1 June 1950
Margaret Chase Smith Issues her “Declaration of Conscience”
Ever since February, when McCarthy first claimed that the State Department remained infiltrated by communists, the newspapers had been filled with the antics of the Wisconsin Senator. Although his numbers of alleged communists kept changing, and he kept expanding his accusations to more government agencies, the central message remained constant—the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt and Truman had allowed subversives into high-level government positions.

For a Republican Party that had been out of power for nearly twenty years—with the brief exception of 1947-48, when they controlled both houses of Congress—the “communists-in-government” issue seemed promising. Many prominent Republicans lined up behind McCarthy, as did some renegade Democrats. However, a group of Republicans led by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith dissented. On June 1 Smith made a statement on the floor of the Senate in which she lamented that, thanks to a “lack of effective leadership” in both the White House and Congress, the country was heading toward “national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.” Without mentioning McCarthy by name, she scolded her fellow senators for allowing “hate and character assassination” to enter its deliberations.

Six of Smith’s fellow Republicans joined her in what they called a “Declaration of Conscience.” A number of newspaper editorials praised her words, as did Truman. Most of her colleagues, however, ignored them, while McCarthy scornfully referred to Smith and her six cosigners as “Snow White and the Six Dwarves.” The invasion of South Korea, which followed later that month, added fuel to McCarthy’s accusations, and the “Declaration of Conscience” was soon forgotten.

- Classic Senate Speeches: Margaret Chase Smith, A Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950

- “National Suicide”: Margaret Chase Smith and Six Republican Senators Speak Out Against Joseph McCarthy’s Attack on “Individual Freedom”