Hiss, Chambers, and the Age of Innocence:
Who Was Guilty—And of What?
You will either aid in moulding history, or history will mould you, and in the case of the latter, you can rest assured that you will be indescribably crushed and maimed in the process…. History is not a blind goddess, and does not pardon the blindness of others.
-Whittaker Chambers in 1931
ALGER HISS is in jail. The last legal judgments have been passed. The decision of the courts stands: guilty as charged-guilty in fact of treason, though technically accused only of perjury. It is time, many of us feel, to forget the whole business: the prison doors have closed; let us consider the question also closed. But history is not so easily satisfied. Like some monumental bore, it grabs us by the lapels, keeps screaming into our faces the same story over and over again. The case of Judith Coplon, the case of William Remington, the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the inevitable case of tomorrow’s Mr. X-the names change but the meanings are the same, and we protest that we have long since got the point. But have we? Of what was Alger Hiss guilty anyhow?
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