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Lot 78: John Kennedy's Unusual Response to Army-McCarthy Hearings Concern from a Constituent
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Responding to a Constituent’s Concern about the Army-McCarthy Hearings: “My decision with respect to any aspect of these hearings will be governed by my best judgment based upon the facts found by the Subcommittee” ********** KENNEDY, JOHN F. (1917-1963). Thirty-fifth president of the United States. TLS. (“John Kennedy”). 1p. 8vo. Washington, D.C., June 7, 1954. On his Senate stationery. To Honey Meyer, a constituent in Leominster. ********** “Thank you for your communication with respect to the Army-McCarthy hearings. I do appreciate your informing me of your views and can assure you that my decision with respect to any aspect of these hearings will be governed by my best judgment based upon the facts found by the Subcommittee. I believe, however, that for the present any decision would best be suspended until all of the facts are presented and the hearings completed…” ********** Following his 1947 election to the United States Senate, Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) warned that Communists and Soviet sympathizers had infiltrated the American government including the United States Army and State Department, asserting that his concerns were dismissed by President Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson. McCarthy took aim at other members of Truman’s cabinet, notably Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall, a general who had served as Army Chief of Staff during World War II and was the architect of the Marshall Plan for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. McCarthy accused Marshall of treason and in 1951 published a speech entitled America’s Retreat From Victory: The Story of George Catlett Marshall. He also led a high-profile campaign against homosexuals in government positions, who he asserted posed a security risk. ********** Despite his mudslinging and his lackluster record in the Senate, McCarthy was elected to a second term in 1952, in an election that returned the Senate to Republican control. He was appointed chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which directed the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, to which he appointed Robert F. Kennedy as assistant counsel. Kennedy, however, resigned after six months because of disagreements with chief counsel Roy Cohn. ********** After his 1953 investigation into Communist infiltration of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the Army accused McCarthy of seeking special treatment for a soldier who was a close friend of Cohn. The Senate took the allegations seriously and another Senator replaced McCarthy as chair while he himself was questioned by the Subcommittee. The Army-McCarthy hearings captured the public’s attention, and were broadcast on several national networks from April 22 to June 17. Boston lawyer Joseph Welch acted as chief counsel for the Army. McCarthy insinuated that Welch was a homosexual and publicly identified a young lawyer in Welch’s firm as a communist. After McCarthy refused to relent in his character assassination of the young attorney, Welch famously rebuked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Ultimately, the subcommittee concluded that although McCarthy had not acted improperly, Cohn had. But more damning for McCarthy was the public disapprobation that precipitated his fall from power. In December 1954, the Senate voted to censure him, replacing him as chair of the Subcommittee shortly thereafter. McCarthy’s continued rants fell on deaf ears and he died in office, succumbing to the effects of alcohol abuse at the age of 48. ********** As a Catholic, McCarthy was popular with his co-religionists who, in a large part, were receptive to his anti-Communist message, which was supported by influential Catholic publications and leaders. He was a personal friend of John and Robert Kennedy’s father Joseph, who had contributed to his campaigns and with whom he maintained close family ties. McCarthy even dated two of the elder Kennedy’s daughters and was rumored to be godfather to Robert Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen. Even after his fall from grace, JFK refused to criticize his Senate colleague and family friend. When asked why he didn’t disavow McCarthy, Kennedy stated, “Hell, half my voters in Massachusetts look on McCarthy as a hero,” (quoted in The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism, Haynes). ********** Folded and in very good condition. With the original envelope. Very unusual content.