All constitutions are reactions against past abuses, formal responses to historical injustices intended to prevent history from repeating itself. Drawing on the lessons of 180 years of American history, the delegates in Fairbanks prescribed a wide variety of measures to inoculate the future against the ills of the past, including a unique provision among the constitutions of the first 48 states aimed at the recently disgraced demagogue from Wisconsin, Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy. The guarantee in the Alaska Declaration of Rights against the misuse of legislative investigative power affirmed the rights of the accused as America emerged from the shadow of McCarthyism.

"Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy first burst on the national scene in February 1950, pretending to have an FBI list of 205 "card-carrying communists" working in the State Department. Over the next four years he used his Senate seat to wage a far-ranging witch-hunt for communists and fellow travelers, in the process perverting the rights he claimed to be protecting. While true that the United States faced genuine threats from communist infiltrators, McCarthy operated on the assumption that since traitors were everywhere, all loyal Americans should willingly forgo the quaint constitutional protection of the presumption of innocence; in his world anyone not willing or able to prove their patriotism was automatically guilty of treason. McCarthy was not a judge, and his Senate committee’s hearings were not trials, so under the auspices of legislative investigative power he operated as a modern day Inquisition with little regard for normal rules of evidence and court procedures designed to protect American citizens.

Initially McCarthy’s brash accusations targeting mostly Democrats and the Truman Administration met with wide popular acclaim and political support, as a fearful public, stung in rapid succession by a series of high profile espionage cases, the Soviet acquisition of the atomic-bomb, the "fall" of China, and the invasion of South Korea, wanted scapegoats to blame for the apparent rising Red tide around the world. Only after several years of increasingly desperate attacks on top officials from his own party in the Eisenhower Administration, culminating in the televised Army-McCarthy Hearings in early 1954, when the Senator charged that the Army was "soft on communism," did McCarthy’s support begin to evaporate. In December 1954 the U.S. Senate formally censured him for his conduct.

While McCarthy continued to smear his enemies as communist dupes, his cult of personality vanished as rapidly as it had appeared, and by the time the Alaska constitutional Convention convened in 1955 he was only a bitter memory. But the delegates were determined to prevent anyone from adopting the McCarthy method again.

Vic Rivers initially proposed the amendment to the bill or rights guaranteeing that "the right of a person to due process of law shall not be infringed by use of the Legislature's investigative power."

The resulting debate over what the amendment would do reveals the impracticality of outlawing political hysteria. The constitution was predicated on trust of the people’s representatives, so the delegates had few options to forestall a legislative lynch mob if politicians in office were too scared to stop it themselves.

Several delegates were troubled by Victor Rivers' inclusion of the words "due process." "Speaking as a lawyer," Delegate Buckalew said, "I don't think that clause means anything…. Apparently he's trying to require the legislature to set up certain rules of evidence, certain procedure by which a witness will be entitled to counsel, and…but ‘due process' doesn't mean that." Most of the lawyers claimed that "due process" referred to legal and not legislative proceedings. Also there was some question as to the nature of real problem. Ralph Rivers supported his brother's proposal, but thought the wording was defective: "We know that the congressional committees don't put a man in jail, and they don't probably just take any particularly property away from him, they just ruin him, period."

After reconsidering Vic Rivers altered his amendment to read: "The right of all persons to fair and just treatment in the course of legislative and executive investigations shall not be infringed."

Buckalew remained unconvinced. There was no way, he said, to "protect a citizen from some fireball—or whatever you want to call him—legislator, that's running one of these examining committees." In his mind the proposed amendment was "completely unenforceable" and "just a lot of gibberish." Vic Rivers claimed in the end that at least his amendment would serve as a flag to the legislators "to bring to their attention the fact that we feel there has been an abuse of this legislative investigative power, and asking them, in a nice way, to be sure that in a fair and just manner the abuses are not continued further."

The amendment passed on a voice vote as the majority of the delegates hoped, as Warren Taylor said, that the measure might help stop any future "Iceberg McCarthy" from ever getting started.