How many times do we have a “trial of the century”? It seems at least once every decade some sensational trial comes along that the media immediately labels that way. There was the Leopold and Loeb trial for murder in the twenties where they were tried for an especially gory and cruel murder. They picked their victim at random and literally killed for the sport of it. Clarence Darrow saved their worthless skins from execution. Then of course there was OJ. I can’t believe that one even made the headlines but we seem to dev0ur “popcorn” entertainment and that qualified I suppose. The court martial of Billy Mitchell was a big deal to some and the trial of the Lindberg kidnapper was the sensation of the papers during the late thirties. The Rosenbergs treason trial and subsequent execution sure ranked up there high on the media ratings. The Left loved them and tried to convince everyone they were innocent as the driven snow. That was not true as ultimately proved after the opening up of the Soviet records after the fall of the USSR. Even their son admits they were traitors. There are others of course that were nominated for the sobriquet of the trial of the century. You may recall your own favorite from your memory box. One of those in the running was the conviction of Alger Hiss. The story involves spying, politics, trials and the conflict between left and right over the dangers of socialism and totalitarian regimes.
Alger Hiss was a classic East Coast elite. He was educated at Johns Hopkins and Harvard. He joined the Roosevelt Administration in the ’30’s and was very active in a number of government agencies or departments within the State Department. He even attended the fateful and important Yalta Conference with Joe Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. He was by all accounts and from the old newsreels, sauve, urbane, handsome and trim. Unfortunately, he had been a secret agent working for the Soviet Union since the ’30’s. He was part of a communist cell called the Ware group. Another member of that group was Whittaker Chambers. He was a journalist and had been an active member of the Ware group for years but finally broke with the communist as he found their methods and dreams evil. The Ware group had spies in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, a New Deal agency to regulate farming; the National Recovery Agency (which the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional much to the fury of Roosevelt); the Office of Price Administration; the Treasury, the National Labor Relations Board; and even the Farm SecurityAdministration and the State Department. Hiss nd a fellow named Wadleigh were at the State Department. For years they passed along very sensitive documents to Chambers for him to copy and forward along the spy network to the Soviets.
Chambers was the opposite of Hiss–he was pudgy, rumpled and not socially smooth. But he had a change of heart about the communists and felt compelled to expose the ring. Chambers went public with his accusations and Hiss denied everything, calling Chambers a liar and traitor. The liberal media went nuts. They rushed to the defense of one of their own. They vilified Chambers and praised Hiss. They accused the right of fomenting fear and fear mongering against the Soviets and their fellow travelers in the US. Here Richard Nixon entered the scene and was truly determined to ferret out the truth. He was convinced that we did indeed have communist sympathizers in our government and working to undermine the USA. At the beginning it was a “he said, she said” dispute. Chambers claiming the treason of Hiss and Hiss standing by his denials. Likely, Hiss would have prevailed if hard evidence hadn’t emerged. Chambers had some undeveloped film of secret documents given to him by Hiss for transmission to the Soviets. They contained secret documents from the State Department and the Navy. Hiss and his wife had made copies of them on typewriter. The film had been hidden by Chambers in a hollowed out pumpkin on his farm. Nixom pursued the matter and the film was found where Chambers said it would be. Even then many on the Left still defended Hiss saying they were just a plant. But the typewriter used by Hiss to cope the documents put to rest any denial that he copied them. The statute of limitations for treason had expired but Hiss’s denials before the HUAC were the basis for his later trial for perjury. (HUAC was the House UnAmerican Activities Committee) Hiss had even tried to claim he never owned the typewriter but the man he gave it to later disputed that allegation. Nixon was the lead questioner of Hiss before the Committee. Nixon got lots of publicity for his actions and correctly so. Many were too intimidated by the press to pursue the matter. But Nixon smelled the truth and sized up his man-Chambers_correctly. That launched his political career onto the national scene.
It is amazing that the Left continued to defend Hiss even after his conviction. His release was duly noted by them and he was praised again as a “victim” of the horrible McCarthy era. After the fall of the USSR the documents clearly revealed that Hiss had been a spy indeed for years for the Soviets and had passed along numerous secret documents to them. He had been close with Henry Wallace a real left winger and Vice-President of Roosevelt. An earlier death by Roosevelt might well have seen Hiss move up even higher at the State Department. He was a traitor. Nixon was right. Chambers for all his rough edges and gauchness was telling the truth all along. Even when the truth couldn’t be denied any longer the liberal media reported the exposures of the truth on the back pages. Were his two trials for perjury the “trial of the century”, I doubt it. But there is a lesson there for those who care to learn or think.
Don’t believe what you hear from Washington that these huge deficits will have to be paid by our children and grandchilren. The due date on those debts will be much sooner than that. WE will have to worry about dealing with that debt long before our children are old enough to carry the burden. It is a crushing burden indeed and not everyone in the country is pulling equally on the oars.