1919 March 5

A. Mitchell Palmer Becomes Attorney General, Leads Notorious Palmer Raids


A. Mitchell Palmer, a former member of the House of Representatives, was appointed Attorney General by President Woodrow Wilson on this day. Palmer is notorious for ordering the so-called “Palmer Raids,” two separate round-ups of alleged radicals, on November 7, 1919, and January 2, 1920. In the process, Palmer gave his name to one of the worst abuses of civil liberties in American history. The raids were accompanied by massive violations of due process against the people who were arrested, detained in deplorable conditions, and in many cases deported.

A group of twelve prominent lawyers (including Felix Frankfurter and Roscoe Pound) condemned the Palmer Raids in the Report Upon the Illegal Practices of the United States Department of Justice, issued on May 28, 1920.

Read: Stanley Coben, A. Mitchell Palmer, Politician (1963)

Read the Illegal Practices report: http://ia600309.us.archive.org/27/items/toamericanpeople00natiuoft/toamericanpeople00natiuoft.pdf

Watch a documentary on the Red Scare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qutgIfhUL7g

Read the 1920 ACLU pamphlet “Seeing Red” on the post-WW I hysteria: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/groups/aclu/1920/0800-nelles-civilliberty.pdf

Read Palmer’s official Justice Department biography: http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistpage.php?id=49

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