Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What were the Palmer Raids?

With the end of World War I came the "red scare." Americans, threatened by the new Communist government in Russia began to criticize American radicals. The worry was for naught, by the end of 1919, there were only 40,000 Communists (at least according to party affiliations) in the United States. Throughout that same year, some radical Americans chose to fight back, much like our founders did. The radicals sent explosives to numerous cities and, in response, "many Americans assumed that an organized conspiracy was being mounted to overthrow the government" (Davidson 687).

The attorney general of the United States, Mitchell Palmer, began a series of raids in late 1919 that continued to early 1920. The raids were conducted often without warrants: "In a single night in January, government agents...took 4,000 people into custody without warrants, sometimes beating those who resisted" (Davidson 687). The support for raids ended when Palmer put buildings under state guard and nothing happened. Four months later, bombs exploded on Wall Street killing 35 people and hurting 200 others; yet, public support continued to fall (Davidson 687).
Once again, the Palmer raids, specifically the bombing at Wall Street shows how important our reactions are to important events. Americans supported the Palmer raids, as the raids continued for months, and then, when something actually happened (the Wall Street bombs) people chose to not care.

The Palmer Raids were an abuse of civil liberties and were not necessary to defend the country. Those who advocated communism were just a minor sect of the American people. With only 40,000 Americans, the idea of a revolution was a little far-fetched (as is most politics). The raids were also unconstitutional as the Supreme Court has stated on numerous occasions that warrants are needed to invade private homes.

For some asinine reason, the U.S. was scared of the spread of communism (and many still are today). The U.S. already had/has numerous institutions and policies in place that already advocate communistic and socialist beliefs. Sadly, we continue to remain ignorant regarding such policy, adding to the possibility of similar Palmer raids in the future.

Davidson, James, Brian Delay, Christine Heyrman, Mark Lytle, and Michael Stoff, Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic Volume II: Since 1865. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.


  1. hi thamanjimmy,

    could you help me as my homework. here its is:Describe the 'Palmer Raids' and the 'Red Score," as well as the rationale behind each
    a. Why did some feel the Palmer Raids were necessary and effective? b. What behavior and outcome resulted from the Red Scare?.
    I dont really know what to answer and where to get the answer in google.

  2. http://thamanjimmy.blogspot.com/2010/08/history-of-palmer-raids-and-red-scare.html

    Check that link out for all of your answers or you could read the above post to get a main idea (both questions are actually answered in the few paragraphs above).