Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties

Overview

On June 2, 1919, bombs exploded simultaneously in nine American cities, and the nation suddenly found itself facing a new threat-radical terrorism. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer vowed a crackdown to be led by his youngest assistant, J. Edgar Hoover. Under Palmer's wing, Hoover helped execute a series of brutal nationwide raids-bursting into homes without warrants, arresting over ten thousand Americans-and assembled secret files on thousands of political enemies. Despite public backlash against the abuses, ...
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Overview

On June 2, 1919, bombs exploded simultaneously in nine American cities, and the nation suddenly found itself facing a new threat-radical terrorism. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer vowed a crackdown to be led by his youngest assistant, J. Edgar Hoover. Under Palmer's wing, Hoover helped execute a series of brutal nationwide raids-bursting into homes without warrants, arresting over ten thousand Americans-and assembled secret files on thousands of political enemies. Despite public backlash against the abuses, these were the first steps in Hoover's remarkable rise to power. Young J. Edgar is the "fast-paced" (Kirkus Reviews) story of Hoover's early career-one that reaches to the heart of our modern debate over personal freedom in a time of war and fear.

About the Author:
Kenneth D. Ackerman is the author of four books, including Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York. He currently practices law in Washington, D.C.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Ackerman, a Washington lawyer (Boss Tweed), examines the "red scare" hysteria that swept the country in 1919. The linchpin in the government's actions was the notorious Palmer Raids, a series of raids and arrests ostensibly designed to rid the country of anarchists and Communists. Though many at the time believed J. Edgar Hoover played only a small role in the raids, in fact they were organized by Hoover, then only a 24-year-old Department of Justice agent who Ackerman describes as possessing an uncanny ability to please his superiors, a preternatural ability to attend to detail and a dangerously distorted moral compass. The mixture of Hoover and the other personalities prominent in the story—Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs and Felix Frankfurter, to name a few—makes for a compelling story that features demagogues; terrorists; a gullible, xenophobic public; rogue law enforcement officials; and good guys, both in and out of government, who discredit the raids. Ackerman captures well the pathological character of the young Hoover and argues effectively that there is a cautionary tale in the corrosive effect of the denial of civil liberties and extralegal measures employed in the red scare raids. Illus. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Lively account of the government's heavy-handed response to the Red Menace. In the unsettled wake of World War I, when fears of sabotage and espionage had already shaken the country, American communists instigated a series of protests, strikes, riots and bombings. Admirers of Warren Beatty's film Reds, which told this story from the radicals' point of view, will remember some of the major players: anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, journalist John Reed, Communist Party founder Louis Fraina. Lawyer/author Ackerman (Boss Tweed, 2005, etc.) recounts the maneuvers of various government officials on the opposite side. His fast-paced narrative opens with the 1919 firebombing of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's private residence, an event that spurred Palmer to create within the Justice Department's fledgling Bureau of Investigation a Radical Division headed by 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover. Using techniques developed as a cataloguer for the Library of Congress, Hoover created a vast index-card system identifying and linking troublemakers. Relying on this information, Palmer rounded up thousands of aliens and citizens, intending to deport the first and prosecute the second. The only "crime" of the vast majority caught up in this dragnet was their affiliation with unpopular political opinion. At first cheered by Congress and the public, the Palmer Raids gradually acquired a bad odor, thanks to abuses revealed by Clarence Darrow, Felix Frankfurter, Oliver Wendell Holmes and especially Labor Department assistant secretary Louis Post. His presidential hopes dashed, Palmer retired, but Hoover was just far enough down the food chain to disclaim any significant role in thecivil-liberties abuses. He survived to be named director of what would become the FBI during the Coolidge administration. From that perch, this indefatigable record-keeper would bedevil nine more presidents, becoming the most feared and powerful bureaucrat in the federal government. A slice of history with an always relevant underlying subject: how a democratic government balances civil liberties against the need for public safety.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786717750
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth D. Ackerman is the author of three books, including Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York. He currently practices law in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Denials     1
Bombs     9
Bombs     11
Edgar     37
Edgar     39
Bureaucrats     50
Race Riots     60
Radical Division     63
Reds     71
Strikes     82
Partners     87
The First Raid     93
Thrombosis     95
New York     102
Emma     107
The First Raid     113
Centralia     124
Criminal Court     128
"Parlor Bolsheviks"     133
Harvard     135
Post     141
Free Speech     147
The Big Raid     153
The Buford     155
Demands     164
Final Plans     170
Chicago     176
The Big Raid     180
Chaos     187
Chaos     189
Lloyd     197
Hearings     201
Triumph     207
Cheated     213
Resistance     215
Darrow     217
Paterson     229
Candidate     234
Double Cross     236
Boston     241
Truss     250
Plain Words     256
Reaction     258
Impeachment     263
Communist Labor     270
Gagged     277
Salsedo     282
Exposure     287
Day in Court     289
Payback     295
Not Guilty     301
Twelve Lawyers     306
Palmer     312
Verdicts     317
Politics     319
Verdict     329
Empire     338
Walsh     347
Stone     356
Survivor     364
Fooled     372
Legacy     383
Notes     411
Bibliography     453
Acknowledgments     461
Index     463
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Provocative

    I am the daughter of George F.R. Cummerow a witness for the prosecution who won the trial against Clarence Darrow.<BR/><BR/>Mr Ackerman describes the incident involving my father as well as my father described it to me. I was born 4 years later in 1924. After all these years I remember my father's account very well. He was very concerned for his life. However, Mr. Ackerman's account mentions my father's lack of a good memory - the contrary was true. I'm marking Mr. Ackerman down for that although it did enhance the story. My father was known throughout his career as having a phenomenal memory. Maybe he worked on improving it after that trial? <BR/><BR/>I loved the book and I highly recommend it. Very appropriate for discussion in today's political atmosphere.<BR/><BR/>dorothy cody

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