Joseph McCarthy : Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator , by Arthur Herman

History Book Reviews :
Biography of U.S. Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy ;
McCarthyism and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC)

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Bibliography and Amazon.com book links

My major source for this article, which I believe to be the most informative and best researched book about McCarthy, is

Joseph McCarthy : Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator , by Arthur Herman (hardcover only, 404 pages)
(Amazon.com link -- Please click here to display the price and option to buy)

Herman's book contains a series of never-before-seen photos taken by the a Saturday Evening Post photographer.

About the author:   Like Joe McCarthy, biographer Arthur Herman is also from Wisconsin. He teaches at George Mason University, and also lectures at the Campus on the Mall of the Smithsonian Institution. Herman is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in history (1978), and has a master's degree (1980) and a Ph.D. (1985) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Arthur Herman considers himself neither pro - McCarthy nor anti - McCarthy -- he says that some of McCarthy's accusations were correct, and others were reckless.

Additional bibliography :

          United States Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy was born on November 14, 1908 and he died on May 2, 1957.

          Joseph R. McCarthy started out as a lawyer trained at Marquette University, and then, in 1939, became a county judge in Wisconsin (elected). Originally a Democrat, he switched to the Republican party to run for the Senate. In 1946 he was elected to the Senate from Wisconsin, and took office in 1947 at age 38, the youngest member of the Senate. (He was also reelected in 1952.)

          In 1947, a Democratic Congress, left over from the FDR New Deal era, switched to see Republican control of both houses of Congress. In that year, as a freshman Senator, McCarthy got on the Subcommittee on Investigations. The Subcommittee looked for examples of corruption under the control of the Democrats during the last twelve years. In that role, he became accustomed to the idea of building up his own career by "probing" and "investigating."

          The Smith Act was originally called the Alien Registration Act when it was passed in 1940. The wording made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the government by force or violence. In the political climate of the day, the federal government interpreted mere membership in the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) to be synonymous with that advocacy. In 1949, 11 members of the Communist Party were indicted under the Smith Act. All 11 were convicted in 1951. Four of those convicted went underground instead of appearing to serve their prison sentences. Soon afterward, 126 more Communist Party members were indicted.

          Joe McCarthy developed the habit of citing "Communists" in high-level government positions, and elsewhere, without perceiving the need for verification. Also, from one moment to the next, he arbitrarily changed the total numbers of Communists on the lists he claimed to have.

          On February 9, 1950 McCarthy's made a now-famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was addressing the Ladies' Republican Club. In that speech he made his first shocking allegation that there were hundreds of Communists employed by the U.S. State Department.

What was going on in Canada when McCarthyism was raging in the U.S.?

Recommended book :

The Un-Canadians : True Stories of the Blacklist Era , by Len Scher (paperback, 271 pages)

          In writing the Wheeling speech, McCarthy used a 1947 House Subcommittee document naming individuals in the State Department who were suspected of being associated in some way with the Communist Party. The document had requested that the State Department verify the suspicions. The State Department had replied immediately to the Subcommittee that many of the people listed were no longer employed, but that there were 57 names on the list yet to be checked. Later, in writing his 1950 Wheeling speech, McCarthy wrote, without any substantiation, that there were 57 Communists working in the State Department. The number 57 appeared in the written version of his speech. Witnesses who heard him deliver the speech in Wheeling reported that McCarthy had said that there were 205 Communists working in sensitive positions in the State Department.

          Later, McCarthy made a 5-and-a-half hour speech in the Senate in which he said there were 80 Communists in the State Department. When asked by other Senators to name at least one of them, he refused to, or was unable to, answer the question.

          McCarthy was now studying Richard Nixon as a role model whose tactics were to be studied. While on the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, Nixon had become famous for prosecuting Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Then, having become famous, Nixon was elected to the Senate by a landslide in 1950. To McCarthy, the conclusion was that one can make a political career by pointing the finger at Communists.

McCarthy's "downfall"

          Most people who deplored the tactics of McCarthy were afraid to speak against him. If you say an accused witch isn't a witch, that means you get accused of being a witch. If you say an accused Communist isn't a Communist, that means you get accused of being a Communist. But that situation changed in 1954.

          In 1954 McCarthy accused U.S. Army officials of knowingly harboring Communists in their ranks. In threatening the Army, others viewed him as having stepped over the line. Soon afterward McCarthy himself was the one who was under investigation, and it was he who was being required to testify before Congress -- the so-called Army - McCarthy hearings.

          On the cover of the book by Arthur Herman [click here] is a photograph of Joseph McCarthy making a presentation at the Army - McCarthy hearings. He points to a map of the U.S. with a pointer, to indicate the locations of alleged Communist groups at U.S. Army bases.

          The Senate voted 67 to 22 to censure McCarthy, the fourth time in U.S. history that the Senate had censured a Senator. Afterward, he was sometimes spoken of as "the disgraced Senator McCarthy".

          Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy died soon after the censure, at the age of 48, of hepatitis and liver disease related to alcoholism.

This is an Amazon.com link for Joseph McCarthy : Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator , by Arthur Herman

Link to the next page :
1950s anti-communist blacklisting in Hollywood ...

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