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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 10. July 15, 1954


As New Zealanders watch in amazement and pass comment on the Incredible activities of Senator McCarthy, there is a tendency to forget that many Americans are aware of the dangers of his methods, and are active in the struggle to preserve civil liberties. Henry Steele Commager is a well-known American historian whose works of scholarship are studied in this college. We reprint here his review of "But We Were Born Free" by Elmer Davis, which, even in this edited form, sketches the background to today's events and outstandingly interprets the current American scene. The situation in New Zealand is similar in many respects.

Courage and common sense are the distinguishing characteristics of Elmer Davis, and of this fine book of essays which remind us that . . . We Were Born Free. We are assailed day after day by loud-mouthed super-patriots and dozens of organisations that arrogate to themselves responsibility for preserving the Constitution and the "American way of life."

What is the cause of this ferment of fear, this near hysteria? What explains The upsurge of panic, of irrationalism, of hatred? It is after all a sobering fact that this disease should spread so widely at a time when we might have expected immunity from such infections. For how does it happen that so many Americans are consumed with fear at a time when our rich and powerful country is fresh from the greatest victory that it or any other modern nation has known? How does it happen that so many of us harbour the deepest misgivings about our allies and associates Just at a time when we stand at the head of the greatest and most successful alliance in history? How does it happen that we are tempted to withdraw into our own shell—tempted to weaken even our ability to conduct a foreign policy at adjust at a time when we have been thrust into the centre of world power and have taken on responsibilities that we cannot possibly evade or avoid? How does it happen that we are consumed with fear of the intellectuals at a time when the proportion of our college-bred population is larger than ever before, larger than comparable groups in Britain, or Scandinavia or Switzerland, nations (happily immune from our suspicions and dissension?