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
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
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
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
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
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
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”
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.
Margaret Chase Smith Speech
Declaration of Conscience