Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

Secretary of the Treasury in the Truman Administration, 1946-53. Other Federal positions once held include Executive Vice-President and Director, Defense Plant Corporation, 1940-43; Assistant to the Director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1940-44; Federal Loan Administrator, 1945; Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1945-46. Secretary Snyder has been a longtime close friend of Harry S. Truman beginning with their service in the U.S. Army Reserves after World War I.

Washington, D.C.,
July 24, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]


NOTICE
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened September, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

Washington, D.C.,
July 24, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess

 

[805]

Twenty-first Oral History Interview with John W. Snyder, Washington, D.C., July 24, 1968. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.

HESS: Secretary Snyder, let's continue on with our discussion of the gentlemen who served on the Cabinet during the Truman administration, and we are down to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Agriculture Department.

SNYDER: Mr. Hess, the Secretary of Agriculture who was in office at the time that President Truman took over the Presidency was Claude Wickard, and Claude immediately handed in his resignation upon the death of Mr. Roosevelt. As a matter of fact, he resigned on the 17th of April which is very close after Mr. Truman took office. But Mr. Truman did not appoint a successor until a couple of months later. At that time he appointed Clinton P. Anderson, who had been a friend of his in the Senate. Mr. Anderson was interested

 

[806]

in agriculture, he had taken a great interest in it while he was in Congress, and he, of course, was heavily interested in it in practical farming out in his home state. So he was nominated in May of 1945 and was confirmed immediately and took office on the 30th of June, 1945. Senator Anderson made a very fine Secretary of Agriculture in my opinion. He understood the needs of the agricultural picture, he understood the surplus problems that could develop. At that time, however, the war had kept our surpluses pretty well down and we had not built up the huge surpluses that we had subsequently. There was a great deal of talk by Henry Wallace on that old theme that went 5,000 years back to the times in Egypt and the Pharaohs when they talked about the perpetual balanced granary. Henry Wallace had advanced a theory about storing grain in the years of heavy production

 

[807]

to take care of the lean years when we had crop failures. Well, that was quite a debatable question at the time, very controversial. That was before the days in which we became accustomed to having huge grain elevators and silos all over the country. So it took some very diplomatic handling on the part of Secretary Anderson to not get crosswise with another Cabinet (Wallace was then Secretary of Commerce) member at the time, who had advocated a more liberal subsidy to the farmer to encourage him to raise large crops which would then be stored for times of need.

HESS: During Secretary Anderson's early days of his administration, Henry Wallace was still Secretary of Commerce.

SNYDER: That is correct.

HESS: We'll discuss him in a few minutes, but he

 

[808]

left that office in September of 1946, so there was quite a time that both men were on the Cabinet at the same time. Did Secretary of Commerce Wallace try to press his ideas on agriculture onto Secretary of Agriculture Anderson?

SNYDER: Not directly, but he did it through speeches and through positions that he took in his farm paper, so the controversy was there even though not direct. It wasn't an effort to influence Secretary Anderson directly. President Truman had a very high regard for Secretary Anderson and it was with genuine regret that he accepted his resignation in May 1948. Senator Anderson was not and is not a well man, in that he has an ailment that is continuous and he decided that for his health's sake, the pressures were great then and he also was offered an opportunity to go back in the Senate. That appealed to him,

 

[809]

and to his wife, very much. So, as a result, he did resign and was reelected and is still in the Senate. His period in service as Secretary of Agriculture was very helpful to the Administration and it was a great help to me in working with him.

HESS: May I ask one question about Secretary Anderson before we leave him. Now, he resigned in May of 1948. Do you recall the difficulties that arose when the Congress would not appropriate money for the grain storage bins for the Commodity Credit Corporation that became an issue in the campaign of 1948. It has been pointed out that the Democrats as well as the Republicans actually did not see the overall importance of this particular action until it had become a fait accompli. Is that right?

SNYDER: I touched on that just now, that there

 

[810]

was this controversial subject of building up the storage of grain in times of big crops. You were quite correct in bringing that up. The matter was brought to a head by a request for an appropriation by the Commodity Credit Corporation to permit them to build storage warehouses in which the farmer could deposit their grain on receipt without selling it and holding it for a market that was favorable.

HESS: That's right, because if there was no Government approved bin in which to store it he could not receive the Government price level.

SNYDER: Yes, he had to have it stored in a Government approved warehouse. So it was very controversial and there wasn't any great support for it in Congress, and my recollection of it is that Secretary Anderson was not too enthusiastic over the bill himself. I'm not sure about that, however.

 

[811]

HESS: This was connected with the rewriting of the charter of the Commodity Credit Corporation, isn't that correct?

SNYDER: I think that the original charter did not provide for the Commodity Credit to provide a storage place for farm products. And I think that the legislation that was controversial was asking for a change in the charter to permit that, and then on top of that an appropriation for the building of these elevators and silos, as they call them.

When Secretary Anderson resigned, President Truman appointed Charles F. Brannan. Brannan was a lawyer out in Denver and had taken a great deal of interest in agricultural activities. He was a close friend of the Farmer's Union operations and James Patton was a very close friend of his, and I have always felt that much of Brannan's ideas were generated in the thinking of Patton

 

[812]

and his experts.

HESS: Would that also hold true of the famous Brannan plan?

SNYDER: Well, it probably could be. Of course, I'm not finding fault with that. I'm just pointing out that Mr. Brannan had been a lawyer and, while he had taken an interest in farming, in agriculture, he was actually, I think, endorsed, and impressed, by the farmers because they thought that he would be a friendly Secretary in the office, which, of course, it is desirable to have. If you're going to have a Secretary of Commerce, you want someone that's in tune with commerce.

HESS: The business community.

SNYDER: That's right. And so Mr. Brannan was able to get himself in many controversies because

 

[813]

there was a feeling that he had leaned entirely too far on the liberal side in the agricultural legislation, and the Brannan plan was considered at the time to be a very, very liberal piece of legislation. However, subsequently, we've gone far beyond the Brannan plan.

HESS: What was your view of the Brannan plan at that time?

SNYDER: Having had some experience in agriculture's needs and problems in my own banking career, I realized that there were many points of merit in the Brannan plan. It struck me initially with being probably a little too grandiose in its approach. Mr. Brannan remained in the Cabinet until the end of the Truman administration. Mr. Truman felt like he was doing a very good job there and always listened to whatever he had to propose and,

 

[814]

as you know from history, he did support Brannan in many of his suggestions for the betterment of the agricultural picture in our country.

HESS: The next department is the Department of Commerce.

SNYDER: When the Truman administration took over, Henry Wallace was serving in the office of Secretary of Commerce, and he continued there until September of 1946. Mr. Wallace was the center of constant controversy. Frankly, he had some notions that just didn't jibe with about 85 percent of the Cabinet. My own first controversy with Secretary Wallace, however, was when I was in OWMR. As he himself admitted years later that he had just been misled in a lot of his thinking.

HESS: What was that controversy, do you remember?

 

[815]

SNYDER: Well, this particular one was the matter of distribution of the documents and the classified papers which he had obtained in Germany and had them in storage, not only in Germany but in France and in several of the European countries. And Wallace wanted to open them up and share them with everyone including Russia. I opposed that very strongly.

HESS: What was the final disposition?

SNYDER: They were put under lock and key and were kept classified in the Defense Department.

HESS: At this time did he express to you a reason why he felt they should be open?

SNYDER: He was thoroughly sold on the idea that we were always going to get along with great rapport with the Russians, and he was willing to divide everything. His notion was towards

 

[816]

utopia, and my feeling at the time was that we had not reached utopia. He was very, very strong on the Socialist side of distribution of the wealth. Interestingly enough, he was a very wealthy man himself, inherited initially, but through his development of fine grades of corn, hybrid corn, made quite a fortune on his own. And then he had an outstanding farm magazine, a weekly. He later though had a change of mind and in talking with Mr. Truman years later confessed that he kind of -- well, he said, "I just have to tell the truth. I was misled in many of my thoughts during my latter years of the Roosevelt administration." Some of the extreme liberals whom Mr. Roosevelt had assembled found an attentive ear in Mr. Wallace. I frankly felt that Mr. Wallace was a very fine person. I think his ambitions were in the right direction in the sense that we all wanted to do

 

[817]

good for our country, and our people. But he wanted to do some things that many just didn't agree with, such as his ready acceptance of the sincerity of the Russians as compatible to our way of thinking, and the manner of the distribution of wealth, was where we had our earlier problems. He got into the habit of making statements that were frankly almost communistic in their purport. And it was one of those speeches that caused Mr. Truman to come to the dividing of the path.

HESS: Can you tell me about that?

SNYDER: Well, he was going to make a talk in New York, if I remember correctly, and he put into his speech one phrase that irritated Mr. Truman very much. It said that the end justifies the means and that we've got to accomplish those ends, and if we have the right objective,

 

[818]

whatever we do along the way to reach that objective is perfectly all right, if we are still aiming for the correct objective. He had brought his speech to Mr. Truman and Mr. Truman, without reading it, said, "Well, Henry, is there anything in there that is controversial?" He was told that there was not. He said, "Well, go on and make it." Mr. Truman did not read the speech, and when it came out he was somewhat shocked because he had relied on Mr. Wallace's statement that there was nothing controversial in it, and he considered this particular passage extremely controversial and completely opposed to his way of thinking. So he called Mr. Wallace over and told him that he thought they had reached the end of their association. And Mr. Wallace was amazed -- so he said -- that Mr. Truman misinterpreted what he meant.

 

[819]

And he said, "In this world today you've got to pick out a goal and you'll never get there unless you just trample right through all the underbrush to get to it."

So, Mr. Truman said, "Well, it depends on what the underbrush is." And that is when his resignation was handed in.

HESS: After this point in time did you ever hear Mr. Truman give his opinion of Mr. Wallace?

SNYDER: I think Mr. Truman actually liked Mr. Wallace and he was very unhappy that this schism had to come about, but he never fully forgave him for that speech. Later, they again, became very good friends. Mr. Wallace went out a number of times to Independence. I was out there with him at one time. His attitude was just as friendly as it could be and my attitude was always friendly with him. As a matter of

 

[820]

fact he asked me to go on the Business Council, while I was in St. Louis. At that time it was run as advisory to the Secretary of Commerce. All during the time when we were having this controversy, I was going to the Business Council meetings and working with him on many things. My daughter and Jean Wallace are the very closest of friends, as well as Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. Snyder -- we lived in the same hotel -- Wardman Park -- and to answer your question there was never any irreparable break. It was repaired in time, and in the latter days, Mr. Wallace came to the decision that he had roamed a little afield.

HESS: You know, at the time that he gave that speech, Secretary Byrnes was Secretary of State, and I believe he was in Paris at that time, and became quite agitated at the fact that another Cabinet member was making a statement on foreign

 

[821]

policy. So this takes in Mr. Wallace's involvement in the Secretary of the State's field, and we've mentioned Agriculture. What other fields did Secretary Wallace try to help out in? Do you recall. Did he ever give you any help?

SNYDER: No, we got along very well because we had our relationship pretty well established when he realized that if he ever went counter to any of my beliefs or ideas of proper procedure without consulting me about it, that I was going to be very firm about it. So, he was very cautious in leaving the Treasury operation alone.

Secretary Byrnes complained to President Truman that Wallace was interfering in diplomatic matters in his public statements. This added further to Mr. Truman's dissatisfaction with Mr. Wallace.

 

[822]

HESS: What about some of the other Cabinet members, other departments, do you recall offhand any time that he might have tried to stick his finger in the pie?

SNYDER: Well, the main one as I recall, was the Post Office Department. He wanted more liberal distribution of fourth class mail and things of that sort. He was constantly in difficulty with the Secretary of War on account of the Army at that time had in its custody all of these highly classified enemy papers and Mr. Wallace was very anxious to give all the world access to any scientific papers or any sociological papers that might have been built up by the scientists in Germany...

HESS: Did that include the secret of the atomic bomb, at this time?

SNYDER: Oh, yes.

 

[823]

HESS: Did you ever hear him make a statement in a Cabinet meeting that we ought to let the Russians in on the secret of the atomic bomb?

SNYDER: Oh, yes, he was very positive about that, that we couldn't hold these things, that we were simply trustees and that the Russians were our allies and that we had to share all this with everybody.

HESS: He made no secret of his feelings on that?

SNYDER: Oh, no, he never did.

HESS: He was a plain-spoken man.

SNYDER: He was a very plain-spoken man and I don't think he ever intended to be elusive, or anything of that sort.

HESS: Just as an opinion, a supposition on your part, what was there in the background of the man

 

[824]

that that would have given him such a leftist leaning?

SNYDER: Sort of an altruistic bent. He was brought up with the idea that his work was for the benefit of mankind, in his training, his father's background of looking towards the interest of the farmer, and through the farmer to all people, and I think he got a very socialistic view and that was fanned by the general tenor of some of the things that happened in the Roosevelt administration.

HESS: What do you recall about his occult beliefs and the "Mystic letters?"

SNYDER: Well, that was another one of his misguided moments.

What was the name of the man...

HESS: The one he wrote the letters to?

 

[825]

SNYDER: Yes.

HESS: His name I believe was Nicholas Roerich, who was the leader of some sort of cult.

SNYDER: Well, he was quite influential in getting Wallace to pay more attention to these seances and things of that sort.

HESS: Just one obvious question. In 1948 when he ran on the Progressive Party ticket, he was supported by the Communist Party of the United States. Do you think that Mr. Wallace was a Communist?

SNYDER: No, definitely not, but the trouble was that his leaning were so ultra liberal, you see, he was very strongly an advocate of ADA, and he was, I think quite Socialist minded.

HESS: At this time, even the ADA broke away from the Progressive Party. They went to the platform

 

[826]

at the Philadelphia convention and stated that they should repudiate the Communists, so even the ADA, even though they were leftists, were not as far left as the people surrounding Mr. Wallace at that time.

SNYDER: Well, Mr. Wallace was sold on the fact that the administration was entirely too conservative. According to him he was a liberal, and of course his liberalism branched over to where many accused him of having communistic leanings. But I definitely do not think, it's not my opinion, that he was ever a Communist.

HESS: On the 1948 campaign, do you think that he thought that he had a chance to become elected President? Just what was his idea?

SNYDER: I doubt it. His idea was just the same as Theodore Roosevelt's was in the Bullmoose Party,

 

[827]

and just maybe like McCarthy's going to be, like today’s Wallace is now. They have a good notion that if they make a good showing that they will have influence on the administration that follows, you see.

HESS: And they just might possibly throw the election into the House of Representatives.

SNYDER: Well, that has been brought up. My belief is that what they are really after is having some voice in the Congress if they can elect quite a number of Congressmen, who are followers of their campaign, that they might have those leanings in Congress, don't you see, and that therefore might give them some strength and voice in the administration that will follow.

HESS: Did you ever hear Mr. Truman make any comments about what he thought about Wallace running on the 3rd party ticket?

 

[828]

SNYDER: Well, he frankly thought it was a nuisance and a bother that he shouldn't have to put up with, but he didn't let it take root too deeply and he ran, as Mr. Truman has always run, on the record of Harry Truman, and let the chips fall where they may.

The next successor to Henry Wallace was Averell Harriman.

HESS: Why was he chosen?

SNYDER: Well, Harriman had been a very loyal supporter of the party and he had always gotten along with the liberal side. Mr. Truman didn't want to break from the liberal side. And then Harriman was a businessman -- Union Pacific and other things -- so there were a number of pluses that went for Harriman. He had been Ambassador to Russia, as you know, and Mr. Truman brought him home and asked him to take this job and

 

[829]

he agreed to do it.

HESS: What seemed to be the relationship between Mr. Harriman, a man of great wealth, and Mr. Truman, a man of more or less a rural background. What was their relationship?

SNYDER: Very good, very cordial, and still is today. Mr. Truman had a very warm affection for Averell Harriman and demonstrated it throughout the years. When he ran for Governor, he supported him; he has always been an admirer of Mr. Harriman. He thinks that a man of such great wealth who is willing to work as hard as Harriman does at being a public servant has a remarkably fine perspective. You can't question his sincerity and his liberal attitude with his own resources. Mr. Harriman many times supported certain procedures with his own money, I'm not talking about causes or anything, but I'm talking

 

[830]

about special projects. To this day you can see he's in Paris putting his whole heart in his mission. It looks like many times he was taking the more difficult side of things, but he never hesitates, he was willing to try. He's a very courageous man and he did excellent work in Europe following the war. I've always had a very high regard for Mr. Harriman.

HESS: Again in your opinion, but what would be in this gentleman's background to make him a liberal -- a man of such wealth?

SNYDER: Well, there are so many men of wealth that have the notion, as I see it, that should there ever come a time when we would have a labor government or an extreme liberal government, they want to sort of identify themselves as not being cold-blooded, icy capitalists. Its' the only thing I can figure, we've had so many

 

[831]

who have inherited wealth that have leaned towards public work. We've got an example, I think, in Nelson Rockefeller right now, who has inherited great wealth. He has never had to earn a living. His grandfather and then his father set up ample wealth so that he and his brothers could serve their country. There have been three of them, as you know, that have entered into political life. Lawrence and David have stayed out of politics; David is president of the Chase Manhattan Bank and Lawrence looks after the family business affairs. Winthrop is now the Governor of Arkansas. John is a Democrat, if I'm not mistaken.

And then, of course, Harriman resigned as Secretary of Commerce to take an ambassadorship in ECA, Ambassador at Large. Then we come to Mr. Sawyer.

 

[832]

Charles Sawyer has had a most interesting background. His home is in Cincinnati, Ohio. He studied law, entered the practice of the law in Cincinnati. He became interested in politics, ran for a number of jobs and later was elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio. When Mr. Roosevelt came into office he was very active in Mr. Roosevelt's first campaign and established quite a bit of political leadership in Ohio for the administration. In 1944 Mr. Sawyer was named ambassador to Belgium and served there until after the war. He met Mr. Truman and visited with him when he went over to Potsdam. Ambassador Sawyer greeted him and briefed him on the situation there. After World War II he retired from the ambassadorship and went back home to re-establish his law practice. Mr. Truman, and I too, were highly impressed with his work in Belgium. I had known

 

[833]

him for a long time. Mr. Truman, also, had been impressed with his good work in Ohio. So he invited him to take the Commerce post, and he accepted. He was sworn in on May 6, 1948 and served throughout Mr. Truman's remaining time in office. Charles Sawyer established quite a record in the Commerce Department. He had the confidence of the business people; they were particularly happy to have an aggressive advocate in the Cabinet and in the administration. He was very successful in getting cooperation out of businessmen for various matters that came up during the second term of Mr. Truman.

HESS: One question on Mr. Sawyer. I believe he has written a book that will come out in September. Can you tell me just a little bit about your participation in that venture?

SNYDER: Well, I had the privilege of reading the

 

[834]

first draft and was asked to comment and to edit, which I took seriously. Actually there was enough material in the book for five books because his style and his presentation are so readable and so enjoyable that he could well have split the book up into five different phases: early experiences, his time as ambassador could have been a book by itself, his interest in commerce and business. As you know, he is a big stockholder of the Cincinnati Reds, he owns the ballpark there, he owns a radio station, he owns an amusement park -- he's very active in business, very successful in business. Mr. Sawyer is a very wealthy man. His book is told in such a delightful, readable fashion. It is just reminiscences of a conservative Democrat of Ohio, which I think is what he initially was going to call it. I'm sure it will be widely read. He takes the occasion in his book to give

 

[835]

his version of many controversial things that happened, both as Ambassador and as Secretary of Commerce.

HESS: Do you recall one day that we just ran down the list of names of Cabinet members and you were telling me whether you thought they were liberal or conservative. I'm not sure if we touched on it but how would you classify Mr. Sawyer?

SNYDER: I think Mr. Sawyer was very much in the same status as I was and am. I think that it's hard to put a label on just what you are. We both have great leanings toward Government policies being geared towards thinking of the welfare of the people, but we do think that the Government ought to run on a balanced budget in good times so they can take care of the recessions and depressions with deficits if they occur.

 

[836]

And we both were of the view that many of the undertakings that the more extreme liberals, or the enthusiastic liberals, want to propose in advancing too rapidly, in trying to mend the ills and evils of a hundred or more years, just can't be done over night and stay solvent. There ought to be some prudence used in the things that the Government undertakes to do.

HESS: Do you think the statement that you made just now might be part of your description of what you think a liberal and a conservative would be? Do you recall, you wanted to think about that a little more. Do you think that would be part of it?

SNYDER: Well, a little. It would go towards the making up of a definition of my position.

HESS: The next department is the Department of Labor.

 

[837]

SNYDER: Well, that means the last department. At that time we didn't have HEW. That came later, as you know, and Transportation came later, so Labor was the last of our Cabinet positions during Mr. Truman's time.

Frances Perkins was a hold-over Secretary of Labor. She resigned immediately after Mr. Truman came in. He accepted her resignation on June 30, at which time Lou Schwellenbach from the State of Washington was selected by Mr. Truman. Lou Schwellenbach was in the Senate with Mr. Truman and was a very close friend of his. President Truman had very high respect for his views on the labor situation which they had discussed together as Senators. Schwellenbach had been a judge, too, and had had an opportunity to make judgments regarding labor relations between management and labor and on labor problems. Secretary Schwellenbach had

 

[838]

a rather tempestuous experience in the job. He tried to build the Labor Department back up to where it was fulfilling its mission. The White House had somewhat taken the Labor operations over from Mrs. Perkins and the Department had somewhat atrophied. Schwellenbach tried to build it back up to its prestige that a Cabinet position should have.

HESS: One question on that. Mr. Truman also appointed a labor adviser in the White House: Dr. John Steelman. Was there any discussion at this time that the appointment of Steelman in the White House would undercut the Labor Department? Do you recall?

SNYDER: No, at least I never heard it. I'm quite sure it could have been discussed in some areas. Mr. Steelman was an unusual person in that he and a contemporary of his are the

 

[839]

only two persons who had the long-range vision to get a doctor's degree in labor relations.

HESS: Who was the other one?

SNYDER: I forget now who he was. But they studied labor exhaustively and got a master's and later a doctor's degree in labor relations and activities. He had established himself in labor circles as a negotiator. So we were having so many labor problems come up that someone had recommended him to Mr. Truman. I had not known Mr. Steelman prior to the time that he came to the White House, but someone had recommended him as being possibly a very helpful person. I never was conscious of any rivalry between Schwellenbach and Steelman.

HESS: What seemed to be Dr. Steelman's main duties in the White House? Was it on labor negotiations?

SNYDER: Yes, that was almost entirely his responsibility.

 

[840]

At the time, of course, that I stepped out of the OWMR, Mr. Truman put him in the job to wind it up. Mr. Steelman, I suppose, leaned towards continuing the office -- there were a number of groups who wanted something like OWMR to remain in the White House as a route for them to get to the President. That was largely among some of the liberal factions. But I had set out clearly my views that it was not the type of thing that any President would want in the White House, that he should solve such problems through the established departments. From July 1946 on the OWMR did not actually serve any important purpose, although it did last a little longer than our original intention. It was finally wound up in early 1947.

HESS: I recall that we discussed that when you left the President said that he would not appoint anyone to head it up, but a few weeks

 

[841]

or a few months later that decision was reversed, isn't that correct?

SNYDER: Well, yes, he put Steelman in there, but always with the idea of winding it up. As I said, it lasted less than a year.

HESS: How strong a Cabinet member and head of the Labor Department would you characterize Mr. Schwellenbach as being? Was he a forceful Cabinet member?

SNYDER: He was a judicial Cabinet member. He weighed things very carefully; he tried to bring about agreement; he was an arbitrator, a negotiator, and I would put it that he was a judicial Secretary rather than a driving, forceful Secretary. He often got his point, many times he didn't. I think he served very well during the time. As you know, he was taken ill and died in office.

 

[842]

HESS: During the period of time that he served, from June of '45 until June of '48 was quite a period of labor unrest, as we have already discussed.

SNYDER: Yes, constant controversies.

HESS: Then in the light of that, how would you evaluate his success?

SNYDER: I think he was entitled to commendation for the success that he met with in meeting the conditions of the time. It was very explosive, very difficult. The labor demands were so vehement at times and strong labor leadership was building up at that time. This has developed into many explosive situations more recently, as you know. The top leadership was battling, and jockeying for position, and they wanted to be judged by what they could get done in the way of labor legislation, and favorable labor

 

[843]

decisions, things of that sort. Yes, I would close my remarks on Schwellenbach by saying that under the circumstances in which he labored, that he made a very good Secretary.

HESS: One more question, what seemed to be his relationship with the heads of labor, with William Green and with John L. Lewis?

SNYDER: Well, they seemed to be friendly. They were very firm, of course, but Schwellenbach was friendly with them. He always remained friendly.

He was succeeded by Maurice Tobin from Boston. Maurice Tobin had been very active in politics. He was a lawyer and his name came to Mr. Truman through some of the party leaders in Massachusetts. He had had a great interest in labor settlements and things of that sort. He came into office there in ‘48 and served...

 

[844]

HESS: August of '48 it looks like.

SNYDER: Yes, he was sworn in August 13, 1948 an interim appointment. He was confirmed when Congress returned in January 1949. He served until January 20, 1953. I would say that Tobin's service was workmanlike. He didn't have any great flairs; he did a very good job as Secretary of Labor.

HESS: I notice that he came in just before the campaign in 1948? Did he assist?

SNYDER: He assisted very capably and effectively, yes.

HESS: All right. I have just a couple of questions on the Cabinet in general. Did any member of the White House staff serve as secretary of the Cabinet? Did they sit in on the Cabinet meetings and take notes?

SNYDER: No, that they never did. Some were present

 

[845]

at times, but there were never any formal notes taken nor minutes written of the Cabinet meeting.

HESS: What members of the White House staff would be present?

SNYDER: Well, it all depends on what matters were being discussed. If a matter came up about labor, Steelman might have been asked to come in and sit in the background. Connelly usually sat around for awhile.

HESS: Was Mr. Connelly there at most meetings?

SNYDER: At some time during the meeting, I think so, but he didn't attend all of them. Ross used to sit in quite a bit.

HESS: Did Short sit in after Charles Ross died?

SNYDER: Yes, and then Rosenman used to when he was

 

[846]

there, and then Clark Clifford and Charles Murphy. As you know, there were chairs all around the wall. They could sit back of the President and listen awhile, but there was no note taking that I recall, and no minutes were written about Cabinet meetings. The President may have dictated some impressions when he went back to his office.

HESS: But their presence was usually when a subject was going to be discussed that they had a particular interest in. It wasn't a matter of routine?

SNYDER: No, the President asked them there to listen to what the Cabinet had to say on matters of particular importance.

HESS: One other question, we mentioned a few times ago about the informal luncheons that you and Secretary Forrestal and a few of the other

 

[847]

gentlemen had. Was there ever any discussion of having a secretary take minutes?

SNYDER: No, I think that would have defeated that very purpose. This was a strictly, off-the-record opportunity to exchange ideas, and not, as I told you before, with the idea of organizing any group to press any subject or anything of that sort. It was just an opportunity to have a better relationship between the different Cabinet operations.

HESS: One last question: How would you evaluate the success of the Truman Cabinet?

SNYDER: I think Mr. Truman had a very good Cabinet relationship. He had wonderful cooperation, and generally dependable loyalty from the members of his Cabinet. He had some very fine, strong gentlemen that served in his Cabinet. By and large, I think that Mr. Truman's Cabinet

 

[848]

relationships were very splendid.

HESS: Comparing it to some of the other Cabinets, the Eisenhower Cabinet, the Roosevelt Cabinet, do you think that it was a success when compared to those Cabinets?

SNYDER: Yes, very much so, because it served more the purpose of a Cabinet than Mr. Roosevelt's. He never called a Cabinet meeting for the purpose of making a decision. If he was going to talk about it he called a Cabinet member that was affected, and occasionally two or three, if they were interested, and Eisenhower did a great deal of the same thing. His Cabinet meetings were, I think, very ineffective, as I understand. Mr. Johnson's Cabinet meetings are rather sketchy, as I understand it.

HESS: Anything else to add on the nature of the

 

[849]

Cabinet?

SNYDER: Not at this time.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]