See F. G. Ham and C. S. Warmbrodt, The Morris Hillquit Papers (1969).
(born Aug. 1, 1869, Riga, Latvia—died Oct. 7, 1933, New York, N.Y., U.S.) U.S. socialist leader. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1886, joined the Socialist Labor Party, and helped found the United Hebrew Trades in 1888. When the party split, he led a moderate faction to help form the Social Democratic Party, which in 1901 became the Socialist Party. As the party's chief theoretician, he defined its position of pacifism during World War I and defended many socialists in court. He was twice the Socialist Party's unsuccessful candidate for mayor of New York (1917, 1932).
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Born Moses Hilkowitz in Riga, Latvia, on August 1, 1869, he emigated to the United States in 1886. He helped to found the United Hebrew Trades, a garment workers' union formed in 1888, while writing for the Arbeiter Zeitung, a Yiddish-language newspaper. He later graduated from New York University Law School in 1893.
Hillquit led the departure of the "constitutional" socialists from Daniel De Leon's Socialist Labor Party in 1899 helping to form what later became the Socialist Party of America. A foremost theoretician of that party, along with Victor Berger, he clashed with Eugene V. Debs over the Socialist Party's electoral politics and policies toward the American Federation of Labor.
In 1904, he attended the International Socialist Conference at Amsterdam and was involved in moving the proposed Anti-Immigration Resolution, which opposed any legislation which forbade or hindered the immigration of foreign working men, some of which were forced by misery to migrate. However, following "further consideration of the fact that workingmen of backward races (Chinese, Negroes, etc.) are often imported by capitalists to keep down the native workingmen by means of cheap labour, which constitutes a willing object of exploitation, lives in an ill-concealed state of slavery" as something which should be combatted by Social Democracy "with all its energy."
Along with Victor Berger he led the more conservative wing of the Socialist Party, though he split with Berger over support for the United States' participation in World War I. He nevertheless backed Debs, Berger and other socialists charged with espionage for opposing the war. "National feeling," he exclaimed in November 1914, "stands for existence primarily, for the chance to earn a livelihood. It stands for everything we hold dear--home, language, family, and friends. The working man has a country as well as a class. Even before he has a class." Hillquit's staunch jingoism and support for the war prompted Socialist Party member George Herron to proclaim himself "sick unto death" over the "moral failure" of the German comrades. Likewise, Socialist William English Walling proposed to the Party that Hillquist be expelled for his "nationalistic" tendency.
Twice he ran for Mayor of New York and on five occasions for Congress. An unsuccessful run for Mayor in 1917 was based on an anti-war platform that attracted support from some parts of the Irish and German community, but frightened some elements in the Jewish community who feared an anti-Semitic patriotic backlash. He received 22% of the citywide vote, just behind the incumbent mayor, and took 31% of the Bronx's vote. His campaign, and the election of Congressman Meyer London from the Lower East Side in 1915, 1917 and 1921 †, marked in many ways the high point for socialist politics in New York City. In 1932, shortly before his death, Hillquit received over one-eighth of the vote in his second campaign for Mayor.
One of the buildings of the East River Housing Corporation, a housing cooperative started by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in Cooperative Village on the Lower East Side, is named after him.