hemorrhage; died 12.30 p.m." When I said that it was hard that she should die, so young and so beautiful, the clerk answered: "Yes, that's true, but this climate is hard on the Italians; and if the climate don't finish them the sweat shops or flower factories do," and then he turned to answer the questions of the woman who stood beside me and the life story of the little flower maker was finished.

Ryan Walker, Appeal to Reason (6th June, 1914)
Ryan Walker, Appeal to Reason (6th June, 1914)

(4) Fred Warren, Appeal to Reason (13th August, 1904)

With the introduction of private ownership in land came the period in the history of the human race when some man by reason of his superior strength or cunning, or some group of men, by reason of greater numbers, took possession of the land being used by another group and made slaves of the latter.

If men understood that the land is one of the great natural resources on which life depends, that it is the natural heritage of all men, and not a few, and it was so recognized through the long ages of savagery and barbarism, and that no title deed was recognized until civilization, so-called, made its appearance, I believe few would be willing to submit longer to the tyranny of the landlord and the master.

(5) Julius Wayland, The Appeal to Reason (13th May, 1905)

The Appeal is an agitation sheet - that and nothing more. I am an agitator. The propaganda of Socialism is my specialty. More than a decade ago I resolved to lend myself to this work to the best of my ability. The work of organization I left to others - to the rank and file - because it's not in my line. I have no desire to be other than a private in the party, counting just one. I have repeatedly refused to accept even a local or state office - and have used my influence to prevent anyone connected with the Appeal becoming identified in an official way with the state or national organization, in order to leave the Appeal unhampered in this pioneer agitation work.

(6) Julius Wayland, The Appeal to Reason (5th January, 1906)

When I look at the ferment of this insane social system; when I see its corruption, bribery, oppression, suicides, murders, robberies, prostitution, drunkenness and rapid concentration of wealth; when I see the masses apparently dead asleep to the meaning of their condition or to what is tending; when I see the rulers taking to themselves more power while the millions gradually let slip their influence in public affairs; when I see the courts more and more becoming only tools for the rich, while the poor are helpless before the law; when I see the voters losing what little comprehension they had of the purpose of the ballot, using it merely as a means to favor some scheming, cunning, self-seeking friend with a fat place; when I see the great corporations corralling the lands in great tracts, filling the waterways with their own ships and exploiting the riches of the mines for their kingly self-aggrandizement; I say, when I look over this alleged civilization and see these things, I feel a hopelessness that makes me heart-sick, and I wonder if it is worth the struggle, and if life is worth its care and if annihilation were not a joy.

Then, there is another view, I remember how I felt when I received my first impression of the social system as it is. I woke up as from a dream, and beheld the horrors about me stripped of their flimsy covering and nauseating in their nakedness. I had caught a glimpse of a higher, delightful harmoniousness; and it was so beautiful, so just, that I felt all would accept it as soon as they were told of it; that the present hateful thing could all be remodeled in a few years; that people would flock to the New Civilization as soon as they would read or hear of it. At that time there were no papers or magazines to tell the beautiful story; no books to explain it, except a few academically written volumes on out-of-the-way shelves in public libraries - books which nobody read.

I threw myself into the work of getting the message to the people with a wild delirium of enthusiasm; I read, and talked, and wrote, and printed and circulated the printed page; I stood on the street corners and handed the passers a leaflet or pamphlet; I mailed copies to thousands of names without considering the character of the recipients; I put years of life and energy into a few months. Gradually it began to dawn on me that the job was greater than I had felt in my first enthusiasm; I had been too optimistic; it would take years of persistent, systematic work; a siege must be laid to the inertia and ignorance of the masses.

(7) In October, 1908, Mary Mother Jones wrote about child labour in the socialist journal,Appeal to Reason . The article dealt with the factory owner, Braxton Comer, the Governor of Alabama who owned a large textile mill near Birmingham.

One woman told me that her mother had gone into that mill and worked, and took four children with her. She says, "I have been in the mill since I was four years old. I am now thirty-four." She looked to me as if she was sixty.

She had a kindly nature if treated right, but her whole life and spirit was crushed out beneath the iron wheels of Comer's greed. When you think of the little ones that his mother brings forth you can see how society is cursed with an abnormal human being. She knew nothing but the whiz of a machinery in the factory. The wives, mothers and the children all go in to produce dividends, profit, profit, profit. The brutal governor is a pillar of the First Methodist church in Birmingham. On Sunday he gets up and sings, "O Lord will you have another star for my crown when I get there?"

I saw the little ones lying on the bed shaking with chills and I could hear them ask parent and masters, what they were here for; what crime they had committed that they were brought here and sold to the dividend auctioneer.

The high temperature of the mills combined with an abnormal humidity of the air produced by steaming as done by manufacturers makes bad material weave easier and tends to diminish the workers' power of resisting disease. The humid atmosphere promotes perspiration, but makes evaporation from the skin more difficult; and in this condition the operator, when he leaves the mill, has to face a much reduced temperature which produces serious chest infections. They are all narrow-chested, thin, disheartened looking.

(8) Fred Warren, Appeal to Reason (8th November, 1913)

I believe in the confiscation of the productive property of this nation by the working class. I do not believe in confiscating it by piecemeal. That would be foolish and illegal. The plan I favor is that the working class shall first capture the political powers of the state and nation and then the job can be done without the danger of getting cracked skulls and prison sentences. This is the plan followed by the master class. It has been proved a success by the master. It will prove a workable plan for the slave.

The mission of the Appeal to Reason is to persuade the men who work to use their political power that it may be possible easily, quickly and without opposition to exert their individual strength. I believe the working class should capture the political powers of the cities as rapidly as possible.

(9) Eugene Debs, When I Shall Fight, Appeal to Reason (11th September, 1915)

I am not opposed to all war, nor am I opposed to fighting under all circumstances, and any declaration to the contrary would disqualify me as a revolutionist. When I say I am opposed to war I mean ruling class war, for the ruling class is the only class that makes war. It matters not to me whether this war be offensive or defensive, or what other lying excuse may be invented for it, I am opposed to it, and I would be shot for treason before I would enter such a war.

Capitalists wars for capitalist conquest and capitalist plunder must be fought by the capitalists themselves so far as I am concerned, and upon that question there can be no compromise and no misunderstanding as to my position. I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world. I would not violate my principles for God, much less for a crazy kaiser, a savage czar, a degenerate king, or a gang of pot-bellied parasites.

I am opposed to every war but one; I am for the war with heart and soul, and that is the world-wide war of social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary, even to the barricades.

There is where I stand and where I believe the Socialist Party stands, or ought to stand, on the question of war.

(10) Louis Kopelin, Appeal to Reason (25th May, 1918)

I presume that the Socialists and laboring people of the Allied and neutral countries are mainly interested in knowing whether official Washington speaks the minds and hearts of the Socialists and laboring people of this country. In your countries, governments have been known to gauge wrongly the wishes of their peoples. Naturally you wonder how a peaceful and progressive nation such as the United States would voluntarily enter the world conflict and carry out the far-reaching program of military participation it has set out for itself. You have unquestionably been told by agents of the Central Powers that our government will not carry out its program because it has not the working people with it. This is told to you in order that you may be discouraged as to the possibilities of a victory for the cause of democracy.

Our people favor the war. Organized labor favors the war. The majority of the American Socialists favor the war. All the liberal and progressive organizations favor the war. It is true we have a few pacifists and objectors. But they are so few that they are negligible. From the very beginning organized labor came out frankly and fully in behalf of America and the Allies. In fact our trade unions through their accredited representatives took this stand a month before the formal declaration of war against Germany.