Correspondence: 1948
    Commentary by Steve Neal

Shortly before the Democratic National Convention opened in Philadelphia, President Truman was asked whether Mrs. Roosevelt would be acceptable to him as a vice-presidential running mate. "Why, of course, of course," he answered with a smile. "What do you expect me to say to that?"

There had been speculation for months about such a possibility. The North Dakota State Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution in 1947 endorsing a Democratic ticket of Truman and Mrs. Roosevelt. "At first I was surprised that anyone should think that I would want to run for office, or that I was fitted to hold office," she wrote in Look magazine. "Then I realized that some people felt that I must have learned something from my husband in all the years that he was in public life! They also knew that I had stressed the fact that women should accept responsibility as citizens.

"I heard that I was being offered the nomination for governor or for the United States Senate in my own state, and even for Vice President. And some particularly humorous souls wrote in and suggested that I run as the first woman President of the United States! The simple truth is that I have had my fill of public life of the more or less stereotyped kind." She had no interest in seeking elective office and would defer to her children. James Roosevelt said years later that his mother would not allow her name to be considered for the vice-presidential nomination "because she was afraid of it."

Much to Truman's annoyance, three of Mrs. Roosevelt's sons were leaders of a movement to draft General Dwight D. Eisenhower for the 1948 Democratic presidential nomination. "I rather liked and respected President Truman and thought he did a good job in a difficult situation following Father's death," James said three decades later. "I just did not think he could be elected, so I looked for someone who could."

The president's renomination was assured only after Eisenhower withdrew his name from consideration on the eve of the convention. When Truman sought to name Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas as his running mate, White House counsel Clark M. Clifford enlisted Mrs. Roosevelt to help persuade the reluctant Douglas. "She said she would be happy to try" Clifford recalled. "But even her efforts produced no movement." After Douglas turned him down, Truman chose Senate Minority Leader Alben Barkley for the vice-presidential nomination.

In the early months of 1948, Mrs. Roosevelt opposed the Truman administration's Middle East arms embargo and urged splitting Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. When Truman switched his position from the partitioning of Palestine and recommended a United Nations trusteeship, Mrs. Roosevelt vehemently opposed this shift and threatened to quit the UN delegation. Though she had urged U.S. recognition of the newly created Jewish state, Eleanor disapproved when Truman did so without advising American representatives at the UN. She supported the first UN peacekeeping mission, which was initiated to prevent wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Mrs. Roosevelt spoke in behalf of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the 1948 General Assembly in Paris. "It is not a treaty. It is not an international agreement. It is not and does not purport to be a statement of law or of legal obligation," she declared. "It is a declaration of basic human rights and freedoms."

This declaration was among the goals stated in the United Nations Charter adopted at the San Francisco Conference, which pledged "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind . . . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights . . . to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained; and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."

Mrs. Roosevelt, who was in Paris during the 1948 presidential campaign, gave Truman little chance against Republican Thomas E. Dewey. Following Truman's upset victory, she wrote her longtime friend Joseph Lash: "It is rather nice to be an American when the people so evidently take their democracy seriously & do their own thinking as they did in this election. I did not have enough faith in them! Dewey just wasn't big enough & I think they felt more sincerity if not ability in Truman."



    Dear Mr. President:

    I happened to see Mrs. Anna Rosenberg last evening and I find she is not doing very much in the public field at present and would like to be useful. I do not think she could give full time, but could give several days a week. She is a wonderful organizer and I thought perhaps you would like to consider her as head of your consumer food group.

    She would not be interested unless it is really planned this time to do a truly educational job and an honest one all down the line.

    I hope that you are going to make a real fight for every one of the social things that you mentioned in your message. Our party people in Congress should truly back you on those. With a little help from the liberal Republicans we ought to get some of them through.

    The great trouble is that Mr. Wallace will cut in on us because he can say we have given lip service to these things by having produced very little in the last few years.

    Very cordially yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    Replying to yours of the sixteenth in regard to Mrs. Anna Rosenberg, of course, I'd be glad to use Mrs. Rosenberg any time and anywhere-she is a very able person.

    I've been making a real fight for all the social things I've advocated ever since I've been here. You will remember, if I hadn't made the fight Henry never would have gotten through the Senate on his last adventure into the Cabinet.

    We are faced with a very serious situation in the Congress now, however, because we have more Democrats who are helping the Republicans than we have Republicans who are helping the Democrats in both Houses. There has only been one time and that was on an amendment to the interim Aid Program. We have at least six Senators on the Democratic side who always vote with the Republicans on any forward-looking measure and there are only three Republicans on whom we can count in the Senate.

    Of course, I intend to continue to make all the fight I am capable of making, just as I always have done. With the help of yourself and forward-looking people like you, I think we can make some impression but I am not at all optimistic about the final results . . . .

    I think I am as familiar with procedure in the Congress as anybody possibly can be and I use every means at my command to make use of that familiarity. We did succeed in getting an Interim Aid measure through but when it comes to social reforms those people simply are not interested in social reform-in fact they'd like to turn the clock back.

    We are making progress on the European Aid Program. We have them extremely worried by our tax proposal. The people are with us on Universal Training. The people are with us on our social program too. We shall keep pounding away and I hope for the right result finally, but I fear that will take an election. I am talking to General Marshall tomorrow about your suggestion.

    It was certainly a pleasure to talk with you the other day and I am sincerely sorry that I didn't have a longer period in which to discuss some of the matters that are pending before Congress.

    With kindest regards and best wishes, I am
    Sincerely yours,


Anna Rosenberg (1902-1983), who was among the great public officials of her time, served during World War II as director of the War Manpower Commission for New York State, as FDR's personal representative to the European theater, and was the driving force in establishing the GI Bill of Rights. Truman appointed her in 1946 as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1950, at the urging of General Marshall, Truman nominated her for assistant secretary of defense.

Mrs. Roosevelt worried that the Progressive Party, founded by Henry A. Wallace, could split the liberal vote and help Republicans capture the presidency in 1948. She had long admired Wallace but became disillusioned when he refused to criticize Soviet foreign policy, while blaming the United States for the Cold War. It also bothered Mrs. Roosevelt that her husband's former vice president accepted support from the American Communist Party, which followed the Kremlin line. "He never has been a good politician, he never has been able to gauge public opinion, and he never has picked his advisers wisely," she wrote in Democratic Digest. "All of these things might have been less important if he had been a disinterested, nonpolitical leader of liberal thought, but as a leader of a third party he will accomplish nothing. He will merely destroy the very things he wishes to achieve." Writing to her daughter, Anna, in January of 1948, Mrs. Roosevelt reiterated her concern about the Wallace threat: "He will get many votes I think & achieve none of his objectives except perhaps to defeat Truman."



    Dear Mr. President:

    I read Mr. Reston's article in the New York Times the other day and I feel I want to write you on the question of Palestine and the United Nations.

    It seems to me that if the UN does not pull through and enforce the partition and protection of people in general in Palestine, we are now facing a very serious situation in which its position for the future is at stake.

    Since we led in the acceptance of the UN majority report on Palestine, and since we feel that the existence of the UN is essential to the preservation of peace, I think we should support a move on their part to create an international police force, perhaps from among the smaller nations. We should stand ready at the request of the UN to remove our embargo on arms and to provide such things as are essential to the control of Arabs, namely, modern implements of war such as tanks, airplanes, etc.

    If we do not take some stand to strengthen the UN organization at the present time, I shall not be surprised if Russia does, which will put us in a difficult position to say the least.

    Great Britain's role, of course, is not only to please the Arabs, but probably to arm them because she knows very well that only the United States and Great Britain are going to buy Arab oil and she wants to be sure to hold her full share.

    If the UN is going to be an instrument for peace, now is the crucial time to strengthen it.

    With the deepest concern, I am,

    Very sincerely yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated very much your letter of January twenty-ninth. General Marshall and I are attempting to work out a plan for the enforcement of the mandate of the United Nations. I discussed the matter with Franklin, Jr. the other day and I sincerely hope that we can arrive at the right solution.

    Your statements on Great Britain are as correct as they can be. Britain's role in the Near East and Britain's policy with regard to Russia has not changed in a hundred years. Disraeli might just as well be Prime Minister these days.

    I understand all that and I am trying to meet it as best I can.

    Sincerely yours,


The United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1947, approved the plan for the creation of Jewish and Arab states in what was then the mandate of Palestine. "The vote in the UN, "Truman wrote former treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau, "is only the beginning and the Jews must now display tolerance and consideration for the other people in Palestine with whom they will necessarily have to be neighbors." The Truman administration imposed an embargo on arms shipments into the region. Mrs. Roosevelt favored a tough response by the United Nations to what she regarded as British imperialism.

James Reston (1909-1995), whose article is cited by Mrs. Roosevelt, was then chief diplomatic correspondent in the Washington bureau of the New York Times.



    Dear Mr. President:

    Judge Florence Allen tells me that Judge Marion Harron is up for reappointment to the Tax Court of the United States.

    I have known Judge Harron for a long time and I hope that it will be possible to reappoint her. I know that she is known not only as a good Democrat, but also her record for good work and judicial integrity is fine, and I also understand that she has never been reversed by the Supreme Court. In sending you this letter of recommendation, therefore, I feel I am only emphasizing what other people tell you.

    Very sincerely yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    Thanks for yours of the thirteenth (written on Mrs. Truman's birthday). I had expected all along to reappoint Mrs. Harron to the Tax Court but I am more than happy that you found it necessary to ask me to do it.

    Judge Florence Allen came to see me and I had a most pleasant visit and conversation with her. I told her that I had expected all along to reappoint Mrs. Harron.

    I hope everything is going well with you? What do you think of the Bronx and Ed Flynn's control now?

    Sincerely yours,


There was thunder on the left when a third-party candidate supported by Henry A. Wallace won a special congressional election in the Bronx on February 18, 1948. New York's twenty-fourth congressional district, whose residents were predominantly Jewish and low-income, was the home base o f former Democratic national chairman Edward J. Flynn. At his request, Mrs. Roosevelt campaigned for regular Democratic nominee Karl Propper. But her prestige wasn't enough. American Labor Party candidate Leo Isacson, who campaigned with Wallace, won by twenty-five percentage points. Wallace asserted that the Bronx vote was a repudiation of Truman's foreign policy. At least for the moment, Wallace appeared to be a political force. Democratic National Chairman J. Howard McGrath made a public appeal for Wallace to come back to the party. The former vice president declined. Isacson's tenure would be brief. Nine months later, the Democrats easily recaptured the congressional seat.

Mrs. Roosevelt's concept of an international police force was similar to Truman's. In June of 1950 he would refer to his intervention in Korea as a "police action."



    Dear Mr. President:

    I was interested in your comment on the defeat of Ed. Flynn's candidate in Bronx County. I think Ed. Flynn has proved the point which he has been trying to make for a long time, namely, that in large urban areas there are great groups of people who are extremely radical and very much opposed to what they feel is military and Wall Street domination in our present administration.

    These people in the Bronx followed my husband because they felt he understood their needs and they were getting, domestically, protection which they had never had before. There has always been a strong element of communism in this section of the Bronx. I can remember it specifically among the youth groups back in 1933 and 1934. I noticed the night I spoke that every time Mr. Wallace's name was mentioned, it was cheered.

    I was not very much surprised by the results of the vote because in the big, urban centers, even those who are Democrats just do not come out to vote because they are still radical enough to be unhappy about what they feel are certain tendencies they observe in our administration.

    Ed Flynn has told you this, I think, on a number of occasions. It is important because if the Democrats are going to win in a state like New York, they have to carry by the great majority the big urban centers. I am sure you are well aware of this, but I feel it my duty to reenforce what already has been said, disagreeable as it is.

    I never thought this district was a good one to hail as a pilot light of what would happen in the national election, but naturally it would be one which Mr. Wallace and the American Labor Party would pick to make much of, since they were almost sure of success.

    Ed Flynn, I think, felt that his organization would do much better than it did, but he did not count on the fact that even Democrats in areas such as this are unenthusiastic at the moment.

    I wrote in my column the other day, as a result of the indications I find in my mail, that the two things bothering the average man most at present are inflation and the fear of another war. Congress is doing all it can to help us, I think, because certainly they are showing a complete disregard for the high cost of living as it affects the average human being, but you never know how many people realize this.

    I know that in order to obtain what we need in the way of military strength for defense, it would seem almost essential to whip up fear of communism and to do certain things which hurt us with the very element which we need in the election. How we can be firm and strong and yet friendly in our attitude toward Russia, and obtain from Congress what we need to keep us strong, is one of our most difficult problems. I have often thought if you could explain the whole situation over the radio in a series of talks to the people of our country, it might clear up some of our difficulties, because I find great confusion in the minds of the average citizens.

    Very sincerely yours,

    P.S. James told me of Mr. Forrestal's feeling that no American should be allowed to volunteer in an international police force. I think Mr. Forrestal is entirely wrong. I was shocked at the suggestion that any American volunteering to fight in Palestine would lose his citizenship, and I could not understand why that was not invoked when Americans went to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian forces before we were in the war. It seems to me that if the UN calls for an international police force it might very well say that the quotas should be equal from all nations, big and little, and then we should call for volunteers within our nation. To say that just because Russia might have some soldiers in Palestine on an equal basis with us and all the other nations involved, we would have to mobilize fifty percent for war, seems to me complete nonsense and I think it would seem so to most of the people of the United States.




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated very much your letter of February 20 in regard to the Bronx election. Naturally, all sorts of conjectures are given as to the reason for that return. It is my honest opinion that people everywhere are in an unsettled frame of mind, that revolt in 1946 is not yet finished, and that you must also take into consideration the fact that the leaders in the Democratic Party are tired, with the long grind through which we have been, due to the terrible depression and World War II. I have to do things my own way, but I was a member of the resolutions committee that had a great deal to do with writing the Democratic platform of 1944, and I have been trying religiously to carry it out. We haven't had a Congress since 1944 that had any idea of abiding by that platform.

    I can't bring myself to line up with the crackpots who are trying to sell us out to the Russian government, nor can I see anything good in the Harry Byrds and Eugene Coxes. That is the situation with which we are confronted now. I shall continue to do the best I can to meet the problems with which we are faced. The result is probably in the lap of the gods, although sometimes a little help and a little energy will get results in spite of that situation.

    I hope you have a most pleasant visit in Great Britain, and that I will have a chance to talk with you when you return as to conditions over there, which you no doubt will observe carefully.

    I had a most pleasant visit with Jimmie the other day, and the secretary of defense has been informed as to my views on the international
    police force. Of course, if the United Nations international police force is organized, the citizenship of the members of that force in their native countries should not be disturbed.

    Sincerely yours,




    Dear Mr. President:

    I was very much interested in your letter of February 27th, and I am glad you are not going to line up with those who want to sell us out to the Russian government, or with the Byrds and the Eugene Coxes!

    These Southern statesmen seem to be very shortsighted and you are right when you say that the leadership in the Democratic Party is tired. Perhaps the people are too. Unfortunately, this is a bad time to be tired.

    Thank you for your good wishes on my trip to Europe. I shall try to observe conditions and I shall try to find out from the secretary of state before I go whether he has any particular points that he wishes stressed and any he wishes me to avoid in any speeches which I may make. I am going to London as you know, and to Brussels and to Holland. If you have any suggestions I shall be grateful to you if you will send them to me.

    I hope your trip to Florida was enjoyable and of great benefit.

    Very cordially yours,


Mrs. Roosevelt, while agreeing with Truman that their party's leadership is tired, implies that it may be time for a fresh face.



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I certainly appreciated yours of the fourth and I sincerely hope that your trip to Europe will be a happy one. I should like very much to talk with you when you come back.

    The Florida trip was very restful and accomplished the purposes for which it was made-a few days rest.

    Sincerely yours,




    Dear Mr. President:

    I am enclosing to you this copy of a letter which I have just sent to the secretary of state.

    I do not think I have been an alarmist before but I have become very worried and since we always have to sit down together when war comes to an end, I think before we have a third World War we should sit down together.

    You and the secretary must feel the rest of us are a nuisance. Nevertheless, as a citizen I would not have a clear conscience if I did not tell you how I feel at the present time.

    Very cordially yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated mostly highly your letter of the thirteenth enclosing copy of the one which you had written to the secretary of state. I think all of us are in practically the same frame of mind and I, of course, am glad to have your ideas and viewpoint.

    I think if you will go over the history of the relationship between Russia and us you will find that every effort was made by President Roosevelt and by me to get along with them. Certain agreements were entered into at Tehran and Yalta and so far as our part of those agreements is concerned we carried them out to the letter.

    When I arrived at Potsdam for that conference I found the Poles at the suggestion of Russia had moved into eastern Germany and that Russia had taken over a section of eastern Poland. The agreement at Yalta provided for free and untrammeled elections in Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Poland. I found a totalitarian Soviet government set up in Poland, in Rumania, in Yugoslavia and in Bulgaria. Members of our commissions in Bulgaria and Rumania were treated as if they were stableboys by the Russians in control in those two countries. Russia has not kept faith with us.

    I myself discussed the Polish situation with the Polish government in Potsdam and got no satisfaction whatever from them-yet we made certain agreements in regard to the government of Germany which we have religiously tried to carry out. We have been blocked at every point by the Russians and to some extent by the French. The Russians have not carried out the agreements entered into at Potsdam.

    I shall go to the Congress tomorrow and state the facts. Beginning with my message to the Congress on September sixth, 1945, I have constantly informed the Congress and the country of our needs in order to make the United Nations work and to arrive at a peace for the welfare and benefit of every country in the world.

    The first decision I had to make after being sworn in at 7:09 p.m. April 12, 1945 was whether to have the United Nations Conference at San Francisco on April 25, 1945. The Charter of the United Nations is a document under which we could work and have peace if we could get Russian cooperation. Twenty-two vetoes have been exercised in the last two and one-half years by the Russian government. As you know, I had to send Harry Hopkins to see Stalin in order to get Molotov to agree to the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter.

    I am still hopeful and still working with everything I have to make the United Nations work.

    Our European Recovery Program and the proper strengthening of our military setup is the only hope we now have for peace in the world. That I am asking from the Congress.

    If the people who know the facts and who understand the situation are willing to say that we've done wrong in this matter I don't see how we can expect to come out at all in its solution. It is the most serious situation we have faced since 1939. I shall face it with everything I have.

    Of course, I am always glad to hear from you and I appreciate your frankness in writing me as you did.

    Sincerely yours,


Only three years earlier the Soviet Union and the United States were allies in crushing Nazi Germany. By March of 1948, they had become global rivals. Though Stalin had agreed at Potsdam that a four-power Allied council would govern occupied Berlin, the Soviets began imposing restrictions on access to western sectors. The communists were gaining wide popular support in French and Italian elections. But the Kremlin preferred to use force. A Soviet coup in February brought an abrupt end to democracy in Czechoslovakia. On March 10, Czech foreign minister Jan Masaryk, a friend of Mrs. Roosevelt's, was tortured and then either jumped or was pushed to his death from the window of his bedroom in the Czernin Palace, Prague. Mrs. Roosevelt suggested in her March 13 letter to Marshall that a face-to-face meeting of Western and Soviet leaders might ease tensions. She still favored reducing Germany to a pastoral and agricultural state and told Marshall that Stalin had legitimate concerns about the Western effort to revive Germany's industrial capacity. "I am sure they believe we are trying to build up Germany again into an industrial state, "she wrote the secretary of state. "I sometimes wonder if behind our backs, that isn't one of the things that our big business people would like to see happen in spite of two world wars started by Germany."



    Dear Mr. President:

    The events of the last few days since my last letter to you have been so increasingly disquieting that I feel I must write you a very frank and unpleasant letter.

    I feel that even though the secretary of state takes the responsibility for the administration's attitude on Palestine, you cannot escape the results of that attitude. I have written the secretary a letter, a copy of which I enclose, which will explain my feelings on this particular subject.

    On Trieste I feel we have also let the UN down. We are evidently discarding the UN and acting unilaterally, or setting up a balance of power by backing the European democracies and preparing for an ultimate war between the two political philosophies. I am opposed to this attitude because I feel that it would be possible, with force and friendliness, to make some arrangements with the Russians, using our economic power as a bribe to obstruct their political advance.

    I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war. While I am in accord that we need force and I am in accord that we need this force to preserve the peace, I do not think that complete preparation for war is the proper approach as yet.

    Politically, I know you have acted as you thought was right, regardless of political consequences. Unfortunately, it seems to me that one has to keep one's objectives in view and use timing and circumstances wisely to achieve those objectives.

    I am afraid that the Democratic Party is, for the moment, in a very weak position, with the Southern revolt and the big cities and many liberals appalled by our latest moves. The combination of Wall Street objectives and military fears seem so intertwined in our present policies that it is difficult to quite understand what we are really trying to do.

    I realize that I am an entirely unimportant cog in the wheel of our work with the United Nations, but I have offered my resignation to the secretary since I can quite understand the difficulty of having someone so far down the line openly criticize the administration's policies.

    I deeply regret that I must write this letter.

    Very sincerely yours,




    My dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I have read with deep concern and not without anxiety your letter of March twenty-second together with the copy of your letter to the secretary of state of the same date.

    It would be impossible for me to minimize the importance of support of the United Nations with every resource at our command. It is the world's best if not sole hope for peace. If the United Nations fails all is chaos in a world already beset with suspicion, divisions, enmities, and jealousies.

    Since you were good enough to let me see the text of your letter to General Marshall I asked him for a copy of his reply, which is before me as I write. I hope sincerely that the conversations which you are scheduled to have with Mr. Bohlen tomorrow will dispel at least some of your doubts and misgivings and that there may be further clarification if you are able to see Dean Rusk.

    I should deplore as calamitous your withdrawal from the work of the United Nations at this critical time. Such a step is unthinkable. The United Nations, our own nation, indeed the world, needs the counsel and leadership which you can bring to its deliberations.

    The United Nations' trusteeship proposed to the Security Council is intended only as a temporary measure, not as a substitute for the partition plan-merely an effort to fill the vacuum which termination of the mandate will create in the middle of May.

    I sought to clarify our position in a statement issued today. Although I am sure you have read it, or heard it, I enclose a copy for your convenient reference.

    May I appeal to you with the utmost sincerity to abandon any thought of relinquishing the post which you hold and for which you have unique qualifications. There is no one who could, at this time, exercise the influence which you can exert on the side of peace. And peace and the avoidance of further bloodshed in the Holy Land are our sole objectives.

    May God bless you and protect you as you set out to fulfill so honored a mission to London.

    Very sincerely yours,


In the midst of what would be a most difficult run for reelection, Truman did not want to lose Mrs. Roosevelt from his administration. Her biographer and close friend Joseph Lash wrote that Truman's reply "moved her deeply," though she would continue to question policies she did not agree with.

Like Mrs. Roosevelt, Truman was exasperated with the Mideast situation. On March 18, he pledged to Chaim Weizmann, president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the World Zionist Organization, that the United States would recognize the new Jewish state even if the United Nations failed to establish a temporary trusteeship. A day later, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Warren Austin, asked the Security Council to drop its efforts to implement the partition plan. "This morning I find that the State Department has reversed my Palestine policy, "Truman wrote in his diary. "The first I know about it is what I see in the papers! Isn't that hell? I'm now in the position of a liar and a double-crosser. I've never felt so in my life."

Truman made known his displeasure to the State Department and reiterated his commitment to Weizmann. "I think the proper thing to do and the thing I have been doing is to do what I think is right and let them all go to hell," the president wrote his brother Vivian on March 22.

The problem of Trieste dated back to World War I and the creation of Yugoslavia from the old Serbia together with parts of then Austria-Hungary. Italy had long wanted Trieste, a city with a magnificent harbor on the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. Following World War I, Italy gained control of the city. When Marshal Tito took power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War II, he sought to regain control of Trieste. In 1946 the United Nations established the Free Territory of Trieste, splitting 293 square miles into two zones. The Americans and British occupied the city and areas to the north. Yugoslavia occupied an area south of the city. Though Tito made several threats to take the city by force, he acted with more restraint after breaking with the Soviet Union.

On March 17, Truman went before Congress, warning that U.S. national security was threatened by the Soviet Union's expansionist ambitions. He sought to restore the military draft and called for universal military training. Mrs. Roosevelt thought Truman had overstated his case and that he was misguided in bringing back the draft.

Her comments about "Wall Street objectives" were disingenuous. She was referring to Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, Under Secretary of State Robert A. Lovett, and foreign policy adviser W. Averell Harriman, who had similar backgrounds as Wall Street financiers and favored a hard line against the Soviet Union. All three were veterans of the Roosevelt administration.



    Dear Mr. President:

    Your letter has reached me on the eve of my departure. It is a very fine letter and I am grateful to you.

    I had a talk with Mr. Bohlen this afternoon and though I haven't heard from the secretary he brought me some messages from him. I must say that talking with Mr. Bohlen did not give me a feeling of any great decisions on various questions, though he did make me feel that there was deep concern, and I understand some of the difficulties and intentions better than I did before.

    However, I can not say that even now the temporary measures that we have suggested for Palestine really make anything simpler or safer than it was before, but perhaps it will prove to be a solution and I certainly pray it will.

    At the end of his visit Mr. Bohlen asked me about a statement which Franklin, Junior had made and I want to tell you that while Franklin told me he intended to make this statement, he did not ask me for my opinion.

    There is without any question among the younger Democrats a feeling that the party as at present constituted is going down to serious defeat and may not be able to survive as the liberal party. Whether they are right or wrong, I do not know. I made up my mind long ago that working in the United Nations meant, as far as possible, putting aside partisan political activity and I would not presume to dictate to my children or to anyone else what their actions should be. I have not and I do not intend to have any part in pre-convention activities.

    Very sincerely yours,


Three of Mrs. Roosevelt's four sons (James, Franklin Jr., and Elliott) played prominent roles in the movement to dump Truman and draft General Eisenhower as the 1948 Democratic presidential candidate. Her close friend Joseph Lash was also involved in this effort. While assuring Truman that she was neutral, evidence indicates otherwise. The young Hubert H. Humphrey, who was then mayor of Minneapolis and would be elected later that year to the U.S. Senate, disclosed in his memoirs that Mrs. Roosevelt called him several times in behalf of the Draft Ike campaign. She shared her sons' disappointment when Eisenhower chose not to run. After the GOP nominated Thomas E. Dewey for the presidency with Earl Warren as his running mate, Eleanor lamented to a friend, "The Republican ticket is a strong one and I feel Eisenhower will not be drafted and I don't think Truman can win against it."



    Dear Mr. President:

    I am enclosing these programs of the ceremonies at Grosvenor Square on the morning of the 12th, and of the Pilgrims' dinner in the evening. I thought you would be interested to see them.

    There is so much heartfelt gratitude here for what the United States was able to do to help the British people, I wondered whether you would have or would like copies of the speeches which were made on that day. I have them for the library at Hyde Park, and when I get home I will be glad to have them copied and sent to you.

    I have been deeply touched by all of the expressions of affection for my husband and by the regard for our country.

    Very cordially yours,


The program, "Order of Ceremony at the Unveiling of the Memorial to President Roosevelt by Mrs. Roosevelt in Grosvenor Square, London, Monday, April 12th, 1948,"is in Truman's papers. "The pure in heart are free from suspicion," Mrs. Roosevelt said in her dedication speech. "The great and humble cannot be humiliated. Pray God we join together and invite all others to join us in creating a world where justice, truth, and good faith rule."



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated most highly your note of the fourteenth from London, enclosing me a copy of the program of the Unveiling of the Memorial of President Roosevelt on April twelfth, and a copy of the program of the Pilgrims Dinner at the Savoy Hotel that evening.

    I am very happy that everything went over satisfactorily and that you are pleased with the ceremony. I wish I could have seen it.

    I'd certainly like to have copies of the speeches that were made on that day if it isn't too much trouble to send them to me.

    I hope to see you sometime soon.

    Sincerely yours,




    Dear Mr. President:

    I have just sent a letter to the Secretary of State, a copy of which I enclose for your information.

    As I have said, I have no idea what the attitude of the Administration on the recognition of the Jewish State is going to be. If we are going to recognize it, I think it would be a mistake to lag behind Russia. If we are not going to recognize it, I think we should make our position known as quickly as possible and the reasons for whatever position we take.

    This action, as far as I am concerned, is interesting to me only from ethical and humanitarian points of view, but of course, it has political considerations which I am sure your advisers will take into consideration. I am quite hopeful that whatever our policy is, it will be clear and consistent for I am more convinced every day that had the Arabs been convinced of what we really meant to do, they might have accepted the UN decision and not put us in the rather difficult position which the Security Council, minus any force, finds itself in today. I have heard it said that we were afraid of a UN force which included the Russians because of the difficulties we have had with them in Germany and Korea. Some day or other we have to be willing, if we are going to work out some peaceful solutions, to serve in some kind of joint force and to agree we will all leave whatever country we may be in when the UN tells us to leave.

    I was much encouraged by the report of the conversations between Ambassador Smith and Mr. Molotov as it came over the radio this morning. I think that kind of straightforward statement to fact is helpful and leaves the way open for peaceful negotiations in the future.

    With my warm regards to Mrs. Truman and Margaret, I am,

    Very cordially yours

    In a handwritten postscript, Mrs. Roosevelt added, "I personally believe in the Jewish State."

    May 11, 1948

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    Thank you for sending me Ambassador Douglas's letter. I am very happy that he told you what I said and that he felt the visit to Great Britain was helpful and created good feeling. I hope the visits to Holland [and] Belgium did the same.

    I have just heard from some of the Jewish organizations that they have heard that Russia will recognize the Jewish State as soon as it is declared which will be midnight on Friday, I imagine. The people who spoke to me are afraid that we will lag behind and again follow instead of lead.

    I have no idea what the policy of the Administration and the State Department is going to be on this, and I am only just telling you what you probably already know about the Russian position. I have no feeling that they have any principles or convictions in what they are doing, but wherever they can put us in a hole they certainly are going to do it.

    The attitude of the International Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York on the draft of the declaration of Human Rights and the Convention, of course, is going to coincide with the British Government's attitude as expressed by Lord Jowitt in Parliament the other day. Neither country, apparently, is anxious to do anything at the present time. I feel that the Human Rights Commission has an obligation to present the best draft it can to the Economic and Social Council, but if they wish to recommend to the General Assembly that the Assembly consider the present documents and then refer them to governments for further comment, that is up to the Economic and Social Council or even to the Assembly itself.

    It would please the Russians to begin all over again as they have suggested in this meeting, and try to find points on which we can all agree and base a Declaration on such points. I doubt very much if they at any time would consider a Convention.

    I doubt very much also if the very restricted Convention suggested by the Bar Association will satisfy the European countries or the smaller countries on the Human Rights Commission, but I think we may have to state quite openly that we want a document which the larger number of governments can adhere to, that we hope there will be future conventions and that perhaps even we, ourselves, in view of the fact that Congress would have to ratify such treaties, can not agree to wording which goes beyond our own Constitution. It is an acknowledgement, of course, of the fact that we have discrimination within our own country As that is well known, I do not see what we should not acknowledge it and bring out the fact that the Supreme Court has just taken a step forward and we feel we are moving forward, but that in international documents it would be a deception to agree to go beyond what we could obtain ratification for in Congress.

    I am sorry I did not see you when I was in Washington and I shall be delighted to have a chance to talk with you whenever it is possible. Just now my presence at the UN daily seems to be the most important thing to me.

    Very cordially yours,




    Dear Mr. President:

    I am enclosing a copy of a letter which I just sent to the Secretary of State.

    You will begin to find me such a nuisance you will wish I would go home and stay there! However this question of having the foreign policy integrated with the work of the United Nations seems to me of paramount importance.

    Very sincerely yours,

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    Having written you before what I had heard on the subject of the recognition of Palestine, I feel I should write you again.

    The way in which the recognition of Palestine came about has created complete consternation in the United Nations.

    As you know, I never wanted us to change our original stand. When I wrote to the President and to you the other day what I had heard, I thought, of course, that you would weigh it against the reports which you were getting from the United Nations. Much as I wanted the Palestine State recognized, I would not have wanted it done without the knowledge of our representatives in the United Nations who had been fighting for our changed position. I would have felt that they had to know the reason and I would also have felt that there had to be a very clear understanding beforehand with such nations as we expected would follow our lead.

    Several of the representatives of other governments have been to talk to me since then, and have stated quite frankly that they do not see how they could ever follow the United States' lead because the United States changed so often without any consultation. There seems to be no sense of interlocking information between the United States delegate and the State Department on the policy making level. This is serious because our acts which should strengthen the United Nations only result in weakening our influence within the United Nations and in weakening the United Nations itself.

    More and more the other delegates seem to believe that our whole policy is based on antagonism to Russia and that we think in terms of going it alone rather than in terms of building up a leadership within the United Nations.

    This seems to me a very serious defect and I do not see how we can expect to have any real leadership if,

    1 We do not consult our people in the United Nations on what we are going to do, and

    2 If we do not line up our following before we do the things, rather than trusting them to influence them afterwards.

    I can not imagine that major considerations on policies such as this are taken at such short notice that there is not time to think through every consequence and inform all those who should be informed.

    I have seldom seen a more bitter, puzzled, discouraged group of people than some of those whom I saw on Saturday. Some of them I know are favorable to the rights of the Jews in Palestine, but they are just non-plussed by the way in which we do things.

    I thought I had to tell you this because I had written you before and as you know, I believe that it is the Administration's desire to strengthen the United Nations, but we do not always achieve it because, apparently, there is a lack of contact on the higher levels.

    With deep concern, I am,

    Very sincerely yours,




    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    Having written you before what I had heard on the subject of the recognition of Palestine, I feel I should write you again.

    The way in which the recognition of Palestine came about has created complete consternation in the United Nations.

    As you know, I never wanted us to change our original stand. When I wrote to the President and to you the other day what I had heard, I thought, of course, that you would weigh it against the reports which you were getting from the United Nations. Much as I wanted the Palestine State recognized, I would not have wanted it done without the knowledge of our representatives in the United Nations who had been fighting for our changed position. I would have felt that they had to know the reason and I would also have felt that there had to be a very clear understanding beforehand with such nations as we expected would follow our lead.

    Several of the representatives of other governments have been to talk to me since then, and have stated quite frankly that they do not see how they could ever follow the United States' lead because the United States changed so often without any consultation. There seems to be no sense of interlocking information between the United States delegate and the State Department on the policy making level. This is serious because our acts which should strengthen the United Nations only result in weakening our influence within the United Nations and in weakening the United Nations itself.

    More and more the other delegates seem to believe that our whole policy is based on antagonism to Russia and that we think in terms of going it alone rather than in terms of building up a leadership within the United Nations.

    This seems to me a very serious defect and I do not see how we can expect to have any real leadership if,

    1 We do not consult our people in the United Nations on what we are going to do, and

    2 If we do not line up our following before we do the things, rather than trusting them to influence them afterwards.

    I can not imagine that major considerations on policies such as this are taken at such short notice that there is not time to think through every consequence and inform all those who should be informed.

    I have seldom seen a more bitter, puzzled, discouraged group of people than some of those whom I saw on Saturday. Some of them I know are favorable to the rights of the Jews in Palestine, but they are just non-plussed by the way in which we do things.

    I thought I had to tell you this because I had written you before and as you know, I believe that it is the Administration's desire to strengthen the United Nations, but we do not always achieve it because, apparently, there is a lack of contact on the higher levels.

    With deep concern, I am,

    Very sincerely yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    Thanks very much for yours of the seventeenth enclosing me a copy of a letter you had written to General Marshall about the recognition of Palestine.

    I am sorry, of course, that you were disturbed by the procedure but, under the circumstances, there was not much else to be done. Since there was a vacuum in Palestine and since the Russians were anxious to be the first to do the recognizing General Marshall, Secretary Lovett, Dr. Rusk and myself worked the matter out and decided the proper thing to do was to recognize the Jewish Government promptly. Senator Austin was notified of what was taking place but he didn't have a chance to talk with the other members of the delegation until afterward. I am sorry that it caused any disturbance.

    Sincerely yours,


At 6:11 p.m., eastern standard time, on Friday, May 14, Truman recognized the state of Israel just eleven minutes after it became a nation. The White House issued this statement: "This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel."

Mrs. Roosevelt, though pleased that Truman had recognized the Jewish state, was insulted that the administration had failed to alert the U.S. delegation to the United Nations. Marshall was concerned that the entire U.S. delegation might quit in protest.



    Dear Mr. President:

    A group of people came to see me the other day about conscientious objection as related to human rights. At the same time they spoke to me about the conscientious objectors of the last war.

    The following is an excerpt from their statement to me: "The second matter has to do with the amnesty or pardon, for conscientious objectors in the United States in World War II. As you undoubtedly know, the commission headed by former Justice Roberts reported to the President in December and on December 23,1947, the President issued pardons to the persons listed by the Roberts Commission.

    "However, only about 1500 of the 15,000 Selective Service violators were included in the pardon. Of the approximately 1100 recognized as conscientious objectors by the Department of justice only about 150 received pardons. Of the 3,000 or more Jehovah's Witnesses only a couple of hundred were included.

    "In a very real sense those who were not included in the Commission's recommendation are now worse off than they were before, since the Department of Justice is taking the position that these persons have all been considered and is therefore declining to consider applications for individual pardons . . . .

    "Another extremely serious aspect of the matter is that the Roberts Commission applied a very narrow conception of 'religious belief' in determining which conscientious objectors were entitled to pardon. This appears to open the way for retrogression in dealing with conscientious objectors under any future military training or service act.

    "The American Friends Service Committee, the Federal Council of Churches, and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the Committee for Amnesty, which is composed mainly of non-pacifist sponsors, have protested and urged a full amnesty, that is restoration of civil rights, for all conscientious objectors and Jehovah's Witnesses. However, at present there appears to be no progress."

    I am sending this to you to ask if now full pardon should not be given?

    Very cordially yours,





    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I read your letter of [May] thirteenth with a great deal of interest. I have thoroughly looked into the conscientious objectors case and, I think, all the honest conscientious objectors have been released.

    I'll admit that it is rather difficult for me to look on a conscientious objector with patience while your four sons and my three nephews were risking their lives to save our government, and the things for which we stand, these people were virtually shooting them in the back.

    I ran across one conscientious objector that I really believe is all man-he was a young Naval Pharmacist Mate who served on Okinawa carrying wounded sailors and marines from the battlefield. I decorated him with a Congressional Medal of Honor. I asked him how it came about that he as a conscientious objector was willing to go into the things of the battlefield and he said to me that he could serve the Lord and save lives there as well as anywhere else in the world. He didn't weigh over 140 pounds and he was about five feet six inches tall. I shall never forget him.

    My experience in the first world war with conscientious objectors was not a happy one-the majority of those with whom I came in contact were just plain cowards and shirkers-that is the reason I asked Justice Roberts to make a complete survey of the situation and to release all those that he felt were honestly conscientious objectors and that has been done. My sympathies with the rest of them are not very strong, as you can see.




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I read your letter in regard to the pardon for conscientious objects with a great deal of interest and I had the Attorney General prepare me a memorandum on the subject.

    The memorandum is enclosed for your information-it covers the situation completely.

    Sincerely yours,


Attorney General Tom Clark's memorandum defended the administration's rejection o f appeals for amnesty. Clark noted that approximately a thousand persons convicted of Selective Service violations "claimed to be conscientious objectors." The president's Amnesty Board recommended pardons for only 150. "The Board declined to recommend amnesty in those cases where the individual's claim was recognized and he was classified as being opposed to both combatant and non-combatant military service, and was ordered to report for work of national importance in lieu thereof and either failed to so report or violated some phase of the Act while in a civilian public service camp. It appears that the Board adopted the viewpoint that these persons were accorded classification as they had requested but simply set themselves up as being greater than the law." Clark said that the majority of convictions involving conscientious objectors were for refusing to transfer to another civilian service camp or for deserting.

As for cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses, Clark said that these individuals rarely claimed to be conscientious objectors but sought exemptions from the draft as ministers. "The fact that all members of this sect claim to be ministers is indicative that none is a minister in the sense that Congress used the term in the Selective Service Act. Where the facts supported claims to be a minister, Jehovah's Witnesses were generally accorded ministerial classifications by local boards."

In addition to conscientious objectors and Jehovah's Witnesses, Clark reported that ten thousand were designated as "willful violators or draft dodgers." Truman agreed with that classification.



    Dear Mr. President:

    I am enclosing another letter on the subject of conscientious objectors for your consideration. I wrote Mr. Muste that he could not publicize the former correspondence.

    With kindest regards, I am

    Very cordially yours,


In a June 21 letter, Muste wrote Mrs. Roosevelt that the Justice Department memorandum "bears out the contention of the Committee for Amnesty that the Roberts Board did not propose and the President did not grant amnesty at all." Muste sought her permission to make public her correspondence with Truman.



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    After reading your letter of August sixth, I can fully appreciate all that you have to do before your departure for Paris for the third Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Of course, I had hoped that it would be possible for you to accept appointment as one of the Special Ambassadors to represent the United States at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Wilhemina of The Netherlands and the Coronation of Princess Juliana, but I quite understand why you feel that you must decline.

    I am more grateful than I can say for your thoughtfulness in sending me a copy of the full account of the Ceremonies in London at the unveiling of the Memorial to President Roosevelt. This particular copy will take its place among my treasured papers.

    Very sincerely yours,

    Hyde Park




    Dear Mr. President:

    I want to thank you for your kindness in seeing me yesterday and to tell you that I appreciate the difficulties under which you have labored. I wish you could have had better assistants.

    Above everything else, I hope that the national committee will ask of the state committees that they make an aggressive campaign, picking every mistake made by the other side, such as this Italian situation and pointing out again and again that they know what you stand for, and therefore, it is essential that they give you the kind of men in Congress who will make it possible for you to carry through a program for the benefit of the average man.

    I do not feel that the national committee is getting the maximum out of the state committees and while I am a great believer in the necessity for appealing to the independent voter, I also realize that our own machinery must function as well as possible.

    I hope your holiday will be a very pleasant one.

    Very cordially yours,


Mrs. Roosevelt is referring to GOP criticism of the administration's military and economic aid to Italy's moderate government headed by Premier Alcide de Gasperi, a Christian Democrat. In the bitterly fought 1948 Italian elections, the communists and their allies won a third of the vote. With an assist from Truman, de Gasperi retained power. Italian-Americans returned the favor in the '48 election.



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I am indeed grateful for your letter of September twelfth mailed on the eve of your departure for the conference in Paris.

    You have done yeoman service for the Democratic Party in your column and I know those you left behind to cover the day while you are en route will serve a like purpose.

    It is not surprising that the Russians are making friendly advances to the State of Israel. I do not however believe in view of Russia's ruthless betrayal of every nation that trusted her and her default in practically all of her commitments that she will fool so canny a people as those in Israel. You may be sure that I will give careful consideration to the angle of where Israel is going to turn as we shape a policy on recognition and the lifting of the embargo and the granting of the loan. We must make the new state our friend otherwise we shall, as you observe, lose a strategic position in the Near East. The problem which Russia presents cannot be minimized. I am glad you are totally opposed to appeasement. That situation must be faced squarely. It is among the imponderables.

    I have a feeling that you and the other members of the delegation will come into close accord as the discussions progress. It is characteristic of you to write thus frankly as you did and you know I have the highest respect for your opinions and your observations.

    I write in great haste on the day of my departure for a campaign trip. Take care of yourself and conserve your energy. Your country needs you.

    Always sincerely,




    Dear Mr. President:

    I understand that there is some comment in the newspapers in the United States that I have not come out for you as the Democratic candidate and prefer the election of the Republican candidate. I am unqualifiedly for you as the Democratic candidate for the presidency.

    This year I hope every Democrat and independent voter is concentrating on the election of as many liberal Democrats to Congress as possible. I hope for this particularly from the labor and farm groups who have perhaps the greatest stake in the preservation of liberal leadership.

    Liberal policies during these next few years are of vast importance on domestic issues. A Democratic administration, backed by a liberal Democratic Congress, could really achieve the policies for which you have stood.

    As delegate to the United Nations I have become very much aware of the fact that stability in our own government and in its policies is essential to help the Western democracies on their road to rehabilitation.

    With every good wish I am,

    Very cordially yours,


Frances Perkins had telephoned Mrs. Roosevelt in Paris and alerted her that the syndicated political columnist Drew Pearson was reporting that she favored Dewey. "I haven't actually endorsed Mr. Truman, "Eleanor wrote Perkins, "because he has been such a weak and vacillating person and made such poor appointments in his Cabinet and entourage, such as Snyder and Vaughan, that unless we are successful in electing a very strong group of liberals in Congress, in spite of my feelings about the Republican Party and Governor Dewey, I cannot have much enthusiasm for Mr. Truman. Though there are many people in government that I would hate to feel would not be allowed to continue their work, I still find it very difficult to give any good reasons for being for Mr. Truman. "

Because of her lukewarm endorsement, Mrs. Roosevelt was uncertain whether the sentence in her letter to Truman would be made public.

"If it ever sees the light of day," she wrote Lash, "I hope you will approve."



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I am deeply grateful to you for your generous letter of October fourth. Have I your permission to release it for publication?

    Very sincerely yours,





    Glad have you use letter any way you wish.


    Eleanor Roosevelt




    Dear Mr. President:

    I thought you would be interested to see this letter.

    With best wishes, I am

    Very sincerely yours,


Charles G. Hamilton, chairman of the Young Democrats of Mississippi, had written Mrs. Roosevelt on November 8 that Truman had been cheated out of thousands of votes in his state by the old-guard segregationist political establishment, which had supported the third-party candidacy of South Carolina governor J. Strom Thurmond. The States' Rights ticket carried South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.



    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated your note of the twentieth with the enclosed letter from Mr. Hamilton, chairman of the Young Democrats of Mississippi.

    It is a most interesting piece of information and sometime or other we will get the situation worked out I am sure. At least the Democratic Party is no longer in the position of the dog whose tail wags him. We are not only rid of the fringes on the left end but we are free of the so-called solid South and I hope to see a Democratic Party from now on that will really be a Democratic Party and represent all the people.

    The Republican Party should represent the special privilege boys-as it always has.

    Sincerely yours,

    New York




    Dear Mr. President:

    I quite understand your not wanting to be bothered just now with reports from your delegates but I am going to Washington on the 11th of January and I would be able to go and see you on the 13th, providing you are willing, any time in the morning or afternoon.

    I will send you in the course of the next week or so a memorandum on thoughts which have occurred to me as a result of this last contact with Europe.

    With best wishes to you, Mrs. Truman and Margaret for a happy holiday season,

    Very cordially yours,




    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I shall be delighted to see you on Thursday, January thirteenth, at twelve o'clock noon and shall look forward with keen anticipation to receiving from you a firsthand account of the deliberations in Paris in which you bore so important a part.

    I sincerely hope that you have not overtaxed your strength during the long succession of busy days. I have marveled at the poise and patience that you and the other members of our delegation have maintained in the face of the maddening technique of the Russians. Not only have they been deliberately non-cooperative but they have conducted themselves with a boorishness worthy of stable boys. I have observed with great satisfaction that you have put them in their place more than once.

    Always sincerely,


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mrs. Roosevelt's most enduring accomplishment, was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Truman was her staunchest ally in this great endeavor. "We have played a leading role in this undertaking, designed to create a world order of law and justice fully protective of the rights and the dignity of the individual, "he noted in his 1948 civil rights message. (See appendix for complete document.)



    Dear Mr. President:

    I am sending you this lengthy report which I hope you may have time to read and I look forward to seeing you on the 13th of January.

    With every good wish for the New Year to you and Mrs. Truman and Margaret, I am,

    Very cordially yours,

    December 28,1948

    Memo for the President:

    First of all I want to tell you, Mr. President that when the news of your election reached Europe, there was general rejoicing. It gave to many statesmen and even to the people on the street who felt that there might have been a change in our foreign policy, a sense of security that that which is now being done would be continued.

    Next, I think I should say that generally there is a feeling that Mr. Harriman has done a very good job and a devoted one. As you know, I have not always felt that he had a broad enough point of view and grasp of the world situation, but he struck me as having greatly broadened and having been capable of growing with the opportunity which you have given him, which after all, is the greatest thing that one can ask of any one. He has chosen a good staff and everywhere I heard good things said of these people. People wrote me about the representatives they considered particularly good in a number of cases. I heard also that Mr. Harriman had handled labor very well.

    France, as he undoubtedly told you, is the greatest headache still. I think he understands what some of the greatest difficulties are. Many of the young men who fought in the resistance movement, or who were taken to [forced labor] camps out of the country returned or finished their period of the war, depleted physically and mentally. The food has not been sufficient in energy giving qualities. You can not, for instance even today, unless you are willing and able to buy in the black market get butter and sugar and only small children can get milk. Until one comes back physically, one can not come back mentally and spiritually. Also the constant change of governments, due in large part to a very complicated situation which I will be glad to explain if you are interested, has made life for the working people in the cities very difficult and creates a lack of confidence in the government.

    The hardships are real and the Soviets through their communist party in France have offered both rural and city people certain benefits which they could not well resist. The French are not naturally communists but they find it hard to be staunch in the sense that the British are and so they have accepted many communist things. This does not frighten me for the future but it creates great difficulties for the present.

    This question of economic well-being is exploited by the USSR in all nations and they promise much until they gain complete control, then people are worse off than they were before but up to that time they have hopes of being better off and this is what creates one of the dangers for us. Since we are really fighting ideas as well as economic conditions the Russians do a better propaganda job because it is easier to say that your government is a government of workers for the benefit of workers than it is to say that a democratic government which is capitalistic benefits the workers more in the end. The only way to prove that to them, I think, is gradually to have more of them see conditions in our country, under supervision of course, and with every arrangement made for them to return to their own country, but the USSR is as loathe to let them come over as we have been to allow them to enter which makes this solution very difficult.

    Great Britain is going to pull through because it has stood up under incredible drabness of living and I think will know how to use the aid coming to good account. Our relations with the British must, I think, be put on a different basis. We are without question the leading democracy in the world today, but so far Great Britain still takes the attitude that she makes the policies on all world questions and we accept them. That has got to be remedied. We have got to make the policies and they have got to accept them. Mr. Bevin has been unwise in many ways but I will not put on paper what I would be willing to tell you.

    I hope very much that the situation between ourselves and the USSR can change in the coming year and that we can accomplish final peace settlements. Germany can not return to any kind of normality until that is done, for at present the heap of ruins and disillusioned people in the center of Europe makes it difficult for all around to recover.

    I have a feeling that your attitude on Palestine did a great deal to straighten out our own delegation and help the situation from the world point of view. The Arabs have to be handled with strength. One of the troubles has been that we have been so impressed with the feeling that we must have a united front in Europe that it has affected our stand in the Near East. I personally feel that it is more important for the French and for the British to be united with us than for us to be united with them, and therefore when we make up our minds that something has to be done, we should be the ones to do what we think is right and we should not go through so many anxieties on the subject.

    There are all kinds of hidden reasons why nations and their statesmen desire certain things which are not the reasons they usually give. The most truthful of the statesmen that I talked to while in Paris was Robert Schuman of France, but it does require some knowledge of the past and much background to be always on your guard and figure out what are the reasons for certain stands that are taken.

    I have great admiration for the Secretary of State and for many of the people in our State Department, but sometimes I think we are a little bit too trusting and forget the past. In giving me as an adviser Mr. Durward Sandifer, a lawyer of experience and assistant to Mr. Dean Rusk in the Department, I could not have been better served, but I still feel it is hard for the Department to accept policies, without certain individuals trying to inject their own points of view and I do not think all of them have the knowledge and experience to take a world point of view instead of a local one and, by local I mean the point of view which is affected by the particular area in which they have special knowledge and experience.

    I should like to say a word to you when we meet on the subject of the bi-partisan policy and the representatives of the other party.

    I also learned that the Philippine representatives were very much affected by the Equal Benefits Bill which is in Congress and I think if this goes through we will have a remarkable rise in their loyalty.

    The thing above all others which I would like to bring to your attention is that we are now engaged in a situation which is as complicated as fighting the war. During the war my husband had a map room and there were experts who daily briefed him on what was happening in every part of the world. It seems to me that we are engaged in the war for peace in which there enter questions of world economy, food, religion, education, health, and social conditions, as well as military and power conditions. I have a feeling that it would be helpful if you could build a small group of very eminent non-political experts in all these fields whose duty it would be to watch the world scene and keep you briefed day by day in a map room. No one man can watch this whole world picture or have the background and knowledge to cover it accurately. It must be achieved by wise choice of people in the various fields to do it well and understandingly.

    I have a feeling that our situation in Europe will be solved in the next year without too much difficulty. Our real battlefield today is Asia and our real battle is the one between democracy and communism. We can not ruin America and achieve the results that have to be achieved in the world, so whatever we do must be done with the most extraordinary wisdom and foresight in the economic field. At the same time we have to prove to the world and particularly to downtrodden areas of the world which are the natural prey to the principles of communist economy that democracy really brings about happier and better conditions for the people as a whole. Never was there an era in history in which the responsibilities were greater for the United States, and never was a President called upon to meet such extraordinary responsibilities for civilization as a whole.

    I think you are entitled to the best brains and the best knowledge available in the world today. Congress must understand this picture but it can not be expected to follow it in the way that it has to be followed, for the knowledge must come from a group which you set up and from you to them. You need something far greater than political advice though that is also an essential in the picture at home as well as abroad. The search should be for wise men of great knowledge and devoted to mankind, for mankind is at the crossroads. It can destroy itself or it can enter into a new era of happiness and security. It seems to me that you are the instrument chosen as a guide in this terribly serious situation and if there is anything which any of us can do to help you, you have a right to call upon us all.


This site is a joint project of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.

The two Presidential Libraries are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.