The fear of radicalism played into the hands of Attorney General A. Over Wilson's objections, Palmer whipped up public hysteria, using the "Red Menace" as a vehicle for making his name a household word.
Following Palmer's lead, federal and state governments launched a massive crackdown campaign, including raids, arrests, and deportations which "set a new record in American history for executive transgression of individual constitutional rights."(4) On a single night in January 1920, some 4,000 alleged Communists were arrested in 33 different cities.
Eventually, Palmer's own excesses proved his undoing.
He had repeatedly warned of a radical plot to overthrow the United States Government, to be launched on May Day 1920.
Like the state which it serves, the WVSP was born in an era of political unrest and domestic violence.
In early 1919, the political and social climate of the United States was beginning to feel the initial impact of World War I.Certainly the American tradition of frontier violence did not provide any soothing historical precedents.The impact of World War I was especially powerful because of the unprecedented mobilization of manpower and industrial resources required to successfully prosecute the war.At home, the International Workers of the World (IWW) published a radical preamble, and, more frightening still, the American Communist Party was founded.(3) The wave of labor agitation was conveniently labeled by conservative employers as Communist or at least Communist inspired.Was not the basic purpose of the Comintern, after all, direction of worldwide Communist revolutionary movements?more hate literature, more nasty, sour, and angry groups promoting 'hundred percent Americanism' than at any earlier period of our history, or any later one prior to the 1950's."(7) A further serious threat to domestic tranquility followed from another, though more idealistic, product of World War I-- ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the Prohibition experiment (January 1919).(8) As in our current battle against illicit drugs, Prohibition stimulated a profitable trade in illegal alcohol, and, thereby, also gave birth to the large scale organized criminal activities which plague us to this day.The idealists behind Prohibition had completely overlooked the necessary corollary to make it successful--an effective enforcement machinery.Frantic preparations were made to meet the predicted revolution, but May 1 came and went without the threat materializing.As a result, Palmer was discredited and exercised increasingly less influence over public opinion.Time and opportunity being more abundant recently, I have been able to complete a long-felt desire by producing this monograph.While conducting the research, I was struck by the scarcity of published materials focused on state police in general, and the WVSP in particular.