Correspondence: 1952
    Commentary by Steve Neal

At the end of March, Truman announced that he would not seek reelection to a third term. He would be the last chief executive eligible to run for more than two terms. Five years earlier, Republican majorities in the House and the Senate had passed a constitutional amendment that stipulated "no person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice" or more than once if a president had served for more than two years of an unexpired term. This measure was a vengeful reprisal by the GOP against Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had broken the two-term tradition started by George Washington. Forty-one states ratified the amendment within four years, and in 1951 the Twenty-second Amendment became part of the Constitution. As a sitting president, Truman was exempted from the two-term limit. Mrs. Roosevelt, who had not favored her husband's candidacy for a third term, would have supported Truman in 1952. But though he did not like the amendment, Truman believed in the two-term limit. If he had run again, it is doubtful whether he could have won. Truman sensed that the country was ready for a fresh start after twenty years of Democratic administrations.

Eleanor was touted by some of the New Deal faithful as a possible successor to Truman. "I've always wondered whether, if mother had run, she might not have won as the presidential candidate," James wrote in 1976. "It's interesting to ponder the possibility that she just might have made it as our first woman president."

Like Truman, she was disappointed when General Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to seek the presidency as a Republican. "It will be a sad day for him, & in a way for the country, if he runs for President," she wrote Joseph Lash in January. "He will win but as a hero he will be tarnished & it will get worse and worse. We need our heroes & we need him here & I doubt we need him more as President."

Truman and Mrs. Roosevelt were elated when the Democratic National Convention in Chicago nominated Illinois governor Adlai E. Stevenson as Eisenhower's opponent. The president and Eleanor, who had admired Eisenhower, were appalled when he bowed to expediency and made campaign appearances with the witch-hunting Republican senators Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin and William E. Jenner of Indiana, both of whom had slandered Ike's great mentor, General Marshall. "I stand by my friends," Truman told a cheering throng in Boston.

In her gentle way, Mrs. Roosevelt reprimanded Eisenhower. "I know it must have been terrible to face yourself-to realize that you have been persuaded that you must go out and stand beside men who always said things about someone who has been your best friend, someone who had really given you the opportunity to rise to great position," she told a crowd in Harlem.

"Yet he [Eisenhower] stood by the side of Jenner, who said that General Marshall's life was a living lie.

"How General Eisenhower could do that I cannot understand. I cannot understand how he could give a mark of approval to Senator McCarthy."

Eisenhower was embarrassed when the New York Times reported that he had deleted a favorable reference to General Marshall from a speech that he delivered in McCarthy's presence. In his presidential memoirs, Eisenhower wrote that he would never have agreed to this deletion if he had been fully aware of the political implications. He was stung by the criticism from Truman, Mrs. Roosevelt, and others.

Neither Truman nor Mrs. Roosevelt was surprised that America liked Ike in the November 4 election. Two of her four sons, Elliott and the Republican John, supported Eisenhower. "It was my opinion," Eleanor later wrote, "that Governor Stevenson would probably make one of the best Presidents we ever had had, but I also believed that it was practically impossible for the Democrats to win the election because of the hero worship surrounding General Eisenhower."


    1. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, JANUARY 29, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I have not written you before but I am afraid I must now break my silence about the appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican. I am getting letters on every side as I am sure you are too and I feel that perhaps I should tell you it seems to me since we are a Protestant country, we should heed the very evident feeling so many Protestants have against having an ambassador at the Vatican. I understand that an ambassador can be appointed only when you have signed the Concordat, but is it not possible for a state which is not a Catholic state to sign. Automatically, if the Vatican has an ambassador in a Catholic state he takes precedence over the entire diplomatic corps. This, in a non-Catholic state would make a very embarrassing situation. In the case of Great Britain, they have a minister at the Vatican for this very reason because then a minister sent by the Vatican has the same standing as the papal delegate and it does not bring the conflict that having an ambassador does. For the purpose of the U.S. I have always felt that a special representative of the President gave all the advantages and avoided the pitfalls which the appointment of an ambassador or minister brings about.

    It is easy to understand this present objection. The recognition of any church as a temporal power puts that church in a different position from any of the other churches and while we are now only hearing from the Protestant groups, the Moslems may one day wake up to this and make an equal howl. For us who take a firm stand on the separation of church and state, the recognition of a temporal power seems inconsistent.

    I write these random thoughts because I am sure someday someone is going to ask my opinion and I do not want to say that I think it is not a good idea without having expressed myself to you beforehand.

    I will write you a report on this session before I leave on the 8th if all is well and finished here.

    Please give my good wishes to Mrs. Truman and Margaret and believe me always

    Cordially yours,

    


    2. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FEBRUARY 2, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I can't tell you how very much I appreciate your letter of January twenty-ninth from the Hotel Crillon in Paris. My recollection of that great hotel is of Woodrow Wilson who walked down the front steps while I looked on as a spectator.

    I also appreciate very much what you have to say about the Vatican situation and I am giving it a great deal of thought. I hope we can get it worked out without creating a religious controversy. I don't know whether we can or not but I expect to try.

    I am always glad to hear from you and to have your frank statements of your opinion.

    Sincerely yours,

    

As Wilson departed for the peace conference, Truman caught his first and only glimpse of the twenty-eighth president. From then on, he would always associate the Crillon with Wilson's great moment.

Truman favored extending formal recognition to the Vatican State but was inhibited from doing so because of Protestant opposition. Roosevelt had angered many Protestants in 1939 when he named steel executive Myron C. Taylor (1874-1959) as special representative to the Vatican. Taylor stayed on the job until 1949. After Truman's Washington, D. C., pastor used his pulpit to preach against recognition, the president never went back to Washington's First Baptist Church.


    3. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FEBRUARY 26, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I have read with interest and appreciation your summary report concerning the last meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. You did a fine job.

    I know that it must have been difficult to carry on with the staff problems you had, especially during a session where the problems up for discussion were tough to deal with. But I know that your leadership of the United States delegation was inspiring and I feel that what you did at Paris carried all of us further along the road towards peace. I think particularly of action taken on such problems as disarmament and collective security.

    As your letter makes clear, the General Assembly is invaluable in offering a forum for consultation and cooperation with other delegations. It gives us a chance to make our views widely known to other peoples, and vice virsa. I think it speaks well for United States policies, and the way they were presented at Paris, that our position was supported by the Assembly on almost all important items.

    I was especially interested in what you had to say regarding Arab aspirations and the trance-like state of mind in Western Europe concerning the Soviet menace.

    We must continue steadfast and show the way to greater strength and realism.

    I thank you for all you have done.

    Very sincerely yours,

    

Mrs. Roosevelt sent Truman a summary report of the sixth General Assembly, which was held in Paris. The document is not in their correspondence files.


    4. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, MARCH 7, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I want to tell you now that I have been a short time in India what a really extraordinary job our ambassador, Mr. Bowles, seems to have done. In one way I think perhaps Providence did something for us when he was defeated in the last election so that he could be available for his present post.

    India seems to need very special treatment at this time and seems to be very vital to our own interests. Everywhere, without exception, and I think I have met every government official thus far, tells me what a change there has been in the feeling toward the United States since Mr. Bowles' arrival. They feel now that we understand them, that we are more understanding of their isolationism and that we are beginning to realize that they do not want to become communistic but their problems are so great they feel they cannot take sides.

    I only hope that we can do the things that seem essential to them. The problem here is much the same as that of China, though in Nehru we have a leader of infinitely higher quality than Chiang. Mr. Nehru has around him a great many good men. Gandhi has left his mark and there is an unselfish service being given among young and old which might be of help even in our own democracy.

    Mr. Bowles has done everything possible for me but I am afraid I can never accomplish what the Indians want as a result of my visit.
    With all good wishes,

    Key West

    


    5. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, MARCH 17, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I certainly did appreciate your letter of March the seventh from Bangalore. I am more than happy that Chester Bowles has created the impression which we have been striving for all along in India. It is my feeling that a great many of our career ambassadors are not politicians and it takes a politician to understand the people of any country. Your statement about Chester Bowles more than confirms that opinion.

    It has always been necessary whenever there is a difficult job to be done in any country, to have it done by someone who understands people and how to get along with people. That was the case when we sent Stanton Griffis to Poland, to Egypt, then to Argentina and then finally to Spain. Our ambassadors to Great Britain and France have always been men who understand people and how to get along with people.

    I am more than happy that Chester Bowles has made good in India. I think your visit there has had a wonderful reaction also and I am very glad that you were able to go there.

    

Chester A. Bowles (1901-1986), one of the New Deal's bright young men, later served as governor of Connecticut and in the U.S. House. He did much to improve U.S. relations with India and developed a good relationship with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Stanton Griffis, though warm and friendly, was a diplomatic lightweight. Bowles was a major leaguer.


    6. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, APRIL 11, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I am sending you the memorandum which I showed you yesterday from the State Department. I thought maybe you would like to have it for your files. I've kept a copy of it.

    Sincerely yours,

    Memorandum for the President

    Subject: Appointment with Mrs. Roosevelt, April 10

    The following information is transmitted in connection with Mrs. Roosevelt's appointment to see the President at 12:00 noon, April 10.

    Mrs. Roosevelt's journey through the Middle East and Southeast Asia (see attached itinerary) was entirely unofficial, all arrangements having been made by her various hosts in each country. She was received everywhere with great cordiality except in the Arab states. On her arrival in Pakistan, Mrs. Roosevelt commented that she had anticipated some hostility in the Arab states, but found none and, while there was an absence of cordiality, she was shown every consideration. Her trip to India and Pakistan was a great success, and she appears to have done much to increase understanding of United States foreign policy objectives.

    Typical among the reactions of our embassies was that of Ambassador Davis who reported that her visit to Israel had a tonic effect on public morale and was an unqualified success from the standpoint of United States interests and prestige. Ambassador Bowles has described her visit to India as a tremendous success and as having made a deep impression, particularly among students and the press.

    Although it was undertaken in a purely unofficial capacity, Mrs. Roosevelt's journey has served the public interest exceedingly well.

    Mrs. Roosevelt is now preparing for the next session of the United States Human Rights Commission which meets in New York on April 14 to complete the drafting of the Covenant of Human Rights. She was successful at the last session of the General Assembly in persuading the Assembly to reverse a previous decision and to instruct the Human Rights Commission to draft two separate covenants, one confined to civil and political rights and the other dealing with economic and social rights. This separation has been advocated consistently by this Government, and it is a credit to her effectiveness as a negotiator that she was able finally to persuade a majority of governments to support it.

    Dean Acheson

    


    7. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, APRIL 21, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    You were very thoughtful to send me the memorandum and I am glad to have it for my files.

    With many thanks, I am

    Very sincerely yours,

    


    8. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, MAY 31, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I try not to bother you too often but I am very much troubled at the moment about the McCarran-Walters Bill. I realize that I cannot possibly know much in detail about any legislation and this is a complex and technical subject.

    However, I hear that this bill would generally restrict immigration and make it more difficult than it now is. It would remove the barriers to naturalization for certain Asiatics and provide a small quota for a number of Asiatic countries which do not have a quota.

    Of course, the removal of racial barriers is all to the good but I understand that this legislation sets up a special classification for persons of Asiatic and Oriental ancestry and sets them completely apart from Europeans and others in a highly restricted category. I am told that it even defines a fifty percent blood test for persons of Asiatic ancestry no matter where born.

    The people of Asia are just at present oversensitive and very proud and I am afraid the enactment of such a bill with these provisions would be very unfortunate. I also think that the Russians would use it for plausible propaganda against us.

    Most of us would like to see exclusionist bars go down but not in favor of new ones which would provide fresh evidence that we consider ourselves "superior" to the peoples of Asia.

    This legislation may be before you any day for signature and if on mature consideration you think it is really bad, I hope you will veto it, though I realize I cannot be familiar with it from every point of view. I am only writing you what my general feeling has been.

    Very cordially yours,

    


    9. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, JUNE 5, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I certainly did appreciate your good letter of May thirty-first regarding the McCarran and Walters bills. They are both very bad bills and I think we would be better off with no legislation than the straitjacket they are endeavoring to give me with that legislation.

    They are still working on the conference report but I am of the opinion that they can't get either one of those two measures in shape to make it a good law.

    Of course, I can never publicly say what I expect to do until the legislation is on my desk but I'll say to you in confidence that if either one of those bills comes up here in the present form, it won't become law if I can prevent it.

    We have sent messages to the Congress with a proposed bill for the future increase in immigration quotas for the displaced persons up to 300,000. I don't know how far we will get with it but I hope it will come to my desk before the Congress quits.
    Sincerely yours,

    

Senator Patrick A. McCarran of Nevada (1876-1954), who chaired the Internal Security Subcommittee, was tougher, smarter, and more sinister than Joseph R. McCarthy. Truman vetoed the immigration bill on grounds that it discriminated against the nations of southern and eastern Europe and nonwhite peoples. By the narrowest of margins, Congress overrode Truman's veto.


    10. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, JUNE 18, 1952

 

    The President

    The White House

    I understand you have been invited by NAACP to speak at their convention in Oklahoma and I have been asked to express my feelings that this is important both nationally and internationally. Even though I realize the many calls on your time.

    

Because of a prior commitment, Truman regretted that he couldn't make this date. In his reply to Mrs. Roosevelt, he also looked ahead to the 1952 presidential campaign: "There is only one way for the Democrats to win and that is to support the program which has been a successful one for industry, labor, farmers, and white collar workers."


    11. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, JUNE 30, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    If you really meant that you want me to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention, will you please have some one let me know what day and what hour as soon as possible?

    I can not be there during the day on the 21st as I have already made an engagement for the whole of that morning and early afternoon.

    Very cordially yours,

    


    12. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, JULY 3, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I told the chairman of the National Democratic Committee to get in touch with you about the day and hour for your speech on the United Nations to the Democratic Convention. You should hear from him in the next day or two.

    I am very anxious that you should tell the people just exactly what the United Nations means to peace in the world. I don't think anybody in the party can do it any better than you.

    Sincerely yours,

    


    13. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, JULY 25, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I deeply appreciate your telegram and am so glad you thought my speech went well. I was glad when it was over because I rather dreaded it.

    My greetings to Mrs. Truman, best wishes to you.

    Very cordially yours,

    

Many Americans were disappointed that the United Nations had fallen short of their grand expectations. In the summer of 1952, only 24 percent of respondents to a Gallup Poll said that the UN was doing a good job, while 36 percent said that it was doing a poor job. But when asked if the United States should drop out, 75 percent were opposed. "To achieve peace," Mrs. Roosevelt told the 1952 convention, "we must recognize the historic truth that we can no longer live apart from the rest of the world. We must also recognize the fact that peace, like freedom, is not won once and for all. It is fought for daily, in many small acts, and is the result of many individual efforts . . . . We should remember that the United Nations is not a cure-all. It is only an instrument capable of effective action when its members have a will to make it work."


    14. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, SEPTEMBER 6, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    Thank you so very much for the copy of your book. I think it will be of great value to many people who will, for the first time, understand some of the strains and stresses and burdens of the great office which you have held.

    My warm regards and thanks and kind remembrances to Mrs. Truman and to Margaret. Tell Margaret I hope she enjoyed her trip to the Scandinavian countries. I thought they were most delightful.

    Very cordially yours,

    

Truman's book, Mr. President (Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952), edited by William Hillman, included excerpts from diaries, letters, and interviews. For a book written by a sitting president, it is surprisingly candid and readable.


    15. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, OCTOBER 10, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    May I offer hearty congratulations and best wishes on this anniversary of your birth.

    I know I am speaking not only for myself but for the millions of Americans who revere you for the wonderful work you are doing at the United Nations to promote better understanding among peoples and a greater respect for human rights. Your continued health and happiness is my wish and my prayer.

    Very sincerely yours,

    


    16. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, OCTOBER 12, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    How very kind of you in the midst of your extremely busy life to take time out to write me on my birthday. I do deeply appreciate your good wishes.

    Very cordially yours,

    


    17. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, NOVEMBER 6, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I will hope to get down to Washington some time before Christmas to report to you on my visit to Chile and on anything else that turns up in the General Assembly.

    In the meantime I want to thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for service during your administration.

    I know that after the great efforts you put into the campaign it must be a keen disappointment to you but I think we were against impossible odds, especially the feeling many people had that they want their boys home from Korea. I am afraid General Eisenhower will not be able to fulfill the hopes of these people, and it may be difficult for him in consequence. I like your offer of your own plane to go immediately to Korea.

    With every good wish,

    Very cordially yours,

    

Mrs. Roosevelt admired Eisenhower as a soldier but thought he had bowed to expediency in the 1952 presidential campaign. Shortly before his victory, Eisenhower pledged to go to Korea. Following the election, Truman offered him the use of the presidential aircraft, a DC-6 called the Independence. Eisenhower, angered by Truman's hard-hitting rhetoric in the closing days of the campaign, declined the president's offer.


    18. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, NOVEMBER 12, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I appreciated very much yours of the sixth. Of course, I put everything I could into the campaign and tried my best to get the facts before the people but evidently I didn't succeed very well.

    I will be most happy to see you whenever it is convenient for you to come down. I am anxious to hear what happened in Chile while you were there.

    Sincerely yours,

    

In the Republican landslide, Eisenhower crushed Democratic rival Adlai E. Stevenson. For the first time in twenty-four years, the GOP won the presidency and both houses of Congress. Though Truman put up a good fight, he knew that the country was in the mood for chance.

At Truman's request, Mrs. Roosevelt led the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of Carlos Ibanez as president of Chile. Ibanez, who had been critical of the United States, changed his stance in the wake of Eleanor's visit.


    19. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO W AVERELL HARRIMAN, NOVEMBER 15, 1952

 

    Memorandum for: W Averell Harriman

    From: The President

    Your memorandum regarding the Medal for Merit for Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt has been under consideration for a long time but authority for it has long ago expired.

    If anybody deserves one she does but it takes a special Act of Congress to get it. I regret it very much.

    


    20. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, DECEMBER 4, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    As you know, at the end of this General Assembly session all of the delegates automatically resign so this is not a letter of resignation. I shall write to General Eisenhower and resign as the US member on the Human Rights Commission.
    But before that time comes and when my work ends on this session, I am hoping to come to Washington for a few hours. This will probably be on December 20th or 22nd. May I come in to see you for a few minutes around noon? I promise not to take up more than a few minutes of your time.

    I would also like to have an opportunity to say good-by to Mrs. Truman if she is not too busy to let me run in for a minute or two.

    When you are a free and independent citizen, I hope you will occasionally come to New York City and that I may inveigle you and Mrs. Truman to spend a weekend at Hyde Park. It would be a great pleasure if you could, and even more pleasure if Margaret could be with you.

    Very cordially yours,



    


    21. HARRY S. TRUMAN TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, DECEMBER 13, 1952

 

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I'll be most happy to see you when you come to Washington at the time you suggest, which is around noon on either the twentieth or the twenty-second.

    I'm sure it will be easy to make an arrangement for you to see Mrs. Truman whenever you find it convenient.

    I certainly thank you for the invitation to spend a weekend at Hyde Park and hope that pleasure will be possible when I finally get out of the White House and get things straightened out.

    Mrs. Truman and I both appreciate your sympathetic statement about Mrs. Wallace.

    Sincerely yours,

    


    22. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT TO HARRY S. TRUMAN, DECEMBER 16, 1952

 

    Dear Mr. President:

    I find now that I will not be coming to Washington before Christmas. I appreciate your kindness in being willing to see me. If I may, I shall let you know when I expect to be there.

    With every good wish,

    Very cordially yours,

    

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.