THE TEMPER OF THE COUNTRY
A Cool Half-Billion
One dark December day in 1950 he asked me to have lunch with him at the Shoreland Hotel near the campus. His invitations always came at the last moment, when he found himself unexpectedly able to get away from it (or them) all. I was one of a half-dozen people in town who were not trying to get something from him or get him to do or stop doing something. He rarely burdened me with administrative matters of a purely academic character, because I neither knew nor cared much about them. We discussed the university's public relations. We discussed the world. And we made an occasional stab at life.
So that December day we discussed the university's public relations, and the world, and life a little. But the discussion took a strange turn. He wanted to know, just, apparently, by the bye, what causes I thought money ought to be spent on and in what priority. On such matters I was as eloquent, and probably as sound (since nobody was sound) as anybody else. But why did a man who needed large amounts of money, and knew what he needed it for, want to know about how to spend money and want to know it from a man who knew how to spend, but not get, small amounts of money?
I didn't find out until we had finished lunch and I made a feint for the check (as I always did, and always lost). Hutchins usually said, "Don't be silly," when I made the feint. This time he said, "Don't be silly. I have four or five hundred million dollars in my jeans—the capital of the Ford Foundation."
"I've never heard of it," said I.
"Nobody has," said he, "but everybody is going to. Paul Hoffman is going to be its director and the Fords have agreed—they wanted Mr. Hoffman that badly—to accept me as associate director."
"And the university?"
"The university will be rid of me and will flourish accordingly."
It seemed that the government was making restive noises about the inactivity of the Fords' family foundation quietly established in 1936 with twenty-five thousand dollars. The restive noises were related to a potential tax of some $321 million on the estate of Henry Ford, who had died in 1947 as principal owner of the privately held Ford Motor Company, the nonvoting 90 percent of whose stock had been transferred to the twenty-five-thousand-dollar foundation. (The estate tax never was collected; the lawyers had done their work well.) The twenty-five thousand had grown, still quietly, to five hundred million, give or take a hundred million; and an immediate outburst of activity was recommended by the Fords' tax lawyers. With its cool half-billion for starters, the foundation was even then the biggest philanthropic institution in the world, "a large body of money," as Dwight Macdonald later described it, "entirely surrounded by people who want some." (The prefigured accumulation of nonvoting stock in the Ford Motor Company would raise the half-billion in time to more than three billion.) Liberal Republican Paul Hoffman had been president of the Studebaker Corporation and administrator of the Marshall Plan. It was widely surmised that he would become secretary of state if Dean Acheson resigned; Hutchins, who had never before been a number-two man, might then become the foundation's director.
The multimillionaire paid the lunch check and I asked him what he and Mr. Hoffman were going to do with their half-billion dollars. "In two years," he said, "we will change the temper of the country." (The temper of the country changed in two years, all right, but it changed for the worse; five hundred million dollars could not do what a howling horde of witch-hunters could do, not even what one ravening senator, Joe McCarthy, could do about the temper of the country. The Ford Foundation was another straw to be grasped; a diamond-studded straw, but a straw.)
Why did he leave the university? Among his gracious public statements: "I suppose that the principal reason I left the University was that I felt it ought to have another chance. I didn't see why, because they made the mistake of selecting a man of 30 to be president of the institution, they should be condemned to go on with him until he reached retiring age. If, having seen what the University would be if it were operated as I thought it should be operated, they preferred to have it some other way, this was certainly a right and even a duty that they had." Among his less gracious public statements, fourteen years later, in his weekly Los Angeles Times column: "My observation is that good men become college and university presidents only because they do not know any better. . . . If a man knows
what it is like to be a university president and still wants to be one, he is not qualified for the job. He is interested in salary and perquisites, publicity and prestige, and not in education and scholarship. . . . The president of an American college or university . . . must become just another Big Executive. He will be judged, like every other Big Executive, by the state of his balance sheet and public relations. . . . All this was bad enough thirty-five years ago, when I became a university president. It was worse thirteen years ago, when I folded up what was left of my balance sheet and public relations, realizing at last that a university presidency was no place for a man interested in education and scholarship."
He had realized it long before "at last"; he had lamented the barren lot of the administrator, in season and out, during the whole of the twenty-two years he had been one at Chicago. He had compensated himself—until the war left him no time—by teaching the freshman great books honors course with Adler. In twenty-two years he had made hundreds of speeches—and written one scholarly paper, on Edmund Burke. For at least a year before his resignation he had told a few friends that he was determined to get out. And go where, and do what? Where does a fellow go from the top, when he is only fifty years old? Business and industry were out, obviously, and just as obviously was government; he was opposed to Truman's cold (and hot) war policies at home and abroad. (And Truman had no interest in him.) The only possibility that had attracted him, prior to the Ford offer, was a professorship in the university's law school, which he had long since reconstructed in his own image; but he dismissed it, though the law was his scholarly love, on the sound ground that he could not remain as a faculty member without embarrassing his successor. A professorship anywhere else did not attract him at all (nor would the salary have).
Besides the barren grind, there were other reasons advanced for his leaving, some by him, some by others. He went to his father—as he always did—beforehand and William James Hutchins asked him what his principal reason was for getting out. "The trustees, I suppose," said Hutchins, "just having to have lunch with two or three of them two or three times a week. They bore me." "What makes you think," said his father, "that the Ford Foundation trustees will be any different?" To another friend he said, "You'd have to have gone to a thousand faculty meetings to understand. They're like a convention of Nebraska Elks, and I have to face the fact that I appointed most of them." "Twenty-two years is a long time," he said on another occasion. "With the end of the war there seemed to be nothing ahead but real estate problems, labor problems, and government contracts, things that didn't interest me. All that damned"—strong language
for him—"Gothic around my neck. I wasn't a great educator, but I was interested in education." In his innocence—a man of fifty-one, twenty-two years a university president—he thought that the Ford Foundation could and would do something about education. The diamond-studded straw.
Among the others who advanced other, less flattering, reasons for his leaving were several trustees, who advanced their reasons privately. One, who would come on the board a year later, and ultimately serve as its chairman, was the advertising magnate Fairfax Cone, whose unenthusiasm about Hutchins matched his unbounded enthusiasm for Hutchins' old enemy (once his old friend), ex-trustee and advertising magnate Albert D. Lasker. "The University was going down hill financially," said Cone afterward. "It couldn't get money; the community wouldn't support it. It had a bad reputation for radicalism, even though the faculty was fundamentally conservative. And Bob had come to the end of his fireworks. He was smart to get out."
There were faculty members, too, who didn't feel much differently, and certainly some few who were glad to see the last of him. One who would never be glad to see the last of him, and who would finally follow him out to the Santa Barbara Center, was Joe Schwab, the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor of Biology and Education. Schwab was one of the architects of the Hutchins college and a devoted supporter of the Hutchins philosophy of education. Asked, many years later, about his friend's departure from Chicago, Schwab said, "The university had gone into reserves for the fourth successive year when Bob left. It consistently ran a deficit of a million dollars in a fifteen-million-dollar budget, with the comptroller saying that there shouldn't be a deficit greater than half a million. By some sort of alchemy, in which government contracts played an ever greater role, the deficit was made to appear to have disappeared. The school was losing students because of the neighborhood race crisis, which Bob refused to face after the trustees turned down his 'socialist' scheme for buying up the area and desegregating it. It couldn't place its law school graduates in the Chicago firms, which weren't interested in the Hutchins curriculum based on jurisprudence instead of case law. He had long since lost the support of the industrial, business, political, and journalistic communities of the city."
Hutchins himself said nothing to these considerations which were, after all, unvoiced at the time. But he referred to them angrily in later years: "There were two common misstatements at the time I left the University of Chicago. One was that we were running out of money. Absolutely false. We raised more money between 1930 and 1950 than any university except Harvard and Yale—and they had a three-hundred-year head start." A
transparent dodge budgetarily, but a genuine testimony to his fund-raising. "The other was that we were running out of students. We weren't trying to enlarge the student body, and our losses were no greater than those of other schools. These charges weren't made openly, so I couldn't answer them. But the trustees knew they were false, and so did the trustees' friends in the faculty."
Entirely apart from the changes he wrought—and tried to wreak—he would be leaving Chicago a much greater institution than he found it, in orthodox terms one of the top three or four universities in the country. And the most fervent of his detractors knew it. So a pervasive mournfulness overspread the campus the day after he announced his resignation on December 19, 1950. It was all organ tones and lugubrious shades. His own statement, made to a meeting of the council of the faculty senate, assured his colleagues that he had no doubt that the university would continue "on the same level of excellence as had characterized it for the past sixty years," and the council, which contained many of his longest-term opponents, immediately and unanimously adopted the following resolution: "The Council believes it is speaking for the entire academic body of the University of Chicago when it says no greater tragedy could happen to the University than for Mr. Hutchins to persist in his decision to resign as Chancellor." The trustees (whose number also included many of his longest-term opponents) said that "the dynamic and imaginative leadership which Mr. Hutchins has given the University of Chicago for the past twenty-one years has kept it clearly in the forefront of the educational world. . . . The trustees of the University accept his resignation with reluctance and regret." Never was heard a discouraging word from the camp—the camps—of the enemy among the faculty and the trustees, where the departing hero had been frustrated more often than not.
Nothing but good should be spoken of the resigned.
He would take a leave of absence immediately, remaining on the campus without formal duties. His resignation would take place on June 30, when he would move to Pasadena, California, to the new headquarters of the Ford Foundation in a palatial "cottage" on the grounds of the storied Huntington Hotel. Mrs. Paul Hoffman, who had had enough of Detroit and Washington, wanted to live in California, and thither went the foundation's directorate.
For Hutchins it was the abdication of a pulpit, a platform, a podium the likes of which he would never again occupy—the presidency of a great university. He had not (as he told President Roosevelt) been interested in "public life." Or in private, as Maude Hutchins well knew. He had been interested in education, and in changing its character, and in getting sup-
port for it. Now, instead of having his hand out for the big money, he would be handing it out in immense wads from the Ford Foundation headquarters, which he at once denominated Itching Palms. (He said that the nicest thing about philanthropic work was that "you meet so many interested people.") He would be leaving behind him dauntless friends and undaunted enemies; he would be leaving behind him a body, too, with whom, remote as he was from them, he felt the closest of all possible affinities: the students who had come to the University of Chicago, so many of them because it was where Hutchins was. A month after the announcement of his resignation he hoisted himself up to the pulpit of the university chapel to deliver his farewell address to the students. The students were all there; so were a large proportion of the faculty, and many of the trustees and townspeople; the sanctuary was mobbed.
His speech was a patchwork, many sections of it lifted from other speeches and papers. It was as if the occasion was—for the first time—too much for him. He did not know quite what he wanted to talk about, so he talked about a little of everything, beginning with the note he had struck when he first spoke there twenty-two years earlier, and had gone on striking for twenty-two years: "Our mission here on earth is to change our environment, not to adjust ourselves to it. If we became maladjusted in the process, so much the worse for the environment." And for Freud. "If we have to choose between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, let us by all means choose Don Quixote. The flat conformity of American life and thought, toward which all pressures in this country converge, raises the only doubt one may have about democracy, which is whether it is possible to combine the rule of the majority with that independence of character, conduct, and thought which the progress of any society requires."
Then—this was 1950, mind you—he moved on to a phenomenon that was just then showing the first faint signs of emerging: "The horrid prospect that television opens before us, with nobody speaking and nobody reading, suggests that a bleak and torpid epoch may lie ahead, which, if it lasts long enough, will gradually, according to the principles of evolution, produce a population indistinguishable from the lower forms of plant life. Astronomers of the University of Chicago have detected something that looks like moss growing on Mars. I am convinced that Mars was once inhabited by rational beings like ourselves, who had the misfortune, some thousands of years ago, to invent television."
Then—this was 1950, mind you again—he moved on to a situation which the denizens of the world thirty years thereafter might suppose was something new to their own generation: "Our lives are overshadowed by the threat of impending doom. If you were neurotic, I could not blame
you. To what extent the threat of impending doom grows out of our ignorance and immorality, and to what extent it grows out of the ignorance and immorality of the Russians, I do not pretend to know. I confess, too, that I have a lifelong hatred of war that perhaps makes it impossible for me to have a rational view of the situation. War has always seemed to me the ultimate wickedness, the ultimate stupidity."
And yet . . . and yet. . . . "I am not a pacifist. I would echo the sentiments of Patrick Henry"—perhaps the closest Robert Maynard Hutchins ever came to mouthing a banality—"I grant that when a great power is loose in the world seeking whom it may destroy, it is necessary to prepare to defend our country against it." And yet . . . and yet. "Yet the goal toward which all history tends is peace." And with the Cold War at its height, and the Korean War even then involving the United States in self-professed representation of the helpless United Nations: "Since it is obvious to the merest simpleton that war must come sooner or later to a world of anarchy, men of good will would hope that their own government would proclaim its desire to transform the United Nations from a loose association of independent states into an organization that could adopt and enforce world law."
There was, he said, "a certain terrifying lightheartedness underlying the talk about war today. . . . Men in public life are being crucified because they are suspected of trying to keep the peace. . . . By endless reiteration of the slogan, 'America must be strong' we have been able to put a stop to our mental processes altogether and to forget what strength is. We appear to believe that strength consists of masses of men and machines. I do not deny that they have their role. But surely the essential ingredients of strength are trained intelligence, love of country, the understanding of its ideals, and, above all, a conviction of the justice of our cause. Since men of good will can regard war as conceivable only as a last resort, they must be convinced that all channels of negotiation have been kept open till the last moment." He had (he once said) joined the Oberlin ambulance unit in 1917 because he was a pacifist; since then he had become a patron of peace, and an unhappy practitioner of war.
Just before the close of the address the unhappy practitioner of war interpolated a statement so passing strange as to suggest a positively schizoid attitude in which he condemned himself in terms of his wartime university presidency. The interpolation, in full: "There seems to be something about contemporary civilization that produces a sense of aimlessness. Why do university presidents cheerfully welcome the chance to devote their institutions to military preparations? They are of course patriotic; but in addition I think they feel that education is a boring,
confusing, difficult matter that nobody cares very much about anyway, whereas getting ready for war is simple, clear, definite, and respectable. Can it be that modern men have a sense of purpose only if they believe that other men are getting ready to kill them? If this is true, western civilization is surely neurotic, and fatally so."
He had been proud of being an antisentimentalist and an enemy of sentimentalism. But now he was putting an end to his life as an educator, and the educatees were massed before him. He was not a man whose eyes had ever been seen filling with tears. Dry-eyed now, the university president who taught college freshmen said to his collegiate audience: "One of the saddest aspects of my life is that I have not organized it so that I could know the students better. It would be an outrageous presumption on my part to suppose that my presence here has anything to do with yours or that my departure can make the slightest difference to you. . . . Yet, though seldom nourished by the sight of you, and sometimes not even by the thought of you, I have perhaps some right to say farewell to you because you have been the inspiration of my life and have given it such meaning as it has had."
His years there, he said, had witnessed the struggle to create a model university. The struggle had succeeded in part in changing one high school, one college, one graduate school, and one aggregation of professional schools—the University of Chicago's. But a model university in America was necessarily at war with the public. "The fact that popular misconceptions of the nature and purpose of universities originate in the fantastic misconduct of the universities themselves is not consoling. It shows that a model university is needed, but it also suggests the tremendous difficulty of the enterprise upon which a model university embarks and the strength of the tide against which its students have to contend. . . .
"You are getting an education infinitely better than that which my generation, the generation that now rules the world, had open to it. You have had the chance to discern the purposes of human life and human society. Your predecessors in this place, now scattered all over the world, give us some warrant for hoping that as you go out to join them you will bear with you the same spark that they have carried, which, if carefully tended, may yet become the light that shall illumine the world."
So he stepped down, down from the scene of his many successes and his at least equally many failures. Perhaps he should have left five or ten years earlier, reading a lesson from his own wisecrack that a graduate student doesn't know when the party is over. The fireworks had indeed come to an end. His reforms at Chicago would not outlive him, and it would be a few years only when it could no longer be asserted that 75 percent of the texts
read in the "Hutchins" college were masterpieces of the intellect and imagination of man. Here, at Chicago, the Boy President had made as much of a mark as it is given an educator to make. The humanistic studies had been given a new, if shortlived, lease on life, even while here, at Chicago, the natural sciences had achieved their terrible apogee in the bomb. Here, too, at Chicago, he and his impossible wife—impossible he and his impossible wife—had gone their impossible way together and, at last, separately; and his children had grown and gone. Now the educator would do his educating by remote control, one might say insidiously. The educator had failed to change the temper of the country in twenty-two years; the straw-grasping philanthropist was going to do it in two.
He was exchanging one kind of exalted privilege for another—the privilege of high-minded mendicancy for the privilege of being bountiful. One of his more acerbic (but not unfriendly) critics said that he was going to try to buy what he hadn't been able to sell.
"You and Your Great Big Geraniums"
Paul Hoffman had twenty-seven honorary degrees to Hutchins' twelve. Where Hutchins had spent a mere fifteen million dollars a year as president of the University of Chicago, Hoffman paid out ten billion dollars in his two-and-a-half years as administrator of the Marshall Plan for the relief and reconstruction of postwar Europe. And now he was undertaking to be a kingmaker; in the course of his two-year presidency of the Ford Foundation he spent months at a time on the road in a most unlikely campaign to get the 1952 Republican presidential nomination for a general named Ike Eisenhower.
A moderate—or liberal Republican—he was visibly one of the weight-lest men in American public life when he assumed the directorship of the Ford Foundation on January 1, 1951. He was the man the Ford family advisors most wanted for the job and the first and last choice of "Young Henry," the grandson of the founder and head of the company. There was no demurral at his hundred-thousand-dollar salary, a monumental figure in those days. He was a self-made industrial baron. His anti-Communist credentials were more than satisfactory; with Russia's refusal to accept the conditions set by the United States for participation, the Marshall Plan had become, inter alia, America's primary weapon for fighting the burgeoning Communist movements in the ruins of western Europe.
To get the man they were determined to have, Young Henry and his advisors had to accept three conditions. The man they wanted wanted to live in Pasadena, so the foundation had to be moved from Dearborn, Michigan. He was an ardent supporter of the United Nations and UNESCO, a peacemonger in spite of his anticommunism, in a word a bleeding-heart internationalist, while the Fords were just the opposite (except as regards selling cars abroad). And his admiration of Robert
Maynard Hutchins, on whose board he had long sat in Chicago, was and would remain nothing short of fervent. Young Henry knew all he wanted to know about Hutchins, and he accepted this third condition with especially bad and ominous grace.
The three other associate directors—two-and-a-half, actually, since H. Rowan Gaither remained chairman of the air-force-affiliated Rand Corporation and spent only half time at the foundation—were each assigned more or less specific areas of activity. But Hutchins, although he was given control of educational programs, was thought of from the start (certainly by Hoffman) as the first among equals. There was never any question during the two years they were there that the Ford Foundation was Hoffman and Hutchins. In those two years, sixty million dollars were spent, of which more than half, thirty-three million, went into the two great funds that Hutchins got the trustees to approve—the Fund for the Advancement of Education and the Fund for Adult Education. (Hoffman's own international programs got twenty-one million dollars.)
But where Hutchins was luxuriating in staying in the same place for a change, Hoffman was the travelingest of men, spending much of his time in Europe, in Asia, in New York, and in Washington—with way-stops in between to plug Eisenhower as the next president—and was away from Pasadena a great deal more than he was there. The consequence was that nobody was minding the store, and the associate directors each went his own way. It was a circus with three uncoordinated rings and a number of specialty acts in the tanbark. Hoffman was on the road; the trustees were in the east; and the associate directors in Pasadena saw little of each other, each of them on his own reporting to Hoffman when they could catch him. But Hutchins could always catch him, and Hoffman could always catch Hutchins.
The foundation arrangement was unworkable, for reasons both obvious and subtle. Hutchins had never had to work in harness, and the men with whom he was supposed to work in harness now were not at all his cup of tea (nor he theirs). He and Associate Director Chester C. Davis, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, could not possibly have got along; Davis was in charge of budget and administration—Hutchins' own operation at Chicago. Associate Director Milton Katz, who had been deputy director of the Marshall Plan, was in charge of European activities; a Harvard law professor, he and Hutchins disagreed about the nature of law and the nature of everything else intellectual. And the part-time associate director, Gaither, was assigned to supervise activities in the behavioral sciences in which he was inexperienced (and in which Hutchins' experience extended over the best part of a lifetime). In the absence of central
control and Hoffman's implicit confidence in Hutchins, dissolution of the directorate was a predictable certainty.
The more subtle reason for predictable dissolution was the Dionysian character of the whole shebang. The directorate knew it was expected to ladle out the money with both hands; the Internal Revenue Act of 1950 raised rough questions about the accumulation of foundation capital, and questions about the Ford Foundation as a tax dodge were being raised in both houses of Congress. What the directorate hadn't known, when it took office, was that both hands were not enough. Nor was a ladle. A battery of steam shovels was wanted. The Ford Motor Company dividends were accruing faster than anyone had imagined they would. While Hoffman was saying, midway through 1951, that the foundation would be appropriating twenty-five million dollars a year, a careful analysis by the New York Times put the figure at twice that. And the board of the foundation—with Congress breathing down its neck—called for an expenditure of forty-five million in 1952 "consistent with the principle of due investigation and care to avoid waste." (The directors outdid themselves in 1952, spending fifty-two million.)
Due investigation and avoidance of waste were both impossible; and the amounts disbursed, with the trustees crying "More, more," were exorbitant. If the last remaining American megafortune was being squandered—which is not to say that it was—it was being squandered on the greatest scale in history. Hutchins had always been generous and casual, even (in the view of men like his father) profligate. And he had been investigating education and what he took to be its needs for a quarter-century. After having limped along on a few dollars a year in its first years, the Great Books Foundation got a grant of $826,000 from the Fund for Adult Education and blossomed like the rose, setting up branches across the country. Mortimer Adler's one-man Institute for Philosophical Research—he had left Chicago when Hutchins did—was given $640,000 by the Fund for Advancement of Education to make "a dialectical examination of Western humanistic thought" (which it was still doing thirty years later, without much to show for the investment). Similarly handsome sums were pressed upon other undertakings that were close to Hutchins' heart, including the so-called Fifth Year Program to encourage liberal arts training for teachers and shorten professional training to one year.
The perspicacious Dwight Macdonald, reviewing the early history of the Ford Foundation in the New Yorker magazine in 1955, drew a portrait of the big spender from Chicago (and from Oberlin and the Brooklyn parish house): "The modern foundation official should be prudent, judicious, diplomatic, and self-effacing, in all of which qualities Hutchins is singu-
larly lacking. . . . Not only is he a 'controversial' figure of maximum visibility but he also rather obviously enjoys being one. He likes to tread on dignified toes, he rarely produces the soft answer that turneth away wrath, and his formula for troubled waters does not include oil. . . . Clearly [he] was not the foundation type at all, and it is a tribute to Hoffman's salesmanship and to the broadmindedness—and perhaps also to the innocence—of Henry II and his trustees that such a maverick got into the fold even for a while. . . . The trustees were awed by this big-time spender with a big-time vocabulary. But awe is not affection, and as time went on the trustees felt increasingly resentful at having an arrogant highbrow, who made it plain that he found their logic defective by Aristotelian standards, extract from them each year for his educational Funds over half the money at their disposal. 'We felt that that was too big a proportion to be spent on a very special kind of education and that we were in danger of having the bulk of our income committed in advance,' Henry II recalls. 'I guess we gave it to him because he was the fastest talker. But I didn't like the idea of being a rubber stamp for his ideas.'"
Nor did Hutchins' associates in the directorate, with the exception of the deferential Hoffman. And the only good thing the Ford Foundation board could say about Hutchins was that he was willing to spend the money as fast as the tax lawyers wanted it spent. But they were irritated by his high-handed behavior, and their irritation turned against his mentor, Hoffman. The insouciant, the unabashed Hutchins waved their irritation aside. It was increasingly clear to his friends that he realized that he was not going to spend the rest of his life at the Ford Foundation.
But while it lasted. . . . The quintessential Okies, when they gave up on lotus land and headed back to the dustbowl, hung a sign on the back of their jalopy: GOOD BY CALIFORNIA AND YOUR GREAT BIG GERANIUMS . And Samuel Goldwyn, when he visited Paul Hoffman at the Pasadena mansion occupied by the directors—the lower orders were housed in an office building downtown—said, "If you have to give away money, this is a wonderful place to do it." Associate Director Hutchins found time and ironic temper to compose a bit of doggerel to the tune of Adeste, fidelis , one stanza of which read:
How fine a Foundation; we are for peace,
We live peaceful lives, and we hope wars will cease.
We've heard mankind's cry, and we've answered the call:
We're out in Pasadena,
We're out in Pasadena,
We're out in Pasadena,
Away from it all.
There was something supremely Californian about the Ford Foundation and its great big geraniums, and the Rational Animal appeared to be susceptible to its wiles. He and his wife got themselves a richly furnished house in the suburb of San Marino, where the really rich got away from the merely rich in Pasadena, and on his day off the associate director could be seen wearing a Hawaiian sports shirt—he who had never been seen without a sedate bow tie. Over an extended period he flunked the California driver's test two or three times—he had always ridden in taxicabs or livery limousines—and when he passed it he drove around in his Hawaiian sports shirt and a Thunderbird sports car. In a light-hearted exchange with Colonel Lindbergh, he said: "This engagement [for dinner in New York] . . . does not exonerate you and Anne from the responsibility of coming to see us in the Golden West. Since the Ford Foundation moved out here it really is golden. That is why I insist on paying for dinner. I am very rich now."
If the temper of the country was going to be changed in two years, there was no time to be spared getting at it. Or money. Surely there wasn't anything that that much money couldn't buy. His freshman students at Chicago would go around the campus chanting the Platonic dictum, "Tyrants have no power." But the Greek rationale did not extend to the powerlessness of money, especially in a nontyrannical democracy dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equally determined to get ahead. Associate Director Hutchins had not forgotten—he never forgot anything—another Platonic dictum to the effect that a man should have only so much gold and silver "as a good man, and only he, can bear and carry." Here was a good man heavily laden. Five hundred million dollars may not have power—but it can try. And it can try the man who has it as assiduously as it tries the man who wants it. For twenty-two years President Hutchins wanted great quantities of money, and now, for two years, Associate Director Hutchins would have it; in this respect his career (except for Cinderella's) was close to unique.
A little money, now, might have a little power, but a little money is sometimes hard to come by. A year after the memorable luncheon at which he picked up the check and informed me that he had a half-million dollars in his jeans, I was in cold and hungry postwar Germany, and I wrote to the associate director of the Ford Foundation to ask him if the foundation could put up $250 for a winter's supply of coal for a group of especially promising students at Göttingen University who, without the coal, could not remain in school. I was writing on behalf of Hutchins' friend, Professor Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. "Tell Carl Friedrich," he replied, "that if he would ask for $250,000 we might be able to do something for him.
But I do not know what the Ford Foundation can do about a grant application for $250." (He did raise the $250—but not from the Ford Foundation.)
He had long believed that the American Friends Service Committee—the social welfare arm of the Meeting-House Quakers—might be able to turn a little money into a little power; and in any case it would never know until it had a little money to try. Now, in his new role, he wanted to know if the American Friends Service Committee could do a little something powerful with, say, a million dollars. His inquiry, directed to Mecca (that is, to Philadelphia), went out from there to the Service Committee's regional offices around the country. How much did each of them need and how could they use it? Each of the regional offices asked its regional hirelings how much they needed and how they could use it. Corruptible all, and corrupted (Latter-Day Sinners that they were) by the mere smell of more than a little money, they all submitted their needs to Mecca and Mecca submitted them to the Ford Foundation; all of them but one.
The hireling who did not submit his needs was E.A. ("Red") Schaal, peace secretary of the Service Committee's Middle Atlantic Region. With Red Schaal I had combed and brushed the Middle Atlantic countryside for years, raising money for the AFSC. Red carried the "literature" on and off the day coaches; and though he was old and ill, he would not let a redcap get his hands on one of those ponderous suitcases; hiring people to carry those suitcases (at a dime a suitcase) was not Red's idea of the way to exercise the power of money. When he was asked what part of a million dollars he needed he said he needed none. "I can't," he submitted, "find the people now who want to do the work we're trying to do, and money won't turn them up." "Tell me about Mr. Schaal," said the associate director of the Ford Foundation into whose hands a copy of Red's submission had fallen. So I told him about the time Red and I were coming into a town in West Virginia to do our fan dance and I asked Red how big our constituency was there. "Well," said Red, "when I first came here, twenty years ago, we had three, maybe four supporters, and I reckon we have three, maybe four supporters now. We're holding our own." "He wouldn't," said the associate director, "want to work for the Ford Foundation, would he?" I said I thought he wouldn't; he'd often told me how happy he was where he was and how odd it was to be paid anything at all for being allowed to do the kind of work he was doing. "He is a great man," said the associate director. "An Oberlin boy, you might say," said I. "An old Oberlin Boy," said the associate director, jingling his million dollars. (Or being jingled by them.)
He wasn't really being jingled by them, or seduced by California—
except superficially. On the contrary, the lifelong liberal-to-radical in the very first days of his service to the Ford Foundation, once he had his two fat funds established in the field of education, began tooling up for an all-out assault on the country's mounting anti-Communist hysteria. The Truman loyalty-security program of 1947—instituted as a lever to justify rearmament, to "scare the hell out of the American people," as Senator Vandenberg put it to the president—had sown the whirlwind that came to be known later as McCarthyism. (Six years later the ex-president would be subpoenaed to defend himself against the charge that he had appointed a Russian spy to the International Monetary Fund.) The loyalty-security program was followed by an immense rash of legislative and executive moves, beginning with the McCarran Internal Security Act and the resurgence of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, undertaking, at the national, state, and even local levels to unmask the Reds and drive them from both public and private life. This was old stuff to Hutchins; at Chicago he had been able to turn back the witch-hunters in the "Walgreen affair" of 1935 and the Broyles committee hearings of 1949.
And oddly enough the Ford Foundation licensed him—or someone, and no one else was likely to do it—to fight the rising tide of "Americanism." A year-long study by a blue-ribbon committee appointed by the Ford Foundation board in 1948 had produced a very thick Study Report, which the board had adopted and which Young Henry himself had called "one of the most thorough, painstaking, and significant inquiries ever made into the whole broad question of public welfare and human needs." It may have been that Young Henry and his conservative trustees had failed to study the report in critical detail. Of the five program areas outlined, the second ("The Strengthening of Democracy") included under section A a directive to support "the elimination of restrictions on freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression in the United States, and the development of policies and procedures best adapted to protect these rights in the face of persistent international tension."
Section A was Hutchins' meat—and his and Hoffman's eventual undoing at the Ford Foundation and the basis for their subsequent tormented activities as president and chairman of the Ford-financed Fund for the Republic. The colleges and the universities—and the schools—were the prime target of the McCarthyists, as they had always been in periods of domestic stress. "I recognize," said Hutchins in a public speech, "that these are dangerous times and that the state must take precautions against those who would subvert it. I do not suggest that those who want to force conformity upon academic bodies do so from any but the most patriotic motives. I do say that they are misguided. The methods they have chosen can
not achieve the results they seek. They will, on the contrary, imperil the liberties we are fighting for, the most important of which are freedom of thought, speech, and association." This was relatively sedate in tone, as befitted a man charged with spending a billionaire's money. Much stronger talk was soon to follow. He attacked loyalty oaths in general as futile and mischievous, and he attacked in particular, as a one-time educator, the notorious oath imposed on the faculty of the University of California. The oath, he said, "originated in the desire of the [state] administration to get money from the legislature. As this genesis suggests, the chief danger to American education is that it will sell its birthright for a mess of pottage. . . . Every time a university . . . makes a concession to public pressure in order to get money, every time it departs from the idea of a university as a center of independent thought, it increases the confusion in the public mind about what a university is. . . . The university should be the symbol of the highest powers and aspirations of mankind. . . . Abandoning vanity and sham, the universities should dedicate themselves to their great symbolic task."
Then he moved in—and moved in frontally—on the hottest and meanest question of the McCarthy era and of many an era before and after: Should a Communist be hired or retained, above all as a teacher? This question outlived Senator Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism. It was never answered affirmatively by more than a very few persons eminent or obscure. One of those few was, marvelously enough, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the arch-conservative "Mr. Republican," whose answer was generally forgiven as an aberration of an otherwise sound man. Another was the associate director of the Ford Foundation, whose answer was not so readily forgiven as an aberration but was widely taken (by the trustees of that same foundation, among others) as the predictable position of an aberrative man. His position was clear—clear and costly, in the next few years. But he would never retreat from his first formulation of it:
"Everywhere in the United States, university professors, whether or not they have tenure, are silenced by the general atmosphere of repression that now prevails. . . . When a man becomes a professor, he does not become a second-class citizen, disabled from saying, doing, or joining anything that other citizens may legally say, do, or join. . . . What then are the limitations on the freedom of the faculty? They are the limitations on independent thought. These should be nothing more than the laws of logic and the laws of the country. I would hope that the laws of the country would not seek to control thought. . . . If a professor can think and make his contribution to a center of independent thought, that is all that is required of him. One might wish that he were more agreeable or more conventional;
but he can not be discharged because he fails to measure up to desirable standards in these respects. As long as his political activities are legal, he may engage in them."
He did not then, or thereafter, ask himself what course a university should pursue should the time ever come when the laws of the country themselves would seek to control thought. Communism was—and remained—legal in the United States. "We see that Communism is a subject that is worth thinking about and should be studied in universities. . . . Must we say that Communism can be taught only by those who are opposed to it? Can we permit the appointment of a man who is trying to make us all Communists? If he is a spy or advocating the overthrow of the government by violence, we can not. But convinced and able Marxists on the faculty may be necessary if the conversation about Marxism is to be anything but hysterical and superficial. It may be said that a Marxist can not think and that therefore he is not eligible for membership in a university community according to my definition of it."
Say that the Marxist is a member of the Communist Party, which "is represented as a conspiracy, with everybody in it under iron discipline, which I take to mean that its members and supporters have given up the privilege of independent thought and have surrendered themselves entirely to the Party. If this is so, a member of the Communist Party can not qualify as a member of the university community in any field that is touched by Party policy, tradition, or discipline. . . . The presumption is strong that there are few fields in which a member of the Communist Party can think independently.
"But what if we should find a member of the Communist Party who, in spite of this presumption, did think independently? The fact of membership can not and should not disqualify him from membership in the faculty of a university in view of the additional fact that he does not act as members of the Party are supposed to act. I can not insist too strongly that the primary question in every case is what is this individual man himself, not what are the beliefs and activities of his relatives, associates, and acquaintances. When the life of an individual has been exposed before us for many years, and when he has neither acted nor taught subversively, the doctrine of guilt by association can have slight value. A man who is a bad member of the Communist Party may conceivably be qualified to be a professor, because he has retained his independence; and a good member of the Party may be qualified to be a professor if he retains his independence in the field in which he teaches and conducts his research."
Whether as a university president he "would have had the courage to recommend to our Board the appointment of a Marxist, or a bad member
of the Communist Party, or a good member whose field was not affected by the Party line is very dubious indeed. But in the most unlikely event that such persons ever came over my academic horizon, uniquely qualified to conduct teaching and research in their chosen fields, I ought to have had the courage to say that they should be appointed without regard to their political views or associations. The reason why I ought to is that it is of the first importance to insist that the popularity or unpopularity of a man's political views and associations shall not determine whether or not he may be a professor. If we once let go of the Constitution and the laws as marking out the area in which a professor is free to operate as a citizen and of the ability to think independently as establishing the standard he must meet as a scholar, we are lost."
But the much more insidious issue throughout the McCarthy period was fellow-traveling, that is, Communist activity by nonmembers of the Party who joined so-called "front" organizations that in toto or in respect of one matter or another took the Communist position—or more precisely, took a position that the Communists also took. Here the horrifier of his Ford Foundation associates and superiors (always excepting Paul Hoffman) spoke without any trace of the reservations with which he surrounded his analysis of Communist Party membership as a disqualification from teaching: "What I have said of course applies with greater force to those members of university faculties who have joined so-called Communist front organizations. I have never, so far as I know, joined one of these, but the fact that I have to say 'so far as I know' suggests the dangers now involved in joining anything. When a man is asked by a person he trusts to join an organization for stated purposes which he shares, it seems pusillanimous not to accept. Hardly a day passes that I do not feel pusillanimous, because I must now refuse to associate myself with anything without knowing the political views of every other person who is associated or may later become associated with the movement. This is, of course, the most lamentable aspect of the present situation. It is the creeping miasma of intimidation. If one believes, as I do, that the progress of mankind depends on the freest possible expression of diverse points of view, one must feel that we have come to a sort of halting place in American history. The American people, with a revolutionary tradition, a tradition of independence and toleration, now find themselves blocking the revolutionary aspiration of oppressed peoples abroad and declining at home to permit the kind of criticism that has been our glory, and I think our salvation, in the past."
But the American people of the early 1950s, overcome by the creeping miasma of intimidation, had no great enthusiasm for reminders of their
revolutionary tradition, still less of the revolutionary aspirations of oppressed peoples abroad whose struggles against a collapsing colonialism were everywhere supported by Communists. These were inflammatory words, at radical variance with the prevailing view of the worldwide Red Menace criers. They were uttered, on several platforms, by the independent man who was invariably, and inescapably, identified with the name of Ford. And the name of Ford was invariably, and inescapably, identified with the largest seller of automobiles in the world.
However assiduously he insisted that he was speaking only for himself, the Ford Foundation official could not possibly, in the prevailing atmosphere of the early 1950s, have been an asset to the sales division of the Ford Motor Company, or to Young Henry, its president and the board chairman of the Ford Foundation. It was impossible to tell Hutchins—everyone concerned knew that—not to talk about education or to make his views known on the condition of education in America in the early 1950s. And that, in addition to shoveling out the money to his two huge funds, was exactly what he was doing when he attacked loyalty oaths for universities and the terror of Red professors that overspread the land.
When he spoke officially for the foundation he was scrupulous—painfully scrupulous—in his avoidance of the controversial. The Free University of Berlin was established in 1948 with a Ford Foundation bequest in the western sector of the divided city. (The ancient University of Berlin was in the Soviet sector.) Willy-nilly it was a Cold War outpost founded and operated with the blessings of the western allies, and as thoroughly exploited by them as was its counterpart in the eastern sector by the Communists. Invited to address the Free University in mid-1952 as the official Ford representative, Hutchins steered studiously clear of his own real concerns and stuck to a succession of homilies about the rational animal and "the republic of learning." Nothing he said in the blandest speech he ever made could have offended the most furious cold warrior. But to be on the safe side he took a passing swipe at Marxism: "A free university . . . repudiates the doctrine that men and their desires are remorselessly moulded by the conditions of production."
But nothing was bland or inoffensive enough to save the Ford Foundation from attack from without and within. With Hoffman's appointment in 1951 the Chicago Tribune at once discovered a "Leftist slant" in the organization's being headed by a man who had "given away ten billion dollars to foreign countries." A whole battery of Hearst columnists took up the cry—Walter Winchell, George Sokolsky, Fulton Lewis, Jr. (who would subsequently make a career out of attacking Hutchins in a weekly radio program), and Westbrook Pegler, who characterized Hoffman as "a
hoax without rival in the history of mankind" and the Marshall Plan as "the fabulous Roosevelt-Truman overseas squanderbund." A group of rabid reactionaries began selling five-cent pamphlets outside the foundation's New York office, linking the Ford Motor Company with Communism; and it was not long before national officers of the American Legion were on the attack. And then the cry was taken up by the two-fisted patriots in both houses of Congress. An investigation of the Ford Foundation was authorized, the first of several such, all of them with the same ultraconservative bent and all of them dedicated to the public presentation of the testimony of professional ex-Communist informers and other such slavering characters. Its chairman, Congressman Carroll Reece of Tennessee, found at its very outset "important and extensive evidence concerning subversive and un-American propaganda activities of the Ford Foundation. . . . Here is the last of the great American industrial fortunes . . . being used to undermine and subvert our institutions."
Complaints from Ford dealers across the country began flooding the Ford Motor Company's headquarters, together with that most formidable of all commercial terrors: the threat of a boycott of Ford products, purposively engendered by the foundation's enemies. Dealers, customers, and cranks, inspired by the Hearst columnists and the Carroll Reeces, indignantly wrote to Young Henry: Why was tax-exempt American money being handed out to Communists and foreigners in Communist (a McCarthy-era synonym for foreign) countries? The Ford dealers had a particular grievance: the recipients of the Ford largesse abroad were not, and were not likely to be, Ford customers. True, the talk of boycott, though it turned shrill and voluminous, was not reflected in a decline of Ford sales—and the company's rising dividends enriched the Hoffman-Hutchins enterprise faster than ever.
The international operations of the foundation were Hoffman's own bailiwick, and, while he neither repudiated the Cold War nor left off condemning Communism, he continued to appear in the suspect guise of a man of peace: "The world can't go on indefinitely this way. You are either going to have a war or peace, and I think we all want peace." He commissioned John J. McCloy (who had just resigned as US High Commissioner for Germany) and elder statesman Grenville Clark to spend whatever they needed to determine the "conditions" for establishing and maintaining world peace. This simplistic undertaking produced nothing but a long report by Clark proposing revisions of the United Nations charter in the direction of world law. (Nothing ever came of that, either.)
Hutchins muffled his skepticism of the United Nations as a talking club whose talk revealed its toothlessness, and Hoffman persuaded his trustees
to make an interim grant of $1.9 million to the UN's hard-pressed High Commission for Refugees (none of whom was likely to buy a Ford). Young Henry certainly reflected the sentiments of many (perhaps of most) Americans; he was simply antagonistic to something that was brand-new on the American scene, something Americans had not ever had occasion to consider: their country's involvement (except in war) with other countries and the destinies of faraway peoples. It was called, pejoratively, globalism, and it was exemplified by the United Nations. When Hutchins reported on the grant to the Refugees Commission, Ford said, "I don't like the U.N. I'm against it. I think the U.S. should get out of the U.N. and the U.N."—this was a bromide of the moment—"get out of the U.S."
The Eye of the Storm
Young Henry was beginning to wonder why the Ford Foundation wasn't doing anything much to support the system—capitalism—that had made it possible. Most of its activities seemed to involve the direct or indirect support of what his closest associates called socialism, or communism (or bolshevism). And none of them was clearly directed to the maintenance of the free enterprise system, in spite of Hoffman's and Hutchins' high-minded insistence, on stage and off, that their every undertaking involved fortification of that system. Young Henry was growing visibly unhappier as the second year of the Hoffman regime proceeded. "I told Henry before I took the job," said Hoffman afterward, "that I'm a militant and maybe he didn't really want me. I told him that I wanted to experiment, to change things, and that change always means trouble. But every time we got a dozen letters objecting to something we'd done—a radio show or an overseas program or whatnot—I'd have to spend hours reassuring the board. I got tired of wasting time that way. I felt I'd done a first-rate job and if, after two years, the trustees didn't agree, I didn't want to have to keep selling them."
Young Henry wasn't being sold: "I couldn't see how the Foundation could go on the way Paul was running it without falling apart at the seams," he said later. "I first got an idea of what was happening when Paul took four months off in the spring of 1952 to campaign for Eisenhower's nomination. We didn't object to that . . . and anyway I was for Eisenhower myself. But during those months I took over some of the administration for the first time—spent one week every month in Pasadena. I found there was no coordination—no contact, even—among the four associate directors. Each one was running his own show, all by himself. . . . Later I met some trustees at Hot Springs and told them about conditions in Pasadena.
We agreed that the Foundation had to be operated on a businesslike basis."
On February 1, 1953, the New York Times quoted Hoffman as saying, "We have got another couple of years' work ahead of us . . . before we can say that we are really well organized." On February 3 he conferred privately with President Eisenhower about assignments he might take for the government. On February 4 he resigned as president and director of the Ford Foundation. (The decision to fire him had been made at a board meeting in New York at the end of January.) The announcement of his departure stated that the trustees having decided to transfer the headquarters of the fund from Pasadena to New York, and Mr. Hoffman having expressed the desire to remain in Pasadena, "he has therefore asked to resign as President. . . . This resignation the trustees have reluctantly accepted."
The day after Hoffman's resignation the appointment of part-time Associate Director Gaither as president of the foundation was announced. From that time forward, through a succession of administrations, the Ford Foundation labored mightily to get rid of money, but the money was spent, on the whole, on safe and sane enterprises that finally identified it indistinguishably with the other two respectable, and respectably big, foundations—Rockefeller and Carnegie. How, in the end, could it have been otherwise and men like Hoffman and Hutchins survive? A half-billion—a billion, three billion—dollars soon or late finds its way into the right hands. By 1966 an intrepid investigator of foundations analyzed the credentials of the Ford trustees and concluded that "with one probable exception there is not a non-Establishment man"—they were all men—"among them." Speaking many years afterward of his lifelong employment by boards of trustees, Hutchins said to a younger associate, "Don't ever work for people you don't respect on the grounds that you can 'handle' them."
Young Henry, growing no more radical with the years, went on complaining about the foundation's policies, with some justification from his point of view, during the short presidential tenure of the moderately liberal McGeorge Bundy. Ford ultimately resigned from the board—in 1976—unreconciled even to its new cautious activities under increasingly cautious regimes. "I'm not playing the role of the hardheaded tycoon who thinks all philanthropoids are Socialists and all university professors are Communists," he said, "I'm just suggesting to the trustees and the staff that the system that makes the Foundation possible very probably is worth preserving."
Hoffman's departure was promptly followed by the resignation of two of his hand-picked associate directors—Chester Davis and Milton Katz. It
was not followed by the resignation of Associate Director Hutchins. Hutchins went on sitting in his now largely deserted office—and drawing his salary—in the Pasadena outpost for more than a year. Visitors found him busy with one thing or another connected with the foundation and with the Fund for the Advancement of Education (whose president, Clarence H. Faust, had been dean of the Hutchins college at Chicago). But he was off in a corner, for the first time in his professional life; the foundation was being run from New York. The surviving associate director told a visitor, "I'm the associate who doesn't associate with anybody and the director who doesn't direct anything." It was the strangest of interludes and one in which his independent activity was also minimal; in the sixteen months in which he sat solitarily in Pasadena he made fewer public appearances of any kind—thirty-two in all—than he had ever made in a comparable period; and his public addresses were on the whole confined to education.
The two years had passed 1951 and 1952, in which Hutchins and his colleagues were "going to change the temper of the country," and by the beginning of 1953 McCarthyism had America by the throat. Loyalty-security legislation and executive orders cascaded from the White House, the state capitals, and even the city halls. Taking over as president of the bedeviled United States in 1953, General Eisenhower extended the Truman loyalty programs to provide for dismissal from government service of a person who was deemed even likely to be treasonable—without any clear definition of likelihood. The separate states tumbled over one another to follow suit, requiring oaths disclaiming communism from public school teachers, professors, and other state employees, and setting up investigating units in parallel with the congressional committees that toured the country with their troupes of informers, whose unsubstantiated testimony was driving thousands of liberals and intellectuals to the wall.
Senator Joe McCarthy, enjoying congressional immunity, swore to root out of the national life the miscreants who had sold the country to the Reds. He led the pack in playing the new numbers game, claiming variously that the State Department was "thoroughly infested with Communists" variously said to number—the figure differed from speech to speech—anywhere from fifty to two hundred fifty. (He never identified one.) The other executive agencies staffed by what he called the Commiecrats were similarly pilloried. A kind of cold pogrom of federal workers ensued. A special counsel to the president announced in midyear that 1,456 subversives had been kicked out of the government since General Eisenhower took office, and Vice-president Nixon said: "We're kicking the Communists and fellow travelers and security risks out of the Government, not by
the hundreds, but by the thousands." The ultimate toll announced by Eisenhower's attorney general was 8,008. "In case after case, government employees were faced with vague and often irrelevant charges; were forced to hire attorneys while suspended without pay, for weeks and even months; were denied access to evidence used against them; were denied the opportunity to cross-examine anonymous informers; and were denied any right of appeal. Grounds for suspension and discharge might be a slightly unorthodox comment, a joke, a rumor about homosexuality—might be anything read or said in one's entire lifetime that could be found objectionable in the effort to 'defend national security.'" A negro employee was charged with "left-wing" leanings when he said he would "rather be a second-class citizen in Mississippi than a first-class citizen in Russia." A postal worker was truthfully charged with having a copy of Das Kapital in his home (it had been recommended reading in a college course years before). The new chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Harold Velde, denounced "the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt in the promotion of Communism, of immorality and indecency among so-called minority groups." Senator McCarthy characterized General George C. Marshall as a member of "a conspiracy so immense, an infamy so black, as to dwarf any in the history of man."
The great Red hunt was a first-class ticket—and the only ticket—to political preferment. Candidates and applicants, whatever else they did, had to curse communism and Communists from every platform. Senator Vandenberg's rationale for rearmament—to "scare the hell out of the American people"—was a howling success. The distinguished French editor Claude Bourdet, after a lecture tour of the country, said: "You can say anything you want to in America about anything, as long as you begin by saying, 'I hate Communism.'" The spectre that Marx and Engels saw haunting Europe a century before was haunting America now, and the vigilantes in and out of office were riding high and wide as the shotgun investigations proliferated. McCarthy's denunciation of the Democrats for their "twenty years of treason" put the Republicans into power in 1952, nationally and locally. "Jumping Joe" had the party in his pocket; John Foster Dulles was friendly to him, "Mr. Republican" Robert A. Taft praised his "fight for America," and he appeared on the networks as the party's climax speaker in the presidential campaign. Respectable Republicans fell silent while eminent old and new New Dealers were shot down and out of public life. The Democrats, on the defensive, were reduced to trying to outdo their opponents: "I," said President Truman, after the conviction of Alger Hiss, "put my Communists in jail"—whereas the McCarthyites only "exposed" theirs.
But denunciation as often as not had the effect of jail. These were the years of psychological terrorism and torture that destroyed the careers and even the lives of tens of thousands of sympathizers with causes, "bleeding hearts" who had pushed doorbells, distributed leaflets, joined committees, organized meetings and demonstrations in behalf of the downtrodden, the dispossessed, the exiled, the rebels, the suspect. Pacifists religious and secular were caught up in the torrent; "peace" was a dirty word. Critics of the public policy of increased armaments—and of the unwinnable Korean war then in progress—were ruined. Distinguished academics like Owen Lattimore, Jr., of Johns Hopkins (McCarthy called him "the top Soviet espionage agent") were driven out of public service for having "lost China" to the Communists; and physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the developer of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, lost his security clearance because he opposed the Truman program to develop the bigger and better H-bomb.
There were Communists in America—a handful—and Communist sympathizers. There were a few traitors, spies, and agents, and more than a few dupes. And there were thousands of nonconspiratorial people who still saw in the Russian revolution the hope, if a fading hope, of building a new world. (It was, after all, only a few years since the democratic leaders of the world were supporting the Soviet Union in its mortal struggle against Nazi Germany, and many Americans who could not accept the disenchantment of that country's Stalinist horrors believed that mankind's was a black-and-white choice between communism and fascism.) And there were more thousands of Americans who adhered, however half-heartedly, or less, to the Russian experiment, with all its terror and travail, as a possible alternative to the bootlessness of the world wars between great capitalist blocs of imperial powers. (Many of these fellow-travelers, so-called, had got off after one or two stops—which redemptive defection did not, however, save them from the trackers-down of Red devils.)
But there was no Communist movement in the United States, and there never had been. The American Communists and their sympathizers—or the sympathizers with causes the Communists also supported—were with the rarest of exceptions what the witch-hunters called eggheads, members of that broadly definable middle-class intelligentsia who generally constituted the backbone of all liberal and radical causes. They were generally college and university graduates or students, teachers, or figures in the entertainment and artistic worlds. The miasma of intimidation paralyzed campus activists, and the boycott and blacklisting of public performers and their works was effectively urged by broadcasters and leafleteers. The witch-hunt addressed itself to the crudest and most regressive impulses in the country. It was blatantly anti-intellectual and anti-aesthetic. Latent
anti-Semitism flourished just beneath the surface. (The Williams Intelligence Summary of Los Angeles asked its readers to dig up evidence that the villainous Robert M. Hutchins was a Jew.)
The witch-hunters had it both ways: either there were millions of hidden Communists to be hauled out of the closet or, if there were in fact only a few abroad in the land, it had to be remembered that the Bolsheviks who staged the revolution in Russia had numbered only a few thousand. Americans were not notably well schooled in modern—or ancient—history. They thought they knew that Russians (and most other peoples) were somehow backward and inconsequentially unfortunate not to be Americans; they neither knew nor cared that the social conditions of much of Europe and most of the rest of the world were conducive to the acceptance of social revolution. What they knew from their everyday experience—until they had the hell scared out of them—was that theirs was not the soil in which revolution grew. The call to revolution, even the genteel call of the doctrinaire Socialists, fell on deaf ears in the land of entrepreneurial opportunity. The American "workers of the world" were united, all right; they were united in their indifference to communism (and to ideology in general; they had a politics, denominated Republican or Democrat, but no clear political philosophy).
Still less did they have an economic philosophy. What they had was an unexamined economic practice. Except for a few of the immigrants from central and eastern Europe, they had no acquaintance, near or remote, with Marxism as a doctrine or an analysis of human nature and human society, and none whatever with a living Marxist of any variety. They had all heard rabid accounts of Soviet Russia, and they had all heard of the bugbear Communist, Bolshevik, or Anarchist with, as Alfred Emanuel Smith put it, "wire whiskers and a bomb in each hand."
This mortally dangerous isolation from the most significant historical reality of the age was not confined to a mere majority of the American people; one way or another it embraced almost all of them. In 1954 the Fund for the Republic financed "the most expensive survey of public opinion ever made," a $125,000 poll of the country's attitudes toward communism directed by the American Institute of Public Opinion and the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, under the general supervision of Dr. Samuel Stouffer, director of the Harvard University Laboratory of Social Relations. The survey revealed that, although less than 1 percent of the American people were more concerned about communism than they were about personal and domestic issues, 77 percent would revoke a Communist's citizenship (and 51 percent would jail him); 73 percent thought that "suspicious" behavior of neighbors should be re-
ported to the FBI; and 64 percent approved of the wiretapping of suspects. Ninety-four percent would refuse to let an atheist teach in a college—and 68 percent would deny such employment even to a Socialist. Nor was the general public alone endemically infected with the hysteria; even 50 percent of the nation's attorneys said they considered the invocation of the Fifth Amendment an indication of guilt.
During General Eisenhower's presidency the Madison, Wisconsin, Capitol Times asked, "What is a Communist?" of the typical man (and woman) in the street. One housewife replied: "I really don't know what a Communist is. I think they should throw them out of the White House." Since there were so few known—or unknown—Communists in the country and no American was likely to know one as a Communist , the anti-Communist crusade was necessarily fueled by suspicion of the most vagrant kind. Ten percent of the Stouffer interviewees were suspicious of one or another person of their acquaintance: "I saw a map of Russia on a wall in his home." "He had a foreign camera and took many pictures of New York bridges." "He was always talking about world peace." "He didn't believe in Christ, heaven or hell." "My husband's brother drinks and acts common-like. Sometimes I kind of think he is a Communist." These were the meat on which the McCarthyites gorged.
College graduates were as ignorant of Marxism as were high school dropouts. They were unaware of the implications for America of the "Marxist-Leninist" address to the industrial proletariat—the people without property and with nothing to sell but their labor. Most Americans had property—something to lose besides their chains—and those who didn't believed that they would, any day now. Men who lost their jobs in hard times did not think they would get another—they knew they would (and they usually did). There was plenty of starvation in the richest of all great lands, but even the starving were incapable of seeing themselves as the Marxists' prisoners of starvation. The closest thing to a proletarian in America was the Negro—but even he, armored by the hope of a better life both hereafter and here, was impervious to the siren songs of the revolutionaries. The Negroes had been unreachable even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when a majority of them were out of work.
But the reality of the actual social fabric in America did not impinge on the fantasy of the supposedly Red-infested country—or, of course, on the strategy of the exploiters of that fantasy. There was a new reality threatening as McCarthyism in its myriad manifestations seemed to be achieving undreamed-of proportions, as the dreadful year of 1953 went forward and Robert M. Hutchins, the exponent of free disputation and free dissent seemed to be sitting it out among the great big geraniums of Pasadena. The
threatening reality was the collapse altogether of the spirit of individual independence, of forthrightness, and, most fragile of all, of toleration in the happy American fabric. Solemn people, and not just hysterics, began talking about fascism and whether "it" could happen here; Huey Long was quoted as saying that if fascism ever came to the United States it would be called Americanism.
Ever since he had come to the Ford Foundation and encountered its board of trustees, Hutchins had pondered the language of that section A of the Second Program Area of the Study Report that those trustees had adopted at the end of 1949: "The Foundation should support activities directed toward . . . the elimination of restrictions on freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression." Section A appeared to have fallen into the direct jurisdiction of none of the associate directors, and nothing of any significance had been undertaken to implement it as the loyalty-security programs and investigations mounted in Washington and swept across the country. But in August 1951 Hutchins submitted a two-page proposal for a Fund for Democratic Freedoms, which would deal "almost wholly with unpalatable causes." The first thing such a fund would do—he later proposed The Fund for the Republic as its name—would be to make "continuing studies and reports on the ever-new and current dangers which threaten the unalienable rights of men in a democratic society." Nothing too hopelessly unpalatable there. But its second function was something else again. To be established by the Ford Foundation with a distinguished board of directors, the Fund would have the authority to defend individuals and groups directly and "provide backing" for scientists and teachers embroiled with problems of scientific and academic freedom. It would be an activist agency dealing with actual cases and offer financial assistance to defendants. It would, in a word, function as no such philanthropy had ever functioned before.
The proposal moved slowly, but, surprisingly enough, it moved. The other senior officers of the foundation joined in the recommendation to the board, saying that "none of the tasks before the Foundation is more critical than this; it is timely for the Foundation to take it." Neither Young Henry nor his board could say later that they had bought a pig in a poke—however much they might have liked to. They may have been lulled by the fact that the officers of the foundation proposed that each member of the board of the new Fund would have to be approved unanimously by the board of the foundation—a provision that did in fact produce a "representative" (that is, a careful) group of trustees. They may have been reassured by the provision that the new Fund, unlike the other foundation spin-offs, was to be wholly independent of the foundation, so that its activ-
ities could not jeopardize the foundation's tax exemption. (Hutchins would subsequently refer to it as "a wholly disowned subsidiary of the Ford Foundation.") They may have been further lulled by the provision that the capital of the new Fund, a modest fifteen million dollars, would revert to the foundation if the Fund should ever lose its tax exemption (which it had yet to obtain). They may have been emboldened by a disarming memorandum submitted by W.H. "Ping" Ferry, the wealthy young Detroiter who had been Young Henry's speechwriter, was now public relations adviser to the foundation, and was destined to be the vice-president of the new Fund. Ferry's memorandum called for "bold experimentation" by the Fund and added: "Such a policy is not in conflict with the real interest of the Ford Motor Company, although it may sometimes prove irritating to some of its officials, and may embarrass, temporarily, members of the Ford family. In the long run it will bring more credit to the Ford name than the easy and innocuous course of making impressive contributions to established activities or undertaking programs that can not arouse criticism or opposition. Here it should be remembered that the reputation of the Ford Motor Company largely centers around Henry Ford's lifelong preoccupation with experimentation and pioneering ventures."
It wasn't until December 1952 that the Foundation board brought the Fund for the Republic into corporate existence, after a monumental exchange of memoranda generally directed to hedging it about with large generalities which would antagonize nobody. But among those memoranda was a steady succession from Hutchins in Pasadena pushing for speedy action on the whole front of burning political issues. "The Fund" he wrote, "should feel free to attack the problem of the freedom of the press; of migrant workers; of the immigration laws and the McCarran [Internal Security] Act; of loyalty investigations; of the House Un-American Activities Committee; of conscientious objectors; of academic freedom and teachers' oaths; of racial and religious discrimination in all its manifestations, from lynching to inequality of educational opportunity; of disfranchisement; of dishonesty in government; of the liberties guaranteed by the first and fourteenth amendments; of the administration of justice." With a grimace of annoyance by his fellow associate directors at the foundation—this was before Hoffman's resignation—Hutchins placed the development of the Fund for the Republic under his own administrative jurisdiction.
Hoffman, resigning as president of the foundation, was named board chairman of the new Fund; with whatever reservations the foundation's board members might have had about his liberalism (and about his devo-
tion to Hutchins), the appointment took the public relations sting out of Hoffman's separation from the foundation—and he was, after all, still an Eisenhower Republican. Casting about for a president of the Fund, the foundation trustees lit upon another Eisenhower Republican, this one, however, a much more reliably moderate man than Hoffman: Congressman Clifford Case of New Jersey, who resigned his seat in the House to take the job. In foundation circles it was thought, or, at least, hoped, that the selection of a respectable member would relieve the foundation (and ultimately the Fund) of some of the heat that was galvanizing congressional investigations into both the fiscal and the political policies of the foundation and its offspring. But the New York Times reported that "a decision by the Ford Foundation to grant $15,000,000 to inquire into the methods of Congressional investigations into Communist infiltrations and civil rights appeared to rankle a large section of the House."
From its inception the Fund was pitted against powerful forces in Congress, and against the congressional courtesy that at times such as these tended to unite its members. Shortly after Hoffman became its chairman, the board of the Fund approved a staff prospectus that contemplated, inter alia, "a study of the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Senate Internal Security Committee, and other Congressional investigating committees." And its very first allocation of funds was a grant of fifty thousand dollars to the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Individual Rights as Affected by National Security. The ABA's request for the grant had been made to Hutchins prior to the incorporation of the Fund, and it proposed an examination of "the extent to which Congress should place any limitations upon the scope of its investigations or should regulate their procedures so as to protect the rights of individuals by providing some of the safeguards of due process at trials."
Just before Case's resignation from Congress to take the Fund presidency, the House had authorized a new round of Red hearings under Congressman Carroll Reece of Tennessee, who told his colleagues: "There can be no question that Hutchins is behind this new Ford Foundation project, for he has consistently expressed his concern for the civil liberties of Communists. Since we know Hutchins' attitude toward communism and we know that his conception of civil liberties is similar to that of the Communists, we can be sure that the new Ford Foundation project will aid the Communist conspiracy and will try to discredit all those who fight it." Appealing—successfully—for a second investigation of the Ford Foundation after Hoffman's replacement by Gaither, Reece said, "Gaither is a mere figurehead and Hutchins is still running the Foundation. Gaither has
accepted the presidency only for a year, and thus Hutchins may yet become the formal head of the organization."
No sooner was the Fund incorporated and Hoffman named its board chairman, than he received a letter from Senator McCarthy: "I understand that you have just been elected President of a new foundation. . . . I would appreciate it if you would . . . advise when you can appear in Washington without too much inconvenience." Hoffman detested McCarthy, who had engineered the brutal defeat of his (and Hutchins') close friend Bill Benton for reelection to the United States Senate from Connecticut in the 1952 election. With exemplary courage the one-time ad man had risen, alone, on the floor of the Senate on August 6, 1951, and, waiving his congressional immunity, delivered an all-out attack on McCarthy and introduced a one-man resolution to expel him from the chamber.
But Hoffman was careful to reply courteously to McCarthy's request that he appear in Washington, informing him that he would be glad to do so but would be out of the country on a trip he was undertaking for the Studebaker Corporation. McCarthy then asked for a list of the personnel of the Fund for the Republic, which Hoffman submitted. McCarthy later issued a press release to the effect that the fund's "principal objective is to torpedo any effective security program." Meanwhile Hoffman was solemnly assuring Eisenhower's vice-president, Richard M. Nixon, that the Fund would be making a fundamental study of "the extent and nature of the internal communist menace and its effect on our community and institutions."
Though the American Legion news letter, Firing Line , referred to the Fund as "a huge slush fund for a full-scale war on all organizations and individuals who have ever exposed and fought Communists," the Fund during the year and more of the Case presidency did very little besides obtain its tax exemption and its terminal grant of fifteen million dollars from the Ford Foundation. Its internal memoranda were on the whole temperate enough to mollify anyone short of the most fanatical Red baiters; it had issued no printed matter; it had issued two colorless press releases; and it had made cash grants to four tax-exempt recipients (largely in the respectable area of race relations). The most conservative of its board members had no fault to find with its program, which was heavily devoted to research and study projects such as a long-term history of American Communism. But there was sufficient resentment arising from below—and from Hutchins in Pasadena—so that in early 1954, when Case offered to leave (and go on to be a mildly liberal senator from New Jersey), his resignation was promptly accepted.
Thomas C. Reeves, author of an exhaustive history of the Fund, recounted Hutchins' situation at the Ford Foundation after Hoffman's resignation: "The associate director sat in the rump office in Pasadena, looked upon by many insiders as an unnecessary vestige of turbulent times, an overly outspoken crusader whose retention was due solely to the corporation's unwillingness to invite controversy. No one within the Foundation offered any positive suggestions about the future of the fifty-four-year-old administrator, and Hutchins himself seemed unready to seek other employment voluntarily. His advice was sought on several occasions, but he provoked ill will by insisting repeatedly that the Foundation had higher responsibilities than it currently recognized, and should be much more than a pliant device of a recreant donor. The already strained relationship between Henry Ford and Hutchins became increasingly poor as months passed. By the end of 1953 the educator's presence was becoming intolerable."
He continued to waft memoranda to New York deploring the Fund's quietism and urging an activist program against the extremists in and out of the government. The trouble was that he was still an associate director of the Ford Foundation, and the Fund for the Republic was a wholly independent organization. The nexus, of course, was Board Chairman Hoffman of the Fund. Board Chairman Hoffman was out of town—town being New York now, instead of Pasadena—more than he was in. But he shared Hutchins' impatience for aggressive action against the high tide of McCarthyism—and he still had his unabated enthusiasm for Hutchins and Hutchins' aggressive views and aggressive tactics.
With Clifford Case's resignation pending, a search for a new president of the fund went forward on several fronts. Hutchins participated, though he had no corporate right to do so. He spent three hours in Sacramento with the Republican governor of California, Earl Warren. Governor Warren was interested in the Fund, but he told Hutchins that he would be unavailable as a presidential candidate since it appeared that he was going to be offered another post. (As indeed he was, almost immediately thereafter: the chief justiceship of the US Supreme Court). Manufacturer William Joyce and the pollster Elmo Roper, both of whom Hutchins had suggested as board members when the fund was established, put Hutchins' name forward after "some exchange with trustees of the Ford Foundation. . . . They were not wild about the idea," said Joyce, "but there was no vote." Fund Chairman Hoffman was unreservedly enthusiastic, and though there was some opposition in the Fund's board, a majority was receptive—if a little worried. His presidency was announced on May 25, 1954, during the uproar of the Army-McCarthy hearings.
The Fund's trustees had a little to be worried about. Hutchins' acceptance of the offer with, he told the board, "willingness and pleasure," meant that the Fund for the Republic would ride right into the eye of the storm. He had made his position plain: the fundamental freedoms of the American republic were under remorseless and relentless attack by powerful politicians, who scrupled at nothing in their exploitation of the popular panic engendered by the Truman/Eisenhower cold war policies in conjunction with the traditional American dread of bolshevism. (Perhaps one in a million Americans actually knew a real, live Communist.) Robert Maynard Hutchins' reputation as a trouble-maker—as if there would be no trouble were it not for him—went back to his assumption of the presidency of the University of Chicago. The decades had not tempered him; quite the opposite. He had never had to look for trouble; he had been drawn inexorably to where trouble was. Between February of 1953, when he was stranded in Pasadena, and May of 1954 he had been making portentous and premonitory rumbles and it wasn't like him to confine himself to memoranda. By way of underscoring his intentions, if they needed underscoring, he at once asked W. H. "Ping" Ferry—who was, if anything, more radical than Hutchins—to serve as vice-president of the fund. The job would mean a considerable financial sacrifice for the forty-one-year-old Ford public relations man, but he accepted without hesitation.
On taking his new post, Hutchins resigned from the Ford Foundation; so much for the half-billion dollars that were going to change the temper of the country in two years; so much for the diamond-studded straw he'd grasped at. Now he had fifteen million dollars—peanuts, in Ford terms— but he was expected to get rid of it in five years and go out of business—if, in the meanwhile, the witch-hunters in Washington did not succeed in persuading the IRS to withdraw the fund's tax exemption. In his Never Complain, Never Explain: The Story of Henry Ford II , Victor Lasky wrote, "The Hutchins appointment was not exactly greeted with joy by either Henry or his fellow trustees at the Foundation, one of whom said, 'This means trouble.' "
All over Mud
Mrs. Mary Knowles did not appear to be redoubtable, but she was; more redoubtable, in the end, than the United States Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American Legion, and the most redoubtable representatives of the American press. When she was hired in 1954 by the Plymouth Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, she had been a professional librarian for twenty-five years. She was hired as librarian of the meeting's William Jeanes Memorial Library, just outside Philadelphia.
She had lost her library job in Massachusetts the year before when she refused to answer questions before the Internal Security Subcommittee of the US Senate. From 1945 to 1947 she had worked as a secretary at the radical Samuel Adams School in Boston—the school was on the attorney general's list of "subversive organizations"—and an FBI undercover agent said she had been a Communist then. When it hired her, the small meeting minuted its unanimous feeling "that we should be motivated by our Quaker principles and any compromise at this time would be wholly incompatible with our basic faith." It knew all about Mary Knowles's political beliefs and associations, including her religious pacifism. (She did not in the least mind telling people about them—but she would not reveal them under duress.)
Refusing to cooperate with the Senate subcommittee before she left Boston for Philadelphia, she said: "In the first place I have committed no crime, nor am I facing criminal prosecution. . . . In the second place. . . recourse to the First Amendment could very easily lead to a contempt of court citation. . . . In the third place, if, under compulsion, I testified concerning my religion and politics, but refused to answer questions about others, I would also be held in contempt of court. . . . Fourth, if I refused
to answer questions on moral or ethical grounds without invoking the Fifth Amendment, I would also be held in contempt of court."
She pointed out that the issue was strictly one of constitutional rights, and that no question had been raised as to her professional qualifications. Shortly before she was hired by the Quakers she declined to take the Pennsylvania loyalty (more precisely, non-disloyalty) oath, thereby rendering herself unemployable by any state or local agency of any kind. With her respectful refusal she enclosed a signed statement: "I believe firmly in the United States of America and in the documents upon which it is founded— the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, and do support, obey, and defend them. I do also support the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania. . . . Since leaving the Samuel Adams School, I have had no connection formal or otherwise with any so-called leftwing or 'subversive' organization." On her own initiative she submitted a notarized statement to the Plymouth meeting on entering its employ: "Mary Knowles, being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that she is not a Communist or a member of any subversive organization."
But her refusal to take the state loyalty oath was generally known, and city officials publicly challenged her having been hired. The boards of commissioners of two townships and the local Community Chest promptly canceled gifts to the library, and local school boards refused to continue sending children to classes there. The Valley Forge chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution "wholeheartedly" applauded these actions, as did the local American Legion post. The area's Alerted Americans Group, one of dozens of such extremist organizations that had recently come to life all across the country, demanded in their monthly newsletter the dismissal of the librarian: "No Security Risk should be employed in a sensitive post of honor and esteem where she is in a position to harm the community. Mrs. Knowles' controversial beliefs and unpatriotic behavior have already disturbed the peace, set a bad example for our young people and caused widespread suspicion and criticism of the whole Friends Meeting. The Communists started all this furor and screaming about 'academic freedom' and 'civil liberties.' "
The pressure on the Friends Meeting was mounting, but the Meeting continued to reaffirm its support of the librarian. The Alerted Americans claimed to have twenty-two members of the Meeting among their supporters, and a petition was presented to the Meeting's library committee containing sixty signatures of adult members (only thirteen of whom regularly attended worship; twenty-nine had not attended in twenty years).
The meeting was resisting the local clamor staunchly, and its library committee issued a public statement of its position:
Should an accusation of association with the Communist Party eight years ago be disqualification for employment? We think it should not. . . .
Is it a disqualification for employment if a loyalty oath is declined? . . . As Friends we have not, and shall not, require an oath [of Mary Knowles], believing that truth is no stronger under oath.
Should a plea of the Fifth Amendment give rise to unfavorable inferences? We think not. The right to be silent (Fifth Amendment) is equal to the right of freedom of speech, free press, and freedom of religion (First Amendment). These rights must be respected for all persons or they are endangered for each of us.
Finally it is suggested that one who does not cooperate with a Congressional Committee should be penalized by exclusion from employment in his chosen field. But when silence is the exercise of a constitutional right, to penalize that silence would jeopardize that constitutional right.
The Mary Knowles case might well have ended at that point. But instead of ending, it blew up into a national cause célèbre that continued for another two years. It blew up because Hutchins of the Fund for the Republic happened to hear about it just after the Fund's directors, in May of 1955, appointed a Committee on Special Awards consisting of three distinguished members: Mrs. Eleanor B. Stevenson, the wife of the president of Oberlin College; President Albert Linton of the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company of Philadelphia; and Robert E. Sherwood, the eminent dramatist and adviser of the late Franklin D. Roosevelt. The committee was authorized to disburse $100,000 "in honoring and rewarding the conduct of men, organizations, and institutions that exemplify the liberties this Fund was established to support." After hearing a report by President Hutchins the board of the Fund unanimously made its first Special Award of five thousand dollars to the Plymouth Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends "in recognition of its forthright stand in defense of individual freedom." In his announcement to the press Hutchins said that the award was for "courageous and effective defense of democratic principles" in the face of organized attack. "I hope," he said, "that Plymouth Monthly Meeting's example will be followed elsewhere in America, particularly when our libraries—which seem to be a special target of self-appointed censors and amateur loyalty experts—are involved."
Ten days later Chairman Carroll Reece of the House of Representatives subcommittee to investigate foundations took the floor to deliver a tirade against the fund's award to the Plymouth Meeting, and a few days later Mary Knowles was subpoenaed by the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security.
Now the attack on the fund went into high gear among the congressional committees, veterans' organizations, and extremist groups the country over—and major sections of both the printed and electronic press. The pace was set by the Hearst papers, which added two more right-wing commentators, Victor Riesel and George Sokolsky, to the assault by the syndicated columnist Fulton Lewis, Jr., with his daily broadcast over 214 radio and 50 television stations (his radio audience alone numbered sixteen million). In the course of the ensuing year Lewis devoted no fewer than sixty commentaries on the air to the horrors of the Fund for the Republic and its president: "So continues the case of Mrs. Mary Knowles, the Fifth Amendment librarian, whose case was considered by Dr. Hutchins and Mr. "Ping" Ferry to be worthy of five thousand dollars of money which is supposed to be spent in the general public interest and welfare. The question is whether you agree that this falls in that category." Broadcast after broadcast by Lewis ended in this provocative fashion: Do you agree? Where do you stand? What do you say? Untold thousands of his listeners and readers stood up and said, proceeding to their American Legion posts, churches, school and library boards, and, above all, to their congressmen and senators. Congressman Reece's subcommittee having already issued a 432-page report condemning the foundations generally for promoting socialism, subversion, and "moral relativity," wanted them closely supervised by the federal government. Two dissenting members of the subcommittee called the report "barbaric," and, in a speech before the National Press Club, with the subcommittee chairman in the audience (as well as fund supporters Felix Frankfurter and Justice William O. Douglas), Hutchins lit into the Reece report in one of the most violent outbursts of his life:
"I can not regard the Reece committee as having more than symbolic or symptomatic importance. Its wild and squalid presentation affords a picture of the state of our culture that is most depressing. Its aims and methods are another example of the exploitation of public concern about Communism and subversion to further political ambition and to work off political grudges. . . . We may as well state it plainly: the Reece investigation in its inception and execution was a fraud."
It was the first time a tax-exempt organization had ever launched a head-on challenge to a congressional agency. The congressional (and non-congressional) attack on Mary Knowles continued to mount, a transparent cover for the attack on the Fund for the Republic. In time the Plymouth Friends Meeting began to waver, in spite of the fact that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, representing ninety-three monthly meetings (and jokingly known among Quakers as "the Vatican"), had unanimously supported the
Plymouth Meeting's hiring of Mrs. Knowles. Ultimately the Plymouth Meeting decided to keep Mrs. Knowles on by a slim majority of thirty-four to thirty, one of its members breaking out in agonized exclamation: "If we could get rid of the $5,000 Fund for the Republic money, I think maybe we all would fall on each other's necks and say, 'Let's forget it all and let the woman stay.' But it is the $5,000 that holds everything up because everybody says, 'What did you ever do to get a Communist $5,000? Everybody is stigmatized. Are you all Communists?' "
In one House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearing on the activities of the fund, its chairman, Congressman Francis Walter said: "The committee wishes to know more about the factors which prompted the Fund for the Republic to consider the retention of a Communist , a defense of 'democratic principles' worth $5,000 of its tax-exempt money. . . . The Communists and their dupes will undoubtedly try to distort our inquiry into appearing as an interference with the great freedom of religion. . . . Our sole concern is with the dubious ventures of the Fund for the Republic." At the conclusion of the HUAC hearing the Plymouth Meeting's library committee, still standing pat, said, "A Committee of Congress has just spent virtually a whole day ventilating the unhappy internal affairs of a small religious group, Plymouth Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Not a single fact has been developed that was not known before."
In January of 1957—more than three years after she had been hired by Plymouth Meeting—Mary Knowles was convicted in federal court on fifty-two counts of contempt of Congress. (One of the fifty-two citations was made by a unanimous vote of the Senate when she refused to answer questions at a hearing of its Internal Security Subcommittee.) She was sentenced to 120 days in jail and a five-hundred-dollar fine—the heaviest sentence ever given a woman for contempt. The rightist press rejoiced, and Congressman Gordon Scherer promised that the HUAC investigation of the Fund for the Republic "was barely started." Reflecting the mounting resistance to the witch-hunt, he said: "It is time that some people . . . join with us in chasing the criminal instead of always attacking the policeman." Pointing to the conviction of Mrs. Knowles, he asked inquirers if they thought that the five-thousand-dollar award in honor of the convict should be tax-exempt.
Three-and-a-half years later, on June 19, 1960, almost seven years after she was hired by Plymouth Meeting, and five years after the Meeting received the Fund's award, Mary Knowles's conviction was reversed by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. The McCarthy terror had long
since come to an end, and there was no comment by so many as one of her persecutors or the opponents of the Fund for the Republic.
The insult of the fund's defiance of Congress and the patriots was compounded by the injury it was able to do with its fifteen million dollars. "This is the first time," said Hutchins, "that an organization dedicated to civil liberties has had any money." It takes (or in those days took) a long time to get rid of fifteen million dollars. In the first three years of its existence the Fund for the Republic had managed to unload only five-and-a-half million, in spite of its lavish outlay for administrative purposes (a bloated 35 percent of its total expenditures).
Some 95 percent of the Fund's grants were unexceptionable, except by the most rabid of the rightist extremists; when it announced that its largest cumulative expenditure during the first three years of its history had been in race relations, Fulton Lewis, Jr., informed his radio audience that this effort "follows the standard Communist tactic of arousing racial strife and friction as a means of inflating trouble and disharmony on which to play for their own Communist advantage." The largest single appropriation of the fund was $550,000 for a massive study of Communism in the United States, under the general aegis of the conservative Professor Clinton Rossiter of Cornell. The project, said the fund's Board Chairman Hoffman, "was not organized solely to oppose Communism; it was organized to study and disclose the facts about all threats to civil liberties, including Communism."
Bent on studying and disclosing the facts, the scholarly staff of the Rossiter project retained the services—for a few weeks, at seventy-five dollars a week—of Earl Browder, the American Communist Party leader. Browder, under federal indictment for perjury, was a "source of information and raw material . . . commenting on events in which he took a leading part." This conventional research procedure set all the jingoist bells jingling. Out in front was Fulton Lewis, Jr., who characterized Rossiter with blasé abandon as "an extreme liberal." This, said Lewis, was the way the Fund spent their fifteen million dollars of tax-free money, and what did his audience think about that ? The Hearst papers found it an "offense to any decent and honest sense of propriety for [a man like Browder] to have any part in the preparation of the reference books and texts from which American children may shape their political and economic philosophies." The Scripps-Howard chain was equally strident, with headlines like FORD FUND PROJECT HIRES EX-RED BOSS BROWDER . To the repeated, nay, the continuing distress of Young Henry and his associates, many newspapers ran variants of FORD FOUNDATION PAYS BROWDER AS RED HISTORY AID .
Many of the country's most highly respected newspapers defended the fund, including the New York Times , the Christian Science Monitor , the Atlanta Constitution , the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , and the San Francisco Chronicle . But the press as a whole bayed with the hounds. "We are trying," said Hutchins, pouring a soupçon of oil on the fire, "to save the Republic. We can expect few cheers from those we are saving it from."
It was such trivialities as the "hiring" of Browder at seventy-five dollars a week and the minuscule award of five thousand dollars to the Plymouth Friends Meeting that riled up the animals, and kept them riled, while the allocations of the fund in noncontroversial areas went unremarked. Stanford's conservative trustees were peppered, and then pilloried, because the university's staid school of law accepted a $25,000 award to finance an analysis of the testimony of witnesses in proceedings relative to communism. Attacking the Stanford grant, radio network commentator Paul Harvey said: "Russia will never have to take us into a shooting match if she can poison us while we sleep. It is time to destroy the tax-exempt status of these outfits"—the Fund, or Stanford, or both?—"that manufacture the poison."
A month after Hutchins' assumption of the presidency of the Fund in May of 1954, the board of the previously almost dormant organization approved the establishment of a commission to examine the country's loyalty-security programs, approved a study of right-wing extremist groups, approved a grant to the American Friends Service Committee to support four projects of its community relations program, approved a grant to expand the work of the Common Council for American Unity in protecting and publicizing the rights of illegal aliens, and approved a grant to the Catholic Interracial Council. The president promised the board that at its next meeting the officers would propose a study of fear in education, a study of the uses of the mass media, an investigation into blacklisting in private industry, the support of experimental community-level activities, and a program to increase public awareness of civil liberties and civil rights by means of awards, essay contests, and television.
The pace of the Fund's activity escalated with the escalation of the domestic political crisis. Board meetings ran as long as seven hours a day for two days running. A typical progress report, submitted in November 1955: In intergroup relations, a chairman of the Fund's Indian Commission had been named; the American Friends Service Committee and the Catholic Interracial Council were expanding their work on racial tensions; the Southern Regional Council, financed by the Fund, now had full-time staff members in every southern state; the Fund's Commission on Race and Housing now had a research staff of sixteen, with studies planned at
major universities; with Fund support, the Public Education Association had completed its study of racial discrimination in the New York City public schools; the American Heritage Council's Fund-subsidized discussion materials were being used by sixty to seventy American Legion posts in Illinois (in spite of condemnation by the Illinois Department of the Legion); recordings of the Classics of Freedom were well under way; a fund-sponsored Freedom Agenda conference reported the distribution of great quantities of fund-provided literature, with the support of many national organizations, including the AMVETS, the American Jewish Congress, the Campfire Girls, the YWCA, the YMCA, and the League of Women Voters. And on, and on.
With the Fund under unremitting fire from every direction, its board members were scrupulous in their labors. More than scrupulous, they were an edgy group of eminent men and women with close ties to many of the most select segments of the established order. They were a strong, and strongly convinced, group and, with a few exceptions, courageous under attack. (True, most of them had been hand-picked by Hutchins when he was still at the Ford Foundation and the Fund was established.) But, unlike Hutchins of Chicago, very few of them had had the experience of being publicly savaged day after day. The lid finally blew off the board when the vice-president of the Fund, "Ping" Ferry, audaciously hired (as a temporary publicity man) a former Communist who, invoking the Fifth Amendment, refused to tell a congressional committee whether he had been a Party member. The public storm was immense, the headlines bigger and blacker than ever, the agonies of congressmen, commentators, and right-wing crusaders unappeasable. Hadn't the McCarran Internal Security Act, the Communist Control Act, and an 84-0 Senate roll call denominated communism an international conspiracy directed at the overthrow of the US government and the seizure of the country and its institutions? Forgotten was the fact that the Party was still legal in America—forgotten except by the last-ditch fighters for the legal rights of every American. But the board of the Fund for the Republic was badly shaken by the most furious outcry it had yet been subjected to. One member, a partner of the most powerful law firm in New York, resigned; and the subsequent resignations of two or three others, including Dean Erwin Griswold of the Harvard Law School, were plainly influenced by the incident. (Thirty-five thousand copies of Griswold's classic defense of the Fifth Amendment had been distributed by the Fund, which sent out a mere thousand copies of an attack on the Fifth Amendment by a Notre Dame professor of law—and the Fund was then attacked by the National Review and other conservative agencies for the discrepancy of the distribution.)
Hutchins' most serious difficulties with his board dated from that hullabaloo and the theoretical question of hiring an actual Communist. On this point he stood pat, arguing against most of the trustees that neither past nor present association with a legal organization justified exclusion from employment. In the election of fund officers in January 1955, Hutchins, who had offered to step down, was retained by an undisclosed vote; but no less than a strong minority of the trustees continued to grumble, with outbreaks of real acrimony at board meetings and a pervasive atmosphere of general uneasiness about some of the uncompromising attitudes of Vice-president Ferry (who had Hutchins' backing). Even Paul Hoffman found himself faltering in the face of the continuous unremitting siege of the Fund by the McCarthyites. In a widely circulated letter to Young Henry, who had been goaded into a public denunciation of the fund, the embattled and embarrassed board chairman felt called upon to profess his (and the Fund's) ardent anticommunism. The Kremlin, he said, "is in deadly earnest about communizing the world." The Fund, he wanted to assure Ford (and the trustees of the Ford Foundation, who received copies of his letter), stood in the patriotic middle, admired by neither the far right nor the far left.
Now Hutchins understood his father's question when he left Chicago for the Ford Foundation: What ever made him think that one board—even one in whose selection he had a voice—would be easier to deal with than another?
But the Fund's basic program was beginning to pick up support from some unexpected quarters. By the spring of 1956 the great Red scare was palpably beginning to fade, its proponents increasingly frustrated by the Fund's continued expansion of its programs and its refusal (at least in public) to be cowed. Former Senator Harry P. Cain, a member of the Subversive Activities Control Board, after a discussion with Eisenhower, announced that the president intended "to protect the individual against any unreasonable encroachment on his movements, speech, and mind." The Republican Party—and Ike as its figurehead—had reaped considerable profit from the witch-hunting, and the president himself had beefed up the loyalty-security programs and had tolerated the defamation of men like General Marshall as Communists or Communist sympathizers. Now, in early July, he nominated the US delegates to the United Nations, including his friend Paul Hoffman. The enemies of the Fund were enraged. McCarthy, whose star had been sinking since his attack on the army as Communist-infiltrated, told the Senate that an article the Fund's board chairman had written was "either the irresponsible twaddle of a halfwit, or the calculated propagation of the approved Communist Party line." But
the liberal majority of the Warren Court had at last swung into action. In one case after another it invalidated state sedition and antisubversive statutes, held that New York could not designate a teacher as disloyal and dismissable solely on the ground that he had invoked the Fifth Amendment before a congressional committee, and (by a six-to-three majority) struck down the application of the Eisenhower security procedures to federal employees in "sensitive" positions. The radical right, in Congress and out, turned its guns on the Court now; billboards appeared, reading IMPEACH EARL WARREN .
Then the fund launched its blockbuster, a one-hundred-twenty-seven-thousand-dollar report, in two large volumes, on the widespread, but hitherto undocumented, practice of blacklisting in industry, with special emphasis on the movies and television. Actors and writers by the hundred had lost their jobs as Reds, no matter how slightly they had deviated from the McCarthyite code of loyalty—or had been alleged to deviate by faceless informants. They had lost their jobs and been denied further employment anywhere in the entertainment world, whose bosses (and whose sponsors in television) were terrified of the kind of popular sentiment that made itself known at the gate. To be reinstated, the blacklist victims had to be "cleared" by hitherto unidentified patriotic experts, including columnists, commentators, advertising executives, and officials of right-wing organizations such as the American Legion's Americanism Commission, as well as by staff members of HUAC (before whom the unemployable penitent could struggle for restoration by confessing and implicating others). The report was a grim and unanswerable indictment of the process by which workers of liberal or radical social views were destroyed. It named celebrated names in the entertainment world, and the publicity attending its publication was enormous. The national commander of the American Legion called the revelations ridiculous and added that Hutchins' mind "seems to be impervious to any understanding of the Communist menace."
The fund's study of blacklisting had been directed by John Cogley, executive editor of the liberal Catholic weekly Commonweal and the former editor of Today , the national Catholic student magazine. Cogley was as fearless as he was gifted, and when he was subpoenaed by HUAC to be interrogated on the study, he said: "The question is, Should a man be summoned before his elected representatives to defend or explain a book he has written or divulge the confidential sources of his information?" (Hutchins called the subpoena "an unprecedented invasion of thought and expression in the United States.") Under intensive interrogation by the committee, Cogley blandly declined to divulge those sources. Hour after hour on the stand Cogley kept his temper and regretfully refused to answer
questions about his associates. He invoked neither the First nor the Fifth Amendment. The hearing went on for six days—and collapsed. The committee did not ask Congress for a contempt citation—a sign of the changing times.
But there was one center of hostility to the fund whose efforts did not abate, and that was the anti-Communist left. Willy-nilly, though they attacked McCarthyism in passing, they augmented it with their own sophisticated anticommunism. Still, the McCarthy right never embraced them, for they, too, for all their present protestations, were, or had been, dangerous radicals themselves. Some of them had been Communists—Whittaker Chambers, among others—and many of them had been Marxists, including their principal spokesman, Professor Sidney Hook, the longtime chairman of the Department of Philosophy at New York University and an equally longtime opponent of Hutchins' educational views. (And an ardent disciple of Hutchins' philosophical opponent, John Dewey.) Most of them had been sympathetic with the original aims of the Russian revolution. Most of them had been vigorous critics of capitalism and the American social order. Their current hatred of communism was understandable; as there is nothing like the fervor of the convert, so there is nothing like the fury of the apostate.
In some sense these were the most formidable of the fund's—and Hutchins'—enemies. They were not yahoo fanatics or low politicians and still lower journalists milking the public hysteria. They were intellectuals in the universities and in arts and letters and were well known. They were in Hutchins' own league. They spoke his language. They included some of his friends and associates in the domestic battles on the social issues, the Socialist leader Norman Thomas, for instance. Their antagonism was much more painful than that of the far right; painful and, in the literary-intellectual elite, more telling. ("When it came to close argument, Hook was unbeatable," said one of the most perceptive of his contemporaries. "He was the most devastating logician the world would ever see. . . humorless, but never petty; obstinate, but not malicious; domineering, but not self-centered.") In their view Hutchins simply did not understand the nature of communism. These opponents on the left, most of them activist veterans of one or another of the 57 varieties of splintered socialism or communism, were nearly all of them philosophical pragmatists and relativist critics of his educational views. They saw him, not as a traitor (as the right did), but as a simpleton. With his Great Books fixation and his supposed denigration of facts in favor of theory, they took it that all he knew about communism he had learned by reading the classical utopians. He probably knew something about Marx's theory of surplus value, but to
know Marx and what communism was supposed to be was to know nothing about communism in the middle of the twentieth century. Communism under Stalin was not a mere intellectual, or even a political, heresy. It was a worldwide criminal conspiracy.
"The most notable of [Hutchins'] confusions," said Hook, "is his apparently incorrigible belief that efforts to bar members of the Communist conspiracy from positions of trust in Government and society must necessarily lead to the abandonment of the Bill of Rights. . . . We are accustomed to the unedifying spectacle of the professional patrioteer who, whenever he is attacked, wraps himself in the flag and denounces his critics for being un-American. It is no more edifying to watch Hutchins, under fire for foolish and extreme statements, wrap himself in the Bill of Rights and, instead of replying to responsible criticism, imply that all his critics are enemies of freedom. . . . We have to worry about. . . extremists on the Right. . . We have to worry about establishing an intelligent security system. . . We have to worry about the growing strength of the Communist world. We have to worry about soapy-minded liberals . . . about irresponsible exaggerations like those of Hutchins."
The position of Hook and his friends was clear. Participants in the Communist movement, whether or not they were Party members, were not to be granted the constitutional protection afforded other Americans. Such persons—above all, members of the Party—had to be excluded from government and, in particular, from the academic community; and they should be disqualified from functioning as scholars and teachers. The traditional liberal axiom doggedly maintained by Hutchins had to go— the axiom that an individual's competence alone should determine his employability, not his membership in an organization. There was such a thing—which Hutchins rejected—as guilt by association, inasmuch as a person who associated himself directly or indirectly with the Communist conspiracy could be assumed to know what he was doing. Under these desperate circumstances, employment in any position of responsibility or influence, such as a teacher's, had to be denied to a person who invoked the Fifth Amendment. The radical left admitted that communism might not be a danger to America—but it was a danger in America, with its network of espionage agents, disguised "fronts," and infiltrators of democratic organizations and societies. McCarthyism was guilty of "flagrant injustices"—though its influence was exaggerated by Hutchins—but communism was worse, because it was "masked and insidious."
These anti-Communist leftists were loosely organized, together with a few conservatives, in a group called the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. Like the most rabid of the rightists, the ACCF was given to such
antics as labeling organizations Communist fronts without advancing any evidence whatever to support its charges. Like Hutchins and the Communists, the radical left had no mass base at all; but its genteel extremism served as a marginal force behind the only people who did have a mass base in the country—the McCarthyites. They were professors , whom the congressmen and the columnists could quote. The committee had had a long and unhappy relationship with the Fund, possibly stemming in part from the fund's consistent rejection of its applications for grants. It finally launched an implacable barrage with the publication of the fund-financed bibliography of the Communist problem in the United States, prepared by a committee of highly respected scholars. The project had been authorized before Hutchins became president of the Fund, and the Fund had nothing to do with its contents. Its publication was generally praised, but among its thousands of bibliographical citations there was a handful of serious omissions, including important works by Arthur Koestler, Bertram Wolfe, Max Eastman, Norman Thomas, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Angelica Balabanoff, first secretary of the Communist International—works which were highly critical of the rise of Stalinism and its betrayal of the Communist ideal. The Committee for Cultural Freedom was right on target: the omissions were not only significant in themselves, but they were conceivably suspect as reflecting a bias against anticommunism by the editors. The editors acknowledged "mistakes" and undertook a revision. The public was, of course, uninterested in such an astral controversy; but the right wing, with the Hearst columnists and commentators again at the head of the pack, seized the occasion for another assault. Fulton Lewis, Jr., told his national radio audience that here was one more piece of incontrovertible evidence of Robert Hutchins' blatant opposition to anticommunism. What Hutchins was, was an anti-anti-Communist .
Is Anybody Listening? (1)
Under relentless pressure from right-wing quarters—official and unofficial—the Treasury Department let it be known that it was actively reviewing the Fund for the Republic's tax exemption, to determine whether the statutory requirements were being met. Chairman Francis E. Walter of the House Un-American Activities Committee, announcing a new investigation, said, "We're not going into the Fund for the Republic. We're going into Dr. Hutchins." And several members of Dr. Hutchins' board were articulately unhappy over the fund's having hired a "Fifth Amendment Communist." Board member Griswold refused to accept any further compensation for his service, and finally resigned. Hutchins, according to board member Elmo Roper, came "close" to being removed as president.
It was November of 1955, a year and a half after Hutchins assumed the fund's presidency. It was a bad month. It turned out to be the worst month of his career.
It began with his submitting to an inquisitorial press conference on November 7 with twenty reporters, columnists, and commentators, an outspoken majority of whom were openly hostile. Hutchins made an effort to talk about the fund's work as a whole and its overall support of agencies and institutions engaged in the front-line support of democracy and the democratic faith. His calumniators turned his recital aside and zeroed in on the question that now constituted the basis of every attack on him: Would he hire a Communist? A former Communist? A man who invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to tell Congress whether or not he was, or had been, a Communist? The weary interviewee made a cursory stab at answering the bear-baiters: His position had been clear since he stated it a quarter-century before. It seemed to him "stultifying to say that never
under any conditions should any Communist be hired for any job." It was unconstitutional to penalize a man for belonging or having belonged, or for refusing to say whether or not he belonged or had belonged, to a legal organization. "It is also unchristian. In the absence of a showing that a man is a conspirator or a spy it seems inhuman to deprive him of a chance to earn a living in a position that he is competent to fill and in which he can do no damage." Dr. Hutchins might have expounded upon this essentially conservative viewpoint with grace and wit; he might have softened his position during the press conference with a fashionable tirade against the Communist conspiracy; he might have alluded to his war record or to the pertinent fact that he had never employed a Communist for any position with which he was connected. But faced with the hostile and suspicious questions shooting out from behind the hot, glaring lights, he was able to repeat only briefly and haltingly his lifelong enmity toward limitations upon independent thought, and contend that under the proper conditions the employment of a Communist was justifiable. What made the news the next day was simply: "I wouldn't hesitate to hire a Communist for a job he was qualified to do provided I was in a position to see he did it." What made headlines the next day was one or another variant, all over the country, in antagonistic, friendly, and neutral newspapers, of HUTCHINS SAYS HIRE REDS. HUTCHINS SAYS HIRE REDS .
All hands—Hutchins included—agreed that the press conference had been a disaster. The historian, Walter Millis, who attended it as a fund consultant, said later, "Bob was just too intellectually arrogant to submit to the pounding they gave him. We all thought . . . that the whole thing was a dreadful show." His media enemies had discovered his Achilles' heel: He was not, as he himself said afterward, a very good cross-examinee. He was an excellent debater; he could devastate an opponent who played by the same serious rules he did. But he wasn't a street fighter. A man of pride and ego (and, by his own account, vanity), he was accustomed to respect—respect for himself and his position and the institution he represented. His academic opponents admired many of his views; none of them considered him a fool or a rogue. But the McCarthyites, in and out of the press, in and out of Congress or the patriotic organizations, had no regard for him or his works or his connections or his status. Whether they were hysterical or villainous or, as in the case of some of the press people, simply on the hunt for a kill, they did not defer to him in the least.
Two weeks later he was subjected to something worse than the press conference. He agreed to face a battery of four interrogators on the nationwide television and radio program, "Meet the Press." For thirty minutes under the kliegs he was subjected to the hammering of openly unfriendly
journalists who kept at him with trip-hammer ferocity on the question: Would he hire a Communist? The inquisitors had learned a lesson from the press conference: Keep at him on this one point, and don't let him shift ground and talk either in elegant generalities or in terms of the Fund's actual program and its achievements. As the painful program wore on, the malicious focus of the questions caused him "to bristle with anger and become evasive, cold, and spiritless. Even though a team of public-relations men had coached him before the program"—for the first time in his life—"the insolent character of the interrogation shattered his usual imperturbability and incapacitated his celebrated rhetorical brilliance." His answers were unhelpful. "There are," he said, without amplification, "many gradients of membership in the Communist Party," a point of fact on which he was uninformed (and in which he was uninterested). The members of the panel were familiar with his views on the Fifth Amendment, but they kept quizzing him on them, and he finally said, as un-cooperatively as he could, "The Fifth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights"—the kind of cryptic statement that would have meant more to a university audience, even to a congressional committee, than it possibly could to a nationwide audience on TV and radio.
The recorded script of the show contained many passages like this:
Fredrick Woltman of the New York World-Telegram and Sun : Dr. Hutchins, as a matter of fact you said a few weeks ago in New York that you would not hesitate to hire a present member of the Communist Party to work for the Fund, did you not?
Hutchins: The Fund for the Republic is committed to the proposition that Communism . . .
Woltman: Will you answer the question?
Hutchins: I'm going to. The Fund for the Republic is committed to the proposition that Communism is a menace. The Fund for the Republic is also committed to individual liberty and individual rights. The Fund has condemned boycotting and blacklisting; it has insisted on due process and the equal protection of the laws. It has condemned guilt by association. The principle is that the individual stands on his own merits.
Woltman: Now, would you mind answering the question?
Hutchins: This is a principle that was enunciated very often by the late Senator Robert A. Taft, therefore, what I was simply trying to do when I answered the question to which you refer was to dramatize the proposition that the individual must be judged on his individual merits.
Woltman: Would you also hire a Nazi or a Fascist or a Ku-Klux-Klanner?
Hutchins: This question is a real flying saucer; so was the other one.
Woltman: Well, you didn't answer it.
Hutchins: I beg your pardon, I did.
Woltman: You would also hire a Nazi . . .
Hutchins: No, I didn't say I would.
Woltman: I am sorry, I thought you said you would hire a Communist.
Hutchins: No, I said the great question always is what is the individual in himself. This is the American principle, therefore the question cannot be answered . . .
Woltman: Well, would you still say whether you would knowingly hire a member of the Communist Party?
Hutchins: This question cannot be answered in those terms.
Woltman: You were quoted in many newspapers throughout the country several weeks ago and made no denial.
Hutchins: I saw that.
Woltman: Do you deny you said that?
Hutchins: I do not regard the headlines as an accurate description either of what I said or what I had in mind.
Woltman: And you made no challenge whatsoever of the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune , press associations, World-Telegram and Sun ?
Hutchins: If I were to involve myself in commenting on all newspaper reports, I would have a great deal to do.
Woltman: Well, I heard you say it, for one.
His performance astonished his friends, none of whom had ever before seen him so completely unstrung. Newspaper editor Harry Ashmore, of the Fund's board, saw some University of Chicago colleagues in tears when the broadcast ended. A Fund board member, Roger Lapham, a former mayor of San Francisco, thought that his performance had done their cause more harm than good, and Mrs. Lapham said, "Had I not known you and your very sincere belief in what you feel the Fund for the Republic can accomplish, there would have been no doubt in my mind but that it was a high-sounding name for a Communist front organization." The enemy gloated. Fulton Lewis, Jr., hoped his listeners had tuned in to the program: "It was about as clear a lesson on the subject of Mr. Hutchins and the Fund for the Republic as you would ever find. He proved everything that has been said about him . . . a sort of incredible sort of total suicide, the explosion of a myth about a man."
Hutchins told his friends that before the program he had taken a medication that had affected him—a story that the fund chronicler Thomas C. Reeves says "was met with much skepticism." Perhaps the
most dismal item of all—in the light of Hutchins' house motto of the Fund, "Feel Free"—was the refusal of requests for transcripts of the program.
Two weeks later, his aplomb restored, he and Fund consultant Paul Jacobs met with Sidney Hook and a group representing the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, with a view to clarifying their differences. The discussion was hot, but it was not abusive; the atmosphere was reminiscent of a controversial meeting of the University of Chicago Senate. The committee's representatives proved, however, to be interested in the same primitive issue that engrossed the wild men of the press, Congress, and the patriotic societies. Jacobs recounts that "Hook got down to cases by vigorously attacking what he believed to be three incorrect positions held by Hutchins on the Communist question: a refusal to concede that some guilt could be attributed through association; a willingness to employ subversives in government posts; and the employment of Communists in institutions such as the university or the Fund itself. Hutchins defended his view just as vigorously, pointing out that he had always opposed Communism as a system, but that he distinguished between that opposition and a blanket refusal to hire Communists. He pointed out that he believed it necessary to emphasize publicly the necessity of judging each case of a Communist individually because of the possibility, even though it might have been a very limited one, that an individual Communist might be worthy of employment."
It ended (said Jacobs) amiably; but it had got nowhere, both parties holding their ground irreconcilably. The radicals, ex-radicals, Marxists, and ex-Marxists of the ACCF had the weight of disenchanting experience on their side; many of them were specialists in Communist infiltration of professional, cultural, and political activities in New York City, which was unknown territory to Hutchins. He could not begin to gainsay their experience. But in principle—principle was the rub—he was dead right and they (and all his enemies at every level) were dead wrong. The Constitution guaranteed the equal protection of the laws to every American citizen, no matter how obnoxious he or his words or acts might be, even to every convicted American. Hutchins was indeed arrogant, as so lonely an advocate could hardly help being; he stood on the ancient Roman ground, Fiat justitia, ruat coelum , "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." His opponents—literate, illiterate, honest, dishonest, sane, mad—disagreed: The American heavens of national security might not be jeopardized for the sake of justice to an individual suspected of conspiring to pull them down. Hutchins: There were adequate statutory procedures for protecting the country against treason and espionage. Hook et al.: Hutchins was
ignoring the proven cases of traitors who had successfully circumvented those procedures. Hutchins: A very few cases, in no way justifying throwing the Constitution out the window. Hook: One such case might well be enough to destroy the republic. Hutchins: Let justice be done. . . .
Through the ravaging years of the McCarthyite locust he stood lonelier and lonelier in a public position of power, as perpetrators and exploiters of the Red scare kept their fire turned on him. He was their most eligible target, an egghead throwing tax-exempt millions to the country's enemies. Years afterward it was revealed that the enemy of the country's enemies, J. Edgar Hoover himself, had tried and failed to destroy the profligate egghead. On January 7, 1976, the syndicated Washington columnist Jack Anderson wrote: "The Fund for the Republic conducted a scholarly study of domestic communism, which concluded the FBI was overblowing its importance. This inflamed Hoover, who ordered an all-out investigation of both the Fund and its head, Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins. The FBI chief directed his subordinates to prepare a monograph ripping Hutchins to pieces. They became so impressed with Hutchins from their research, however, that they produced a mild monograph. Down came instructions to rewrite the piece, making it suitably derogatory, on pain of being censured. The second, more vicious monograph was leaked to the press."
Hoover got no further, but Young Henry was still being heard from. In public response to a public inquiry by Fulton Lewis, Jr., he charged "the fund" with "poor judgment." ("At least," said Hutchins, sotto voce, but loudly enough to reach Young Henry's burning ears, "we didn't invent the Edsel.") Even Paul Hoffman faltered under the frenzy that followed the awful "Meet the Press" broadcast. In a reply to a friend who wrote him after that fiasco, he said: "I share your disappointment that Mr. Hutchins did not give an unqualified 'no' to the question of whether he would employ a communist. If I had been asked that question, I would have so answered. I would have made this reply despite that fact that there are probably some intelligent people who are intellectually committed to communism and who conceivably might be employable. Whether this is what Mr. Hutchins had in mind, I do not know. I do know that he is a totally honest person and a purist. There are times that I wish he were a weak-kneed compromiser like myself."
Again and again he told nonresponsive audiences, "I am against Communism," and insisted that the Fund's mission was to fight it by preserving our liberties in the process of exposing the Reds' machinations. The first statement ever made by the board of the Fund read, "The major factor affecting civil liberties today, in our opinion, is the menace of Communism and Communist influence in this country." Far from ever repudiating that
statement and asserting his belief that McCarthyism was a greater menace to American liberties than communism, he continued to quote it defensively during the next three years.
But in maintaining that a Communist had every right that every other American had, including the right to be judged as an individual applicant for a job, Robert Maynard Hutchins was more "totally" honest than any similarly situated American of his time, a time of terrible panic sweeping every section of the country and every segment of society to a degree that a generation later, even during the belligerent years of the Reagan 1980s, was an unbelievable bad dream.
By the spring of 1957 the McCarthyite madness was palpably subsiding. In some part it was simply burning itself out, leaving untold wreckage behind it. The tiny US Communist Party, so long hounded and harried, together with its fellow-travelers was pretty well shattered by the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in 1956. At home a former chairman of HUAC had gone to prison for financial crimes, and its principal paid informer against the Reds had tripped himself up and finally confessed that he had been paid to testify falsely—with Senator McCarthy's knowledge—against 244 persons "charged" with communism before congressional hearings. (He added that he was not the only government informer who had so lied.) The congressional committee had pretty well outworn their road-show welcome around the country and were under attack from many influential quarters, including the Supreme Court. The Court's belated decision in behalf of civil liberties had heartened the lower federal bench in undercutting passport restrictions, loyalty oaths, and denial of free speech; and state courts were following suit and reversing local loyalty-security legislation. After facing up to the charges of the Wisconsin senator, the army had relaxed its own loyalty-security measures to a modest degree. And in May of 1957, Joe McCarthy, long since condemned by a vote of his fellow senators, was dead. (But his soul would go marching on; documentation obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that in the decade 1967-76, 5,145 secret informers had been reporting to the FBI on hundreds of community, political, and social reform groups, and in 1983 the Supreme Court upheld the award of massive damages to Chicago civil-liberties lawyer Elmer Gertz, who had been called a Communist by the patrioteering John Birch Society.)
Mirabile dictu , there were even signs, in the last years of the 1950s, of softening on the part of the anti-Communist left (though twenty years later Sidney Hook would still be demanding withdrawal of tax exemption from the Fund's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions as "a propaganda center . . . which never publishes anything in the interests of public
discussion favorable to American foreign policy.") The "Deweyite" publication School and Society published a marveling article, "Robert M. Hutchins—Crusading Metaphysician," in which it asked, "What is one to think when the Progressives' favorite dragon abruptly transforms himself into St. George?" What one was to think, the author said, was, "Dragon he may have seemed, but chameleon he has never been." The progressive educators' most implacable and influential enemy had always fought for the university as an untouchable center of independent thought as the foundation of "the argument against restrictions on freedom, against loyalty oaths, against local and federal interference in the life of the school." His having dared to call down on his head the wrath of the McCarthyites "has evoked the awed admiration of liberals throughout the country. There are numerous friendly voices now being raised on behalf of the liberal arts and in opposition to vocationalism, and the other bêtes noires of Dr. Hutchins' apocalypse. . . . It is supremely ironic that a man who has scorned the experiential test for what is important should now be judged important by the consequences of his work in actual life."
Had the three-year fight been worth the candle? Had the Fund for the Republic contributed anything significant to the repulse of McCarthyism? It was hard to say; hard, but not impossible. It had spent more than ten million dollars in those three years, and some three-fourths of its allocations above expenses had been direct grants to secular and sacred agencies engaged in the struggle to preserve and increase the national understanding and acceptance of civil liberties and civil rights. Its grants to church and civic organization in the field of race kept many of those organizations alive in the 1950s and provided the facilities for their expansion on a large scale; the immense financial appropriations to such starveling agencies, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court's school decision in Brown v. Board of Education , constituted the single most significant contribution to equality of racial opportunity between the Emancipation and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.
Beyond the direct allocations of those millions there were the Fund's own publications, the publications it sponsored, and the publications it distributed. These items numbered in the millions of copies over the three years of Hutchins' presidency. The Fund was, apart from the government, by all odds the country's largest noncommercial mailer. It subsidized the distribution not only of its own publications but those of other agencies and institutions that addressed themselves to the Fund's libertarian purposes. The Rossiter team's study of the history of American communism ran to fifteen volumes. (Somebody said, "One volume for each member of
the Communist Party.") It was praised more widely than it was prized; commercially it would have been a colossal flop.
Millions of dollars went for the dissemination of literature which the fund's own studies indicated was not widely read. Millions of dollars went into millions of waste baskets. Their materials ignored by much of the periodical press, they were driven to a variety of demeaning stratagems to get a hearing in respectable circles. One of these demeaning stratagems came to light long afterward. In the May 1968 issue of Harper's , John Fischer, the magazine's editor, reflected at length on what he called "The Perils of Publishing"; the article was subtitled "How to Tell When You Are Being Corrupted." He reported that advertisers had tried it now and again, authors once in a while, and always pressure groups of one sort or another. The threat was blackmail. The magazine would publish what the blackmailer wanted published, or refrain from publishing what the blackmailer didn't want published—or else the magazine would one way or another be booby-trapped. But "the trickiest booby-trap in the editor's path is the Temptation of Good Causes. His friends, eminent citizens, and his own conscience exhort him without respite to give more of his space (always pitiably limited) to the promotion of some worthy cause. . . . In this heady state of mind he is all too likely to forget that worthy causes seldom make interesting copy—and that a publication which harps on one subject too often is sure to sound like a stuck phonograph record."
Only once in his long experience, Fischer went on, were these seductions accompanied by hard cash. "It was proffered by—of all people—Dr. Robert Hutchins, perennial guardian of the public morality. At the time he was head of the Fund for the Republic, devoted to furthering the ideals of a democratic society. He proposed that the Fund should take over each month a section of Harper's —say thirty-two pages—and fill them with articles of its own production. In return it would pay Harper's $500,000 the first year, and if the results were satisfactory the arrangement might be continued.
"Did Dr. Hutchins mean that he would like to buy thirty-two pages of advertising space each month? No, no, that wasn't the idea. The space to be filled by the Fund would not be labeled as advertising. In fact, the name of the Fund would not appear at all. The articles it provided would seem to be a normal part of the magazine, so the readers need never know that they had not been developed by the regular editors. The impact, he suggested flatteringly, might be greater that way.
"As I remember it, I assured Dr. Hutchins that I was in favor of both ideals and a democratic society, and probably would agree heartily with
the most of the causes he wanted to promote. But, I added, the primary responsibility of all editors was to their readers. In good conscience, therefore, an editor could not surrender control over the editorial content of his publication, even for the best-intentioned of purposes. Neither could he offer the readers somebody else's product under the guise of his own."
What Hutchins had run, during those three years at the Fund, was a cash register, a mail room, and a public relations effort. Into that effort, the lowest of all the low enterprises in his lexicon, had gone a great deal of the extravagant 35 percent of the Fund's outlay devoted to administrative costs. He had been demeaned on every hand, and had demeaned himself, to get a hearing. He had indeed "tried to buy what he couldn't sell," and buy it with cash. He knew better than to go to his friend Fischer at Harper's with an indecent proposal, but he did not know how to get publicity any other way; he had never had to know. Publicity had always attached itself to him, and editors had always sought him out, not he them.
He had sacrificed something of himself, something vital, on the altar of the American Bill of Rights: his lifelong independence of public opinion in the practice of his profession. And it showed. It showed in his frantic behavior as he tried, for three unrewarded years, to get the American people to listen to him and to heed his clarion call. It showed in his collapse at the press conference and on the "Meet the Press" program. He had never before failed on the platform; he had always before succeeded. He had never before been humiliated in public; he had always emerged from an encounter a cubit or two taller than he had entered it. The sacrifice showed in his appearance. He face was lined now, in his middle fifties, his hair greying. True, he had said that at the university he had been frustrated and furious; but being frustrated and furious is not as desponding as being rattled and impotent.
The Fund for the Republic was an eminently assailable institution. The university was unassailable. Whoever attacked it—like the Illinois legislators in the Walgreen affair—did so at their peril, not at its. At Chicago he had been in control, he had carried the fight to his opponents. There was image there, in the tower, as there was here in the mud; but the image there reflected a reality that was noble at least in concept and to a considerable extent in practice. In those three years of the Fund Hutchins had made the monumentally depressing discovery that there was a world in which image was the only reality, and the image he "projected" was that of a disdainful, contemptuous man who thought he could get away with being disdainful and contemptuous because he had talked a foolish (and now rueful) billionaire out of some of his money.
Here, in the bull pit, his opponents, not he, determined the conditions
of discourse and even the setting. Hectoring, vilifying, slandering at will, they were able to drive him from his command post and force him to fight a battle of movement, a losing battle for a yard of ground in the form of an inch of newspaper space or a minute of prime TV time. They were, on the whole—Joe McCarthy was only the most notorious of them—the most unconscionable of men with an insatiable hunger for preferment, men without so much as a peripheral concern with principle.
Hutchins was no match for these masters who scrupled at nothing. They were impervious to the magnetic man's magnetism. They were a world away from the worlds he had known, the worlds of the parsonage and the Cause at Oberlin, of the rational animal and the liberal arts and the great books at Chicago, of the antiwar speeches in the great university chapel or in the President's House with the radio network people tiptoeing around him. Franklin D. Roosevelt had offered him the posts that would likely have led to the vice-presidency and the presidency, and he had replied flatly (albeit courteously), "I am not interested in public life." For the past three years he had been forced to be interested in nothing else and, what was more, in its cruelest conditions—behind him his cautious worried board, before him the men of a desperate age who seemed bent on demonstrating that men generally may be counted on to be rascals or rabbits.
The fund had contributed some ten million dollars' worth of facts, an encyclopaedia with no discernible pattern or design. "What good are the facts," Hutchins told the Washington Post , "if you don't know what to make of them?" The Fund had commissioned exhaustive studies of every aspect of civil liberties and civil rights. Its approach had been confined to presenting the case—the facts—to the public, and stopping there. "We assumed that the state of the public mind was lack of knowledge about the facts, and after the public were only informed about the facts, the state of the public mind would change. We were disturbed, and we thought they would be too." Now he saw this approach as "naive."
Ten million dollars, and it seemed that nobody much had been listening. The Fund for the Republic had invested heavily, not just in money, but in reputation, in the spectacular Cogley report on blacklisting in the entertainment industry. The factual revelations were—or should have been— devastating. But the country generally ignored it, and Hutchins admitted his disappointment at its reception. What had been wrong with it? Nothing, nothing at all; except, as President George N. Shuster of Hunter College said, it had done nothing to solve "the intellectual problems." (Shuster was vice-chairman of the fund's board.) Monsignor Francis J. Lally, another board member, complained that the report had opened
upon the real problems without actually coming to grips with them. Looking back at it, John Cogley said, "When we got through, it was very clear that the basic issues simply were not discussed and people such as myself did not know how to discuss them. . . . I think the feeling at the Fund was that enough fire alarms had been answered."
The basic issues . Robert Maynard Hutchins had deplored the grubbing for undigested facts as the curse of university research. Now for three rough-and-tumble years in the mud he had operated a great undigested-fact factory. Here was a badly battered and blackened man who had, apparently, been fighting the right fight in the wrong way. The fund had not been a failure. But it had failed to do what he'd said the new Ford Foundation was going to do: change the temper of the country. It had been yet another straw for a man to grasp.
On May 16, 1956, the board of the fund received a sort of distant early warning in the form of an eleven-page memorandum from President Hutchins—its length was itself premonitory—proposing that a committee be established "to advise the Board of Directors on the desirability, feasibility, program, organization, financing, location, and personnel of an institute or council for the study of the theory and practice of freedom." The new body should have a five-year existence and be authorized to spend no less than a million dollars and no more than the five million or so remaining of the fifteen-million terminal grant from the Ford Foundation. The present program of the Fund had been "on the whole" successful and in some form should be continued. But it was clear (he went on) that very little had been done "to relate one study to another or to relate any studies to the clarification of important ideas." A succession of "commentaries on current events" had been produced, which were not very significant.
What was wanted, he suggested, was what he had long crusaded for in the higher learning: the integration of thought on the most serious of social subjects, with the kind of material the fund had thus far assembled to serve as illustration and confirmation. What was wanted was an institute or council "to promote coherence and intelligibility in the program of the Fund, to relate every study to every other, to be sure that efforts in public education were enlightening rather than confusing, to enable the Board to function with confidence even though it could not afford the time for protracted philosophical discussion, to permit the Officers to proceed with confidence in the absence of clear agreement on fundamental principles in the Board, to give the studies sponsored by the Fund permanence and universality, to develop a basis of common conviction in the West, and to show a pluralistic society how it can reach unanimous devotion to justice and freedom."
It was a large order, its unaccustomed prolixity indicating that its author had simply sat himself down and written it. But what it proposed was readily recognizable: an ascent from the mud to the tower. Robert Maynard Hutchins wanted to convert the Fund for the Republic from a badly buffeted agency engaged in the dissemination of money and unevaluated raw materials in the great field of freedom, into something resembling the institution he had spent the most productive years of his life trying to achieve at Chicago: a center for the clarification of principles (including "first principles") and the coordination of human knowledge with the transcendent aim of breaking the barrier of man's thinking. What he wanted might have been said to be a think tank, or, if you will, a university.