Declaration of Conscience
(a.k.a. "Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience")
by Margaret Chase Smith
An address delivered to the Senate June 1, 1950.
The first Senator to denounce McCarthyism,1 Smith calls on other Senators to condemn its tactics, meanwhile articulating four basic American rights.2
Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.
That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.
I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.
I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.
The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.
It is ironical that we Senators can debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American--and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against it--yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.
1 Official crusade against communists and government workers identified as security risks without proper evidence.
2 Right to criticize, right to hold unpopular beliefs, right to protest, right of independent thought.
PORTRAIT: Margaret Chase Smith by the Senate Historical Office.
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Smith, Margaret Chase. "Declaration of Conscience." Gleeditions, 17 Mar. 2011, www.gleeditions.com/remarkstothesenate/students/pages.asp?lid=411&pg=4. Originally published on Margaret Chase Smith Library, U of Maine, www.mcslibrary.org/bio.