Short Works on
The Hiss Case


"The Alger Hiss Story" Web site will be presenting a series of shorter works on the Hiss case, each in its entirety. The first is William Howard Moore's "Two Foolish Men."

Sometime in 1987, an envelope arrived at the office of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, the organization that had sponsored Alger Hiss's 1978 coram nobis petition to have his conviction overturned. In the envelope was a copy of an 89-page pamphlet entitled, "Two Foolish Men: The True Story of the Friendship Between Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers," by William Howard Moore.

Moore had periodically been in touch with Hiss, so his name was vaguely familiar to those who worked on the case, but no one had expected anything close to the force of the logic and reason that shone through every page of Moore's short, self-published monograph.

What Moore had in effect created was a closing argument for the defense that would have been worthy of Clarence Darrow. Relying mostly on previously published books (including Allen Weinstein's "Perjury," which concluded that Hiss had been a Soviet spy) as well as the transcripts of both trials and the 1948 HUAC hearings, Moore meticulously dissects the prosecution's case until there is very little left at the end. At the same time, he is unsparing in his criticisms of the mistakes Alger Hiss made in preparing his case - mistakes that cost him dearly.
In the sixteen years since the publication of "Two Foolish Men," thousands of pages of documents on the case have been made public for the first time. Despite this, the book remains as persuasive as when it was written. Perhaps the best explanation for its continued power lies in Moore's ability to de-politicize the case. Without making any prior assumptions about who was right and who was wrong, he instead applies simple, elegant deductive reasoning to Chambers' story, which repeatedly suffers from such an examination. That Moore could take such a complex affair as the Hiss case, break it down into its important components and marshal his arguments so succinctly is another reason why "Two Foolish Men" is such an impressive achievement.

"Two Foolish Men" deserves the honor of being the first of the complete works in this exciting series. Click here to download a pdf of the book.

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