Federal Loyalty Program

   In response to Republican charges that the Democrats were “soft on communism,” in November 1946 President Harry S. Truman established a Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty. Following their recommendations, Truman issued Executive Order 9835 on 21 March 1947 establishing a Federal Loyalty Program. The program was intended to remove “any disloyal or subversive person” from the federal civil service. Disloyal activities were listed as including sabotage, espionage, treason, sedition, the advocacy of revolution or violent overthrow of government, passing secret information to another party, and “membership, affiliation, or sympathetic association with” any group or organization “designated as totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive.” These organizations were listed by the attorney general and included the Communist Party of the United States of America, Socialist Workers’ Party, Ku Klux Klan, National Negro Congress, Silver Shirts, and various groups involved in the Spanish Civil War.
   The Civil Service Commission was required to establish a Loyalty Review Board, and federal workers were vetted through federal loyalty boards. Almost 3 million people were checked during the Truman administration, and between 400 and 1,200 were dismissed (precise figures are unclear) and between 1,000 and 6,000 resigned rather than face investigation. The process continued under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the definition of disloyal was widened to include “security risk” from 1953 onward. Rather than silence the attacks from conservatives as intended, information from the Loyalty Review Board was used by Senator Joseph McCarthy and others to demonstrate that there was indeed a threat of subversion. In this respect, the loyalty program was a precursor to McCarthyism.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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