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Margaret Chase Smith: "Declaration of Conscience"

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/margaretchasesmithconscience.html Margaret Chase Smith: Declaration of Conscience delivered 1 June 1950 Mr.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2006
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      http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/margaretchasesmithconscience.html
      Margaret Chase Smith: "Declaration of Conscience"
      delivered 1 June 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 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 the 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 a 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.

      It is with these thoughts that 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.
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