Witness Protection Program
From the Scrapbook
Feb 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 22
Writing in National Review two and a half years ago, John J. Miller noted the plight of Pipe Creek Farm in Westminster, Maryland. Pipe Creek was the home of Whittaker Chambers. The farm loomed large in his storied memoir Witness, both as an element in Chambers’s private life and as part of the intrigue that bound Chambers to Alger Hiss, the Soviet spy who was convicted of perjury in 1950 thanks to Chambers’s testimony. It was at his farm that Chambers hid the so-called Pumpkin Papers—micro-fiche proof of Hiss’s espionage, secreted in a carved out pumpkin.
Chambers lived at Pipe Creek until his death in 1961; his wife, Esther, stayed there until she passed away in 1986; and his son, John Chambers, who is now in his early 70s, lives there today.
The only problem is that, as Miller reported beginning in 2007, Carroll County wants to take a 15-acre portion of the farm and flood it as part of the planned Union Mills Reservoir. This project isn’t new—it dates back to the 1960s. In 1988, President Reagan’s Department of the Interior designated Pipe Creek Farm as a National Historic Landmark, but apparently, such distinctions mean little to county officials. After years of threatening to invoke eminent domain to seize the 15 acres, the county finally seems to be moving ahead with its plan.
This isn’t eminent domain abuse, per se—the reservoir is clearly a long-standing public project and the county seems to be acting in good faith. But still. It’s a pity that, in addition to being an important marker in the 20th-century battle between freedom and Communist totalitarianism, Chambers’s farm wasn’t also home to some obscure species of stag beetle. Then it might have been left intact.
In any event, the eminent domain threat to Pipe Creek isn’t the worst of it. A few weeks ago, Miller reported that one of the buildings on the farm—the house where Chambers wrote Witness—burned down. The saddest part may be that in reporting the event, the local paper didn’t even mention the building’s notable past.
Lost in Translation
When it was reported that Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been a student activist at University College London, the distinguished historian of Irish terrorism Ruth Dudley Edwards published an important piece in the Telegraph, “British universities: seats of learning—and loathing.” Abdulmutallab’s parents, she wrote, must wonder
British universities are in denial, she wrote, about the “increasing support for Islamism on campuses.”
The Scrapbook was reminded of this article by the news last week that Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of Israel, was greeted during his address to the Oxford Union by a student shouting “kill the Jews” (“Itbah al-yahud,” in Arabic).
That student “clarified” his remarks the following day. As reported by Jessica Elgot of the Jewish Chronicle, second-year St Edmund’s Hall student Noor Rashid