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Alger Hiss

February 8, 2017

Alger Hiss was a Communist spy.  Of that there is no reasonable doubt.  Congressman Richard Nixon proved this when he questioned Hiss before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948, but the established order of that day refused to accept the truth.  President Truman referred to the Hiss case as a “red herring.”  Eleanor Roosevelt was among a number of good people who came to Hiss’s defense.  Even after Hiss was convicted of perjury, many of his defenders did not change their minds.

Alger Hiss was a Communist spy, but due to the statute of limitations, he was not convicted of espionage.  Instead, he was tried and convicted for perjury.  He served three years and eight months of a five-year sentence and was released in late 1954.  Still there were many who believed he had been wronged.

Even into the 1970s Hiss had his defenders.  After the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign the Presidency, historian Allen Weinstein published a work entitled Perjury which he had begun as an attempt to exonerate Hiss.  However, while working on the book Weinstein obtained 30,000 pages of documents under the Freedom of Information Act which convinced him otherwise.

Alger Hiss was a Communist spy, but Allen Weinstein’s monumental work of scholarship was not enough to convince everyone.  Then the Soviet Union fell and the Soviet archives were opened.  Hiss’s guilt is now irrefutable.

But the Soviet archives were not needed to prove Hiss’s guilt.  Neither were the 30,000 pages that Allen Weinstein obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.  One only has to read Hiss’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Richard Nixon has become one of the villains of American history, but he did the world a great service when, as a freshman Congressman, he cross-examined Alger Hiss.



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