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
"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.”
"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.
"Prof. Herron's Address" | 14 June 1894 | Evening News
This editorial in the Evening News is quite similar to those found in the Lincoln Weekly Herald in the days following Herron's address. Although it describes his address as unoriginal and "decidedly socialistic in character," the Evening News nonetheless asserts that speeches such as Herron’s are necessary to correcting the problems of government because they help convert thought into action. The paper then assesses the truth of a number of Herron's statements regarding the corrupt nature of U.S. politics. Although it disavows his argument that the United States government is a failure, it concedes that his accusations of corruption contain a degree of truth (something which most of the other area papers flatly denied). It concludes that the primary cause for negative responses to Herron’s views was the fact that they were ill-suited to the occasion of a commencement ceremony.
"Herron-Crounse" | 14 June 1894 | Lincoln Daily Call
The day after Herron’s address, the Lincoln Daily Call reversed its position regarding his remarks. This editorial not only condemns Herron as “socialistic,” it also criticizes the university in general (and Chancellor Canfield specifically) for allowing him to speak in the first place. It accuses the university of leaning towards Populism, which it characterizes as “narrow-minded,” and also suggests that the university attempted to expunge the address from the public record by refusing to furnish a verbatim copy to the local press. Governor Crounse, on the other hand, is praised as a “patriotic, loyal American citizen.”
"The University Address" | 14 June 1894 | Nebraska State Journal
The Nebraska State Journal was only one of the local newspapers to frown upon Herron’s address, although it did so with a more reasonable tone than some. In this editorial, the Journal describes Herron’s views as “radically socialistic” and comparable to anarchy, but (unlike other papers) it stops short of declaring Herron an anarchist. The Journal also states that Herron was entitled to present alternative views, and that people are intelligent enough to judge the value of such views for themselves (although it asserts that any synopses of the address that readers have seen in print are only toned-down versions of the original). The paper guides its readers in their judgment a bit with its assertion that American society and government are not generally corrupt, and that only the foolish and inexperienced think otherwise.
"State University Close" | 14 June 1894 | Omaha Bee
The Omaha Bee, a paper known for its negative stance with regard to the Populist platform in general and the silver issue specifically, declared that Herron's "radical" views astonished all those who "followed him closely" throughout the address. It points out that a member of the Nebraska Supreme Court credited Herron for his "polished" oral abilities, but denounced his ideas as "radical," "socialist," "anarchistic," and "dangerous." The Bee reprinted what it itself described as a "brief and unsatisfactory summary" of Herron's address. It focuses primarily upon Herron's more dramatic remarks.
"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.”
"Made Them Mad" | 16 June 1894 | Lincoln Weekly Herald
The Lincoln Weekly Herald was another of the few area newspapers which lent support to the ideas in Herron’s commencement address. In this article, the Herald agrees with (and restates) many of Herron’s assertions regarding political corruption. It asserts that local republicans such as Governor Crounse attempted to associate Herron with anarchy and condemned the university for allowing him to speak because Herron dared to open the eyes of the nation’s future leaders to the shortcomings of government. The Herald concludes that the address was “a powerful and logical expression of deep and advanced thought on political economics.”
"Not Dangerous" | 20 June 1894 | Nebraska State Journal
In this editorial, the Nebraska State Journal defends itself against criticism from readers (and perhaps other newspapers) that it did not denounce Professor Herron’s commencement address strongly enough. In a rather sarcastic tone, the Journal asserts that Herron’s remarks do not represent a threat, as such large doses of socialism are easily rejected. It expresses admiration of Herron for his honesty and frankness, although it also acknowledges that smaller, more “insidious” forms of socialism are dangerous. On the same page, however, the Journal includes reprinted editorials from three other newspapers which condemn Herron and support Crounse. If it was not willing to criticize Herron more heavily itself, the Journal was certainly willing to demonstrate that others were doing so.
"Professor Herron" | 20 June 1894 | Nebraska State Journal
This is another of the three reprinted editorials which the Nebraska State Journal included on the same page as its own editorial, refusing to condemn Herron's commencement remarks as dangerous. This piece from the New York Tribune takes a harsh view of Herron.
"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.
"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.
"Speaking of Log Rolling" | 28 March 1895 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial Gibson expresses strong opposition to the idea of political fusion with the Democratic Party. Referring specifically to Senator William V. Allen and William Jennings Bryan, Gibson states that "the men who undertake to break up and cast aside the Omaha platform will raise a storm, will be disturbers of harmony, and may only suceed in bringing distrust and political destruction upon themselves." He asserts that the People's Party is capable of political success without a union with the Democrats, and states that the "socialistic planks of our platform—the principal demands" are "not our load, but our power [sic]."
"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."
"The Crisis Just Ahead" | 25 April 1895 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial Gibson warns of impending crisis should the Populists confine their demands for reform to the silver issue alone. He states that silver is "an incidental," and that "government ownership of the great monopolies" is the "main idea" of the Populists. Gibson viewed the People's Party as the only political party that recognized the true threat monopolies posed, and believed that if the Populists did not win the next election the monopolies' powers would grow to such an extent that "a revolution...will be precipitated." Gibson's belief that the reforms called for in the Omaha Platform of 1892 could and should be enacted as a means to prevent revolution reveal that his socialist tendencies were non-Marxian in nature.
"Untitled" | 9 May 1895 | Wealth Makers
In this editorial Gibson ties his definition of socialism directly to the Omaha Platform. He tries to dissuade readers from supporting political fusion with the Democratic Party by referring to the silver issue as "a stolen portion of the things which drew us together," and states that all the Populists need to do to win in the next election is "keep our batteries blooming, and keep cheering the Omaha platform."