KENNEDY, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963), President. Typed letter signed ("Jack") to Endicott Peabody ("Dear Chub"), Washington, D.C., 12 March 1954. 1 page, 8vo, on Kennedy's "United States Senate" stationery. [With:] KENNEDY. Mimeographed "Statement on the Conduct of Congressional Committee and Members of Congress," 2pp., 4to.
KENNEDY'S POSITION PAPER ON THE MACARTHY HEARINGS, QUOTING THOMAS JEFFERSON
A very rare, detailed statement of Kennedy's position on the issue of the McCarthy hearings. "Thanks for your letter concerning the activities of Senator McCarthy. I have...prepared a statement of my views. I am enclosing a copy for your information..." Kennedy's statement, divided into four sections, opens forcefully: "...I do not think that anyone...doubts that committee investigations have from time to time exceeded the limits of fairness. Witnesses have been unfairly abused and hearings have been improperly conducted..." He urges changes in "legislation and rules governing committee procedures" to prevent "undue invasions of personal reputations and rights"; while he felt obliged to vote to appropriate funds to the McCarthy Commitee, he vows that "I shall not approve any contempt citation or other request...which in my opinion exceeds the...statutory justification of the committee." In addition, Kennedy asserts, "it is obvious that no set of rules...would preclude all undesirable activities on the part on any individual Senator. The personal conduct of an individual Senator does not represent the...Senate as a whole...To expel him from the Senate because his views and methods may be repugnant...would...set a precedent that would return to haunt those of us who believe with Thomas Jefferson that '...error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.'" In conclusion Kennedy writes: "There is no magic formula or set of words by which we can resolve or banish these problems from the Congress or the country..."
McCarthy, a political friend of the Kennedys, had once dated Pat Kennedy, and Joseph P. Kennedy had contributed to his campaigns. According to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Kennedy viewed the McCarthy Committee "with articulate dislike but showed no interest in saying so publicly...Kennedy's silence on McCarthy contrasted with [Adlai] Stevenson's eloquent defense of civil freedom..." (A Thousand Days, p.20). The widely televised hearings discredited McCarthy, and liberal Democrats were unforgiving of Kennedy's reluctance to repudiate McCarthy and his tactics. Kennedy was prepared to vote for McCarthy's censure, but when the vote came, in December 1954, he was hospitalized for back surgery. We have been unable to locate another copy of this rare position paper, other than a copy in the Kennedy Library. (2)