Red Web - Blair Coan

The Frame-Up Gets Under Way

In telling, in the first chapter of this book, about my trip to Mexico in the early part of 1922, and of my conversation with the communist Olson, alias Smith, alias Redfern, I said that Olson in his predictions concerning the Congressional elections of that year made particular mention of the state of Montana. I do not recall this, nor do I stress the details of events leading up to the election of Senator Wheeler, because of any desire specifically to attack Senator Wheeler. For Wheeler is no worse than his red or his pink allies. But Wheeler is the man to whom fell the star role in a drama of conspiracy which to the utter disgrace of the United States Senate, was later enacted for the purpose of breaking down the foremost bulwark of ordered government, the department of a government responsible for the suppression of lawlessness, the federal Department of Justice.

Simultaneous with Wheeler's election to the Senate, La Follette was re-elected in Wisconsin on the Republican ticket, the Republican organization of Wisconsin having long been in the control of radicals, red and pink. That there might be no doubt whatever of La Follette's re-election, the Socialist party of the state indorsed him and took pains particularly not to put any candidates before the people who might prove embarrassing to La Follette. Frazier, of North Dakota, and Shipstead, of Minnesota, were elected to the Senate as avowed radicals. Dill, of Washington, and Ashhurst, of Arizona, were elected as Democrats, but they were both pinks who received the benefit of radical support, red and pink. Brookhart, of Iowa, who was, with the possible exception of Wheeler, the nearest thing to a red who ever got a seat in the Senate, was elected as a Republican because the reds and pinks of the state had captured the party organization in Iowa. Norris, of Nebraska, like Ladd, of North Dakota, was already in. He was not up for reelection until two years later, when he was permitted to ride along in the Republican bandwagon notwithstanding endorsement of him by the radicals.

Norris, of course, is no more a Republican than La Follette was or Brookhart is, or that Wheeler or Dill or Ashhurst are Democrats. Norris is somewhat like Borah, though less subtle. One might better class him as a political anarchist than anything else. Both he and Borah are so "independent" they can't be hitched to any party, and can't be dragged into team work with any radical organization, although both of them incline to cooperate with the radicals rather than with anyone else—except just at election time when both can be depended upon to make use of Republican party organization for their own political success.

[Illustration] from The Red Web by Blair Coan


In the election of 1922 there were some others wearing the Republican or Democratic party label who were elected to the Senate with the frank approval and support of the conference for Progressive Political Action—the co-ordinated red and pink political organization which grew out of the action of the Socialist party on the Hillquit resolution heretofore discussed in detail. There must have been something pink about them or they could scarcely have counted on this radical support. These others were McKellar, of Tennessee; Kendrick, of Wyoming; Swanson, of Virginia; and Howell, of Nebraska.

As had been said, Wheeler was elected by thirty percent of the qualified electorate of Montana. But only seventeen percent went to the polls to elect Dill in Washington. Frazier was elected by thirty-five percent; Brookhart, by twenty-nine percent; twenty-eight percent was all La Follette needed; and Howell required but thirty-two percent.

[Illustration] from The Red Web by Blair Coan


The Wheeler campaign was typical of the campaigns waged in behalf of the other radicals who were elected to Congress in that 1922 election. Particular stress upon the "Get Daugherty" issue was evident wherever it was expedient to put that issue to the fore. The radical press and radical campaign orators urged the election of men ta Congress who would impeach Daugherty. Benjamin C. March, professional friend of the farmers and connected with the "labor" movement simply by the part he played in mobilizing gullible farmers when the Conference for Progressive Political Action was organized, was notably industrious in emphasizing the "importance" of electing men to Congress who were pledged to do their bit toward "getting Daugherty."

It ought, perhaps, to be noted at this point that one pro-Russian pink senator, Joseph I. France, Republican, was repudiated at the polls in the election of 1922, when Maryland expressed its preference for William Cable Bruce, a Democrat, who subsequently achieved note, as well as the bitter enmity of many of his party colleagues in the Senate, by maintaining a consistent opposition to the alliance into which the Democratic minority in the Senate was inveigled by the La Follette "radical bloc."

Immediately after the 1922 election, the radicals of both the new Senate and the new House began to mobilize for action in the sixty-eighth session of the Congress. Wheeler, the "Democrat," and Brookhart, the "Republican," at once were received into the fold of the People's Legislative Service, the radical rallying ground, by their comrades-in-service already in, Messrs. La Follette, Norris and Ladd. A love-feast of the red and pink elect was held in Washington under the auspices of the People's Legislative Service on December 3rd following the election, and that great apostle of uplift, Samuel Untermyer, of New York, whose love for the "common people" had become intensified by the vigorous methods of the Department of Justice in dealing with war profiteers, delivered an attack upon the Department of Justice and Attorney General Daugherty that was cheered to the echo. An "investigation" of the Department of Justice was urgently demanded by Mr. Untermyer, and Senator-elect Wheeler grinned with satisfaction the while Senator Brookhart, who had the day before taken the seat made vacant in the Senate by the resignation of Senator Kenyon, smiled with serene anticipation of the contemplated action called for by the chief financial prop of the People's Legislative Service, Mr. Untermyer.

It was the Sixty-seventh Congress that was then in session, however, and Senator Wheeler was not a member of it. His role at the time was largely one of getting ready for action when he should become a member of the Senate in the Sixty-eighth session. But the schooling to be had by him and Brookhart in the People's Legislative Service was kindergarten stuff to what they both were to have a few months later by first hand contact with the conduct of government as practiced by the geniuses of bolshevism themselves in Moscow, capital of Red Russia and headquarters of the world revolution for the overthrow of capitalism and capitalist government everywhere, including the United States of America.

Soon after the Congressional elections of 1922, while the government injunction suit in the railroad strike cases was pending and when the Department of Justice was being assailed by radicals in and out of Congress because of its suit and continued "persecution" of the red enemies of the nation the Borah resolution for the recognition of soviet Russia by the United States was revived in the Senate; the "independence of the Philippines" movement received impetus from the radicals of the People's Legislative Service, assault upon the American government's "imperialist" policy of affording protection to the maintenance of orderly government in certain Latin-American portions of the western hemisphere was intensified by radicals of the same group. All of these "movements" were parallel and in strict harmony with the demands of the red radicals, as specifically set forth in the communist program and in theses from Moscow headquarters.

Senator Wheeler spent quite some time in Washington before the adjournment of the Sixty-seventh Congress, of which, as has been noted, he was not a member—being still only a Senator-elect. Senator Ladd, of North Dakota, was endeavoring to organize a group of American legislators and legisators-elect to visit Russia and obtain information first-hand about the way the reds were running their government. Whether Senator Ladd was taking the actual initiative in this move or whether he was simply pinch-hitting for Wheeler, I do not pretend to know. But the plan did not find the immediate response desired, and soon after the adjournment of the sixty-seventh Congress, Senator Ladd announced the trip had been abandoned, and that Senator Wheeler alone would accept the hospitality of the bolshevik overlords. So Senator Wheeler sailed for Europe alone. Ditto, Brookhart. It was not so very long, however, before Senator Ladd had found it possible to organize his group for the visit to Russia.

The party included Senator King, of Utah, Senator Walsh, of Montana, was invited to go, but declined. Why Senator King was invited is something of a puzzle, unless he was suspected of being "amenable to reason" because he had opposed the Railroad Labor Board. I'm sure I don't know. But it is certain the radicals lived to regret the invitation, for Senator King learned a lot in Russia which the others appear to have overlooked. He came back charged with ammunition denunciatory of the soviet regime, and frequently exploded some of it on the floor of the United States Senate as a sort of antidote for the singing of praises for that regime by Wheeler, Brookhart and Ladd.

Wheeler was frankly a defender of the Russian Government and its policies toward foreign governments before he went—alone—to Moscow. His outpourings to the press upon his return to the United States were even more fervently pro-Russian than before he had had the advantage of first-hand investigation and entertainment at the hands of the Moscow oligarchs. Senator Brookhart's fondness for proposals to remake the American government along socialist lines seemed also to have been accentuated by his trip abroad, but Brookhart's hobby, of course, was government-controlled and federal-enforced cooperatives "for the benefit of the farmers."

Soon after his return from Russia, Senator Wheeler enlisted himself in the cause of strengthening the "radical bloc" in the Sixty-eighth Congress, of which he was to be a member, by going into Minnesota to campaign for the election of Magnus Johnson, the Farmer-Labor candidate for the seat made vacant by the death of Senator Knute Nelson. Wheeler had been elected to the Senate as a Democrat, but he campaigned in Minnesota against the Democratic candidate because he was not a radical sympathizer, and for Magnus Johnson because Johnson was. The left wing, or communist element, of the radical movement had a strangle-hold upon the Farmer-Labor party of Minnesota, just as it had a strangle-hold upon the Farmer-Labor and Non-Partisan League outfits of North Dakota. Magnus Johnson was elected, but, as the reds and pinks now sadly relate it, Johnson proved to have nothing but a big voice, and was a teriffic disappointment when he got into the Senate, which he did at the same time Wheeler did.

To know beyond any doubt whatever that the soviet government of Russia and the Communist (Third) Internationale are so inextricably woven together as to be identically the same thing; to know that the Comintern is the supreme authority recognized by the communists of the United States as well as everywhere else in the world; to know that all propaganda conducted directly by the communists themselves in this country and elsewhere is directed and in part financed by the Comintern; and to know that this propaganda is directed not only to the overthrow of capitalism and the existing order of government in the United States, but also to the destruction of the influence of the Christian Religion, all it is necessary to do is to read the official communist publication and the authorized communist literature which is openly circulated in this country. For Senator Wheeler to have visited Russia and for him to have come into the intimate contact with the soviet authorities which he himself professes to have done, ignorance of these facts would have been impossible.

Yet, Mr. Wheeler, upon his return to the United States, directed the bulk of his attention to the job of spreading his praises of the bolshevik regime, of comparing the United States government unfavorably with it, and of making public denials that the bolsheviks were anti-Christian or that they were engaged in any sort of propaganda in the United States.

"That agitation in the United States against the recognition of the Russian Soviet government is based upon the vilest propaganda is charged by Senator Burton K. Wheeler, of Montana, in a letter to Alton B. Parker, of New York, president of the National Civic Federation," said a special dispatch from Washington to the New York Times, November 22, 1923.

Senator Wheeler had been making speeches and giving interviews in the support of the proposal for recognition of Russia by the United States government, and Mr. Parker wrote him a letter asking him to give serious consideration to certain phases of the Russian situation before committing himself to the policy of recognition.

"I am not in accord with your statement," Wheeler said in his reply to Parker, "that in case of recognition, the soviet consulates here would be 'nothing more than centers for communistic propaganda, including the promotion of atheism.' I am absolutely convinced that the Russian government, as such, is not promoting communism and revolution in the United States nor is it carrying on a propaganda for atheism."

"By reason of the opportunities afforded me on my visit to Russia to observe and study the church situation, I feel that I am able to speak with some authority on that subject; at least I feel that my opinions are based on facts, and not on the mendacious propaganda that fills the capitalistic press, and which you so smugly endorsed in your open letter."

Some of this "mendacious propaganda" which filled "the capitalistic press" emanated from the United States Department of State, Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary, and consisted of the explanations of the United States government, through the Secretary of State, of its reasons for continued refusal to bestow recognition upon the soviet government of Russia. The bolshevik chieftains took official recognition of the "mendacious propaganda" by calling upon the government of the United States for proof of its position. Fortunately, the proof was readily at hand.

Continuing a consistent and vigorous prosecution of plots agianst the American government by reds recognizing allegiance only to the generals of the world revolution in Moscow, defying the never-ceasing efforts of reds and pinks to intimidate them, and refusing under heavy pressure from reds, pinks and yellows to recommend the release from prisons of the more flagrant war-time seditionists, Attorney General Daugherty also had directed investigations which made the proof against Moscow's lies and Wheeler's defense of them available. Evidence to confirm the soundness of the American government's position was laid before the Secretary of State in voluminous quantities, including a full report of the Bridgeman (Mich.) communist convention which had been so precipitately terminated by the raid by state officers and Department of Justice Agents and the arrest of seventeen of the chief pro-soviet, anti-American conspirators.

The Sixty-eighth Congress convened in December, 1923, and the "radical bloc" began to function as per advance program immediately. An alliance with the Democratic minority was quickly brought about by Messrs. LaFollette and Wheeler in cooperation with a misled Democratic leadership which saw in the alliance certain political advantages but failed to see that a petted snake grows bigger and bigger and gets not a whit tamer or less dangerous to the petter.

The "radical bloc" went to the support of the Democratic nominee for the Chairmanship of the Committee on Interstate Commerce in the Senate, and his election gave heart to the Democratic party organization. It made it easy for the radical program in some of its essential details, and there was no shortage of glee in the souls of LaFollette, Wheeler, Brookhart, et al. The barrage of attack by the "radical bloc" and by Democrats seeing in it a way to success in the national election of 1924, impugning by wholesale the integrity of government officials—an attack studiously calculated by its red and pink instigators to destroy the faith of the American people in their government—so dazed those men in Congress, who might have been expected to meet the barrage with courage and with vigor, that nothing less than a panic among administration senators occurred.

The time was opportune for any daring scheme that might be concocted. The stage was set for the very sort of drama and intrigue that thereupon was created. No more prepared to go through with it than Keller had been with his impeachment proceedings in the House, but remembering well his pledge to the reds whose support had won him his place, Wheeler saw his great opportunity and experienced a feeling of courage in the belief that the radical coalition with the Democratic minority supplied a radical balance of power that would see him through to triumph in whatever step he might find himself obliged to take.

Wheeler introduced his resolution, attacking the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and calling for an "investigation," and the resolution went over with a whoop and hurrah from the radical-Democrats alliance and with a sickening sense of fear in the panicky hearts of Republican Senators. It was terrible, this calamity! It would break the administration! For the sake of the Republican party and the administration, the Attorney General ought to resign!

The Attorney General, not being the kind who runs away and being clever enough to know the attack was not a personal assault but an assault upon the administration, upon the government itself, declined to quit under fire. He was fully aware, even if nobody else was, that the attack was a frame-up—not of himself, but of the administration,—and that if it "got" him without a struggle, it would only turn in another direction to "get" someone else, and that the assault would be continued until every official in the administration, from President down, would find himself on the defensive.

The Senate passed the Wheeler resolution which, in itself, provided an entirely illegal proceeding. It then brushed rules and precedent aside by resolving to "elect" the committee which should conduct the investigation. With the Democratic minority allied with it and overwhelmed with enthusiasm for the project, the "radical bloc" succeeded in naming the committee. Brookhart, the pro-soviet pink red, or red pink, from Iowa, was elected Chairman, and with Wheeler, the Montana pink red, or rect pink, and Ashurst, the Arizona pink, on the committee, it was quite safely packed in favor of the "prosecution."

[Illustration] from The Red Web by Blair Coan


The Department of Justice and its chief officer didn't have a chance. They were foredoomed to take what came. Wheeler had no more of a case than Keller had had, but he had the committee packed and framed in his favor—and that was a tolerably good beginning.

Gregory Zinoviev, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, announced through the columns of Pravada that bolshevism had the right to "expect welcome surprises from the American labor movement."