Important Archive of President Truman Letters Combatting McCarthy's Red Scare: "I am a sure as I am alive that these people are on a fishing expedition and they will take occasion to use unsubstantiated charges "
Item Number: 14902
Harry S. Truman
Important Archive of 2 Harry S. Truman Presidential Typed Letters Signed on Truman's battle against McCarthyism. At the time of these letters in July of 1951, Senator Joseph McCarthy had radically expanded his anti-Communist investigations into the private lives and political beliefs of American citizens, attempting to take alleged Communist sympathizers and place their names on blacklists for un-American activity. Indeed, McCarthy began using these tactics to undermine political opponents as well, going so far as accusing President Truman of Communist sympathies. These letters document Truman's strong stance in defending Americans against the unfounded accusations of Senator McCarthy and his anti-Communist investigations during the Red Scare. As the letters reveal, Truman takes decisive action against McCarthy to stop his "Un-American Activities" campaign. Rather than comply with McCarthy's request for access to IRS files of government employees suspected of communist sympathies, Truman actively initiated an investigation into IRS corruption stemming from McCarthy's anti-Communist trials. The investigation would successfully open one week after these letters.
The first letter, a 1 page Typed Letter Signed on White House letterhead is dated July 20, 1951. In full Truman writes: "Memorandum for: The Secretary of the Treasury, From: The President. I have been looking over a memorandum which you sent me with regard to loyalty files of the International [sic] Revenue Department for the Congressional Committee investigating the Department. I wish you would give this matter considerable thought and then we will have a conversation about it. I am as sure as I am alive that these people are on a fishing expedition and that they will take occasion to use unsubstantiated charges which, no doubt, appear in these files to discredit not only the Department but to ruin the individual in whose file these things appear. I will be glad to talk with you about it." He signs, "H.S.T"
Unlike McCarthy, who used frenzy-inducing tactics to build support, Truman advocated for "considerable thought." Ultimately he took decisive and swift action to stem the tide of this "fishing expedition" that threatened to "use unsubstantiated charges" to ruin lives. Within this archive's second letter, dated the same day as the first, President Truman handwrote a Presidential endorsement denying McCarthy's access to files and opening an investigation into his processes. This endorsement says in his hand, "Approved, July 20, 1951, Harry S. Truman," and it appears on the last page of a three-page typed memorandum from Treasury Secretary John Snyder.
This memo reads, in part: "Reference is made to the memorandum from the Secretary of the Treasury for the President dated July 18, 1951, requesting permission for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to submit reports, files and other material to the Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws, in response to a request of that Subcommittee. The request to the President for authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to submit such reports and other material was made pursuant to paragraph 2 of a memorandum, dated August 5, 1948, to the Secretary of the Treasury from Donald S. Dawson, Administrative Assistant, concerning employees in the Executive Branch, which in part states: '2. No information of any sort relating to the employee's loyalty, and no investigative data of any type, whether relating to loyalty or other aspects of the individual's record, shall be included in the material submitted to a Congressional committee. If there is doubt as to whether a certain document or group of documents should be supplied, the matter should be referred to the White House.' Authority is not requested to submit investigative data referring to loyalty of an employee in the Executive Branch."
Refusing to bow to anti-Communist furor and "ruin" the careers of federal employees in the face of McCarthyism's expansion, Truman took a firm stand against the witch-hunt kindled by the Wisconsin senator. Just over a week after these letters, the House Ways and Means subcommittee opened an investigation into charges of corruption in the IRS. In response to the investigations opened by Truman and Snyder, Senator Joseph McCarthy called Truman's refusal to allow access to all files 'arrogant' and a threat to national security. He went so far as to accuse President Truman and his highest officials of working in collaboration with the Kremlin itself. Undeterred Truman would famously argue one month later, in August 1951, that McCarthy's actions were using the IRS and other government organizations improperly, and that McCarthy was "unfairly and irresponsibly smearing innocent people from behind the cloak of Congressional immunity."
Fascinating documents providing insight into Truman's actions in defense of citizens. In overall fine condition, with a rusty paperclip mark to Truman's letter, and paperclip impression and light creases to endorsed memo.