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Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50

Hiss Denies Communist Link

In Washington, Hiss told the committee the accusation was "a complete fabrication." His government service would speak for itself. But, said Karl Mundt, acting chairman of the committee, Chambers had testified that when he was breaking with the communists he had tried to persuade Hiss to break, too, and Hiss had "absolutely refused to break."

Hiss denied such an incident, repeated that the name Chambers meant nothing to him, and said he would like to see the man. Chambers was called to an executive session of a sub-committee led by U.S. Representative Richard M. Nixon of California. The witness described intimate details of the Hiss households in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. a decade earlier.

Hiss was recalled. Nixon showed him pictures of Chambers. Hiss said they looked like a man he knew as George Crosley, a freelance writer who had interviewed him when he was counsel to a Senate committee. In June 1935, said Hiss, he and his wife Priscilla bought a house and, subletting their apartment to Crosley and his family, threw in their old Ford. But Hiss would not say that Crosley and Chambers were the same person.

In New York the next day, Congressmen Nixon and John McDowell, as a subcommittee, brought Chambers and Hiss face to face. After observing that this man's teeth were considerably improved over Crosley's, and that he looked "very different in girth and in other appearances—hair, forehead, particularly the jowls," Hiss identified Chambers as George Crosley.

Chambers denied ever going under that name, but he said Hiss was the man "who was a member of the Communist Party" at whose apartment he and his wife and child had stayed. Angry, Hiss invited Chambers "to make those same statements out of the presence of this Committee without their being privileged for suit for libel."

Chambers shortly did so on the "Meet the Press" radio program. Hiss filed a $75,000 defamation suit.

At a pretrial hearing, Hiss' attorney, William Marbury, asked Chambers if he could produce documentary proof of his assertion. Chambers went to the Brooklyn home of a nephew and, from behind a dumbwaiter, retrieved a stained manila envelope containing 43 typed copies of State Department reports, five rolls of microfilm, and four memoranda in Hiss' handwriting. He handed the documents, but not the films, to Marbury. He claimed Hiss had given them to him in 1937. Hiss, said Chambers, regularly took such classified papers home for his wife to type, returning the originals to the files the next day while Chambers transmitted the copies to a Soviet agent. •

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50 - Hiss Denies Communist Link, A "bombshell," A Seaplane, A Pumpkin, A Typewriter Proves Elusive