The June Hearing, Part 2: Pauling Makes His Stand

Peace News, July 22, 1960

[Part 4 of 5]

When his June hearing before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was resumed two and a half hours later, Linus Pauling agreed to submit a list of the individuals that he had sent petition requests to, but refused to submit a list of those who returned more than one signature. In making this stand before the Senators, he spoke eloquently to the necessity of his decision and explained his refusal of the Subcommittee’s request.

The circulating of petitions is an important part of our democratic process. If it were to be abolished or greatly inhibited, our nation would have made a step toward deterioration – perhaps toward a state dictatorship, a police state.

I am very much interested in our nation, in the United States of America, and in the procedures that were set up in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Now, no matter what assurances this subcommittee might give me about the use of the names of the people who circulated the petition that I wrote, I am convinced that these names would be used for reprisals against these believers in the democratic process, these enthusiastic, idealistic, high-minded workers for peace. I am convinced of this because I myself have experienced the period of McCarthyism and to some extent have suffered from it, in ways that I shall not mention. I am convinced of it because I have observed the workings of the committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives and of this Subcommittee on Internal Security of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. I feel that if these names were to be given to this subcommittee the hope for peace in the world would be dealt a severe blow. Our nation is in great danger now, greater danger than ever before….This danger, the danger of destruction in a nuclear war, would become even greater than it is now if the work for peace in the world, peace and international law and international agreements, were hampered.

A terrible attack is being made now in the United States on the efforts of our government to achieve international agreements for stopping the bomb tests and for disarmament. This attack is being made by representatives of defense industries who benefit financially from the Cold War….I believe that the work for peace and morality and justice in the world needs to be intensified now, and I plan to do whatever I can in working for peace in the world, working for international agreements about disarmament.

Though his counsel supported his position on constitutional grounds, Pauling justified his defiance “as a matter of conscience, as a matter of morality, as a matter of justice.”

"Dr. Pauling Refuses Senators' Demand for Names of A-Ban Group", The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 1960.

Upon hearing his decision, and giving Pauling another chance to comply, subcommittee chair Senator Thomas J. Dodd stated his disapproval of Pauling’s decision and his dissenting opinion of Pauling’s objection. After the other senators voiced similar displeasure at Pauling’s misgivings towards the Subcommittee, he was ordered to appear again at the New Senate Office Building in less than two months time. Pauling was again directed by Senator Dodd to bring “all signatures or purported signatures to the petition…together with all letters of transmittal by which, or in connection with which, such signatures were transported to you or received by you.”

Implicit in Dodd’s demand was the threat of a contempt of Congress charge, an offense that could lead to imprisonment should Pauling fail to comply.  Following the order, the hearing was recessed.

Pauling spoke with the press after finishing his testimony, criticizing the implications of the subcommittee’s requests, and justifying his refusal to turn over the list of signature collectors. Though Pauling had, by and large, met the committee with patience and cooperation, there were a number of issues that had yet to be addressed or accounted for, including several contentious sections of testimony that Pauling wished to read over. The tone of the hearing had turned somewhat sardonic by its end, and Pauling’s indignant interpretation of the proceedings quickly made its way into headlines across the nation.

In the days following his June hearing, Pauling felt that broad national support was building for him generally, but there remained much preparation to complete before his next appearance before the Subcommittee.

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One Response

  1. [...] around the circulation of an international petition to the United Nations against nuclear testing, ended in a refusal by Pauling to answer several committee [...]

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