George Ross Kirkpatrick

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Kirkpatrick was a prominent lecturer on socialist topics during the decade of the 1910s. He toured extensively in support of the 1916 Presidential ticket.

George Ross "Kirk" Kirkpatrick (1867–1937) was an American anti-militarist writer and political activist. He is best remembered as the 1916 Vice Presidential nominee of the Socialist Party of America. He was briefly the Executive Secretary of that organization from November 1925 until May 1926.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

George Ross Kirkpatrick was born February 24, 1867 in West Lafayette, Ohio, the son of a farmer.[1] He attended Allegheny College Preparatory School before enrolling in Ohio Wesleyan University. He received his Bachelor's degree from Albion College and did graduate coursework at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago.[1]

Upon graduation, Kirkpatrick worked as a teacher at Kansas Methodist College and Ripon College for 4 years before moving to the Socialist Party-affiliated Rand School of Social Science in New York City.[1][2]

Political career[edit]

Kirkpatrick joined the Socialist Party of America in 1903. For nearly 20 years thereafter Kirkpatrick traveled across America as a lecturer for the party, speaking to general audiences on the topic of militarism and other political and economic questions.[1]

In 1910 he self-published his first full-length book, a blistering attack on militarism called War — What For? The first printing of 2500 copies sold out almost immediately and the book was subsequently reprinted many times over the course of the decade.[3]

The widespread popularity among the party rank-and-file of Kirkpatrick's 1910 book, War — What For? was key to his being chosen as the Socialist Party's VP nominee in 1916.

Kirkpatrick's book would be his best known, touted by Socialist journalist William M. Feigenbaum "one of the really great works of the spirit in American history."[4] Feigenbaum recalled:

"Written and widely circulated before the outbreak of the World War, it had an important influence on the American people. It struck with sledgehammer blows, it marshaled facts and figures, seasoned them with irony and fierce earnestness, and flung the challenge of its title into a world that would be infinitely better off today if it had been heeded."[4]

The work catapulted Kirkpatrick to prominence in the ranks of the Socialist Party of America. In 1916, a mail referendum of Socialist Party members elected Kirkpatrick as the party's Vice Presidential nominee, topping St. Louis feminist Kate Richards O'Hare in the contest.[5] Kirkpatrick appeared on the ballot along with Presidential hopeful Allan L. Benson and he toured extensively in support of the ticket.

In 1924, Kirkpatrick was in Chicago on the payroll of the Socialist Party as the manager of its "Department of Literature."[6] In that capacity he prepared several propaganda leaflets which were distributed in quantity by the party during the 1924 campaign season: a first on the growing wealth of the capitalist class (a four page leaflet entitled Silence!), another detailing the party's opposition to the then-booming Ku Klux Klan, and a third on unemployment. He also edited the party's monthly magazine, The Socialist World, with Executive Secretary Bertha Hale White's name appearing on the masthead of the publication as "Business Manager."

From November 15, 1925, Kirkpatrick served a brief stint as acting Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party, following the resignation of Bertha Hale White, herself a former teacher and journalist.[7] Kirkpatrick, who had been serving as Organization Director, was elected Assistant Executive Secretary by the National Executive Committee at its meeting of October 10, on the heels of White tendering of her resignation effective in a month.[8] Kirkpatrick's time at the helm of the declining organization was short, however, as William H. Henry of Indiana was chosen as a permanent Executive Secretary following the party's May 1–3, 1926 National Convention held in Pittsburgh.

Kirkpatrick later ran for U.S. Senate from Illinois on the Socialist Party ticket in 1928, and for the U.S. Senate from California in 1932 and 1934.[9] In his final campaign Kirkpatrick garnered 110,000 votes.[4]

Kirkpatrick was a delegate to the 1934 National Convention of the Socialist Party, held in Detroit, Michigan, at which he lined up with the Old Guard faction in opposition to the radical "Declaration of Principles" passed by the Militant faction.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

George Kirkpatrick died in March 1937, three weeks after his 70th birthday.[4]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Solon DeLeon with Irma C. Hayssen and Grace Poole (eds.), The American Labor Who's Who. New York: Hanford Press, 1925; pg. 126.
  2. ^ "Biographical Sketch of George R. Kirkpatrick," The Michigan Socialist, no. 8 (September 1, 1916), pg. 1.
  3. ^ Kirkpatrick clearly tried to get his readers to assist in the distribution of the work — the dust jacket of the 2nd edition listed wholesale rates of as little as 55 cents per copy on 100 pieces for a cover price of $1.20.
  4. ^ a b c d e William M. Feigenbaum, "G. Kirkpatrick, Veteran Socialist, Dies in California," The New Leader [New York], vol. 20, no. 12 (March 27, 1937), pg. 2.
  5. ^ David A. Shannon, The Socialist Party: A History. New York: Macmillan, 1955; pg. 91.
  6. ^ George R. Kirkpatrick, "Select Your Weapons," The Socialist World, vol. 5, no. 5 (May 1924), pg. 11.
  7. ^ Shannon, The Socialist Party: A History, pg. 184.
  8. ^ "Minutes of National Executive Committee Meeting, Breslin Hotel, New York City, October 9–10, 1925," The Socialist World, vol. 6, no. 8 (October 1925), pg. 8.
  9. ^ Larry Kestenbaum (ed.), "Kirkpatrick, George R.," political graveyard.com Retrieved March 6, 2010.

Works[edit]

Books and pamphlets[edit]

Articles[edit]

  • "The Priceless Remnant," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 4 (April 1924), pg. 5.
  • "Fall In or Fall Out," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 5 (May 1924), pp. 1, 3.
  • "On to Cleveland Gladly — And Carefully," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 6 (June 1924), pg. 14.
  • "The Enemy Opens Fire Upon the Workers — With Lies," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 7 (July 1924), pp. 6-7.
  • "One Hundred Days!" The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 8 (August 1924), pp. 1-3.
  • "Our Charter of Liberties," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 11 (November 1924), pp. 5-6.
  • "Looking Ahead," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 11 (November 1924), pp. 10, 15.
  • "The Crucifixion of the Children," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 12 (December 1924), pp. 5-6.
  • "Certain Difficulties," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 1 (January 1925), pp. 15-16.
  • "The Proletariat and the Right of Revolution," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 2 (February 1925), pp. 12-14.
  • "'Taken!'" The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 5 (May 1925), pp. 5-6.
  • "Join the Army," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 6 (June 1925), pp. 1-3.
  • "The Significance of Youth in Social Progress," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 6 (June 1925), pp. 10-11.
  • "Christ in China, or — Why Hesitate?" The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 7 (July 1925), pp. 1-2.
  • "The International and Labor Congress of 1925," The Socialist World [Chicago], vol. 6, no. 7 (July 1925), pg. 7.