Dec 2, 2021
This Podcast is the closest the trials get to high
comedy. Dreamy, arrogant State Department economist, Henry
Julian Wadleigh, worked in the same area as Hiss (several levels
below Hiss). Wadleigh testifies that he passed State
Department documents to Chambers in 1937 and 1938 without
authorization. He thus corroborates Chambers’ testimony that
Chambers was the hub of a spy ring in State in those
But might he also help Hiss? Could it have been Wadleigh
who gave Chambers all those documents? How might Hiss make a
case that it was Wadleigh who passed the papers that Chambers said
he got from Hiss? Would Chambers have any reason to falsely
accuse Hiss if he could truthfully accuse
Lloyd Paul Stryker’s cross-examination succeeded in making
Wadliegh look like a ridiculous head-in-the-clouds dreamer.
(Just like Chambers, Stryker hints, all these commies are weirdoes
unlike the solid, respectable Alger.). Wadleigh made such a fool of
himself that, when once Murphy objected to Stryker’s
cross-examination, Judge Kaufman couldn’t rule on the objection
because he was laughing so hard that he had hidden his face in his
Back at the Grand Jury, there was a dramatic scene in the room
where all the witnesses sat before being summoned to the presence
of the Grand Jury. When Wadleigh and Hiss saw each other,
they exchanged pleasantries and then Wadliegh told Hiss “The F.B.I.
came to see me and I got sort of panicky and told them that I had
given some documents to Chambers.” Hiss purported to be
“astounded.” (Hiss at 187.). I would love to have ten great
actors perform Hiss being astounded — reactions all the way from
“My God, there was a spy ring in State. Horrors!” to
“You, too, Julian?!” See also Grand Jury Transcript at 3949;
Weinstein at 298.
The Baltimore Sun newspaper interviewed Wadleigh shortly
before he testified in the second trial. By then he was
disgraced and destitute. The newspaper described Wadleigh as
“[p]ossessed of a self-esteem amounting almost to self-deification”
and “look[ing] pityingly on the remainder of humanity, . . .
distressed when it so often fails to respond to his guidance from a
self-erected mountain.” Thomas O’Neill, “Wadleigh Set for New
Role,” The Baltimore Sunday Sun, Nov., 27, 1949, page 5, col.
Questions: No one has ever suggested that Wadleigh was
lying. Can you think of any reason he would lie to
corroborate Chambers? After you’ve listened to this Podcast,
do you agree with me that, after all was said and done, Wadleigh
helped the Prosecution and damaged Hiss? At the second trial,
Wadleigh told the jury in detail how he, a mild Socialist and not a
Communist, gave information to the Soviet Union because he wanted
to help fight fascism, not to promote Communism. He thought
he was helping his country in the long run, not hurting it.
Do you have sympathy for Wadleigh’s intentions and/or acts?