A Prophet’s Rewardrnby Ralph de Toledanorn”Every honest man is a prophet.rn—BlakernWhittaker Chambersrnby Sam TanenhausrnNew York: Random House;rn638 pp., $35.00rnWhat is now known as the Hissrncase exploded across the frontrnpages of the nation’s newspapers on Augustrn4,1948. The day before, WhittakerrnChambers—a short, stocky man in arnrumpled grey suit—had taken the standrnbefore the House Un-American ActivitiesrnCommittee to testify that a numberrnof Americans, some of them highly regardedrnby the liberal establishment andrnits media handmaidens, were membersrnof a communist cell in the federal government.rnTo the country at large, thernname Whittaker Chambers meantrnnothing. To the press corps covering thernhearing or reading about it, he wasrnknown as one of the most brilliant editorsrnin the Time-Life empire—a manrnwho could write with equal eloquencernabout Marian Anderson, ReinholdrnNiebuhr, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung,rnRalph de Toledano’s Notes from the Underground:rnThe Whittaker Chambers-rnRalph de Toledano Letters, 1949-1960rnwill be published this fall by Regnery.rnSt. Benedict, or poets like Rilke.rnThe Chambers testimony would havernbeen buried in HUAC’s archive but forrntwo things. Harry Dexter White, whornhad been an Assistant Secretary of thernTreasury and who controlled Henry Morgenthau,rnthe titular head of the department,rntook the stand to deny all and,rnhaving made a stirring speech aboutrnAmericanism, shuffled off this mortalrncoil in a great show of martyrdom.rnWhether he committed suicide or coincidentallyrnlost control of his heart willrnnever be known, for his remains werernhastily cremated. What opened up thernHiss case was Alger himself, who shrewdlyrnrealized that to remain silent would bernconsidered an admission of guilt andrnwho therefore decided, taking his cuernfrom Mark Twain, that the better part ofrnvalor was to lie with panache.rnThat Whittaker Chambers was thernaccusing angel confused and deceivedrnthe press, which had over the years developedrna technique for destroying the credibilityrnof witnesses who came forth withrnaccounts of their life in the CommunistrnParty: indignation, innuendo, and malignrninvention. The more it probed, thernmore it discovered the real nature of thernsubject. Asked how he could testify tornevents of a decade earlier without trippingrnover his feet. Chambers answered.rn”It is simple if you are telling the truth.”rnBut his major strength was that he wasrnnot defending himself, but defending arnphilosophy which was unassailable. Ironically,rnwhat made Chambers convincingrnwas the shamelessness of the attack onrnhim—an attack which was led by a Presidentrnof the United States and a formerrnFirst Lady whose connection with thernapparat would be documented muchrnlater.rnThe details of the case—the typewriterrnon which Priscilla Hiss had copied arnpyramid of top secret State Departmentrndocuments for the Soviet secret police,rnthe kitchen middens of the Hisses’ privaternlives, the manner in which theyrntwisted and turned to avoid and evaderntheir acts of complieitv—had less effectrnin contributing to the drama of the casernthan the Whittaker Chambers whoserntrousers never knew the dignity of arncrease, and the dapper, almost mincingrnAlger Hiss. For as the case progressed, itrnbecame increasingly clear that Chambersrnwas not just another in the long listrnof witnesses who had given testimony tornthe treason of Americans in and out ofrngovernment, but in the religious sense arnwitness for the civilization and the valuesrnunder attack by the tacit alliance ofrnLeninists and liberals. (In other guises,rnthat alliance still exists and still feeds itsrnSEPTEMBER 1997/33rnrnrn