The editorials of George H. Gibson constitute the core of Editing Populism's sources. His political and social ideology is examined via his relationship with and response to the Omaha Platform of 1892 and George Herron's 1894 commencement address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The responses of other area newspapers are used to provide historical context for reactions to both Herron's address and the Populist platform. Gibson's editorials appear in the archive under the three different names the paper had throughout his time as editor: the Alliance-Independent, Wealth Makers, and Nebraska Independent.
The digital archive will be expanded as Editing Populism continues to be developed.Newspapers by Topic:
Herron's Address | The Omaha Platform | The Silver Issue | Applied Christianity Socialism | Anarchy | Political Fusion
"Salutatory" | 5 October 1893 | Alliance-Independent
Gibson introduced himself to readers as the new editor with this brief salutatory piece. Rather than assure the readers of the state’s official Populist newspaper of his steadfast commitment to the party objectives as defined by the Omaha Platform, Gibson instead deemed it necessary to emphasize his belief in God and in the brotherhood of man. Although he expressed hatred for monopolies, he based his anti-monopolism on the belief that such “oppression and robbery” went against God’s law. He was clearly more concerned with what he viewed as the overarching goal of the Populist Party: “to spread the truth, moral, economic and political, the truth which shall make men free.” There is no doubt, however, that Gibson identified with the objectives of the Populist Party as set forth in the Omaha Platform of 1892.
"Why I Am A Populist" | 30 November 1893 | Alliance-Independent
Early into his position as editor, Gibson outlined the reasons why he considered himself a Populist. He referenced many points of the Omaha Platform, and frequently wove his religious beliefs into his justifications for Populist reforms. This editorial reveals that faith was central to Gibson’s reform ideology. His involvement with Populism cannot be understood without acknowledgement of the fact that he believed there were tangible connections between the objectives of the Populist Party and the principles of social Christianity.
"Justice, Love, and Charity" | 11 January 1894 | Alliance-Independent
In this editorial Gibson expresses views of the Church that are far less radical than those he expressed in the weeks and months following George Herron's June 1894 commencement address at UNL. Like other Social Gospelers, Gibson criticizes the Church for failing to "see and seize upon the duties of the hour." He urges it to examine "monopoly questions," stating that if the Church does not fulfill its duties it will be "convicted and condemned by braver, nobler, more unselfish moral leaders." Gibson later came to view Herron as one such leader.
"Glad Tidings for the Poor" | 12 April 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson reveals his belief that George Herron was the moral and spiritual leader of the day in this editorial. He briefly discusses Herron's work and names him the "foremost philosopher and moral teacher of the world."
"Driven to Throat-Cutting" | 24 May 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson made use of a report of a murder-suicide in New York to drive home his argument on the destructive nature of competition. A brief report of the incident was reprinted in the Wealth Makers, followed by a lengthy diatribe in which Gibson lashed out at preachers, editors of religious papers, and professors of theology for sanctioning selfishness and failing to assert God’s true word. He was certain to note, however, that his attack was not directed against the “Dr. Herron kind of Christians” whom he believed the Church considered dangerous due to their condemnation of selfishness and embrace of “the rejected gospel of socialism.”
"Stupid Ignorance or Wickedness" | 24 May 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson reveals his opinion of the demands made by Coxey’s Army in this response to an editorial put forth by the Boston Congregationalist. He condemns the editor of the Boston Congregationalist (a preacher) for blaming the workers both for their own unemployment and the depression in business. Gibson asserts that all people have a God-given right to labor and that the government should supply them with work if they are unable to secure it elsewhere. For these reasons he believed that the workers’ demands for gainful employment demonstrated self-respect and an aversion to dependence, rather than a desire to force the government to provide for them (as the editor of the Boston Congregationalist affirmed they were attempting.)
"A New Political Vision" | 7 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson announces George Herron’s upcoming address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and offers readers an introduction to the man. He calls Herron “the great moral teacher of the age,” and asserts that Herron has received more of God’s “present message” than any other man. Gibson outlines several of Herron’s primary beliefs and reveals the reason for Herron’s interest in Populism as well as part of the reason for his own affinity for Herron when he states that Herron “sees in the political uprising in the west a force that is making for righteousness.” Gibson clearly shared Herron’s view that the political and social turbulence of the times was an opportunity to push society towards the creation of a Christian state.
"What is Christianity?" | 7 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial, Gibson gives his interpretation of the definition of Christianity. He expends much effort clarifying what Christianity is not, but he also makes several specific statements about what true Christianity is. He focuses on the idea of Christianity as “not serving God, but serving our fellowmen who need our wisdom, our strength, our love.” He asserts that “Christianity is voluntary socialism,” emphasizing the notion that labor ought to be performed on the behalf of, and for the benefit of, all of humanity. He concludes that the application of Christianity – of “voluntary socialism” – is the only alternative to anarchy. He defends this view in an editorial published the following week.
"The Problem of Christianity" | 14 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson defends the definition of Christianity which he offered in an editorial from the previous week, suggesting that it was misunderstood. He restates his argument that true Christians are more concerned with fellowship and brotherhood than with personal material gain. Noticeably, however, he completely refrains from using the term “socialism.” He instead focuses his argument on the idea that the people of the world need to recognize that they are all members of a single Christian body and share common interests. Their purpose, he argues, is to come together and create a state which is fully and truly Christian in nature. This Christian state was, in Gibson’s mind, to be defined largely by public ownership and control of certain industries (such as the railroad, telephone, and telegraph industries). Much of Gibson’s interest in Populism can be understood via this idea of the need for the creation of a “Christian state.”
"The Statesman and the Politician" | 16 June 1894 | Lincoln Weekly Herald
This letter to the editor, printed in the Lincoln Weekly Herald, also contains admiration of Herron and censure of Governor Crounse. Most of the letter consists of attacks on Crounse, whom the author believes made “an egregious ass of himself” with his reply to Herron. Along with suggestions that Crounse lashed out because he knew he was part of the corruption which Herron spoke of, the letter also expresses strong distaste for the lack of “manliness and courtesy” shown to an invited speaker. The letter's author clearly agrees with Herron's assertions that American government was not true to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
"Mr. Hewitt's Views" | 18 June 1894 | Lincoln Daily Call
In this editorial, the Lincoln Daily Call recommends the June 17th sermon of Reverend John Hewitt (of Lincoln’s Trinity Church) as a preferable alternative to the sort of Christianity expounded in Herron’s commencement address. It states that Rev. Hewitt also criticized American government and institutions, but did so in a way which was more “bright, truthful, inspiring, and hopeful.”
"Professor Herron" | 20 June 1894 | Nebraska State Journal
This is one of three reprinted editorials which the Nebraska State Journal included on the same page as its own editorial - in which the Journal refused to cave in to pressure to condemn Herron's commencement remarks as dangerous. This short piece, from the Des Moines Register, expresses a view of Herron which is very similar to that of the Journal. However, the Register cautions Dr. Herron that his hope to apply his ideas to the entire world is more than a little idealistic.
"Brother Editors, Take Notice" | 21 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson gives very strong support to Herron in this editorial, which appeared in the same edition as a nearly complete printing of Herron's commencement address. Gibson not only defends Herron against accusations that he is an anarchist, he also declares that Herron's idea of a Christian State is "what the Populist's are working for." Clearly, Gibson viewed Herron as a sort of intellectual and spiritual mentor.
"The Great Oration" | 21 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
Self-declared Christian Socialist George Davis Herron delivered the commencement address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the morning of Wednesday, June 13, 1894. It caused a great deal of controversy. The Wealth Makers, under George H. Gibson’s editorship, gave strong support to Herron and was the only area paper to print such a large portion of the address. In the address, Herron denounced the idea that competition is a positive guiding principle for humanity. He vigorously attacked land speculators, railroads, the entire U.S. political system, and even Christian churches. He argued on behalf of the establishment of a Christian state, with the person of Jesus Christ as its spiritual, social, and political ideal. He believed a Christian political order was the only way to unite humanity and ensure social justice. His remarks were roundly condemned, both by the governor at the commencement ceremony and afterwards by most of the area newspapers. The Wealth Makers continued its coverage of the address in its June 28, 1894 issue, reprinting a series of related lectures given by Herron.
"The Reproach of Christ" | 21 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial, Gibson denounces the actions of Governor Crounse (who spoke out against Herron directly following the delivery of his address). Gibson again reveals his strong admiration of Herron, this time via his bold insults of Governor Crounse's personal character and insinuations that Crounse was an enemy of true Christianity.
"Prof. Herron" | 23 June 1894 | Lincoln Weekly Herald
The Lincoln Weekly Herald restates its loyalty to Herron’s ideas in this editorial. It notes that since Herron’s address, at least one prominent minister in Lincoln has criticized it as unchristian and anarchistic. The editorial reproduces some of Herron’s primary assertions, stating that it is up to readers to decide for themselves the nature and validity of his ideas.
"Christianity Applied" | 28 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
This article is a continuation of the Wealth Makers' coverage of George Herron's June 13th commencement address. It is a summary of a combination of related lectures which Herron gave at Iowa College in Grinnell, Iowa (now Grinnell College), where he was Professor and Chair of Applied Christianity. While not part of his original address, the ideas expressed in his lectures are similar to those found in his commencement address at UNL. Herron’s rhetoric is quite radical here, as he declares America a “fallen nation” and predicts doom, anarchy, and chaos unless the country denounces materialism and repents. He again advocates a new form of Christianity to solve the nation’s problems, with Jesus Christ as the source of both political and social organization.
"God Pity the Rich!" | 28 June 1894 | Wealth Makers
Gibson also used his editorials to defend Herron against attacks from local churchmen who criticized his address. In this editorial Gibson dissects the sermon of Dr. Lasby of Lincoln's St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church, arguing that Lasby simply did not understand the word of God and was foolish to believe that God had “no cry against the rich.” Gibson follows Herron’s lead, advancing his own definition of Christianity and accusing the Church of self-righteousness and unholy alliance with the wealthy.
"The State and the Church" | 11 April 1895 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial Gibson describes the state as an institution that is being used by selfish men to "plunder and oppress, to destroy instead of save." Herron's influence is obvious as is Gibson's belief that the People's Party represented the means to establish Herron's idea of the Christian state. Gibson accusses the Christian Church of having "adjusted itself" to injustice and oppression, and criticizes it for failing to recognize "His party, His cause." He viewed Herron as one of the "faithful preachers" that could save the Church, the state, and society, but also believed that Herron (and others like him) would "be branded as an enemy of the church he loves, and be called an anarchist and a socialist as he walks the way to Calvary."
"Valedictory" | 16 January 1896 | Nebraska Independent
Gibson sold the Wealth Makers and gave up his position as editor in January of 1896 to devote himself more fully to the Christian Commonwealth Colony he and several others had founded in Muscogee County, Georgia. The paper was renamed the Nebraska-Independent by the new ownership, but remained the state’s official Populist organ. Gibson’s valedictory editorial expressed his disillusionment with attempts to achieve reform through politics, and announced his intention to create a “new system, a new society…to save the people.”