(Harry S. Truman - knew a thing or two about hysteria)
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When Harry S. Truman left public office on January 1953, he didn't slip into the comfortable shadows of the ex-Presidency. If anything, he stepped up his very public criticism of the wave of hysteria that had taken over the country since the end of World War 2.
Harry S. Truman: “I’m rather skeptical of fake crusaders, who dig up and distort records of the past in order to take the attention of the people away from their political failures of the present day.”
Giving an address at the Alumni Dinner for the City College of New York on November 1953, Truman lashed out at the hysteria mongers and offered some history to prove that this sort of thing had been tried ever since this country got started and that common sense eventually prevailed.
Truman: “These attacks which we are seeing on our basic institutions such as our departments of government, our institutions of higher learning and our churches have their parallel in waves of hysteria that have swept over the country in the past. One of the first of these was the agitation that culminated in the Alien and Sedition laws. This occurred at the end of the eighteenth century when France, which had been our ally in the revolution, seemed to have been transformed from a friend into a threatening enemy. At the same time, the majority of Americans here at home were rising up politically against the Federalist Party. Unscrupulous politicians tried to play on the fear of France in such a way as to injure the growing power of Jeffersonian Democracy. As a result, the Alien and Sedition laws were passed. The Sedition Law provided penalties of fine and imprisonment for people who indulged in criticism of the Government of The United States. It was enforced exclusively against the editors and orators who supported Jefferson . . . we don’t have many editors to do that to today, but . . . (laughter). But this wave of hysteria was only temporary. The people were horrified by the use of the Federal power to suppress the free expression of opinion. They moved to the ballot boxes and pitched the Federalists out of office. And the Federalist Party never recovered. I hope somebody’ll learn a lesson from that.”
Apparently they haven't. But they keep trying. And they're still trying.
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