Document 19: Canwell Probe One-Color Presentation of Red Case

22 July 1948, Seattle Times.

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Canwell Probe One-Color Presentation of Red Case

(Prof. Joseph B. Harrison offers critical comment on the Canwell Committee's inquiry into Communist activities at the University of Washington. He is a native of Washington, scion of pioneers, and has been a faculty member 34 years. He is a Professor of English.)


The people of Washington are second to none in their community pride. But sometimes they, like everybody else , are deceived or confused. They must be brought to recognize that this week one of their most cherished institutions is in danger.

The University of Washington is being given, in headlines, a one-color presentation that astonishes the University itself, alarms the people of the state, and must be amazing to the American public.

A small proportion, one per cent, of the University faculty is being subjected to the imputation of subversive activity and intent. After three days of hearings by Legislature's Un-American Activities Committee not one subversive statement or act had been [discovered.] On the other hand, not a single opportunity has been offered those under fire to introduce evidence of loyalty.

Unchallenged Statements

Witnesses are introduced to discredit certain faculty members individually or as a group. These witnesses are allowed to make long, uninterrupted, and with minor exceptions, unchallenged statements. Those under accusation are . . . silenced when they seek to speak for themselves.

No effort is made to discover whether an accused teacher has won a reputation for integrity or loyalty. Of his status as a scholar, as a member of his local community, or as a servant to the nation no one inquires. Confessed ex-communists are brought forward as credible witnesses, while the past Communism of faculty members, in most cases long abandoned, is treated as unforgivable sin.

Court Procedure Disregarded

The Committee, with perhaps complete legal privilege and immunity, disregards the safeguards of court procedure. It is a "fact-finding and not an incriminating" agency. But it demands that witnesses make statements about themselves and each other which are evidently in the eyes of the committee damnatory in the highest degree. . . .

"I should like," says Dr. Garland Ethel, "to make a statement of my principles." But he finds himself silenced by a chairman who wants to hear "no more quotations from Shakespeare."

And another witness makes sarcastic reference to Dr. Ethel, whose quotations from Shakespeare marked the high moral moment of the hearings. . . .

"I will not tolerate" is a favorite expression of the chairman.

Men and women of honor and distinction, whose intellectual capacity and moral integrity would be attested by scores of available witnesses, sit silent through long hearings. They sit in a row like naughty schoolchildren and listen to lectures, in the guise of testimony, profoundly offensive to their common-sense and self-respect.

Plea for Fair Play

Men who, like Dr. Garland Ethel, are willing to testify to past membership in the Communist Party, . . . are cited for contempt when they refuse to "squeal" on their one-time fellows.

It is possible that some Americans believe that the way protect America is to encourage such informers as have so disastrously corrupted the totalitarian states. Most Americans do not.

Most Americans also, including this writer, dislike Communism intensely. But they like the freedom and fair-play that are a fundamental part of the American credo. They want the truth but cannot accept as truth any testimony that is not subjected to the crossfire of all the attainable evidence.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest