Oral History Interview with
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.
John W. Snyder
January 22, 1969
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History
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. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
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and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
January 22, 1969
By Jerry N. Hess
Twenty-sixth Oral History Interview with John W. Snyder, Washington, D.C., January 22, 1969. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, what do you recall about the convention in Philadelphia in 1948?
SNYDER: Mr. Hess, that, of course, was a most interesting and trying period. We had quite a number of counter-movements going on in the convention, and the one that was given the greatest pressure, I believe, was conducted by Leslie Biffle, in trying to promote Alben Barkley for the Presidency. There were three or four other aspirants around trying to build up a head of steam but none of them seemed to get much of a hold, other than Mr. Biffle did for a while. It looked like he was gathering a number of the delegations that were led by the Congressmen or Senators. But it became clear that it was going to be a difficult thing to do. I kept in
hourly contact with Mr. Truman during the important sessions that were going on, and I had three or four listening posts that were reporting to me, unofficially. I was not in any official capacity at all.
HESS: You were in Philadelphia at this time and the President was here in Washington, is that right?
SNYDER: The President was in Washington at the White House and I was up in Philadelphia, and attended all of the meetings and a great number of the committee meetings, purely as an observer. I was not a delegate nor did I have any official capacity at the convention. I believe my badge said, "Cabinet," and that was about as official as I got. There was a great deal of milling back and forth. We had a hard time getting a platform together. There were some that wanted to go more conservative.
HESS: That's an interesting point, especially on the civil rights plank.
SNYDER: Mr. [Hubert H.] Humphrey was very active at that time, and as a matter of fact, I don't know whether this has ever come out or not, but he raised his voice a few times that Mr. Truman probably wasn't liberal enough for what the party really needed at that time. It never got out into the open very much, but in the earlier days Mr. Humphrey, as I understood it, was not too strong for Mr. Truman, thinking that he wasn't liberal enough.
HESS: Were you present at any of the meetings when he expressed those views?
SNYDER: No, I only heard it from, as I say, my listening posts. Mr. Humphrey was the leader in the loyalty oath proposal for the delegates. There was a great deal of concern that many of
the delegates would vote a certain way in the convention and then go home and back another candidate. Mr. Wallace, as you know, also had been trying to build up a head of steam.
HESS: And J. Strom Thurmond in the South.
SNYDER: And Thurmond, yes. Thurmond actually ran, didn't he?
SNYDER: They were trying very hard to build up a strong liberal platform and ticket. So Humphrey and a number of the liberals came up with this idea of loyalty oaths. Well, that was very offensive to the Southern delegations, and without a doubt caused us to lose some of the Southern States when the election finally came. It's a question, and I think it's still controversial as to what the South would have done if we hadn't had the loyalty oath; but to them,
particularly, it was an affront that some of them were very, very irate about. Finally, it became evident that we'd get together on a platform, and that Mr. Truman would be the nominee. Mr. Truman and I had talked before I came up to Philadelphia, and in a number of our conversations the question of the proper timing for him to arrive at the convention was discussed. It was generally agreed, after much discussion back and forth, that he ought not to actually come to Philadelphia until after his nomination had been presented. That decision was made for a number of reasons. It involved more than just the notion of not trying to appear that Mr. Truman was too domineering. He didn't want to get into a controversial position with some of the liberals, particularly, and some of the ultra-conservatives, and he put in a position of making some unpopular decisions, because he was looking for unity in the
party if he was, going to run, don't you see. So it was felt prudent for him to wait and finally he came up immediately after the nomination. The train was waiting to bring him up to accept the nomination. Barkley made one of the most magnificent keynote speeches that I think I've ever listened to. There have been three or four others: [Senator Robert] Kerr made a wonderful one -- it's hard to pick out the best, but Barkley's was especially good because I think I was so vitally and personally interested in having the keynote speech put some fire into the convention, and inject some purpose into it. I think it did a great deal towards unifying a convention that was pretty badly split up when we first got there.
HESS: How responsible was the keynote address in his ultimately obtaining the vice-presidential spot, in your opinion?
SNYDER: Yes, it was very important. As a matter of fact, it had a great deal of influence on a number of the delegates who wanted him for the first spot, and it moved a number of them to say, "Well, why don't we put a man, a leader like that, in the first place." It went a long way, his going into second place with an understanding arrangement that he would be the selection of Mr. Truman, don't you see. If Mr. Truman got the first place, Mr. Barkley would be number two. I hope, and I know you are, going to get to some people who were more officially connected with the convention. You may get some different versions on part of this that I'm telling you.
HESS: As I say, that's what oral history is -- viewpoint.
SNYDER: Well, no, there are facts too, you want to get at the facts if you can. I used to urge
Mr. Truman in writing his Memoirs: "Be sure when you're telling facts that they are facts. If it's your impression, your opinion, you can say anything you want to because that's yours. But facts are facts and if you get them tangled up, you've lessened the weight of your history."
HESS: In your opinion, how successful was he?
SNYDER: Exceptionally so, because it prevented controversies, because people don't question about facts that are substantiated. There it is, and you can debate about that all you want to. And if he's telling his own opinion, then that's his view, and that's that, particularly in the MacArthur matter. He kept to the facts in that book on a number of controversial matters. Critics couldn't get underneath the truth of things. But he was pressured many times, as are all great people who write their story, and particularly who have stories ghostwritten for them, they are
pressured to say things that would reflect more favorably on the subject, but it's a very dangerous road to travel. And we have had history contaminated in many, many instances by a prejudiced or slanted reporting of things by someone who actually should have known better.
HESS: I have a question on Leslie Biffle. Until this time, he had been quite close to President Truman, had he not?
SNYDER: Leslie Biffle had been very close to Mr. Truman from the time shortly after Mr. Truman came to Washington. He met Mr. Truman as Senator, and they became good friends. Mr. Truman and I took Mr. Biffle with us on a trip down to Arkansas, Biffle's home state, after he was President, and we had a delightful time. I may have mentioned it to you before. We visited Blytheville and had some entertainment there, and as long as we were in Arkansas,
Leslie and I were riding in the car with the President. But when we got up to the Missouri line, we were unseated, and some Missouri potentates got in.
HESS: Why do you think Leslie Biffle was pushing Mr. Barkley so energetically at this time when he knew Mr. Truman wanted the nomination?
SNYDER: That I carefully avoided discussing with him. Leslie and I, you know, had known each other nearly all our lives. We were born just about twenty-five miles apart down in Arkansas, and I just avoided ever bringing the matter up with him, because frankly I didn't want to get into a controversial position with him. My understanding was that he had some doubts, as did quite a number, of Mr. Truman's ability to win the election. He thought that Mr. Barkley was a better speaker and a more convincing campaigner and more eloquent, and that he had a better
chance, was less controversial. I think those were the chief reasons.
HESS: What was the nature of his relationship with President Truman after that point in time?
SNYDER: It remained friendly, but not quite as warm as it had been prior to that time.
HESS: Do you think that he was as influential in matters of senatorial-White House liaison during the second administration after his promotion of Senator Barkley?
SNYDER: I don't think that Mr. Truman called on him for quite as many things as he had prior to that, but I never saw any evidence of lack of support or lack of willingness in Mr. Biffle to carry out any mission that Mr. Truman or any of his staff asked him to undertake.
HESS: One point that we should cover, and you just
mentioned it, is the fact that several members of the party thought that Mr. Truman would be an unsuccessful candidate, so before the convention, there was some talk about obtaining other candidates?
SNYDER: That is what I touched on a while ago. I said there were quite a number who made themselves available prior to the convention, but those things never did work out.
HESS: I understand that some people were trying to draft General Eisenhower, is that right?
SNYDER: Well, that has become quite controversial. I don't know whether they got to actually trying to draft him. I know that he was mentioned.
HESS: Who were the leaders in that movement, or a few of the people who thought along those lines?
SNYDER: George Allen, who wrote the book, Presidents
Who Have Known Me, was one of them, Kenneth Royall and quite a number -- well, I won't say quite a number, but there were three or four that thought he would be a good candidate.
HESS: Jake [Jacob M.] Arvey of Chicago.
SNYDER: Jake Arvey was one. Jake had a notion that he could win pretty handily and he was right in that. If he had accepted it, as proved later, he was quite a vote-getter because of his hero atmosphere. Of course, Eisenhower had quite a number of things going for him when he was elected the first time, his being the great leader of our forces in the war, and principally, I think, was his statement that he'd get the boys home from Korea. That was the subject of a door-to-door canvas by the women. That got to the women, and without any question it was their vote that gave the great majority to Eisenhower when he did run later. He probably would have had that
same hero cast had he been willing to run in 1948. At that time, though, he had apparently no desire to run. He was too close to the war, I guess, and he hadn't had quite the constant build-up that he got later, because later when he did run in 1952, there was an organized campaign to persuade him, delegations went over to Paris to talk with him when he was the Supreme Commander over there, and then when he was the head of SHAEP (Supreme Command Allied Expeditionary Forces). And when he came back, you see, his sponsors arranged for him to come back to be President of Columbia University, that was purely part of an organized presentation to the country to get his name better known outside of military affairs. He had a terrific organization that developed his candidacy when he agreed to run in '52. The effort was not as well organized at all in '48. It was just a
series of trial balloons that were used in '48.
HESS: In 1952, did you ever talk to any of the members of those delegations that went to Paris to talk to General Eisenhower about their views of what kind of a President they thought he would make after they returned?
SNYDER: Yes, I talked with quite a number of them. At that time, George Humphrey was a good friend of mine, Sidney Weinberg, General [Lucius] Clay.
HESS: What was their opinion of General Eisenhower at that time?
SNYDER: Well, they thought he would be a great public idol, and that he would be a vote-getter. That was their principal reason. They thought that if they could get him to run, that the businessmen could supply him with staff and cabinet and so forth, to run the Government for him.
HESS: And use him more or less as a figurehead, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, that's just a little strong. But they wanted to use him as an attraction to get the votes out, which certainly proved that they were correct in that, because he did not turn out to be a great political party leader in any sense; and although he won the '52 election by a nice majority, the party lost the Congress the very next election. So it shows that Eisenhower was really never cut out to be a politician, and never developed into one. His actions since his speeches and his statements -- have not been timed, or the contents of them have not been of a character to be a great influence on people in making decisions about voting.
HESS: One question back on the Humphrey civil rights plank. Which plank did President Truman favor?
Did he favor the Humphrey plank or the plank that had been presented by the platform committee?
SNYDER: I don't remember.
HESS: What else comes to mind looking back on those days?
SNYDER: Well, back about General Eisenhower. I was always in a rather interesting position there. I have known General Eisenhower since World War I. I met him when I was on General G. Leroy Irwin's staff, and Eisenhower was down at Cahumont, [General John J.] Pershing's GHQ. We met in those days and we have stayed friends all through the years. So, while I was always very positively for Truman, and I don't think it ever became a question of whether I were for Truman or Eisenhower, it never developed into that, because I think that Mr. Truman would have
been very pleased to have had Eisenhower run on the Democratic ticket, at one time. I just want to make it clear that it wasn't a matter of folks around Mr. Truman actually drawing up sides or anything of that sort, for one or the other, but it was Mr. Truman's marvelous loyalty to his party, that he always thought of the party first, before himself particularly. He was always stalwart. But when it came to the good of the party itself, he would never have hesitated if he had felt that someone could do a better job than he did. When he accepted the nomination, he firmly felt at that time that he was in better shape to go forward with the Democratic Party than anybody that had been brought up at that time. And I think it was proven that he was.
HESS: What else comes to mind when you look back on the days of the Philadelphia convention? Do
you remember the pigeons?
SNYDER: Yes, I remember that debacle. That was Senator Guffey's sister's pigeons that created quite an uproar.
President Truman's acceptance speech was a very splendid talk, and a very inspiring one. It was probably given at the latest hour, I guess, of any acceptance speech. It was nearly 2 o'clock if I recall correctly, before he ever got around to delivering his speech.
HESS: Do you recall why it was given so late at night?
SNYDER: Well, first the nomination vote was not finished until late afternoon, and further, they had decided not to postpone it until the next day. He was notified and the train brought him right on up, and he decided to get it over with while the convention was at that high pitch, and it was,
I think, the intelligent thing to do. We didn't want any cooling off. We had the convention hall full of people, and everybody was all stirred up; if you'd put it off until the next day, why, it was a question of just what the temper would be.
HESS: Did you notify the President when you thought the right moment for him to...
SNYDER: We discussed it back and forth. It was not a matter of me deciding or any one person deciding, it was a feeling out of the press, and everything. Bill Hillman was with me up there. He was roaming around feeling the press out, and bringing me back reactions and ideas. We had quite a number, I'm not going to name any more, who we were consulting as to the right timing, and then we discussed that with President Truman. He was consulting people here in Washington.
It was an agreement rather than a decision of any one or two people.
HESS: When a certain portion of the Southern delegation walked out, how important did you think at that time that that was going to be towards the final results in November?
SNYDER: It concerned me, to be very frank, because I had personally felt for many years that the Democrats could rely on the South. The Democratic Party had done more for the South than the Republican Party certainly, and I just had a strong feeling about it and when that defection came it was a matter of real concern to me. Now, actually, I think it also was a matter of concern to Mr. Truman. I'm not going to put words in his mouth, but it has been said that quite a number around him were telling him not to worry about the South, they didn't
have anywhere else to go. Well, I didn't agree with that one iota, because I was fearful that having once been aroused to that extent that they'd walk out of a convention, that we were in dire threat of losing their vote, certainly in some of the states we did lose.
HESS: Many of the Southern States in the recent election voted for the Republican candidate. Do you think that this swing from the Democrats to the Republicans could be dated from 1948?
SNYDER: I don't recall of any real showing prior to that time. Of course, there had been Republican Governors elected, and occasionally a Republican Senator from the South. Tennessee and Kentucky, from time to time, had wandered back and forth. They were the only two that I recall right now, up until '48, that had had Republican Senators or Governors. There may be others, but after
that it was not so startling to have a Republican elected in the South.
HESS: On the subject of third parties, how important did you think that the candidacy of Henry Wallace and his Progressive Party was going to be that year, or how serious?
SNYDER: I was concerned about it, because while Mr. Wallace had not been extremely popular in the South, he had been in some of the larger industrial states. When you're running a race for the Presidency, you just don't want any more side issues than you have to have, and that did concern me a little. That was a problem to be faced as to just what his drawing power might be. He had made quite a demonstration at the Chicago convention, you'll remember, in '44, and the showing of strength there was rather potent. But you just didn't know how much he might be a
[Eugene] McCarthy prodecessor, because they had the same concern there, of course. McCarthy, I think, lost to Mr. Humphrey a great many votes by his post-convention activities, and statements and lack of cooperation. I didn't know but what maybe Wallace would do some like thing, don't you see.
HESS: Anything come to mind after the President arrived at Philadelphia? Where did he go?
SNYDER: He went into a reception room at the Convention Hall and stayed there for some time until the convention was organized for his introduction. He did, I thought, a very thoughtful thing then. He sent some of his staff members out to bring in his top leaders and closest friends and through them he sent the word back to the floor of his appreciation of the nomination and so forth, and it was a good, harmony-building program
that he followed there between the time he arrived in Philadelphia and the time that he actually went on the platform.
HESS: At the end of his acceptance speech, he announced that he was calling Congress back into special session, the so-called "Turnip Day" session.
SNYDER: Yes, he announced the very day. There had been a great deal of pressure, and he had intimated that it might be necessary to call Congress back on account of inflation and the problems of the day, but he had never set a time, or ever said actually that he was going to do it. He had saved it up as part of his acceptance speech, as part of his program of aggressiveness. He called that session for July 26th, and said, "Out in Missouri we call that 'Turnip Day."' But the significance never was
HESS: It gave it a catchy title.
SNYDER: It gave it a catchy title, and it was called that by the press, you know, practically all the way through. The session did not accomplish a great deal, however, when it was finally called.
HESS: Do you recall whose idea it was originally to call Congress back -- where the idea first popped up?
SNYDER: Oh, that could have generated in a half a dozen places, There were a great many of the old New Dealers, and some of the newer Fair Dealers, the extreme liberals, that were very anxious to press for price controls and things of that character. Chester Bowles was the type that I'm thinking of. While he didn't have any
great influence at that time, back in the days when he was with the OPA, you recall that he presented himself to the public in his daily broadcasts as the man who was trying to save the housewife, save the children, and all that, with his price hold-down. Well, it was that sort of notion that this was a public appeal, that the President could make great political hay by calling a special session of Congress because it was a Republican Congress and that he could make a great deal of political strength out of showing them up, that they wouldn't do these things that were proposed, don't you see. I think that Mr. Truman's political sagacity prevailed there by his selecting it as one of his campaign programs, rather than to have called them prematurely. And, of course, even when he did call them, as everybody knows, the press and the opposition said it was premature to
call the Congress and that the new administration should have tackled that when it came in. And of course, Mr. Truman played that very strongly in his do-nothing, 80th Congress references. And it was one of the strong points in his campaign, actually.
HESS: How important do you think the calling of that Congress was to his eventual victory in November?
SNYDER: Only as to give a basis for the attack on the 80th Congress and on their lack of support of the President, and because of the texture, complexion of their party affiliations. Except for that, I don't know if there was anything actually accomplished one way or the other, but it's possible their lack of action gave foundation for the liberals to work on.
HESS: Do you know if the calling of that special Congress was cleared with the heads of the Democratic Party before it was announced? Did they know that he was
going to do this?
SNYDER: That has been controversial. I'm sure that Mr. Truman discussed it with certain Democratic leaders. He certainly did not talk with the congressional leaders in that it was a Republican Congress, and the actual leaders were Republicans. The Senate majority leader was Republican, the Speaker was Republican, so when you usually say the leaders of Congress, you encompass people like that.
HESS: How about the Democratic leadership?
SNYDER: I think he talked with one or two. I do not think it was a general discussion. That's my personal recollection.
HESS: Who do you think he talked to?
SNYDER: You see, at that time, Barkley was still a Senator, and was still minority leaders, so
I'm sure he discussed the matters with Barkley and with Sam Rayburn, and undoubtedly one or two others. And then he had quite a number of other advisers that he would talk with regarding the type of presentation that he would make. The great question that kept coming to the front then was whether or not to ask for price controls. There were those who were urging him to ask for price controls and even more that urged him not to re-invoke price controls unless he was going along with wage controls, too.
HESS: What was your view?
SNYDER: Well, my positive view was if you were going one way you had to go both ways, because unless you put the curb on trying to hold prices down without the wages, you were going to get pressures for wage increases, which would only put greater pressure on the price. You would get a disruption
of the economy with a lagging of production of more consumer goods for the market. If you were going to restrain the price while wages were being pressed up, and cut down the profit margin to the manufacturer, he would not be too enthusiastic in trying to build up a greater flow of consumer goods to the market, which is in the long run the best way to hold down inflation, to get an ample supply for demand. At that time we were building up quite an increased volume of consumer goods manufacture.
HESS: Bernard Baruch in his book, My Own Story: The Public Years, states that he contributed money to a fund that you were raising to take the Missouri delegation to the convention that year. Is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, yes and no. The basic facts are true. I wasn't raising the money. There were two or
three people who were trying to raise enough funds to bring a good delegation to Philadelphia, and Mr. Baruch did make a two thousand dollar contribution, which I turned over to John Nangle of St. Louis, who was quite active in trying to assemble a good representation from Missouri to take to the convention to support Mr. Truman. Dick Nacy, at Jefferson City was one of them, and in Kansas City, Jim Pendergast was trying to be helpful there. He was a nephew of Tom's, but Jim was quite a fine person, and he was a great support to Mr. Truman in all of his problems with the Kansas City group. There were several others who were trying to get up a good representation. I happened to mention that to Mr. Baruch, and he promptly contributed, I think it was two thousand dollars, and I turned that over to John Nangle to help defray the casts. I believe the money was to pay for getting some decorations and souvenirs and things for the
delegates to bring, and not necessarily to bring them up here.
HESS: What do you recall about the falling out between Bernard Baruch and Mr. Truman that year?
SNYDER: Oh, the way the real problem came about, Mr. Truman was very, very disappointed and annoyed with Mr. Baruch for not taking the post as chairman of the finance committee. Of course, Mr. Baruch on his side had the record that he had never taken any position of that sort, that he had never asked for any title or position since Wilson's day, and he was very adamant about not wanting to do it. The same problem came up with Jesse Jones. We asked Jesse Jones to take the job of raising funds for the campaign, and he declined, and Mr. Truman became cool to him and to Mr. Baruch too. But, so far as Mr. Baruch was concerned,
the schism was aided and abetted by staff members who kept pounding away that Baruch was a front-page seeker, and that he wanted to take credit for whatever he said or did, and wanted to be known as an adviser of the President's, and so forth. Personally, I found Mr. Baruch to be extremely helpful to me in the Treasury. And he went far beyond any expectancy by assistant me in preparing research items, actually getting important statisticians and economists to do studies for me in the Treasury, which either he got them to contribute, or he paid for. He never attempted to take any credit or anything of that sort in what he did for me. Folks around the White House, however, used to be greatly annoyed by his sitting on the bench over there, and being called "The park bench philosopher," and all that sort of thing. I think Mr. Roosevelt, toward the end -- used to
get annoyed with him about pestering him with ideas that he didn't want to hear at the time. I think that Mr. Baruch had some very splendid, sound ideas about our economy, and could have been helpful because he had quite an entrée with the press, as you know. He always could get an audience with the press for testing ideas, and we could have had probably a better relationship. But Mr. Truman's real annoyance with Mr. Baruch was his refusal to take an active part in the fundraising.
HESS: You mentioned that there were some staff members who sort of placed themselves between Mr. Baruch and the President? Who did you have in mind?
SNYDER: I'll leave that out of the picture.
HESS: All right. Did Mr. Baruch come in to discuss financial matters with you from time to time?
SNYDER: Just regularly, yes. Whenever I wanted to talk over anything with him, if I would call him, he would get on a plane or train and come right down here. Many times I would call and say, "Could I drop in and see you in New York," and he would say, "No, I'll come down there." That was true through my whole time at the Treasury Department. He and I remained warm friends up until his death. I was with him for his birthdays practically every year. I think the last two or three birthdays, he didn't have anyone except family, but I was in constant touch with him up until his death.
HESS: How would you rate his advice? Was it helpful to you?
SNYDER: Pretty sound, yes. He would talk things out with you. General Marshall thought very highly of him and consulted with him regularly. Bob
Lovett, Jim Forrestal, there were quite a number of Mr. Truman's people who constantly sought counsel with him.
HESS: Just offhand, can you recall a particular problem or a particular incident that he may have come in to discuss?
SNYDER: There were dozens that I could talk about, but the steel strike was one that was outstanding.
HESS: The 1952 steel strike?
SNYDER: No, the earlier one, in the forties, as I recall. He brought in statisticians and economists and went back into the history of price and wage in the steel situation. It was being claimed that the steel people could give a large price wage raise, and hold prices where they were. I didn't think that was true, but I wanted a statistical
background to support it. So we got up a report for President Truman, and it was largely financed or arranged by Mr. Baruch. Mr. Truman was impressed by it and helped come to a settlement of the steel strike. A compromise was made by giving a certain raise to the ingot price, at the same time that they made a concession on the raising of wages. And it brought to a close the steel strike.
HESS: In the 1948 campaign, it seemed that Mr. Truman attacked the 80th Congress far more than he spoke out against Mr. Dewey. Why was that plan followed?
SNYDER: I think it was sort of a strategical decision that Mr. Truman demonstrated there. He didn't want to build up his opponent, or refer to him any more than he actually had to, but if he could keep showing that the Congress, the Republican Congress fell down, he would get
more Democratic Congressmen elected, and that in turn would have a strong influence on the general vote. Instead of the old idea that usually the popular candidate has the Congressmen riding in on his coattails, he felt that Mr. Dewey was not that strong a candidate, and it wouldn't be a matter of their riding in on his coattails, but he would have to be reliant upon many of the congressional leaders who were running for office for help in getting the vote. And his idea was to pound away on the general lack of progressiveness on the part of the whole Republican Party, their demonstrated ineffectiveness in meeting the problems of the day. "You do not want to have a Congress like this, and a Republican leader, to try to take over the affairs of the Nation and try to work out the problems that we've got." I think that was it.
HESS: Some historians like to point out that the things
that Mr. Truman will be remembered for in history were actually passed by the 80th Congress in foreign affairs, the Greek-Turkish aid bill, and the Marshall plan.
SNYDER: That is correct, but that didn't keep him from using effectively the fact that they didn't do some of the economic things.
HESS: Did he seem to stress domestic matters?
SNYDER: Right, right, and that's what the liberals were after, it wasn't foreign affairs or international matters or things of that sort, it was this daily breadbasket and things of that sort.
HESS: In your opinion, are domestic matters in a campaign more important than foreign affairs -- in a period when there's no shooting war?
SNYDER: Yes, definitely, because that more obviously affects the voter. He can measure that with
greater understanding, whereas foreign affairs seem remote and far removed from his everyday life. Now that is changing. Today we have such instant communication that we know practically what's going on in any part of the earth. But back in those days, up until '48 certainly, things were different. In World War I and World War II we sent our boys across the seas, and we had some contacts and so forth, but we didn't have the great flow of tourists that we have now to these foreign countries. We didn't have the United Nations, which we've just began to get acquainted with. But today we've got this hundred and twenty some odd countries with their representatives right there in New York talking constantly. They are in the papers every day. With these great numbers of U.N. debates we are getting more conscious of international affairs, but at the same time, except
for something like this Vietnam problem, or something of that character, it's the domestic considerations that still get to the voter more strongly and create opinion and feeling more strongly than matters dealing with foreign affairs.
HESS: We mentioned that Mr. Baruch turned down the position as chairman of the finance committee, and later Louis Johnson accepted that position. What kind of a job did Louis Johnson do?
SNYDER: Louis Johnson did a splendid job, really. He helped pull the campaign through and seemed to be most effective in raising funds at critical moments for broadcasts and national hookups and things of that sort, and for the campaign trips. Mr. Johnson was politically ambitious, and had been most active in the American Legion, had been head of the American Legion, and had
been one of the leaders in the Legion continuously since its organization. Therefore he had a world of contacts around the country. He had been an important lawyer here in town, he had been an important, active person in the Democratic Party, and he turned out to be a very effective fundraiser.
HESS: Joseph L. Blythe was treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. Is there anything that is not generally known about this part in the '48 campaign?
SNYDER: Not to my knowledge. You can get that from some of the people you've been talking with, and whose entire efforts were in the political field. They could give you more information on questions of that nature.
HESS: What was your evaluation of J. Howard McGrath as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee?
SNYDER: Well, you know, there's a wonderful old saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof. His candidate was elected, so you must concede that at least he conducted a successful campaign. I don't recall too intimately some of the campaign maneuvers of J. Howard McGrath. I think he was an earnest, loyal politician. He had been successful up in his home state of Rhode Island. He had been, I thought, a right good Senator down there. His great trouble came in later years when he began to get into cross patterns after he got into the Justice Department. Those things stand out in my mind more than the political operations. As I recall it, he was not a very effective fundraiser. He had very good political judgment on a great number of things as I recall it, but those things can be better discussed with you by somebody who has been more active in the political side.
HESS: Do you recall if any particular problems arose during the campaign from the allegations made by Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers?
SNYDER: Well, they were extremely annoying and disconcerting, particularly to the State Department, and to a very mild extent, in the Treasury Department. In the Treasury Department we had pretty well eliminated all of those so-called pinks or sympathizers. We never had very many in there in the first place, and those that were there had been pretty well eliminated. The ones that Bentley and Whittaker Chambers brought out were largely State Department people. It was very annoying, I can tell you that, because it was so sketchy. It wasn't anything concrete. If you go back to the history of it, this Hiss thing, about the use of a typewriter or something, it wasn't any confession, he wasn't convicted for being subversive or anything of that
sort; it was because they caught him on a perjury charge. That was what he was convicted for. He, of course, shouldn't have lied. And that was the great trouble with most of it. It wasn't a matter of what they actually did subservicely, because they never could prove that they did do anything. And then of course all this stuff that Bentley and Chambers were talking about, these papers that they passed, and the great damage that these papers did, and yet they never proved any of that.
HESS: The "Pumpkin Papers."
SNYDER: Yes, those things were extremely annoying, because they just didn't help in the daily operation of your department. No one in the Treasury at the time I was there was ever indicted.
HESS: During the campaign, a proposal was made to
send Chief Justice Vinson to Moscow. Do you know where that idea originated?
SNYDER: From Fred Vinson.
HESS: Tell me about that.
SNYDER: Well, Fred just had the notion. He was a great compromiser and a most amazing sort of person. He didn't apparently seek publicity, but he was able to marshal a tremendous amount of it. He never held press conferences. I don't know if he, to my knowledge, ever had a press conference. But he had great rapport with the press. When he was in Congress, of course, he was never chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, but he always talked about it as though he was, and the great things that the Ways and Means Committee did. Fred was (I ought to call him Mr. Chief Justice), very ambitious politically. He left the Congress and took a
judgeship thinking that that would get him out in the public eye more. But it didn't. He left the judgeship then and went over to some of the price-wage settlement programs. That didn't seem to be right. Then he went over to the Federal Loan Agency, and that never seemed to quite give him the springboard that he wanted. Then he went to OWMR, and that was anything but a building of prestige. Even OWMR finally eliminated Jimmy Byrnes. I think he was elected Governor down in his own state later, but it took him out of the national picture, as far as Roosevelt was concerned. Then Truman brought him back as Secretary of State. But after Vinson had been in OWMR for awhile he was anxious to do something else, so he wanted to go over to the Treasury. We discussed it, Mr. Truman and I did, and others, and we felt that maybe he could be helpful to Mr. Truman with Congress, not that he
had had any financial experience particularly, but that there was some very fine, capable people in the Treasury. It was felt that he could probably do a good job there. So he went to the Treasury for a few months, and then to the Supreme Court. Now, as I say, I'm telling you all this to show you that he was a very ambitious man; he was trying to step forward politically, constantly. I, personally, think that his success was in his ability as a negotiator and a compromiser in getting meeting of minds and bringing people together, a catalyst to bring people together, and that sort of thing. He was very anxious to go to Potsdam, but that was ruled out by Mr. Truman. Of course Mr. [Henry] Morgenthau was very anxious to go to Potsdam. That's been garbled considerably, but that was a fact. Mr. Morgenthau was still Secretary of the Treasury, and his resignation was accepted during
the Postdam meetings. Mr. Vinson's name was sent up to the Senate and he became Secretary of the Treasury while Mr. Truman was still in Potsdam. It was much later that the Moscow idea came up. My notion is that because of his capacity and accepted ability to negotiate and be a catalyst and to compromise, he just had a notion maybe that as a high judicial officer, representative of the great Supreme Court of the United States, and being its Chief Justice, that he could go over and accomplish something with Stalin. He never did go.
HESS: I understand that the President phoned Secretary of State Marshall, who was in Paris at that time, and Secretary Marshall requested that Vinson not be sent. Is that correct?
SNYDER: He didn't think it would be effective.
HESS: Did you ever talk to Mr. Vinson about this
HESS: Did you travel on the campaign trains any?
HESS: Did you attend any of the major addresses?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, the principal one I remember was the last one at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. That, of course, was his greatest in the opinion of many who have discussed it in later years, that he did a remarkable job there. And the interesting part, of course, was that it was principally off-the-cuff. The prepared speech was laid aside. I went out on the train with him, we got in the night before the speech, and the next day he worked on some ideas, assembled some notes, and then the interjection of off-the-cuff ideas along. It made his speech
very effective, and as all who were associated with him knew, that when he really projected himself, his personality, is when he made the most friends. On his campaign trips, it was when he just talked, ad-libbed his speeches, is when he warmed the people up. But in this speech that night, he just projected himself. Fortunately it was carried by radio. Although it was supposed to have just been a state projection, a lot of the radio stations picked it up, or made quotes from it. It was most effective.
HESS: If you wouldn't mind, I would like for you for a few minutes to comment on Mr. Truman's development in the field of speechmaking. I have been told that perhaps the period of greatest development for him came during the trip in June of 1948.
SNYDER: That was when he began to project himself.
He would abandon his script many, many times, and on these wayside stops that he would make when there was no prepared speech, he got his personal charm across to the listeners. His press, the newsmen that were accompanying him on the train, picked up this new technique of his, and his showing himself to the people. Initially there were some of his counselors and advisers that advised him to go only to big centers and make his major addresses to large audiences. After the Omaha debacle, he changed over. That's when he started the whistlestop type of operation. Of course, it was not only that he was getting to the public with these whistlestops, it was what the press was picking up and passing out to the public. It was very effective.
HESS: What do you recall about the events of election night in 1948? Just where were you at that time?
SNYDER: I was in St. Louis to vote. Quite a number
of us were gathered. Of course, we were in communication, and as I recall, there were two or three phones available where we would get in touch with various ones. Mr. Truman, early that night, went over to Excelsior Springs, and got a good night's sleep, so he said, but I know that the next morning he called me rather early and we were highly pleased. He particularly wanted me to plan to come back with him on the train.
HESS: Do you think he really slept through that night?
SNYDER: He said he had a good night's sleep. He had the greatest capacity however to go to sleep and lay his troubles and his problems aside. I've seen him many a time after lunch when we were on trips, just lie down and seem to instantly, go to sleep. And it recuperated him tremendously, so
he might well have done it. He had a great saying which he had told me and which I tried to adopt. He said, "If I have done the best I can do within my capacity, within my ability, I can do no more. And to worry about it only further incapacitates me or the next days job. When I look myself in the face and say, 'I've done the best I can do,' then I can just relax." I think he actually could do that and whether he did it that particular night or not, we have only his testimony, because he didn't have anybody with him except the Secret Service people and they were not in the room wherever he was. I didn't see him the next day, he stayed at the Muehlebach, receiving a lot of people and had a reception or two, and then came out the following day on the train. I got on the train with him at noon in St. Louis and we went on to Washington.
HESS: What was his attitude when you first saw him, pretty happy?
SNYDER: He was pleased. The weight of the responsibility -- see, he had had a whole day of visiting and handshaking and an opportunity to think a little about the four years ahead. He had been elected himself and the responsibility was weighing on him, and he was pretty sober, in a sense, when we were talking just to each other, or while the train was moving, but of course on the platform there at the station in St. Louis, he was very exuberant and thanked everybody. He spent a great deal of his time enroute appearing on the rear platform before the public in thanking people for their support during his past four years, and that he was going to need all the help that he could get in trying to accomplish the things that were necessary in the next four years.
HESS: I have heard that James J. Maloney, who was Chief of the United States Secret Service, was with Dewey on election night in 1948. Do you recall anything about that?
SNYDER: Yes, that's true, it did happen. It isn't quite as heinous a crime as it may sound. The only problem was that he was the head of the Secret Service. It had always been the custom to put Secret Service men with the candidates right up until the decision was made. The only problem was, he was the head of the Secret Service and if he was going to be anywhere, he probably should have been with the President rather than with Dewey. So, his name was mud from that minute on, regardless of custom or anything else.
HESS: One final question, did you think Mr. Truman was going to win that election?
SNYDER: You know, there has been so much talk back and forth. I was honestly convinced that Mr. Truman had a good chance to win and I got it because of his own attitude that he communicated. He was confident. I don't think there could be anyone who could tell you that ever the slightest doubt was evidenced by him that he wasn't going to win, and being with him as much as I was it must have been communicated to me, because I was in my own mind convinced that he was going to win. I knew it was a tough race; I knew there was a possibility that he might lose, but my own conviction was that he was going to win.
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