DECEMBER 24, 1948
NEW YORK, Thursday —It is hard for me to say exactly how I felt when I read of Laurence Duggan's tragic death.
I met Mr. Duggan only once or twice, but how anyone could suspect him of un-American activities seems inconceivable to me. In any case, without real proof in his hands, the statement issued by Representative Karl E. Mundt strikes me as an irresponsible, cruel piece of publicity. As if it weren't enough on his wife and children to lose a husband and father at such a youthful age, to lose him and then have it darkly hinted that he had once been engaged in or had knowledge of this curious spy ring is indeed a difficult thing for a sorrowing family to bear.
As time progresses I wonder more and more why Whittaker Chambers's word and even Isaac Don Levine's word are accepted without question so much more quickly than is the word of men whose records have been records of helpfulness to their country and their community for years past. I should think that such men as Harry D. White and Laurence Duggan—both dead—might keep some of the members of the House Un-American Activities Committee from sleeping very well at night.
Mr. Duggan's wife says these insinuations against her husband are preposterous, and I think she is right. And, personally, I am going to believe in Alger Hiss' integrity until he is proved guilty. I know only too well how circumstantial evidence can be built up, and it is my conviction that the word of a man, who for many years has had a good record of service to his government, should not be too quickly disbelieved.
Someone took me to task not long ago because I had said I was not sure I would advocate young people going into government service at the present time. This present spy inquiry provides some of the reasons for my hesitation.
The great gift of curiosity, which makes men safe and secure in a really democratic society, is going to be shortly discredited among us. There would be no development, there would be no people who understood what had built the Communist movement in this country unless there were among us some few who were interested enough to find out how other young people think and, in addition, to study opposing regimes and bring us suggestions for better understanding. From the moment that a man is interviewed by the FBI he lives in apprehension nowadays. It is the record of what an individual had done in the mature years of his life that should count in making him a credible witness and one in which the public can put their trust. But that apparently is not the case anymore.
It does not seem to matter how many years one has devoted to doing good work if ever by any chance one has been interested in finding out something about subjects and activities that are today considered taboo or subversive, and this fact comes to light.
I cannot help believing that no matter what the Un-American Activities Committee suspected, Representative Mundt would have done better to withhold his statement until he had some definite proof. I cannot help feeling that we are reaching a point in this country where this type of witch-hunting must come to an end.
If necessary, the FBI must be strengthened and the laws under which they function must be strengthened, but we must preserve the sense of freedom that we have always had. Our greatest protection lies in preserving these freedoms and in holding to the old belief that a man must be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. Insinuations should not be made unless proof is in hand. A man's job may be jeopardized and his whole life may be wrecked before his innocence is proved.