U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy Speaks in Wheeling
U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s speech to the Ohio County Republican Women's Club in Wheeling on February 9, 1950, launched the 1950s red scare, giving McCarthy a national platform that he would not relinquish for four years. The speech at Wheeling’s McLure Hotel was part of the Lincoln Day celebration, an annual Republican political holiday. Though McCarthy had a prepared speech on housing, former U.S. Sen. Francis Love, who met him along with Congressman Tom Sweeney, Jr. at the Wheeling airport, suggested he give one on the perils of communism instead.
➤ Read McCarthy's Wheeling speech
➤ Read the Intelligencer's article about McCarthy's Wheeling speech
➤ Watch Margaret Brennan speak to C-SPAN about McCarthy's Wheeling speech
➤ View additional Library Resources
Excerpts from McCarthy's Speech to the Ohio County Republican Women's Club
-February 9, 1950
Five years after a world war has been won, men’s hearts should anticipate a long peace, and men’s minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war. But this is not such a period— for this is not a period of peace. This is a time of the “cold war.” This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile armed camps—a time of a great armaments race….
Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time. And, ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down—they are truly down….
Six years ago, at the time of the first conference to map out the peace—Dumbarton Oaks—there was within the Soviet orbit 180,000,000 people. Lined up on the antitotalitarian side there were in the world at that time roughly 1,625,000,000 people. Today, only 6 years later, there are 800,000,000 people under the absolute domination of Soviet Russia—an increase of over 400 percent. On our side, the figure has shrunk to around 500,000,000. In other words, in less than 6 years the odds have changed from 9 to 1 in our favor to 8 to 5 against us. This indicates the swiftness of the tempo of Communist victories and American defeats in the cold war. As one of our outstanding historical figures once said, “When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be because of enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.”…
The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate or members of minority groups who have been selling this Nation out, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer—the finest homes, the finest college education, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.
This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been the worst....In my opinion the State Department, which is one of the most important government departments, is thoroughly infested with Communists.
I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy….
I know that you are saying to yourself, “Well, why doesn’t the Congress do something about it?” Actually, ladies and gentlemen, one of the important reasons for the graft, the corruption, the dishonesty, the disloyalty, the treason in high Government positions—one of the most important reasons why this continues is a lack of moral uprising on the part of the 140,000,000 American people. In the light of history, however, this is not hard to explain.
It is the result of an emotional hang-over and a temporary moral lapse which follows every war. It is the apathy to evil which people who have been subjected to the tremendous evils of war feel. As the people of the world see mass murder, the destruction of defenseless and innocent people, and all of the crime and lack of morals which go with war, they become numb and apathetic. It has always been thus after war.
However, the morals of our people have not been destroyed. They still exist. This cloak of numbness and apathy has only needed a spark to rekindle them. Happily, this spark has finally been supplied.
As you know, very recently the Secretary of State proclaimed his loyalty to a man guilty of what has always been considered as the most abominable of all crimes—of being a traitor to the people who gave him a position of great trust. The Secretary of State in attempting to justify his continued devotion to the man who sold out the Christian world to the atheistic world, referred to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount as a justification and reason therefore, and the reaction of the American people to this would have made the heart of Abraham Lincoln happy.
When this pompous diplomat in striped pants, with a phony British accent, proclaimed to the American people that Christ on the Mount endorsed communism, high treason, and betrayal of a sacred trust, the blasphemy was so great that it awakened the dormant indignation of the American people.
He has lighted the spark which is resulting in a moral uprising and will end only when the whole sorry mess of twisted, warped thinkers are swept from the national scene so that we may have a new birth of national honesty and decency in government.
- The Wheeling Intelligencer, February 10, 1950, by Frank Desmond
M'Carthy Charges Reds Hold U. S. Jobs
Truman Blasted For Reluctance To Press Probe
Wisconsin Senator Tells Lincoln Fete Here 'Chips Down'
Joseph McCarthy, junior U. S. Senator from Wisconsin, was given a rousing ovation last night when, as guest of the Ohio County Republican Women's Club, he declared bluntly that the fate of the world rests with the clash between the atheism of Moscow and the Christian spirit throughout other parts of the world.
More than 275 representative Republican men and women were on hand to attend the colorful Lincoln Day dinner of the valley women which was held in the Colonnade room of the McLure hotel.
Disdaining any oratorical fireworks, McCarthy's talk was of an intimate, homey nature, punctuated at times with humor.
But on the serious side, he launched many barbs at the present setup of the State Department, at President Truman's reluctance to press investigation of "traitors from within," and other pertinent matters.
He said that recent incidents which brought traitors to the limelight is the result of an "emotional hangover" and a temporary moral lapse which follows every war. However, he added:
"The morals of our people have not been destroyed. They still exist and this cloak of numbness and apathy needs only a spark to rekindle them."
Referring directly to the State Department, he declared:
"While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department,"
The speaker dwelt at length on the Alger Hiss case and mentioned the names of several others who, during the not so many years, were found to entertain subversive ideas but were still given positions of high trust in the government.
"As you hear of this (Hiss) story of high treason," he said, "I know that you are saying to yourself well, why doesn't Congress do something about it?
Actually, ladies and gentlemen, the reason for the graft, the corruption, the disloyalty, the treason in high government positions the reason this continues is because of a lack of moral uprising on the part of the 140 million American people. In the light of history, however, this is not hard to explain.
"It is the result of an emotional hangover and a temporary moral lapse which follows every war. It is the apathy to evil which people who have been subjected to the tremendous evils of war feel.
"As the people of the world see mass murder, the destruction of defenseless and innocent people and all of the crime and lack of morals which go with war, they become numb and apathetic. It has always been thus after war."
At another time, he declared:
"Today, we are engaged in a final all-out battle between Communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of Communism have selected this as the time and, ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down they are truly down."
In an informal quiz with his audience, the Senator answered a number of questions dealing mostly with the plan of Secretary of Agriculture Brannan to destroy millions of tons of potatoes, eggs, butter and fruits; he gave forthright views on the old age and social security problems and a number of other topics.
McCarthy was introduced by William Callahan, executive director of the Ohio Valley Republican organization. Mrs. A. E. Eberhard, president of the women's group, presided, while program director, Mrs. Robert J. Harshman, introduced Callahan. State Senator William Hannig led the group singing.
The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Philip Goertz, pastor of the Second Presbyterian church, and the benediction was pronounced by the Rev. W. Carroll Thorn, of St. Luke's Episcopal church.
Senator McCarthy arrived by Capital Airlines at the Stifel airport late yesterday afternoon and was greeted by former Congressman Francis J. Love and Tom Sweeney, Jr., who drove him to the Fort Henry Club.
Margaret Brennan talks about Senator Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) “Enemies from Within” Speech
➤ View all of the video clips from C-Span's Cities Tour of Wheeling, WV
Additional Library Resources:
Materials in the Library's Circulating Collections:
➤ DVD: McCarthy: Power Feeds on Fear, "American Experience," Arlington, VA : PBS, 2020.
➤ DVD: Lunch With Books - Joseph McCarthy's Wheeling speech, Dr. Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, 2011.
➤ Catalog listings: Books on Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism (general - not Wheeling specific).
Materials in the Library's Wheeling Room: (non-circulating, ask for access at the reference desk.)
➤ Vertical File: McCarthy-ism Speech.