Alexander Mitchell Palmer

Alexander M. Palmer (1872 - 1936) was the Attorney General of the United States from 1919 to 1921.

During his closing argument to the jury in the Gitlow trial Clarence Darrow quoted Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right to amend it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." Darrow told the jury "This was Lincoln. If Lincoln would have been here today, Mr. Palmer, the Attorney-General of the United States, would send his night-riders to invade his office and the privacy of his home and send him to jail."

After the Gitlow trial, on May 3, 1920 Darrow spoke at a convention of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in Chicago. Darrow denounced Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer for trying to discredit organized labor by issuing reports such as his "May Day scare, which had no foundation in fact." Palmer had predicted that Communists would try to overthrow the United States government on May Day 1920. Palmer issued his prediction because the previous year a series of bombings had been perpetrated by sending bombs through the U.S. mail to be delivered on May Day 1919. Palmer's prediction led to the mobilization of the National Guard and the New York City Police Department. Palmer was ridiculed when May Day 1920 passed without the predicted violence. Palmer was understandably worried about potential bombings because on June 2, 1919, several bombs were detonated by anarchists in eight American cities. One of the bombs seriously damaged Palmer's own home.

Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-99297