21 March 1947
Truman Announces Loyalty Program
Revelations in 1946 that Soviet spies had been infiltrating the U.S. government since the 1930s were deeply embarrassing to the Truman administration, and they helped to bring Republican majorities to both houses of Congress after the 1946 elections. Fearing that the GOP would continue to use the “communists-in-government” as a weapon against the administration, Truman on March 21 issued an executive order calling for federal investigations into the loyalty of all government employees.

According to the new “loyalty program,” each federal department and agency was required to set up a loyalty board charged with monitoring the activities and affiliations of its workers. To assist them in doing so, the attorney general issued lists of “totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive” organizations, while the Federal Bureau of Investigations made its own inquiries. The loyalty boards were empowered to dismiss any federal employee if there were “reasonable grounds” to doubt his or her loyalty.

Truman’s loyalty program drew fire from left and right. Liberals denounced it as a violation of civil liberties; federal employees, they feared, could be removed for no other reason than that they held unpopular political views. On the other hand, over the next two years very few employees were dismissed under the program, leading conservatives to resume their accusations that the administration was “soft on communism.”

Links:
- Statement by the President on the Government’s Loyalty Program, November 14, 1947

- Chester E. Holifield (D-CA), Speech on Truman’s Loyalty Program, June 27, 1947