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Tydings Committee (1950)

U.S. Senate subcommittee investigation during March–July 1950 of Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's allegations of communist subversion in the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees, or the Tydings Committee, was created in February 1950 and formally convened on 8 March. Under the chairmanship of Democratic Senator Millard E. Tydings of Maryland, the subcommittee held thirty-one days of hearings and heard from thirty-four witnesses.

On 9 February 1950, McCarthy had stated in a public address that there were 205 State Department employees who were communists. In subsequent presentations, that number fluctuated from 57 to the original 205. McCarthy proceeded to take his claims to the floor of the Senate, forcing the Democratic Party (then in the majority) to take action.

The committee's first witness was Senator McCarthy. Before the Wisconsin senator was able to complete his opening statement, Tydings demanded that he provide the name of one of the alleged communists. McCarthy refused, and after Tydings proceeded to badger the witness, Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. requested that McCarthy be allowed to present his charges as he saw fit.

During the second week of hearings, McCarthy provided the subcommittee with a list of eight names, seven of which were individuals with connections to the State Department who, he alleged, had "pro-communist proclivities" or had given "pro-Soviet" advice. One of those on the list was Owen J. Lattimore, a Johns Hopkins University professor who had been a White House advisor to Nationalist Chinese leader Jiang Jieshi during World War II. In response to this charge, Tydings obtained Lattimore's file from the State Department and reported to the panel on 23 March that Lattimore had no present connection to the department.

McCarthy supported his claims against Lattimore with a witness named Louis F. Budenz, a former editor of the Communist Daily Worker. Budenz testified that he had been told that Lattimore was a communist but that Lattimore probably was not a spy. Lattimore appeared before the committee on 6 April and dismissed Budenz's accusations as "gossip and hearsay." Although Budenz's testimony did not prove that Lattimore was disloyal, it did suggest to many media observers that McCarthy's charges might have had at least some merit.

The Tydings Committee's investigation was hindered by the inability to obtain loyalty files held by President Harry Truman's administration, which claimed executive privilege in refusing to release them. On 4 May, Truman finally agreed to allow the committee access to the files. The committee Democrats found no evidence in them to support McCarthy's charges. However, Republican senators claimed that the files were not tamper-proof and that the lack of findings proved nothing.

The final phase of the Tydings investigation involved a review of the Amerasia spy case. Several employees of Amerasia, a journal of Far Eastern affairs, were found to be in possession of classified documents concerning U.S. policy in China. In 1945, six people were arrested on conspiracy and espionage charges related to some 1,000 stolen classified government documents. Three of those arrested—Andrew Roth, Emmanuel Larsen, and John Stewart Service—were government officials. The committee reviewed the entire history of the affair and heard testimony from Larsen. The committee reached the conclusion that the federal government had handled the Amerasia case properly and that no agency was derelict in investigating the charges.

After four months of hearings, the committee released its report on 17 July. The report was critical of McCarthy and concluded that the available evidence supported none of the senator's charges. Only the Democrats signed the report. The Senate debate on the report was bitter and partisan, with Republicans accusing Tydings of leading a "scandalous and brazen whitewash of treasonable conspiracy." In the end, the committee's report only provided McCarthy and McCarthyism more fodder.

John David Rausch Jr.


Further Reading
Griffith, Robert. The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate. 2nd ed. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.; Keith, Caroline. "For Hell and a Brown Mule": The Biography of Senator Millard E. Tydings. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1991.; Klehr, Harvey, and Ronald Radosh. The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthytism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
 

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