Typed Letter Signed - 1954
Typed Letter Signed from US Senator Ralph E. Flanders to noted New England architect William Roger Greeley, regarding
the historic abuse of power by Communist-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy. Dated November 13, 1954, just three weeks before Flanders’ resolution of censure was passed in the US Senate.
RALPH EDWARD FLANDERS (1880-1970) was an American mechanical engineer, industrialist and Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Vermont. He grew up on subsistence farms in Vermont and Rhode Island, became an apprentice first as a machinist, then as a draftsman, before training as a mechanical engineer. He spent five years in New York City as an editor for a machine tool magazine. After moving to Vermont, he managed and then became president of a successful machine tool company. Flanders used his experience as an industrialist to advise state and national commissions in Vermont, New England and Washington, D.C. on public economic policy. He was president of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank for two years before being elected U.S. Senator from Vermont.
Flanders was an early and strong critic of fellow Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “misdirection of our efforts at fighting communism” and his role in “the loss of respect for us in the world at large.” He felt that rather than looking inward for communists within U.S. borders, the nation should look outward at the “alarming world-wide advance of Communist power” that would leave the United States and Canada as “the last remnants of the free world.” On March 9, 1954 he addressed Senator McCarthy on the Senate floor, expressing these concerns. (McCarthy had been advised of the speech, but was absent at the time.) Apart from a brief note of encouragement after this speech, Flanders was grateful that the president stayed out of the McCarthy controversy. Members of President Eisenhower’s cabinet passed along the message that Flanders should “lay off.”
On June 11, 1954, Flanders introduced a resolution charging McCarthy “with unbecoming conduct and calling for his removal from his committee membership.” Upon the advice of Senators Cooper and Fulbright and legal assistance from the Committee for a More Effective Congress he modified his resolution to “bring it in line with previous actions of censure.” The text of the resolution of censure condemns the senator for “obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate” when he “failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and acting “contrary to senatorial ethics” when he described the Select Committee to Study Censure Charges and its chairman in slanderous terms. Time Magazine reported that a “group of 23 top businessmen, labor leaders and educators… wired every U.S. Senator (except McCarthy himself) urging a favorable vote ‘to curb the flagrant abuse of power by Senator McCarthy.'” The Senate censured McCarthy in December 2, 1954 by a vote of 65 to 22. The Senate Republicans were split 22 to 22.
Flanders was the author or coauthor of eight books, including his autobiography, Senator from Vermont. He wrote about many issues: the problems of unemployment, inflation, ways for achieving a cooperative relationship between management and labor, and his belief that “moral law is natural law” and should be an integral part of everyone’s education. His papers are located at the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Library and at the Special Collections of the University of Vermont’s Bailey-Howe Library.
During his lifetime, Flanders received more than sixteen honorary degrees from institutions that included Dartmouth College, Harvard University (LL.D.), Middlebury College (D. Sc.) and the University of Vermont (D. Eng.). His wife, Helen Hartness Flanders, was a folk song collector and author of several books on New England ballads.
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