• 9 Letters: McCarthy's Vicious Red Scare, Senator Lehman Explains His Vote on Communist Conspiracy

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    HERBERT HENRY LEHMAN (March 28, 1878 – December 5, 1963) was a Democratic Party politician from New York. He served as the 45th governor of New York (1933-1942) and represented New York state in the United States Senate (1950-1957). Offering an archive of nine letters, six TLSs, various dates and locations, one secretarially signed and two additional carbon copies of letters written to Lehman, and a copy of his 1940 speech urging tolerance for all Americans (specifically naming Italians and Germans). The speech was given during World War II when a general prejudice against foreigners was prevalent. The 2 ½ pp speech is a superb example of a public official stepping out from general thought to defend civil rights while urging national unity. By far, the gem of the lot is a letter regarding a bill in Congress to outlaw the Communist Party and impact Communist infiltrated labor unions. The 2 pp, 8” x 10 ½”, letter has extraordinary content (is secretarially signed) and a significant representation of McCarthyism and his Red Scare campaign of the 1950s.

     

    Interestingly enough, the bill was called the Humphrey amendment, introduced by Hubert Humphrey, regarded as a Democratic Party liberal. Amid charges from Sen. Joseph McCarthy that the Democratic Party sympathized with Communists, Humphrey introduced the legislation to make it clear that the Democratic Party did not support Communism. Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy supported the bill. Ultimately, Congress failed to pass the bill amid concerns of its being unconstitutional. Still this was a significant time in American history when thousands of careers were destroyed by accusations of communist ties leveled by McCarthy and his cronies.

     

    Here, in small part, is Lehman’s explanation to his constituent: “…When the Humphrey amendment, to outlaw the Communist Party, was introduced…I voted for it with some misgivings. I had been deeply disturbed by the flood of so-called anti-subversive bills which the Administration (Eisenhower) undertook to ram through during the closing days of the session. Most of the bills were broad enough to endanger the civil liberties of all Americans. These bills did not attack the real target-membership and participation in the Communist conspiracy. I was moved, therefore-but not without some qualms-to support the original Humphrey substitute which was directed straight at the prime source of danger to our internal security-the Communist conspiracy. I thought such a bill might conceivably halt the flood of Administration proposals aimed at the body of our civil liberties...My hopes were not realized. I am not happy with the bill we finally passed.

     

    “…This bill contains serious implications that must receive very careful consideration and study by Congress in January.

     

    “In the meantime, I will continue, as I have ever since coming to the Senate, to devote my efforts to defending the cause of civil liberties to the best of my ability.”

     

    McCarthy and his henchmen would continue their seven-year Red Scare of unsubstantiated and reckless claims against many Americans in an attempt to build a political base for the senator until he was finally exposed, which began with the work of brave journalist Edward R. Murrow and others.

     

    Other letters involve expressions of gratitude for Lehman’s work and his fondness of journalist Dorothy Thompson for her fight for American democratic ideals against totalitarianism. Thompson was regarded as the second most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt. Folds, toning, a couple of tears in the border of the speech, but overall in excellent condition and a fine example of an American politician who lived through World War II and the Red Scare by Demagogic Sen. McCarthy.

     

    Toning, expected wear. Overall excellent and an incredible piece of Red Scare Americana.

     

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