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Margaret Chase Smith Denounces McCarthy

Margaret Chase Smith Denounces McCarthy


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In protest to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade, Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith presents, on June 1, 1950, her "Declaration of Conscience" and delivers one of the most memorable speeches of her career.


GREAT WOMEN IN HISTORY: MARGARET CHASE SMITH

Today we are honoring one of the most well-known women in our modern history, Margaret Chase Smith. Born in Skowhegan, ME, a descendant of immigrants and the oldest of 6 children, her dad was the town barber and mom worked as a waitress, a clerk, and a shoe factory worker. At 12, Margaret went to work at the “Five & Dime” store, and by graduation she was an operator with the phone company. In that position she met Clyde Smith, who arranged a job for her as assistant to the tax collector. She became an executive for the Maine Telephone and Telegraph Company, and then joined the staff of the Independent Reporter, becoming circulation manager. She founded a chapter of the Business and Professional Women in 1922, and by 1926, she became state president of BPW. On May 14, 1930, she married Clyde Smith, who was 21 years her senior.

Her political career began after her marriage when she was elected to the Maine Republican State Committee. When Clyde was elected to the House of Representatives in 1937, she accompanied her husband to Washington, D.C. and served as his secretary. And like most secretaries she managed the office, handled all correspondence, conducted research, and helped write his speeches. In 1940, her husband fell seriously ill and asked Margaret to run for his seat. Facing no opponents, Margaret won the special election, and then went on to win in her own right. Over the next 8 years, Margaret was re-elected 3 more terms, never receiving less than 60% of the vote.

In 1946, Margaret became a member of the Armed Services Committee, and sponsored the passage of Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, a bill to regularize the status of women in armed forces. Smith also earned the reputation as a moderate Republican who often broke ranks with her party, supporting much of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Legislation, and in 1940, voted in favor of the Selective Service Act.

In 1947, Smith faced 3 men in the Republican primary for the Senate seat. Her slogan was “Don’t change a record for a promise.” When the wife of one of her opponents questioned whether a woman would be a good Senator, Smith replied, “Women administer the home they set the rules, enforce them, mete out justice for violations, and like Congress they legislate like the Executive, they administer, like the courts, they interpret the rules. This is ideal experience for politics.” Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman to represent Maine in the Senate, and the first woman to serve in both houses in Congress. Smith became the first member of Congress to condemn the anti-Communist witch hunt led by fellow Republican Senator, Joe McCarthy. In 1950, Smith delivered a 15-minute speech known as the “Declaration of Conscience.” She never mentioned McCarthy’s name, but denounced the “reckless abandon where unproved charges were hurled from his side of the aisle.” She said McCarthyism debased the Senate to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination and defended every American’s right to criticize, right to hold unpopular beliefs, right to protest, and the right of independent thought. Acknowledging her desire for Republican political success, she said, “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny…fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear. In response, McCarthy referred to Smith (and 6 other Senators) as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.”

In the 1952 election Smith was widely mentioned as a vice-presidential candidate under Gen. Eisenhower. When asked what she’d do if she woke up one morning and found herself in the White House, she replied, “I’d go straight to Mrs. Truman and apologize. Then I’d go home.”

Smith was the first (and only) woman to serve as chair of the Senate Republican Conference. She voted against Nixon’s unsuccessful nominees to the Supreme Court she was a strong supporter of the space program and served on the Senate Aeronautical and Space Committee. NASA Administrator, James Webb, commented that the US never would have placed a man on the moon if it were not for Margaret Chase Smith. She also supported increased educational funding, civil rights and Medicare.

In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith announced her candidacy for President of the United States. She declared, “I have few illusions, and no money, but I’m staying until the finish.” And she did just that! She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W.Bush on July 6, 1989.

She was a member of the House of Representatives from 1940 – 1949. She was a United States Senator from 1949 – 1973. She was the Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference from 1967-1973. She was also the oldest living U.S. Senator. Upon leaving office, Margaret Chase Smith was the longest serving female Senator in history, a distinction that was not surpassed until January 5, 2011, when Senator Barbara Mikulski was sworn in for her fifth term.

Margaret Chase Smith was a warrior and voted against the nuclear test ban treaty. In 1970, she issued a “Declaration of Conscience,” deploring hatred and extremism of the Vietnam War. She died at age 97. Margaret Chase Smith, a true First Woman In History, showed us how one woman could make a difference.

Join Plaid for Women to connect with like-minded women who are making a difference in their world!


The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism

Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the legislative branch or the executive branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American—and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against it—yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some soul searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech, but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—

The right to hold unpopular beliefs

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause Nation-wide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances—that show the people that our Democratic administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this Nation. The Nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could—simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system.

As members of the minority party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate—and I use the word “debate” advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Democrat “Communist.” I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.” They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our Nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a Declaration of Conscience. I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

Statement of Seven Republican Senators

1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.

2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.

3. Certain elements of the Republican Party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.

4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.”

5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.

Source: "Declaration of Conscience" by Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Statement of Seven Senators, June 1, 1950, Congressional Record, 82nd Congress. 1st Session, in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Roger Burns, Congress Investigates: A Documented History, 1792–1974 (New York: Chelsea House, 1963), 84–88.


Margaret Chase Smith: The First Senator to Confront McCarthy

The woman elected to the Senate on this day in 1948 did what the rest of the Senate was afraid to do.

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On September 13, 1948, Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the Senate, making her the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

Smith was the first woman elected to the Senate on her own merit. Six women had served in the Senate before she arrived there in 1948 (including one who served for a single day), but each of her predecessors had been chosen to complete the term of a man, often their recently deceased husbands. This was how Smith herself entered politics, but not what kept her going.

As the Post reported it in 1948 in “Senator from the Five-and-Ten,” her husband, Maine Congressman Clyde Smith, suffered a heart attack in 1940 just before filing for the upcoming primary election to run for a third term. His doctor advised him to have his politically savvy wife file instead. If Clyde got better, she could step down from the campaign, and he would replace her.

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But Clyde Smith died soon afterward. In a special election, Margaret Smith was chosen to complete the remainder of his term, launching her political career as Maine’s newest Congressional representative. She won the general election the following September.

In 1947, Maine’s incumbent Senator Wallace White Jr. announced that he would retire when his term was over in 1948. Smith decided to run. In the Republican primary — which was tantamount to the election itself — she received more votes than the other three male candidates combined.

Her gender was not the only notable thing about Smith. In 1950, she publicly denounced Senator Joe McCarthy for promoting himself and silencing his critics by playing on America’s Cold War fears, four years before most of her colleagues did so. The Senate wouldn’t vote to censure him for behavior “contrary to senatorial traditions” until 1954.

Like her colleagues, Smith had initially been impressed when McCarthy first announced he had the names of hundreds of communist agents working in the federal government. He promoted the idea of a vast communist conspiracy within the country and himself as America’s best defense against it. Senator Smith challenged him to release the names, but he refused.

So on June 1, 1950, she delivered a Declaration of Conscience to her colleagues. Co-signed by six other moderate Republicans, it denounced McCarthy’s slandering and fearmongering, which he hid behind a façade of patriotism. She said:

I do not like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: the right to criticize the right to hold unpopular beliefs the right to protest the right to independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear. … Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

Her declaration was not warmly received, and McCarthy soon took his revenge by removing Smith from the powerful Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He also gave financial support to a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Smith’s re-election. But Smith prevailed, retaining her Senate seat until 1973.

Smith is also remembered as the first woman to gather any noticeable support for a presidential bid in a major political party. In 1964, she announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination. Many Americans laughed at the idea. But President Kennedy took her candidacy seriously, telling reporters she would be a formidable opponent.

He probably remembered her voice raised against McCarthy years earlier. It was act of courage and integrity, two qualities Americans like in their presidents. And, as the financier Bernard Baruch said, if a man had delivered her Declaration of Conscience, “he would be the next president.”

Featured image: Photo by Ollie Atkins for “Senator from the Five-and-Ten,” from the September 11, 1948, issue of the Post.

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Footnotes

1 Congressional Record, House, 79th Cong., 2nd sess. (24 July 1946): A4378–A4379.

2 On parents' employment, Mary Kaptur, Women of Congress: A Twentieth–Century Odyssey (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1996): 85.

3 "Rep. Clyde H. Smith of Maine, Was 63," 9 April 1940, New York Times: 29.

4 Quoted in Janann Sherman, No Place for a Woman: The Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000): 42.

5 "Mrs. Smith To Seek Place of Husband," 9 April 1940, Washington Post: 9 "Clyde Smith's Widow Files," 16 April 1940, New York Times: 15.

6 "Rep. Clyde Smith's Widow Nominated by Maine G.O.P.," 14 May 1940, Washington Post: 1.

7 Patricia Schmidt, Margaret Chase Smith: Beyond Convention (Orono: University of Maine Press, 1996): 108–113 Sherman, No Place for a Woman: 47.

8 Sherman, No Place for a Woman: 44–45.

9 Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

10 Susan Tolchin, Women in Congress (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1976): 75.

11 Kaptur, Women of Congress: 86.

12 David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 776.

13 Schmidt, Margaret Chase Smith: 163.

14 Harry S. Truman, “Executive Order 9981,” Truman Presidential Museum and Library, accessed 12 February 2020, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/executive-orders/9981/executive-order-9981.

15 Hope Chamberlin, A Minority of Members: Women in the U.S. Congress (New York: Praeger, 1973): 143.

16 Helen Henley, "Maine GOP Nominates Mrs. Smith for Senator," 22 June 1948, Christian Science Monitor: 5 Josephine Ripley, "Women Hail Smith Victory in Maine," 23 June 1948, Christian Science Monitor: 7.

17 Schmidt, Margaret Chase Smith: 181–182.

18 "Election Statistics, 1920 to Present."

19 The space race began when the Russians successfully launched the first satellite into space. Sputnik I orbited the earth in October 1957. The Russian satellite was followed by the January 1958 launch of the American Explorer I, a small satellite used for collecting scientific data (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, “Sputnik and the Dawn of the Space Age,” accessed 12 February 2020, https://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/).

20 Congressional Record, Senate, 81st Cong., 2nd sess. (1 June 1950): 7894–7895.

21 Sherman, No Place for a Woman: 117–118.

22 Chamberlain, A Minority of Members: 146.

23 Congressional Record, Senate, 87th Cong., 1st sess. (23 September 1961): 20626.

24 Tolchin, Women in Congress: 76.

25 "The 1964 Elections," Congress and the Nation, 1945–1964, Vol. 1–A (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1965): 54.

26 "Election Statistics, 1920 to Present."

27 Richard Severo, “Margaret Chase Smith Is Dead at 97 Maine Republican Made History Twice,” 30 May 1995, New York Times: B6 Richard Pearson, “Margaret Chase Smith Dies GOP Senator From Maine,” 30 May 1995, Washington Post: B6.


The anticommunist crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy stepped into national prominence on February 9, 1950, when he mounted an attack on President Truman’s foreign policy agenda. McCarthy charged that the State Department and its Secretary, Dean Acheson, harbored “traitorous” Communists. McCarthy’s apocalyptic rhetoric—he portrayed the Cold War conflict as “a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity”—made critics hesitate before challenging him. His purported lists of Communist conspirators multiplied in subsequent years to include employees in government agencies, the broadcasting and defense industries, universities, the United Nations, and the military. Most of those accused were helpless to defend their ruined reputations and faced loss of employment, damaged careers, and in many cases, broken lives. In protest, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith composed the following “Declaration of Conscience,” condemning the atmosphere of suspicion and blaming leaders of both parties for their “lack of effective leadership.” Although Smith convinced six additional Republican Senators to join her in the Declaration, the seven refused to support a Senate report prepared by Democrats that called McCarthy’s charges against State Department personnel fraudulent.

Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950

Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the legislative branch or the executive branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American—and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against it—yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some soul searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech, but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—

The right to hold unpopular beliefs

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause Nation-wide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances—that show the people that our Democratic administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this Nation. The Nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could—simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system.

As members of the minority party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate—and I use the word “debate” advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Democrat “Communist.” I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.” They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our Nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a Declaration of Conscience. I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

Statement of Seven Republican Senators

1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.

2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.

3. Certain elements of the Republican Party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.

4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.”

5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.

Source: "Declaration of Conscience" by Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Statement of Seven Senators, June 1, 1950, Congressional Record, 82nd Congress. 1st Session, in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Roger Burns, Congress Investigates: A Documented History, 1792� (New York: Chelsea House, 1963), 84󈟄.


Margaret Chase Smith Responds to McCarthyism with 1950’s Declaration of Conscience

I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as briefly as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to any American who is not a Senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American -- and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us -- yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we "dish out" to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching -- for us to weigh our consciences -- on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America -- on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize
The right to hold unpopular beliefs
The right to protest
The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as "Communists" or "Fascists" by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause the nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation -- in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "know nothing, suspect everything" attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself -- and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances -- that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia though key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny -- Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could -- simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.

As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in the Senate debate -- and I use the word "debate" advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of "confuse, divide, and conquer." As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration “whitewash” or "cover-up" any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much I condemn a Democratic "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.


The senator vs. the demagogue - and history's verdict | Dick Polman

Bravo to the Republican senator who stood tall in the chamber and assailed a Republican demagogue for his disgraceful reliance on "the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear."

Dick Polman (PennLive file)

Bravo to the senator for insisting, with virtually no support from cowered colleagues, that "it's high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching, for us to weigh our consciences."

I'm referring, of course, to Margaret Chase Smith.

It's great that Jeff Flake stood up to Donald Trump's serial lies and dangerous toxicity, but, lest we forget our history (and too often, we don't even know it), Flake's act was not unprecedented. Sixty-seven years ago Chase was a junior senator from Maine, the only member of her gender, and unlike virtually everyone around her, sheɽ already had enough of colleague Joseph McCarthy.

At that point, in June 1950, McCarthy had only been on the national scene for a few months, smearing people as "Communists" and "fellow travelers," destroying innocents' reputations, forcing them from their jobs, prompting a number to commit suicide. Rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill barely uttered a peep, but Chase was ill-suited by temperament to follow the herd.

So she wrote a speech that she titled "Declaration and Conscience," stood on the Senate floor, and said: "Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism."

She extolled the GOP's proud history as the party of Lincoln, "yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove . disastrous to this nation."

She urged her Republican colleagues to be "Americans first" and to publicly acknowledge that McCarthy "threatens the security and stability of our country." She said, "It is high time that we all stop being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques." She said the Republican Party should not seek victory "through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance."

Flake's rhetoric on Tuesday was similar. But the big difference, however, is that Flake did so while declaring that he was quitting the chamber. Chase didn't go anywhere. She stayed in the Senate and kept fighting.

She took a lot of hits. McCarthy, who, like Trump, could never abide an attack, complained that "there are too damn many women in the Senate." (There was one.) Chase managed to get seven fellow Republicans to sign her anti-McCarthy statement (today, seven would be considered a tsunami), and McCarthy retaliated with Trumpian snark, calling Chase and her supporters "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Chase was rumored to be on Dwight Eisenhower's short list for veep in 1952, but the McCarthy heat (plus her gender) made her unacceptable and when she ran for reelection, McCarthy worked, albeit unsuccessfully, to sabotage her. But she hung in, waging her multi-year fight against McCarthy mostly alone, until finally McCarthy imploded in 1954 by trying to smear the U.S. Army, at which point Chase's colleagues finally grew spines and voted to censure him.

Her fight was long and lonely, but still she persisted. She liked to say, "The right way is not always the popular and easy way."

She didn't quit the Senate she stayed and won history's verdict. And what she said in 1950 - with respect to a man who posed a clear and present danger to this nation - has more meaning than ever in 2017: "It is high time that we stop thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats and started thinking patriotically as Americans."

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Pennsylvania. His work appears occasionally on PennLive Opinion. Readers may email him at [email protected]

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Risking her political future, Senator Margaret Chase Smith stood up to Joe McCarthy because no one else would. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A bully was stalking the Nation’s Capital. Insulting people, ruining reputations, using fear to bend Congress to his will. Behind the scenes, many said someone should stand up for American values. Someone from the bully’s own party should speak to the American people.

Margaret Chase Smith had served just a year in the Senate, yet many in Washington considered her a likely vice-presidential candidate on the GOP ticket in 1952. “The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared,” Mrs. Smith told her fellow Senators. But “in those days,” she recalled, “freshmen senators were to be seen and not heard, like good children.”

When Joseph McCarthy produced a list of 205 Communists in government, Smith trusted him. “It looked as though Joe was onto something disturbing and frightening,” she said. But then she studied the documents McCarthy offered as evidence. She saw no evidence.

At first, she wavered. “I am not a lawyer,” she thought. “After all, Joe was a lawyer and any lawyer Senator will tell you that lawyer Senators are superior to non-lawyer Senators.” Surely, she hoped, “one of the Democrats would take the Senate floor.” But when no challenge came, “it became evident that Joe had the Senate paralyzed with fear.”

Back in Skowhegan, Maine, folks knew Maggie Chase. Her father was a barber her mother worked in shoe factories. Maggie went straight from high school into teaching, then journalism. Only when she married her publisher, Clyde Smith, did she enter politics, accompanying Mr. Smith to Washington when he was elected to Congress during the New Deal. When he died four years later, she won a special election, then won four elections on her own, racking up 60-70 percent of the vote.

Though beloved in Maine, in Congress Smith was known more for her attire than her expertise. Nattily dressed, she always wore a red rose in her lapel. And that was all Congress expected from the junior senator from Maine. But then she gave Congress a lesson in integrity.

As McCarthy grilled one accused communist after another, Smith began to speak out. The American people, she wrote in her nationally syndicated column, need “written evidence in black and white instead of conflicting oral outbursts in nebulous hues of red and pink.” But the grilling continued.

A climate of fear during the Cold War was stoked by Senator Joseph McCarthy leading to the "Red Scare," a period of anti-communist hysteria that especially targeted Hollywood. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On June 1, 1950, as Smith boarded the Senate tram, McCarthy approached.

“Margaret,” he said, “you look very serious. Are you going to make a speech?”

Smith remained as unfluttered as the rose in her lapel. “Yes, and you will not like it.” When McCarthy asked if the speech was about him, she replied, “Yes, but I’m not going to mention your name.”

“Remember, Margaret,” he said. “I control Wisconsin’s twenty-seven convention votes.” Vice-presidential nomination?

Ten minutes later, she sat on the Senate floor, three rows in front of McCarthy. “This is awful,” she said to her aide. “I’m new here, not only a new member of the Senate but a woman. And I’m getting up and telling that Republican crowd—”

Her aide reminded her: “You came in with a whale of a vote from Maine. They have great confidence in you.” And she rose to deliver her Declaration of Conscience.

“Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition.” She spoke for fifteen minutes. She spoke “as a Republican, as a woman, as a United States senator,” but also “as an American.” Her words echoed through the chamber. “. . . selfish political opportunism. . . A forum of hate and character assassination. . .”

“The American people,” she said, “are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared. I do not want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.”

During the Army–McCarthy hearings in 1954, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (right) claimed there were 130 Communists working in defense plants. An exasperated Joe Welch (left), chief counsel for the U.S. Army during the investigations, famously asked McCarthy, "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" It was seen as a turning point for McCarthyism. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Smith expected McCarthy to rise in defense. But he sat, the New York Times noted, “white and silent, hardly three feet behind her.” Then, without a word, he walked out. Smith accepted congratulations from a few senators, then business as usual resumed.

The press was divided. Praise from the Times and Washington Post, attacks from the right. Yet mail from Maine backed her by 8-1. And financier Bernard Baruch said, “If a man had made the Declaration of Conscience, he would be the next president of the United States.”

Six other Republican senators including Wayne Morse joined Smith in condemning McCarthy’s tactics. McCarthy mocked them as “Snow White and the six dwarfs”.

Three weeks after Smith’s speech, when the Korean War broke out, her “political nightmare” shifted into high gear. McCarthy booted Smith off his committee and there was no more talk of the vice-presidency.

Finally in 1953, broadcaster Edward R. Murrow finally picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Margaret Chase Smith. Murrow’s “See It Now” program showed the senator bullying, snickering, making utterly false charges. Murrow concluded with a promise. “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, not if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. ”


Our Great American Heritage

“Margaret Chase Smith follows in her husband’s footsteps. Washington, D.C., June 10, 1940. Margaret Chase Smith, wife of the late Rep. Clyde Smith, Republican, of Maine, was sworn in today to fill the vacancy left by her husband. Left to right in the picture: Margaret Chase Smith, Speaker William Bankhead, and Rep. James C. Oliver, Republican of Maine, who sponsored Mrs. Smith. Library of Congress”

In her own words, she was “no feminist”, but she was a significant pioneer for women. Doing the right thing is not easy. Finding courage when others are too afraid joins courage with character. Slight of build, barely 5′ 2″, the quiet and generally serious woman Margaret Chase Smith served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1940 to 1950 and was the first woman elected U.S. Senator. She was also the first woman elected, not appointed like others, to both the House and the Senate. She is not remembered for those achievements. Senator Smith is the first person to find enough courage to speak out against the powerful demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

During the 1950 campaign, one Boston paper said this about Smith, “Maine is sending a housekeeper,” while a Congressman said, “she needs to go back to the pots and pans.” An ambitious woman, Smith had faced down bigotry and sexism before. It didn’t deter her.

In the weeks leading up to Smith’s blistering takedown of McCarthy, she was a leading contender for the Vice Presidential nomination. The elections of 1952 were right around the corner, and ironically, her staunchest supporter for the nomination had been fellow Republican Joseph McCarthy. Still, she had disdain for McCarthy’s ruthless tactics that he used in his crusade against Communism – fearmongering, smearing reputations, and finding people guilty before they had a chance to defend themselves, and most importantly, McCarthy’s willingness to spread blatant lies, which ultimately ruined the careers of innocent people. She was acutely aware that what she was about to do was a sensitive matter because they were both members of the Republican party, and it could also end her political career.

In 1950 America, her significance in the Senate mattered little. Even though she was an elected U.S. Senator against a male Senator, a woman’s attack was political suicide. However, Margaret Chase Smith had a strong sense of right and wrong, and many times that outweighed partisan politics. Her speech, later known as the “Declaration of Conscience,” would be her first speech in the United States Senate.

By chance, they had ridden on the Senate subway together that morning. “You look serious, Margaret. Are you going to give a speech today? “McCarthy asked. “Yes, and you will not like it,” she said. As she nervously rose to speak, the knowledge that six Republican Senators had already endorsed her charges against McCarthy terror tactics was comforting to her. She hoped this would be the first step in ending Joseph McCarthy’s career and the hysteria known as “McCarthyism.”

Her speech never mentioned him by name. Her words clearly described him,

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism.”

She felt McCarthy’s crusade was a dangerous one, one full of outrageous accusations directed at innocent people, not based on facts or proof, and many times, just made up to fit the moment. Upon hearing Smith’s speech, the New York Times described McCarthy as “white and silent, hardly three feet behind her.” He left the Senate without saying a word. Smith’s stinging rebuke of the Senator was in sharp contrast to the silence of the rest of the Senate chamber.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy (center) addresses the press in 1954. Photo from the Library of Congress.

The day after her speech, the assault began upon Margaret Chase Smith. “After what happened in the Senate Thursday, it is doubtful that Senator Magaret Chase Smith of Maine is still the favorite Vice-Presidential candidate of Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin,” stated the Milwaukee Journal, June 2, 1950. The article dismissed the credibility of Senator Smith’s accusations. Instead, it attacked her, saying, “there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that Mrs. Smith’s seething indictment of the way the Senate has been “debased” into a “forum of hate and publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism” was directly aimed at McCarthy. It is interesting to note how the article addressed Senator Smith as ‘Mrs. Smith’, while references to Joseph McCarthy were ‘Senator McCarthy’. The Saturday Evening Post attacked Smith, too, accusing Smith and her co-signers of being communist sympathizers, calling them “the soft underbelly of the Republican Party.” Joseph McCarthy began to mock Smith and the six Republican signers of her “Declaration of Conscience,” referring to them as “Snow White and the six dwarfs”. The nationally recognized columnist Westbrook Pegler called Smith “a Moses in nylons” who “took advantage… of her sex.” Others, who were likely McCarthy supporters, tried smearing her reputation by suggesting that the two were involved romantically. It was suggested that He had broken off the relationship, and the speech was her revenge. McCarthy, the Senate’s Subcommittee on Investigations’ chairman, dumped her from the committee to which he had named her. McCarthy intended to destroy Smith, saying that she was a “puny politician” and a “thief” of taxpayer money. Outside of her home state of Maine, she was indeed on her own.

Within one week of her speech, all six male supporters had signed statements recanting their support of Senator Smith’s address. Three weeks after her speech, the war with communist Korea broke out, and McCarthy’s crusade began to pick up more support from frightened Americans. Senator McCarthy became a popular speaker at various public events expanding his notion that the “enemies were within”, which included Congress members. Other political opponents, especially those who had criticized McCarthy, were beaten at the polls because of McCarthy’s influence. Four-term U.S. Senator Millard Tydings was defeated in a close race due primarily to McCarthy’s false claims that Tydings might be a communist sympathizer.

Joseph McCarthy was an opportunist. In the early 1950s, Americans were afraid Communism was spreading. Many suspected Russian spies were everywhere – state and federal government, news media, and even Hollywood people. McCarthy’s first few years in the Senate were quiet and uneventful. In February 1950, he surprised the nation when he addressed a women’s club in West Virginia and said that he had a list of 205 “known communists,” all of whom were employed by the State Department. To add theatre, McCarthy held papers that supposedly contained the names. Many political leaders were alarmed and at first believed what he claimed, including Margaret Chase Smith, “It looked as though Joe was onto something disturbing and frightening,” she said. Later that year, McCarthy made additional charges, claiming that the Communists were members of President Truman’s administration, the Voice of America, and even the United States Army, all of which was nonsense. McCarthy even suggested that members of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were Communist sympathizers referring to those years as “twenty years of treason,” and that Truman was “soft on Communism.” President Harry Truman curtly responded that the “best asset the Kremlin has is Joseph McCarthy.”

As with more recent demagogues, McCarthy’s evidence was non-existent, and the majority of Congressmen, in time, grew to understand that he was lying. While much of the public bought into McCarthy’s lies, many Congress members remained silent, afraid that they too could suddenly be on Joseph McCarthy’s hit list. “It became evident that Joe had the Senate paralyzed with fear,” Smith would later say.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Senator Margaret Chase Smith in a food serving line at Senator Smith’s home in Skowhegan. Governor and Jane Muskie are behind them. 1955. Library of Congress.

In 1952 Dwight Eisenhower was elected President, the first Republican since Herbert Hoover. Although Eisenhower was popular, Congressional support was split evenly between Eisenhower supporters and those who supported Senator Joseph McCarthy. Privately, Eisenhower held McCarthy in great disdain publicly, he never denounced McCarthy or even mentioned his name in a speech. He knew that if he had launched an attack, much like the one Margaret Chase Smith had done, it would have split the Republican party in deciding which leader they would support, Ike or McCarthy. Walking a fine political line, Eisenhower never signaled Senator Smith’s support, nor did he embrace McCarthy’s menacing attacks on innocent people.

During the next couple of years, Joseph McCarthy continued his witch hunts destroying lives and tearing families apart, all in the name of hunting down Communists. Margaret Chase Smith became a lonely figure in Washington, shunned by many in her party. As McCarthy grilled one accused Communist after another, Smith continued to speak out. Now she was targeting McCarthy by name, “I say to the members of the Senate that Senator McCarthy has made false accusations that he cannot and has not dared even to try to back up with proof.” “The American people”, she wrote in her nationally syndicated column, need “written evidence in black and white instead of conflicting oral outbursts in nebulous hues of red and pink.” The truth had little place in the reckless mission of Joseph McCarthy. Smith continued to work diligently at her job in the Senate, and when asked about McCarthy, she responded, “I have said my piece.”

By 1953 things began to change. The war in Korea was ending. Americans began enjoying the prosperity of the time – full employment, the growth of urban areas, more recreational and family time. The fear of Communism was replaced with the fascination of going to the movies, and televisions began appearing in nearly every home.

Harry S. Truman and Edward R. Murrow, Washington, 1951. Library of Congress.

“See it Now” was a popular weekly news show with an even more popular and respected journalist. Edward R. Murrow took on subjects that he felt the public needed to know about and, other journalists wanted to ignore. In one episode, Murrow showed footage of McCarthy badgering and making false charges against innocent witnesses. Murrow presented numerous film clips of McCarthy’s ruthless bullying. The viewers were horrified. The public was finally starting to understand what Margaret Chase Smith warned about three years earlier.

McCarthy’s final mistake was targeting the U.S. Army. In televised Senate hearings, the Senator accused Army officers, including the Army’s Secretary Robert Stevens, of being Communists, again using his fine-tuned skills of bullying, badgering, and terrorizing the witnesses, and without providing any credible evidence of wrongdoing. As with Murrow’s film clips of McCarthy’s brutality with witnesses, a live audience of television viewers quickly realized that Joseph McCarthy was nothing more than a street thug, full of hot air and lies. Toward the end of a long day, the Senator interrogated a witness for the Army when, finally, the Army’s chief attorney, Joseph Welch, challenged the Senator. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?” The live hearings went on for 36 days, and by the end, Americans saw the monster McCarthy and understood the terrible sham referred to as McCarthyism.

While the hearings were going on, Smith was busy with her Senate re-election in Maine. McCarthy’s rage against Margaret Chase Smith extended to even recruiting a McCarthy-like protegé candidate to challenge her. It didn’t work, and she won easily. Many interpreted the 5 to 1 margin as a landslide defeat against McCarthyism.

By the end of 1954, Joseph McCarthy’s fall from grace was complete. The U.S. Senate voted to denounce McCarthy and his abuse of power in December, which effectively ended his career. A broken man, he died in office in 1957 at the age of 48.

Smith took little pleasure in the humiliating collapse of a once-powerful man. Other Senators, who had held their silence for years, came forward with their assaults against McCarthy. President Dwight Eisenhower, bursting with enthusiasm, announced that “Margaret Chase Smith is my favorite Senator.” When asked about Joseph McCarthy, Smith said little, but smiled and occasionally referred back to “I’ve said my piece.”

She was re-elected several more times as Senator to Maine, retiring in 1973 after serving a total of 33 years of distinguished service in Congress.

“Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk.” Margaret Chase Smith.

New York Times, various articles between 1950 to 1954.
Milwaukee Journal, various articles during June 1950.
Washington Post, articles between 1950 and 1954.
Evening Star, articles written in 1954.


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