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