AUGUST 11, 1956
HYDE PARK N.Y.—One wonders as one reads the newspapers far from the excitement of Chicago, and the Democratic convention now gathering there, just what Governor Averell Harriman means when he makes a bitter attack on moderation. He can hardly claim that Mr. Stevenson has been less than honest in his stand on civil rights. Anyone who has listened to Governor Harriman and then seen the recommendations made by Mr. Stevenson, wonders what the difference actually is between the stands both men are taking.
President Truman has learned the value of suspense and I am surprised that he has agreed to come out for any candidate on Saturday. His testimony before the platform committee gives me the feeling that he is very sure that we are going to win in November if the Democratic party can stay a unified party. Whether it can or not remains to be seen, and yet I feel we can be unified if the southern leaders will be realistic and the northern leaders will be understanding and tactful.
I am glad to see that finally the Senators in New Jersey have confirmed the appointment of Mr. John O. Bigelow as a member of the Board of Governors of Rutgers University. It would be incredible to turn a man down because he expressed doubts about the wisdom of discharging a teacher solely because that teacher might plead the Fifth Amendment at a congressional investigation. Over and over again people have pleaded the Fifth Amendment because they did not wish to be involved in having to tell what they knew about other people.
Any criminal has the right to counsel and it might well be that a counsel, knowing more about a client than perhaps an outsider, might decide it was not always advisable to dismiss a teacher because he pleaded the Fifth Amendment. A rather questionable practice has grown up in these congressional hearings, it seems to me, of demanding information above and beyond what an individual is ready to give about himself.
Certainly any of us who know or suspect that an individual is a present danger to our country would have an obligation at any time to report what we knew. But this indiscriminate demand that one mention people who might at one time have been party members but may have completely changed since then seems to me an unwise practice. It is one thing for a person to say he was a party member from such a date to such a date and that he attended such and such a meeting. But it is quite another thing to say, that at such a meeting he saw this person or that person and that the individual must have been a party member.
There are people who unknowingly have attended Communist meetings and never knowingly attended another. There are people who were misled for a short time and these people should not be subjected to suspicion nor should an individual be forced to give their names when he does not feel that they are a danger to this country.