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No. 111 "The Right of Petition" Speech of Jouett Shouse broadcast over the National Broadcasting Company network on March 6, 1936. (Note: An audio copy of this speech can be found by searching the SONIC catalog at the Library of Congress).
No. 111 "The Right of Petition" Speech of Jouett Shouse broadcast over the National Broadcasting Company network on March 6, 1936. (Note: An audio copy of this speech can be found by searching the SONIC catalog at the Library of Congress). American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_111 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 111 "The Right of Petition" Speech of Jouett Shouse broadcast over the National Broadcasting Company network on March 6, 1936. (Note: An audio copy of this speech can be found by searching the SONIC catalog at the Library of Congress). American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1936. This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. AN INVITATION TO JOIN THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE We extend to every American citizen who believes in the fundamental principles which gave birth to the Constitution of the United States an invitation to become a member of the American Liberty League. You may indicate your acceptance of this invitation by filling in the necessary information as to your name and address on the enrollment blank below and mailing it to American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. There are no fees or dues. If you are willing and able to give monetary help for the League's support your contribution will be appreciated, as our activities are supported entirely by the voluntary gifts of our members. ENROLLMENT BLANK Date_ member. I favor the principles and purposes of the American Liberty League and request that I be enrolled as a I regular y 'contributing Signature_ Name (Mr. Mrs. Miss) *As a contributing member I desire to give $_ to help support the activities of the League: Cash he â˜… â˜… The Right of Petition â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of jouett shouse President of the American Liberty League over the Network of the National Broadcasting System american liberty league National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. (Ill) Document No. Ill The Right of Petition HEN you have finished with this pamphlet please pass it on to some friend or acquaintance who might be interested, calling his attention to the membership blank on page 12. * In THE SUMMER of 1935 the United States Senate, by resolution, created a special committee of five Senators to make investigation of lobbying activities particularly with reference to the so-called "Holding Company Bill." This Committee conducted public hearings over a period of weeks under the Chairmanship of Senator Hugo L. Black of Alabama. Within the past two weeks it has become a matter of common knowledge that the Black Committee has issued blanket subpoenas for all telegrams of numerous corporations, firms, individuals and organizations, including confidential communications between lawyers and clients 1 and personal messages between husband and wife. Within the past few days it has been dis-| covered that the Federal Communications Com- mission during the recess of Congress last fall sent its agents to the Washington offices of the Western Union Telegraph Company and made copies of thirteen thousand messages, which copies it turned over to the Black Committee. THE RIGHT of the Black Committee to subpoena telegrams will not be here discussed. The matter is now before the courts in an action brought by Winston, Strawn & Shaw, a prominent Chicago law firm. Certain facts, however, should be emphasized. Both the Western Union and the Postal Telegraph Company, without advising their customers of the fact, furnished telegrams in response to the subpoenas. These telegrams embraced all messages of said customers, whether of a personal, professional or business nature. They had been accepted by i the telegraph companies on the agreement that their contents would not be disclosed without consent. No attention was paid to this agreement and until recently no notification of the subpoenas issued was given by the telegraph companies to the parties under attack. But there is an even more important aspect of the whole situation. Confused and variant statements have been made as to what transpired with reference to the seizure of telegrams here in Washington. Senator Black is quoted in the morning papers of March 6th as saying that no telegram was secured except in response to a definite subpoena. On my OWN responsibility and on the responsibility of the American Liberty League I make the following statement: Last fall agents of the Black Committee went to the Washington offices of both the Western Union and the Postal Telegraph Companies and demanded the right to go through copies of all telegrams on file in those offices. Agents of the Companies were confused as to what to do. They were afraid to decline to grant the demand and yet they were conscious of the rights of their customers which made compliance impossible. Therefore, they stalled for time until they could confer with their superior officers and get instructions. Before a decision had been reached, agents of the Federal Communications Commission, accompanied by agents of the Black Committee, came to the Washington offices of the two telegraph companies and demanded under the authority of the Communications Commission access to all copies of messages in the said offices. Because of the control of the Communications Commission over the affairs of the telegraph companies the representatives of the latter did not dare refuse and this summary demand was consequently complied with. For a space of weeks the agents of the Communications Commission, in conjunction with agents of the Black Senatorial Committee, went through the entire files of the Washington telegraph offices and made copies of such messages as they desired. The telegraph companies do not know what messages were copied. The copies made were not turned over to the Communications Commission but were turned over to the Black Senatorial Committee. Now just what is implied and involved in this transaction? The Federal Communications Commission is a part of the Executive Branch of the government. It isn't under any departmental head. It is an independent Commission answerable only to the President. It is, therefore, the President's personal agent in connection with all matters that appertain to communications, whether telegraph, telephone, cable or radio. In other words, the Executive Branch of the government, without authority, lent itself to the request of the Black Senatorial Committee to secure through subterfuge for that Committee information which the Committee had not been able to secure for itself. NOW THE QUESTION arises as to whether the Federal Communications Commission had the right to make these copies of telegrams in order to turn them over to the Black Senatorial Committee. The Communications Act of 1934 provides in Section 1 of Title I (S 151, Title 47 U. S. Code) the purposes for which the Federal Communications Commission was created. While those purposes are broad, they are nevertheless definitely limited to what might be generally stated as the improvement of wire and radio communication service. The Act provides in detail for means to enable the Commission to carry out the purposes set forth, and Section 409 (b) of the Act (S 409, Title 47 U. S. Code) gives it the power to compel the production of books, papers, etc. But such power is not given without restriction. It is stated to be only "for the purposes of this Chapter," and the powers given by that Section must, therefore, be limited to the purposes set forth in the Act, namely, to further an efficient wire and radio communication service. The Commission has no power to investigate or proceed in regard to matters wholly unrelated to the purposes for which it was formed. It cannot lawfully be used as a searching agency to obtain information for the use of other Fed- eral bodies merely because the information was forwarded over the wire systems. If the information is in any way relevant to the consideration of how an efficient wire system can be developed, then it would probably be covered by the provisions of the Act, but where the information has no relation to such matters and is wanted solely for the purpose of some other federal body or investigating body, the right of the Government to obtain such information has no lawful justification in the Communications Act which gives investigating powers to the Commission only for the limited purposes set forth in the Act. NOW CERTAIN pertinent observations: 1 It is clear that nowhere in the Federal Communications Act is authority given for the Commission thus created to seize your telegrams or mine save for the limited and specified purposes contemplated in the creation of the Commission. 2 Equally it is clear that if this commission, a direct agent of the President, can deliver these telegrams to the Black Committee it can deliver them to any one else it pleases. 3 If the Black Committee can seize the telegrams between lawyer and client or between husband and wife it can seize correspondence of an equally confidential character. 4 If the Federal Communications Commission may assume to demand telegrams at the instance of a senatorial committee it may with equal right demand them at the behest of the Department of Justice. LET US see just what has happened in the City of Washington, the Capital of our Nation. Every telegram sent by any citizen of the United States to any one in Washington between February 1 and December 1, 1935 has been subject to examination by employees of the Federal Communications Commission or the Black Committee. Every telegram sent out of Washington during those ten months has been subject to such examination. 6 Now get that: I do not mean telegrams about legislation or public business I mean that if you, wherever you live, sent any telegram, however private, to any one in or out of office in Washington or if you sent any telegram, however private, out of Washington to any one in the world, on any subject, your telegram has come under the prying eyes of representatives of the New Inquisition. We are not informed as to whose telegrams were copied. We do not know how many copies were made of each. We do not know whether copies turned over to the Black Committee will be published or whether they will be passed on to others and thus form the basis of injury to the senders or recipients. But we do know that if this example of governmental terrorism is allowed to go unrebuked and unrepudiated we have seen the end of those rights of privacy and decency which are the distinguishing characteristics of civilized men. If your telegrams can be pawed over at will by agents of a partisan political group, what assurance have you that your mail may not be tampered with? What assurance have you that your telephone wires may not be tapped and your conversations reported? What assurance have you that dictaphones may not be placed in your offices or your homes? There IS an aspect of this situation which should be called particularly to the attention of the newspapers of the country and the press associations which serve them. I have had some connection with newspaper work at various times and I know, as every editor and publisher and correspondent knows, that there are literally thousands of confidential messages passing over the leased wires of the important newspapers and press associations every year and other thousands sent and received by papers which utilize the regular commercial wires of the telegraph companies. Those messages are an integral part of the mechanics of a free press. Are they to be subject to inspection by secret 7 agents of a Federal regime? Are they to be used by any Federal administration in attempts to influence newspaper policy? Of course the messages pawed over in the Washington offices of the two telegraph companies included telegrams sent and received by members of the Senate and the House of Representatives messages passing between Senators and their wives, messages to and from members of Congress and their confidential political advisors in their home States. That is a situation which, I trust, is pleasing to the Senate under whose authority the Black Committee has acted. It should be remembered that these confidential messages have been examined by a large corps of employees not by the Senators on the Black Committee themselves although, of course, they are also available to those Senators. One OF THE principal reasons for the American revolution was the practice of the British Crown in issuing so-called Writs of Assistance. These Writs were authorizations for officers of the Crown that is, representatives of the British government to search any place at any time in an effort to detect violations of the law. Inevitably, the authority given under the Writs was abused and this abuse, as well as the fundamental tyranny embodied in the system of issuance of Writs, did much to drive the Colonists to armed revolt. When the government of the United States was set up under our Federal Constitution the utmost care was taken to prevent any revival of such things as the Writs of Assistance. The fourth article of the Bill of Rights reads as follows: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Note the concluding words of that important guaranty of our liberties. They are: "particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Now we have the amazing spectacle of agents of a Senate Committee scurrying about the country serving so-called blanket subpoenas which demand the production of all messages received or sent by specified individuals, partnerships, associations or organizations. Furthermore, as exemplified by the procedure followed in Washington, we have the spectacle of an agency of the Executive Branch of the government, independent in its authority and answerable only to the President, taking advantage of its power over the telegraph companies to seize copies of the messages of all citizens sent either to or from the City of Washington during a space of many months and to turn over any of these messages that might be desired to the agents of a Senatorial Committee whose demand for them had not been complied with. This whole revolting revelation is a striking instance of what is happening in many countries but what we thought we were protected from. If the actions that are admitted shall be sanctioned the rights and liberties of the American people are seriously imperiled. The American Liberty League is one of the group whose telegrams have been turned over to the Black Committee. Quite by accident we learned that this had been done. To any information that the Committee can get it is more than welcome, but it will be disappointed at the results. The League has done its work in public. Just as voluntarily it has disclosed all of its expenditures, and has disclosed its contributions large and small from 20,000 men and women, so has it made public its position on any question with which it has dealt. There are no skeletons in its closet. Therefore it is without self-interest. But the Liberty League was established to do what it can for the protection of the Constitution and the preservation of the American form of government. These sacred heritages are threatened. With every resource at its command the League will carry forward the fight, not on behalf of any group, not against any individual, but solely for principles that are immutable. In SPEAKING to you tonight I have been exercising one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the free people of the United States by their Constitution. I refer to Article 1 of the Bill of Rights, which is the safeguard of our right to petition the government for redress of grievances. May I not suggest to my hearers from one end of the country to the other that they join with us in a mammoth petition of protest against this monstrous invasion of our fundamental rights which has been perpetrated by the present Administration at Washington through its so-called Federal Communications Commission and by the Black Committee of the United States Senate. We offer the resources and assistance of the American Liberty League to formulate and present this National petition of protest. Write to the American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. Or I might suggest even that if possible you telegraph because we know that a wire at least, especially if addressed to the American Liberty League, will not only come to the attention of the Administration and the Black Investigating Committee of the Senate, but will have the most alert consideration of both. 10