Corliss Lamont

Corliss Lamont (March 28, 1902–April 26, 1995), was a socialist philosopher, and advocate of various left-wing and civil liberties causes. As a part of his political activities he was the Chairman of National Council of American-Soviet Friendship starting from early 1940s. He was the great-uncle of 2006 Democratic Party nominee for the United States Senate from Connecticut, Ned Lamont.[1]



Early years

Lamont was born in Englewood, New Jersey. His father, Thomas W. Lamont, was a Partner and later Chairman at J.P. Morgan & Co.. Lamont graduated as valedictorian of Phillips Exeter Academy in 1920, and magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1924. In 1924 he did graduate work at New College University of Oxford while he resided with Julian Huxley. The next year Lamont matriculated at Columbia University, where he studied under John Dewey. In 1928 he became a philosophy instructor at Columbia and married Margaret Hayes Irish. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1932 from Columbia University.[2] Lamont taught at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and the New School for Social Research . In 1962 he married Helen Elizabeth Boyden.[3]

Lamont served as a director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1932–1954, and chairman until his death, of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, which successfully challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy's senate subcommittee and other government agencies. In the process Lamont was cited for contempt of Congress, but in 1956 an appeals court overturned his indictment. From 1951 until 1958, he was denied a passport by the State Department.

In 1965 he secured a Supreme Court ruling against censorship of incoming mail by the U.S. Postmaster General. In 1973 he discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests that the FBI had been tapping his phone, and scrutinizing his tax returns and cancelled checks for 30 years. His subsequent successful lawsuit set a precedent in upholding citizens' privacy rights. He also filed and won a suit against the Central Intelligence Agency for opening his mail.

Later life

Following the deaths of his parents, Lamont became a philanthropist. He funded the collection and preservation of manuscripts of American philosophers, particularly George Santayana. He became a substantial donor to both Harvard and Columbia, endowing the latter's Corliss Lamont Professor of Civil Liberties, currently held by Vincent A. Blasi. During the 1960s he and Margaret had divorced, and he married author Helen Boyden, who died of cancer in 1975. Lamont married Beth Keehner in 1986.

Lamont was president emeritus of the American Humanist Association, and in 1977 was named Humanist of the Year. In 1981, he received the Gandhi Peace Award. In 1998 Lamont received a posthumous Distinguished Humanist Service Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Still an activist at the age of 88, he protested U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. He died at home in Ossining, New York.

Political views

Corliss Lamont's political views were Marxist and socialist for much of his life. During the 1930s he was openly Marxist. In 1934, Corliss Lamont identified himself to former communist Max Eastman as a 'Truth Communist', saying according to Eastman, that he "did not accept the policy of political lying to the masses practiced by the official communist parties under Stalin." Later, Eastman would openly challenge Lamont on his avowed loyalties, charging that:

You continued to run with the Stalinist chiefs. You never exposed their political lies, or said publicly what you said to me in private. For a very long time you played friends with both 'Lie Communists' and 'Truth Communists', and gave your money with one hand to the Stalinists and with the other to independent revolutionary papers…Anybody who plays both sides in quiet times will be found in a crisis on the side of power...[4]

In 1936, Lamont helped found and subsidized the magazine Marxist Quarterly. After the Dewey Commission exposed the truth behind Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union and the phoney Show Trials, including the trial in absentia of Leon Trotsky and executions of prominent Soviet citizens and government officials in Moscow, Lamont, along with other left-wing intellectuals refused to accept their published findings. In 1937, under the influence of the Popular Front, Lamont and 150 other left-wing writers affirmed Stalin's actions and that "the preservation of progressive democracy" demanded that Stalin's actions be ratified.[5]

Lamont remained sympathetic to the Soviet Union well after World War II and the establishment of satellite Communist governments in Central and Eastern Europe, even authoring a pamphlet entitled The Myth of Soviet Aggression in 1952. In it, he wrote:

The fact is, of course, that both the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, in order to push their enormous armaments programs through Congress and to justify the continuation of the Cold War, have felt compelled to resort to the device of keeping the American people in a state of alarm over some alleged menace of Soviet or Communist origin.

Only a year later, in 1953, Lamont penned Why I Am Not a Communist. Despite his allegiance to Marxism, he never joined the Communist Party USA, and even supported the Korean War.[6] He ran two losing campaigns for the U.S. Senate from New York, in 1952 on the American Labor ticket, and again in 1958 on the Independent-Socialist ticket. Upon Fidel Castro's victory in Cuba in 1959, Lamont became an enthusiastic supporter of Castro and his revolutionary government.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Patrick Healy (2006-07-19). "Lieberman Rival Seeks Support Beyond Iraq Issue". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  2. ^ Corliss Lamont, Steadfast Activist at 84. New York: Basic Pamphlets, 1984; p. 4
  3. ^ Lamb, Helen Boyden. Papers, 1937-1975: A Finding Aid
  4. ^ Eastman, Max, Letter to Corliss Lamont, April 1938, New International, Vol. 4, No. 4 (April 1938), p. 122.
  5. ^ "An Open Letter to American Liberals", Soviet Russia Today, March 1937.
  6. ^ Rothbard, Murray N.. Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal, Ludwig von Mises Institute
  7. ^ Lamont, Corliss, A Lifetime of Dissent, New York: Prometheus Books (1988)

Further reading

Publications by Lamont

Lamont was a prolific author. He wrote sixteen books, dozens of pamphlets, and thousands of letters to newspapers on significant social issues during his life-long campaign for peace and civil rights. In 1935 he published The Illusion of Immortality, which was a revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation. His most famous work is the 1949 book, The Philosophy of Humanism, now in its eighth edition. He also published intimate portraits of John Dewey and Bertrand Russell.

External links

  • Corliss Lamont Website sponsored by the Half-Moon Foundation (a non-profit created to promote educational and informational activities consistent with the vision of founder Corliss Lamont, now run by his widow, Beth Keehner Lamont)
  • photo collection

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lamont (name) — Lamont, also spelt LaMont, is a surname with several different origins, one Scottish and Northern Irish, the other in French. *In some cases the surname originates in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The name is derived from the medieval personal… …   Wikipedia

  • Corliss — may refer to: People George Henry Corliss, inventor of the Corliss steam engine Jeb Corliss, Base Jumper John Corliss (disambiguation), multiple people with the name Corliss Williamson, retired professional basketball player Corliss Lamont,… …   Wikipedia

  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory — The Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) is a research institution specializing in the Earth sciences and is part of Columbia University. The current director of LDEO is G. Michael Purdy.The Observatory was one of the centers of research that… …   Wikipedia

  • Lamont, Corliss — ▪ 1996       U.S. humanist philosopher, author, and socialist, who was the son of the chairman of the J.P. Morgan investment bank but devoted his life to fighting for radical causes (b. May 28, 1902 d. April 26, 1995). * * * …   Universalium

  • Ned Lamont — Born January 3, 1954 (1954 01 03) (age 57) Washington DC, U.S. Occupation Chairman, Lamon …   Wikipedia

  • Thomas W. Lamont — Thomas William Lamont, Jr. (September 30 1870 – February 2 1948) was an American banker.Lamont was born in Claverack, New York. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1888 and earned his degree from Harvard University in 1892. He became a… …   Wikipedia

  • Secular humanism — is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics and justice, and specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as the basis of moral reflection and decision making. Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance… …   Wikipedia

  • Humanism — is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality. [ cite book title=Compact Oxford… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Phillips Exeter Academy alumni — The following is a list of notable alumni from Phillips Exeter Academy. 1790s*Dudley Leavitt (publisher) (1790) Publisher, writer, Meredith, New Hampshire [ [ pg=PA5 lpg=PA5… …   Wikipedia

  • Humanism (life stance) — See also philosophical Humanism : For the Renaissance liberal arts movement, see Renaissance humanismHumanism is a comprehensive life stance that upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.