How many times have you said to yourself that a specific politician is "nuts", "crazy" or "insane"? Many of us have done so at least a few times in our life. At least in one case, this label was entirely correct.
Charles A. Boutelle was a Representative of Congress for the state of Maine and had been for sixteen years. In the 1900 election, he won by 10,000 votes though at the time he was a resident of an insane asylum, clouded in intellect and uncertain in speech. He had even been there when the convention nominated him to run for Representative again. The opposition, the Democratic Party, filed a claim that to elect an insane man to Congress was unconstitutional to no avail.
Sentiment was behind the Maine Republicans in the matter. Their viewpoint was that Mr. Boutelle had served them long and faithfully. Further, he was poor and they could afford to stand behind him. Others stated that he would never take his seat in Congress again. However, the Republicans of his district expressed that his empty chair in the House of Representatives should stand for their loyalty in mute testimony. Boutelle was elected and his pay went to his wife.
Along with "crazy" politicians, many of us have claimed that a specific politician should be in prison. One of my favorite political quotes was made by Will Rogers, the homespun comedian of the 1930's. He said "We have the best Congress money can buy." In at least one case, there was a man who ran for president of the United States and received almost one million votes. He accomplished this while in prison!
Eugene V. Debs' political career began in 1879 when he was elected as City Clerk of Terre Haute, Indiana on Democrat ticket. He served two terms in this office. In 1884 he was elected state representative to the Indiana General Assembly as a Democrat representing Terre Haute and Vigo County. In 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920 he ran as candidate of Socialist Party for President of the United States in some of the most dynamic campaigning ever seen in the United States. He made his greatest showing in the campaign of 1908 which featured the RED SPECIAL train which went to every section of the country.
On June 16, 1918, Debs made an anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, protesting World War I which was raging in Europe. For this speech he was arrested and convicted in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio under the war-time espionage law. He was his own attorney and his appeal to the jury and his statement to the court before sentencing, are regarded as two of the great classic statements ever made in a court of law. He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison and disenfranchised for life, losing his citizenship.
In 1920, for the fifth and last time, while a prisoner at Atlanta, he was nominated to run for president on the Socialist party ticket. Conducting his campaign from inside the prison, he was given nearly a million votes but was defeated by the Republican, Warren G. Harding. On Christmas Day, 1921 President Harding released Debs from prison, commuting his sentence to time served.