Oral History Interview with
Attorney, U.S. Treasury Dept., 1934-41; Asst. to the Attorney
General of the United States, 1937-38; Special Asst. to the Gen. Counsel,
Treasury Dept., 1941-42; Comdg. Officer, 5th Army Counter Intelligence
Corps, 1943-45; Asst. Gen. Counsel, Treasury Dept., 1946-49; Alternate
Member, President's Temp. Comm. on Employee Loyalty, 1946-47; Dep. Dir.,
Office of Contract Settlement, 1947-49; Asst. to the Special Counsel of
the President, 1949-50; Administrative Asst. to the President, 1950; and
Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission, 1950-53.
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 28, 1967 (Eleventh Oral History)
March 28, 1967 (Twelfth Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Spingarn 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
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript
indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 April, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Spingarn Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 28, 1967 (Eleventh Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
Eleventh Oral History Interview with Stephen J. Spingarn, Washington,
D.C., March 28, 1967. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: All right, Mr. Spingarn, what would you like to discuss this morning?
SPINGARN: Well, quite a few things, but I'm going to start with something
that is so contemporaneous that the last development was a phone call
a half an hour ago, which involves Mr. Truman directly.
President Truman was a strong supporter of home rule for the District
of Columbia. He recommended it repeatedly to Congress. I can remember
in one of the papers which I believe I have turned over to you, it's a
memorandum, I think, for the file, which I wrote saying that I had reported
to the President (this would have been 1950), that there were over two
hundred signatures on the discharge petition in the House to discharge
the House District Committee on the home rule bill. That committee has
always been the stumbling block and the bill has passed the Senate over
and over again, but it's hard to get it out of the House Committee, especially
when it's usually chaired by a conservative, Deep South Democrat, with
a segregationist outlook.
In any event, I reported to Mr. Truman that there were over two hundred
signatures on the discharge petition, two hundred and eighteen being required
to bring the bill to the floor -- discharge the committee and bring the
bill to the floor. He told me to go ahead and do whatever we could do
to get these other signatures. And I recall that Dave Lloyd and I and
others did work on that.
But we didn't quite make the grade before adjournment. In any event,
it is only one of many instances of Mr. Truman's interest in Home Rule.
I recall writing letters to Congress for his signature on the matter and
other related activities on that.
Well, I'm a strong proponent of Home Rule for the District of Columbia,
as I think every sensible citizen in the District of Columbia should be,
and all the straw votes here and the referenda show overwhelming support
for Home Rule, although the Board of Trade and some of our more well-to-do
citizens are timorous about it because they think it's going to mean a
raise in taxes, among other things. Also the hidden factor is the fact
that in a city with a population that is about sixty-five percent Negro,
obviously are going to have a preponderantly Negro Home Rule government,
and this frightens some people.
And I say to them, "We have the outstanding Negro leadership in the entire
United States, probably in the world, in the city of Washington -- Howard
University, and men like President [James M.] Nabrit of Howard, and Dean
Clarence Ferguson of the law school, and Robert Martin up there -- many,
many others, Frank Snowden,, a Republican, I think, by the way, a friend
of mine who is the dean of the liberal arts college, we have Cabinet officers,
a Cabinet officer in Robert Weaver, there's Thurgood Marshall, the Solicitor
General, and so on down the line.
There's so many brilliant and able Negroes in this city that if we could
produce a hundred percent Negro government composed of our best Negro
leadership we'd probably have the best municipal government in the United
States, and while there's always the risk that you may have some demagogues,
I believe that preponderantly you will get a pretty good leadership in
any municipal government, and it will be, I suppose, at least, probably
more than half Negro. And I personally would be delighted to go before
electorate and present myself as a candidate for whatever was available
in Home Rule government, and I think I'd have a pretty good chance.
I get along famously with the Negro politicians of this city and with
most Negroes that I meet. If you present yourself as a human being to
another human being, there's no problem, any more than there would be
with a human being of any other color. You may have your differences but
they're not ethnical, they're based on individual human relations.
So, I'm a member of the Home Rule Committee, and the president of the
Home Rule Committee is David Carliner, a distinguished Washington lawyer,
very able, with a very fine record in the field of civil rights. He has
long been -- he is no longer -- but he was until recently the president
of the District chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and he's
handled a lot of civil rights cases.
Some weeks ago, some time back, Dave Carliner asked me -- it is his idea
(and I think he's right), that one of the troubles, one reason why the
District has not been able to get Home Rule, is that there is no support,
or very little support outside the
District of Columbia in the rest of the country.
So to improve that situation, and to gather support from other areas,
the idea is to form a national committee on Home Rule for the District
of Columbia with representation from all over the country. And it is his
thought, and it makes absolute sense to me, that we should try to get
President Truman and President Eisenhower as honorary co-chairmen of that
So he asked me some time back, I would say a couple of months or more,
if I would help in trying to get Mr. Truman to accept the co-honorary
chairmanship of that committee, and I said I would.
I didn't know what the situation was. I know that the President's health
is not as good as it has been in the past, and that he therefore should
and does limit his commitments, but on the other hand, this would be purely
honorary and there would be no work involved. It would be symbolic for
both him and Mr. Eisenhower.
I said I would do whatever I could. So about three weeks ago the Home
Rule Committee gave a reception on the Hill for the members of the District
of the House and the Senate, which I attended, and again Dave Carliner
spoke to me about this. I suggested to him then that he prepare a letter
to Mr. Truman and that he give it to me. I told him that Charlie Murphy
was going out to Independence and was going to make a speech to the trustees
of the Harry Truman Library Institute, of which I'm a member, and that
that would be an excellent opportunity, because Charlie Murphy is, I believe,
outside the President's immediate family and immediate entourage, the
man closest politically in the whole world to President Truman, at least
that's my impression, outside of the immediate entourage, and the family.
And he has worked with him all through the years since he left the Presidency.
So Charlie Murphy would be the perfect man to ask the President if he
would be willing to do this and he was going to be there on the spot,
which is the best way to do anything, not do it by mail, or even by telephone.
I suggested to Dave Carliner that he cover three points in the letter:
One, naturally, explain what it was all about, why Mr. Truman's sponsorship
would be helpful, and that Mr. Eisenhower would also be
solicited; two, explain that there would be absolutely no work involved,
it was purely honorary so that Mr. Truman and his family wouldn't feel
that he was making another work commitment; and three, remind him, which
is almost unnecessary, of his own repeated efforts and activities on behalf
of Home Rule for the District of Columbia while he was President, and
And this morning, just about half an hour before I came over here, a
woman from the Home Rule Committee called up and said they had the letter,
where should they send it, and I told them to send it by messenger to
me here and I will receive it sometime this morning. I will then turn
it over to Charlie Murphy. I've already talked to Charlie and he's agreed
to take the letter out there, and sound out Mr. Truman on the situation.
So, this is quite contemporaneous. Of course, I don't know whether Mr.
Truman can or will accept, but we'll see.
While I'm on the subject of Home Rule, which is a civil rights matter,
and which, by the way, was one component of the President's civil rights
message of February 2, 1948, I have before me page 5 of a paper by Professor
Alonzo Hamby of Ohio University at Athens,
Ohio. On December 29, 1966, Professor Hamby and I were guest speakers
and commentators at the first major session held on civil rights in the
Truman administration by the American Historical Association. It was at
their convention in New York attended by 6,000 historians last December.
On December 29, their principal session was on civil rights in the Truman
Professor Barton Bernstein, whom I have already adverted to, delivered
the main paper, and Professor Hamby and I then commented. We were originally
scheduled to have fifteen minutes each, but I asked for and got thirty
minutes, and so Professor Hamby had fifteen and I had thirty, and perhaps
took forty, and he criticized Professor Bernstein's paper in polite, professorial
and academic terms -- I thought Professor Hamby's paper was excellent;
and mine was in, shall we say, less polite and less academic terms, but
it was highly critical.
Subsequently, Professor Hamby sent me a copy of his paper, which he had
read, and here from page 5, I read a statement which makes complete sense
to me, and which I think is interesting in the terms of what
Professor Bernstein said too, in the context of what Bernstein said,
and which to me is a picture of the real world as distinguished from the
world of the ivory tower perfectionist, who doesn't understand that the
best is the enemy of the good, and that all advances in human progress
are made by compromise and barter, as Edmund Burke once put it -- all
of them. I'm quoting now, from Professor Hamby's paper:
It is probable that much of the legislative portion of the Truman
Civil Rights program, as distinct from the executive action, was symbolic
and rhetorical in design. It advanced without serious expectation
of its passage, as a way of showing that the Administration wanted
to give recognition and endorsement to Negro aspirations.
Now, I wouldn't fully agree with that passage. I'll comment on it when
I get through.
For example, in May, 1950, Mr. Stephen Spingarn, then a White House
Assistant, sent a memorandum to Charles Murphy, Special Counsel to
the President. He wrote, 'My own view is that we cannot win the FEPC
cloture fight in this Congress, but that it will be pretty important
in November how we lost it.' (That's the end of the quote.] He [that's
me] recalled the importance of Negro votes to the Democrats in the
1948 election and warned, 'That could change, especially if the Democratic
Administration looks as if it were not backing up its fine words about
civil rights with hard-hitting efforts to get action, but only apathetically
going through the motions.' This memorandum, of course, did not indicate
a lack of commitment
or sincerity, as Mr. Bernstein remarks [that's Professor Barton Bernstein]
in a footnote, 'Perhaps no member of Truman's staff was more committed
to civil rights, [that's myself, he means]. It was rather a dispassionate
analysis of a political situation and a call for a symbolic action.
Any historian who discusses Truman's legislative leadership on civil
rights must come to grips with the analysis that the vote simply did
Now, with that last statement, I fully agree. I don't think the action
was quite as symbolic as Professor Hamby would put it, because there were
real efforts, but I think every one of us knew that the vote simply didn't
exist and the best we could do was to do our best. And it is true that
in 1950 we made two efforts, task force efforts (I've described them in
previous recordings), to break the filibuster and to bring the bill to
a vote (that was the FEPC bill, and I was in charge of the, task force
that made this effort). But the votes just weren't there. I don't believe
that the Almighty himself could have run the bill through the Senate in
1950. That's my opinion.
I will also note that we were doing other things, outside the legislative
field, to make it clear that the Truman administration meant business.
There was the desegregation of the Armed Forces, the Army particularly;
there was the amicus curiae
briefs by the Department of Justice in private civil right litigation;
there was the beefing up of the civil rights section of the Department
of Justice, and all these were meaningful things. There was desegregation
within the Government itself -- Government facilities. I'll give you that
to Xerox and return to me. That's the paper I just read from.
Now, yesterday, I believe it was yesterday, wasn't it, that I dealt with
the secret meeting of the temporary commission, or was it earlier?
HESS: Friday, I believe, but that's of little matter.
SPINGARN: Little matter, right. I previously discussed the Truman Temporary
Commission on Employee Loyalty in 1946 and 1947. I was the alternate Treasury
representative and a member of the working committee that wrote the program.
I have told of a secret session of the Commission. It was actually the
only session of the Commission which the alternates, the working committee
people, didn't attend. The reason as I recall it was this: We, and particularly
-- when I say, "we," I mean Ed Foley and myself, but also other members
of the Commission, kept digging in with the question "How serious is this
problem?" That is, addressing it
to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. Before we write
a program, we have to know, "Is this a one division war? Can we handle
it with rifles and machineguns, or is it a five, ten, twenty division
war? Do we need tanks and flame throwers, or even atom bombs?" I mean,
this is all jocular, but that symbolizes the kind of question that we
The Attorney General, to me at least, seemed quite evasive on this matter.
I mean, he said it was serious, but he didn't give us any facts. So, finally,
this secret meeting was held. It was early, I would place it in probably
February, 1947. It might have been January. And it was the only meeting,
as I say, at which only the members as distinguished from the alternative
members attended, and the Attorney General, who was then Tom Clark, was
present. And, of course, all the principals told their alternates afterwards
what had happened, as might have been expected, so that it was known to
us. Clark said that there were twenty-five persons who were seriously
suspected of being Communist espionage agents, Soviet espionage agents
in the Government at that time.
HESS: Were these twenty-five in high positions?
SPINGARN: They were in positions at various levels. Mostly, I would say
in the middle grades, rather than in the high grades, but one or two,
a few in fairly high grade positions. And he said that five of these were
in the Treasury. I'm not going to mention their names, although the names
have been thrown around in the public prints pretty freely since then.
But these people are still alive, so far as I know, all of them, and
there's no point in giving them further publicity. None of them have actually
been adjudicated by any tribunal, that I'm aware of, to have been guilty
of betraying their country, guilty of espionage, although I'd frankly
say that I think that in most of the cases that I studied, and I studied,
naturally, the five Treasury cases with the greatest care.
I was the key Treasury man on such matters. There was strong reason to
believe, to suspect that this was quite likely the case, although there
were also discordant facts which a defense attorney would have made a
great deal out of, and no one can say what would have happened if the
thing would have been brought to trial, but it was never brought to trial
because the Department of Justice simply couldn't produce evidence that
would convince even a grand jury, apparently.
One of these men was brought before a grand jury, one of our Treasury
people. The charges against him were based entirely on what Elizabeth
Bentley had said about him. That was the total charge. And he denied it
under oath. Now, what are you going to do under those circumstances. She,
as I recall, had never met this man. She was talking from hearsay. That's
my recollection of the situation.
Now, what would you do when an informant, a person who admittedly had
been a traitor to the United States, had been a spy for the enemy, but
who now is on your side, or says she is, and I think she meant it, gives
you information -- hearsay information -- and the man himself appears
and under oath denies it. And there is no substantial supporting evidence
that would stand up in a court of law. That's the problem.
All right. Obviously, in the most sensitive positions in Government,
you have to -- I say, "You have to" -- I mean, it's my opinion that you
have to go beyond the strict rules of law and say that if the
suspicion is strong enough that you should at least move that
person into a non-sensitive position. But you have to be very careful
that you're not destroying a man's career on the basis of mere suspicion,
which may not be true, because it's possible to suspect anybody. Senator
McCarthy and Senator Jenner strongly suspected George Marshall -- General
George Marshall. Jenner called him a traitor, and McCarthy wrote a whole
book about it, Retreat from Victory, or something like that.
They even threw serious doubts -- well, Robert Welch has said that Dwight
Eisenhower was a dedicated conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.
A lot of people, believe it or not, listen to Robert Welch, I mean, his
impact is far beyond the eighty thousand or so, members of the John Birch
Society. I estimate that about ten percent of the population in the United
States will listen to anything in this field, and will believe it.
That is, they are essentially people who believe in the conspiracy theory
of history. They believe that nothing happens because of circumstances,
or forces greater than men, or the fact that men are not omniscient and
not all-wise and not all-sensible,
because sometimes they make mistakes, even the best of men.
No, it all happens because a sinister conspiracy of evil men, world-wide
in character, is determined to overthrow all democratic governments and
establish Communist conspiracies everywhere -- a Communist government.
I would say that maybe ten percent of the electorate of the United States
believe that idea, but this is just speculation on my part, based on what
I've read about the impact of the rightwing materials.
So that if there are roughly seventy million people voting in the United
States in presidential elections, that means that seven million of those,
roughly, I would say, would believe and vote for any candidate who espoused
this theory, however lunatic his suppositions and assertions were.
Well, getting back to the Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty. So,
it then developed that a secret report, an FBI report, based on the Elizabeth
Bentley disclosures had been sent to the Treasury, in, I think it was
February '46. This was a year earlier. And this is the same document,
or a later version of the same document, that had been sent to the White
in November '45, and which Herbert Brownell made such a to-do about in
November '53, when he accused Mr. Truman of having mishandled the Harry
White and other loyalty cases, particularly the Harry White case, and
promoting White after he knew that he was a Soviet agent.
What Mr. Truman knew was that an unknown woman named Elizabeth
Bentley, who no one had ever heard of before and who herself had been
a traitor said that, and she had never met Harry White. Whittaker Chambers
had had something to say on the subject, but I don't believe that he ever
met Harry White either. Actually, Whittaker Chambers said later, and he
told me this, because I interrogated him once in '48, I think it was,
'47 or '48, one or the other. I interrogated Whittaker Chambers up in
New York in the offices of Time magazine about these Treasury cases,
and as I recall he told me that he didn't believe Harry White was a Communist;
he believed that he was a man who thought he was smarter than the Communists,
and he could use them, but really they used him.
That was just about the way that Whittaker Chambers expressed it to me,
as I recall it. And when I said
"me," it was also to Mal Harney, Malachi L. Harney, who was then the
chief coordinator of Treasury Enforcement activity. There was a Treasury
Enforcement Coordination Committee, and I was the legal member of that
committee. Mal was sort of the policeman, and I was the lawyer on all
these loyalty matters, you see, within the Treasury. He was responsible
for the investigations or for supervising them, and I was responsible
actually for deciding who should be investigated and what it all meant
when you got the reports back.
I don't mean that I was the final authority, but I was the fellow who
did the first go-around on it. Ed Foley and Secretary Snyder were the
final authorities on this, of course, and Under Secretary Wiggins of South
Carolina, was also involved in this picture. Incidentally, Lee Wiggins
was a staunch conservative, but I found him mighty sound and sensible
on loyalty and security matters. He was no witch burner.
Well, so, it then appeared that this report had been sent to the Treasury
in '46. Now, Ed Foley had never seen it, and this resulted because a somewhat
ludicrous thing had happened, which has never been disclosed before to
my knowledge. Ed Foley had never
seen it, and it turned out that Attorney General Clark was therefore
a little suspicious of Foley's relationship with Secretary Snyder, because
he knew that since Snyder had been sent the report, and since Foley, his
Assistant Secretary didn't know about it -- and here Foley was representing
the Treasury on this loyalty commission -- it seemed to him that Foley
was not fully in Snyder's confidence on this matter. This we learned,
you see. But then it turned out that that was not the case at all.
The fact of the matter was, Snyder hadn't seen it, and this is
what had happened. It's ludicrous. Fred Vinson had been Secretary of the
Treasury until I think, June '46. The report had come in while he was
there. You will note that he had done nothing about it.
Fred Vinson was certainly no radical, he became Chief Justice of the
United States -- he had done nothing about it. I think that I would have
been more active if I had been in his place. I would have started the
investigative procedures in connection with the people involved, looking
to determination as to whether they should be kept or fired. But that's
Monday morning quarterbacking. Nothing had been done and I don't -- Mr.
Vinson is dead -- I don't know why. I can hazard a guess, and that was
that again that these statements by an unknown informant -- because this
informant was disguised in the report -- who had been a Communist herself,
about people who had had long, and apparently honorable Government careers,
and who in most cases were extremely able, and who had achieved credits
recognizing their abilities, recommendations and awards, commendations.
It was natural for a fair-minded man to look at that and say, "My goodness,
what am I going to do about this?"
They were paralyzed because the FBI had simply not been able to produce
additional information that documented Elizabeth Bentley's statement.
This was curious to me because she had been coming down to Washington,
as I pointed out previously, for three to three and a half years, on a
very clumsy espionage operation, according to her own story, her own book,
Out of Bondage, and according to these reports too, which I read,
later, after this episode I referred to -- read, I studied them over and
She had come down here once every two weeks. She was
the mistress of Jacob Golos, a known Soviet agent, he'd been convicted
as an unregistered Soviet agent in 1940 --paid a fine. She said herself
she was frequently pursued by the FBI and she tells the stratagems she
used to throw them off, and yet she came down from Golos, she went to
the Silvermaster home out in Chevy Chase, far Northwest Washington.
Lud Ullman, William Ludwig Ullman, a Treasury economist, a bachelor,
lived with the Silvermasters. He was a photographic bug and he had a dark
room, a laboratory, or whatever you call it, in the basement of their
building (this is a fact).
And there she says the various agents of the ring filtered in the documents
that they had lifted from Government files, they were microfilmed and
then returned, and put back in the files, and once every two weeks she
picked up the microfilms, which ran, I think, she says, twenty or thirty,
or forty rolls, running hundreds of separate films, pictures. She had
dinner there, she put them in her shopping bag, she toddled down to Union
Station, and took the train back to New York. She went to Golos and turned
them over to him.
Very clumsy operation, no cut-out, nothing. Direct from the spymaster
to the source of the information, and back again. This went on for three
and a half years and the FBI only learned it because Golos died. She went
on for a while with another spymaster running her, a Russian, a member
of the Soviet Embassy and she became disenchanted with his arrogance and
rudeness -- she'd had a nice relationship with her lover, naturally --
and she defected back.
She went to the FBI in New Haven in August '45 and told them. She didn't
hear anything further for two and a half months or so, and then they got
her to contact the Russians again and while the FBI was tailing her, the
Russians turned some money over to her and that apparently satisfied the
FBI that she was on the up-and-up.
Then they immediately produced a report almost in twenty-four hours,
you know, about what she said. By this time the ring had collapsed, apparently,
and it was no longer possible to produce evidence about its activities,
except on her testimony.
Why hadn't they been doing something about that for the past three and
a half years. I'd like an
answer to that question and I've never had it. Maybe there's something
I don't understand and don't know, but it looks to me as an old counterintelligence
officer who ran an outfit that captured five hundred odd German agents,
Abwehr and SD, in Italy during the war, that the FBI fumbled the ball
badly on that one. And then they want to turn it over and put the ball
in somebody else's court, by saying, "Well, now, here's the story from
this very truthful woman, Elizabeth Bentley; you should fire these people
right away." And maybe they should have been fired, but fair-minded men
naturally want evidence.
All right, so I way that a major element of the fault, it seems to me,
in this case, was Justice and the FBI, and their failure to have followed
this thing while it was in operation -- this ring -- and produced the
evidence with which you could deal with these people, not only fire them,
but of course, they should have gone to jail if this were true -- all
Well, in any event, it seems that the report came over in February 1946
and Mr. Vinson was Secretary. In June he was nominated to the Supreme
Court -- Chief Justice -- and John Snyder was named to replace him.
After the Attorney General had talked to Foley,
Foley went to Snyder and asked him did he have any information about
these five people in the Treasury, which Tom Clark seemed to think he
Clark had said to Foley something like this, "Well, ask John Snyder,
he knows the story." So Foley goes to Snyder, feeling a little foolish,
I assume, because here he is representing the Treasury on this thing and
yet he doesn't know anything about the most important fact about loyalty
in the Treasury, obviously. And he was in charge of all the loyalty procedures.
Nor did I who was his deputy, as it were, on this. I was at the working
level and he was at the upper level.
Well, so he goes to Snyder, and Snyder says, "Oh, yes," -- something
like this, I mean, this is my recollection about what happened. "Oh, yes,"
he says. "I remember just before he left, Fred Vinson pulled some files
out of the safe in his inner office and he shoved them into my hands.
He said I should look this over, and I had many things on my mind and
I looked them over and saw they were FBI reports and I shoved them back
in the safe and I forgot about it." And there it had been sitting in the
safe for a year, you see.
Now that's what happened. Nobody had read it; nobody had read it. It's
ludicrous, isn't it? So, it had been sitting in the safe actually since
February 1946 when Vinson got it. He did show it, but he didn't emphasize
sufficiently what was in it apparently, so that Snyder got a feeling --
they were just FBI reports. Well, the FBI produces an awful lot of reports,
you know, and all he knew was it was some kind of FBI report on the Treasury,
and that he ought to read it sooner or later. I'm sure he intended to
read it, but he stuck it back in his inner office safe and there it languishes
until almost a year later -- this scene with Vinson was June, I'd say,
'46. Now, in roughly February of '47 the matter is brought to his attention
Well, I'd like to say two things right there. It's true, you might say,
that somebody was a little at fault here. I think that if anybody was
at fault, it was probably Fred Vinson for not sufficiently telling his
successor what was in these reports, and that he ought to make it a first
priority matter. He obviously didn't impress it on him enough.
HESS: Telling him how important it was.
SPINGARN: Yes, that's one thing, but it must be remembered
that Vinson had done nothing himself between February and June, so far
as I know about this.
I didn't come to the Treasury until April 1, '46, but I wasn't aware
of anything that happened in that period about these people.
The second is, the Department of Justice and the FBI. If these people
were really that bad, why didn't Tom Clark talk to Snyder when he saw
nothing was happening there, they still continued in their jobs. And as
far as the FBI was concerned, I assume that since they were five of the
twenty-five known or strongly believed Communist spies in the Government,
they were being tailed night and day by the FBI during this period so
they couldn't have done anything, made any contacts or passed any information
that wouldn't have been known to the FBI.
So presumably, if the FBI was doing its job, the security was being protected,
because I would assume that if these people were that serious suspects
that they were under continuous surveillance by the FBI from November
'45, at least. And during all this period that the material in the Treasury
was languishing in the safe. And as I say, one, the FBI should have been
tailing them, and maybe they were, I don't say they weren't; and two,
if it was that serious, the Attorney General should have said to the Secretary,
"John, have you looked over those reports?" You know, he should have brought
them to his attention. They met weekly, after all, maybe oftener. He was
at the other end of a telephone. Now, that's what actually happened.
Now, I remember Ed Foley turning over these reports to me in his office
one day. I must admit I was somewhat startled. And I read these things
with the greatest care, and went up and briefed Ed on -- I think I summarized
it for him -- briefed Ed on what it had to say about Treasury people.
It was a huge report, of, I don't remember, a couple of hundred pages
maybe, a huge report.
They kept issuing subsequent additions and they got bigger and bigger.
And they kept adding to their investigative material, but the fact of
the matter was, none of the investigative material they produced was more
than piddling in substantiation of the case -- all this proved, really
was that Elizabeth Bentley did know some facts about these people.
She knew there was a darkroom in Silvermaster's home. There was a darkroom,
you see. That sort of thing. It's circumstantial, because any camera
bug might have a darkroom. It doesn't prove he's using it to microfilm
Government documents for the Soviets. It was true, but still it was circumstantial
evidence that she knew the people she was making allegations about.
On the other hand, she often -- she was a woman, an emotional woman,
she was not a lawyer -- she often gave information based on hearsay, which
sometimes she filed to mention was hearsay, and she stated it sometimes
as if it were a known fact to her, but when you interrogated her closely
on it, it developed that someone else had told her, you see, which is
quite a different matter, and of much lesser weight, naturally, as any
lawyer knows, than the things you know of your own personal knowledge.
And there were things like this: She said that "A" a prominent Soviet
spymaster had told her that "B" in the Government was "one of ours." Well,
this might or might not be true. Soviets like any other conspiratorial
group keep the enthusiasm of their people up by making it appear that
"everybody is with us," or "we have all sorts of friends;" "He's ours,
and he's ours, and he's ours." This may or may not be true.
They can throw names around very freely, just like a good lobbyist will
throw names around. And when you're at the White House, your name gets
thrown around all the time in lobbyist contexts. "You know, Steve Spingarn
down there. Well, he's working for us on this." I've never heard of them,
This is rather irritating to put it mildly. I ran into that situation.
I'm digressing a little, but it's the same sort of situation. A fellow
who had been in CIC with me overseas during the war wrote me. He was an
Internal Revenue agent, I believe, out in Michigan, and there was some
case involving criminal charges against someone. I forget the name of
the case and the details. But he was told -- he wrote me -- that the suspect
or his lawyers or his proponents were circulating the word that they had
Steve Spingarn in their pocket at the White House, and he was going to
settle it, fix this whole case for them. I had never heard of the man
or the case.
By the way, I think in the same case they were throwing Wally Graham's
name around, the President's doctor, General Graham, a splendid guy of
the finest quality. And I told Wally about it and naturally he
was annoyed too, because he had never heard of them either. This is the
usual role of the five percenter and the fixer, you know. I remember,
I think it was in the Caudle case, it was in that context, I believe,
but this is all a matter of record, where one of these fix artists was
telling a "pigeon," whom he was trying to impress, that he was going over
to talk to -- maybe it was Caudle or maybe it was someone else -- someone
who was involved, some Government official, in a lobby in a hotel. He
was to watch them, and if he raised his hand or put up his handkerchief
-- or some signal -- that meant the fix is in, you see. He had arranged
it. But who can prevent a man from coming up to you in a lobby and then
putting a handkerchief to his nose and somebody else saying the fix is
in, you know. Anybody can do that.
Well, to get back to the Loyalty Commission. So immediately we were galvanized
into action on these cases, these five in the Treasury. And we looked
at the files, and we said, "My goodness, what are we going to do? This
is pretty thin information on these people."
So, we went to Justice and we asked them to give us the raw FBI files,
not the summary of the reports,
but the total files of the investigation on this, and then let us use
whatever leads were there to fill in any chinks in the thing so that we
would have all the facts that it was possible to get. But they wouldn't
do that -- they wouldn't do that.
On the one hand, they didn't want to give us those reports, and they
didn't want us to investigate. They had the investigative jurisdiction,
of course, in loyalty matters. They didn't want to do either, and we argued
this back and forth for a long time. And their idea was that we should
fire these people, just fire them out of hand, you see. But our thought
was that we had an obligation to people who had spent years in the Government.
Maybe it was true, that they had produced evidence on which a fair-minded
man would convict, or rule adversely even if these people would deny it
under oath at a loyalty hearing that these charges were true, but they
never showed it to the Treasury. You had to assume that a sworn denial
was quite probable, and in fact, one of our five suspects went before
a grand jury and did deny the charges under oath, and the grand jury refused
to indict. If that happened, no fair-minded group of men would have dismissed
them on the basis that there was reasonable grounds to believe in disloyalty
on the word of an unknown informant, a paper report with an unknown informant
"testifying" against a man known to you for years of hard good work, and
denying under oath that it's true.
So, it seemed to me that, to the extent that there was delay in these
cases, it was the fault of the FBI and the Department of Justice, in principal.
part, by their refusal to either make available sufficient information
to us, or to let us investigate further -- give us the leads and let us
investigate. In any event, all of these people left the Treasury -- let's
see, as I recall, all left by the end of that year in one way or another,
resignation, or one way or another.
HESS: By the end of '47.
SPINGARN: By the end of '47, with one exception, and this was a man against
whom we, in '48, preferred loyalty charges, he was one of the five. I
was charged with preferring loyalty charges, and I was the legal member
of the loyalty board that heard the case, and I interrogated him at length
myself. The loyalty board did not find sufficient grounds to hold against
him. And in fact it was pretty obvious that would be the result
because Bentley had never met him. All she knew about him was -- he had
been overseas when she was doing her job -- all she knew about him was
that she heard from someone that he was sending in his Communist
Party dues -- she heard from somebody. Whittaker Chambers -- Mal Harney
and I went to New York I believe it was in the spring of '48 and we interrogated
Chambers for an hour or two at the Time magazine offices, on this
case, and we also talked about the others we were interested in although
they weren't involved at that moment at a hearing level. In fact they
were all gone from the Treasury by that time.
And Chambers said he had never met this man, but there was one reference,
way back, in the thirties, to a name, which was unusual, a first name,
mind you, an unusual name, that someone had said to Chambers that there
was a fellow with this unusual first name in the Treasury, who was one
of ours, a Communist. A very tenuous, thin thing, not even a last name
-- just a first name, and this was -- now we're talking about events ten
years or more later, you see. That was the total evidence, and this was
a highly competent man who had been a Government official for years.
So, I'm illustrating what I mean, that you have to have real information.
You can't destroy careers on the basis of tenuous hearsay, even if you
later find out that there was fire as well as smoke. McCarthy used to
say, "Where there's smoke, there's fire," and my answer to this is: "Where
there's smoke, there may be a smokescreen, not a fire." In war you use
smoke to disguise what you're doing, you see, and that's what McCarthy
did. So, there's not necessarily fire where there's smoke in this field.
McCarthy created the smoke and then he said, "There must be fire because
I've created smoke." So, that was the way it happened.
I'm trying to think if there's anything else that I should add to this
story. But this did have the effect, that so-called secret meeting, plus
the revelation to us in the Treasury, at least, of this report, which
we had not seen before, and which was disturbing, there's no doubt about
that, disturbing in its implications, but not very satisfying -- it was
thin gruel, though it was terribly disturbing in its implications. But
the evidence was thin, and was virtually all based on what one woman said,
who had been, admittedly, a Communist spy, plus a little from
Whittaker Chambers, who had left the party in '38, almost ten years earlier.
So his information was outdated in most cases, and sometimes his memory
wasn't too good.
For instance, when Mal Harney and I interrogated him on this case I referred
to, and he talked about the other people in the Treasury who had
left by this time, and we talked about another man, a prominent guy, and
I'm going to mention his name because he's the man with whom my name was
connected later by Robert Morris, in that public hearing of the Senate
Internal Security Subcommittee. (Incidentally, Robert Morris has been
going more and more to the right in recent years. He is now one of the
oracles of the far right who is hailed as a seer and a patriot by the
John Birch Society and their think-alikes.)
His name is Harold Glasser. Harold Glasser was one of the top economists
in the Treasury. He was Director of Monetary Research. And he had spent
a year down in Ecuador and gotten a decoration from the Ecuadorian government
for his good work; he'd been in the Treasury ten or twelve years, he had
been economic consultant to General Marshall when they went
over on the Austrian Treaty, things like that.
He was a hell of a good economist, there's no doubt about that. But was
he a Soviet agent? I don't know. He's the fellow who went before the grand
jury and denied under oath that he was. He subsequently resigned in '47,
which may or may not have indicated something. But when we mentioned his
name to Whittaker Chambers, Whittaker Chambers had never heard of him,
never heard of him, the name didn't mean a thing. But a few years later
in his book, Witness, which came out in '52, he remembers him.
He devotes, not much, but a little space to him.
I noticed that contradiction. When we interrogated him in '48 the name
meant nothing to him, but in '52 he remembers it. What does that prove?
Obviously, if this case came on and you were a lawyer you'd make a good
deal out of the fact that in '48 he couldn't remember him when his name
was there, when he was asked about him, and in '52 when he writes the
book he suddenly remembers him.
Of course, the human memory is a very faulty machine, as anyone knows.
But this is not the kind of evidence that fair minded men convict on.
I have given you material in '53, it dates '53 and '54, after the Eisenhower
administration came in, after Herbert Brownell, the Attorney General attacked
President Truman on the grounds of mishandling the Harry White and other
loyalty matters, and after the Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate
under Robert Morris indicated that it was going to call Treasury officials,
starting with me, in fact, I was the only one that was notified, and then
they canceled it out in June '54 roughly, to be interrogated about the
handling of these Treasury cases.
You will recall that I got clearance from the administration, the Republican
administration (I am a Democrat), to go up and testify about the handling
of these cases, despite the Truman directive of '48, which had been continued
by the Eisenhower administration, that Government officials (and I believed,
and I think now that this is fair, that it applied to former officials
-- it would not mean much if a man could resign and then suddenly start
talking about these things), should not talk to congressional committees
without explicit authority from the President about the details of loyalty
cases, which they'd handled or knew about.
I said I hoped they'd waive it because I believe that our handling of
these matters was sound and responsible and I said that I would be glad
to go up and testify about it.
I had spent several days with the permission of the Republican authorities
of the Treasury Department, in the Treasury files, going over and excerpting
the files of these cases on which I'd worked. I was prepared; I was loaded
But the Internal Security Subcommittee for some reason did not meet this
challenge, although I told them that I would be glad to go, would like
to go. And I told them that I had gotten clearance to testify, but they
did not meet this challenge, why I do not know. I would still go up there,
although my memory is naturally dimmed on this -- this is almost twenty
years since I handled these cases, and it's thirteen or fourteen years
since I looked in the Treasury files on them. So, my memory is dimmed,
and I would not be as effective a witness as I would have then.
But I have made my case right here, in essence, not on the individual
cases, but on the general context of what I believe.
So undoubtedly, at least as far as the Treasury was concerned, let's
put it that way, and I suspect all the agencies too, this statement that
there were twenty-five persons in Government strongly believed by the
Department of Justice to be Communist agents, spies, naturally had an
effect on the other members of the Commission. And as far as the Treasury,
which was the most analytical, I think it is fair to say, the least willing
to accept, without scrutiny anything that Justice said in this matter,
it possibly made us a little more willing to go along with the rest of
Although if you look my record over, I think you'll find that I continued
to want to scrutinize the whole picture, and I continued to insist that
I thought the real answer to national security in espionage and Communist
fields was a hard-hitting, effective counterespionage organization that
was finding these people through its own means, double agents, bribes
to defectors, and that sort of thing, rather than erecting an enormous
facade of security cops who run around ringing doorbells and asking people,
"What do you think of your neighbor? Is he an honest, loyal, patriotic
And then people who don't like their neighbor are likely to give a lot
of information that doesn't look very good on the record. I've seen many
reports where a person would say when interviewed that they thought Mr.
"A" was a Communist and when asked why, "Well, he's in favor of Government
nationalization of the railroad," let us say, or even, "He attends mixed
parties, at which there are Negroes and whites." That sort of thing. That
means to them that he's a Communist. I mean, this is fact, I'm not inventing
this. This happens over and over again.
Now at the same time in '46 when the President set up this Commission,
(A), there had been the case of Igor Gouzenko up in Canada, the Soviet
code clerk who defected and brought files with him which revealed that
senior Canadian and other officials were working with the Communists,
and were involved in Soviet espionage.
There is no doubt that in another era -- it must be remembered that in
the thirties, the principal menace was nazism, fascism, and except for
the interregnum of the non-aggression pact between '39 and '41 which should
have alerted any sensible person to the fact that you couldn't trust the
Communists, that they could
turn on a dime even on that issue. Except for that period, of
course, the Communists were vehemently anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi.
I remember in World War II, for instance, in Italy, there were two sergeants,
they were sergeants first, and then they were commissioned in OSS -- General
[William J.] Donovan -- and back in the states, some people raised the
cry that these fellows were Communists. I remember they were known everywhere
as Irv and Ski. The first name of one was Irving and the last name of
the other ended in ski.
Well, these fellows had fought on the loyalist side in Spain. They were
highly experienced in guerrilla warfare. They were excellent men for training
our people, the OSS people in guerrilla warfare. Our people were dropped
on the other side of the lines, you know, and they needed to know this
sort of thing. Or they worked with partisan groups. They dropped to join
partisan groups and help them, and direct their activities, and arrange
for arms drops and things like that. This is the type of person they needed
for that training.
My impression is that it was quite likely they were Communists, from
what I heard then and later,
and General Donovan (the OSS chief), said, when he was attacked for this,
that he didn't know whether they were Communists or not, but they were
the best qualified men in that outfit to train people in guerrilla warfare
and he knew they were all out against the Nazis, which was true.
Now I would say -- and I had the same experience myself, I found that
in Italy, that the most aggressive and active and dedicated anti-Nazis
among the Italians were the Communists. And I would say as far as fighting
is concerned, use them, but don’t let them get into political or intelligence
centers which they can exploit later, use them only for fighting.
On one occasion in Italy, where I was commanding officer of the Fifth
Army Counter Intelligence Corps, I was asked to investigate a Negro soldier
in the 92nd Division, which was a Negro division, on the grounds that
some of his fellow soldiers in a rifle company said he was making all
kinds of Communist propaganda, his fellow soldiers and noncoms reported
The request came to me to investigate him. He was a rifleman in a rifle
company, fighting the enemy.
And when it came to me I said I wasn't aware of any War Department directive
that said that we couldn't use Communists as riflemen. I said as far as
I was concerned I couldn't think of a better place for one, but if they
would give me any War Department directive that said we shouldn't use
Communists as riflemen, I would be glad to make the investigation. But
I didn't see what difference it made. He was fighting the enemy. And that
was the last I heard of it. They didn't press the request.
There was a Communist named Robert Thompson, I don't remember where he
was, but I only remember because I read a book by John Roy Carlson after
the war about the lunatic right and left groups, immediately after the
war. This wasn't his original book, Under Cover. That was his original
book published about '43. It dealt mostly with the prewar Fascist groups,
and this dealt with postwar. It was called The Plotters, I think
-- John Roy Carlson. And there was a known Communist, he became an official
of the Communist Party after the war, Robert Thompson, I've seen his name
from time to time -- I think he's dead now -- but he had won the DSC,
the second highest award for gallantry. And there's
no doubt that the Communists were among the most aggressive and most
vehement anti-Nazis around.
Now, in Italy, I had this interesting dilemma, vis-a-vis the Communists.
There was an organization called the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale,
the Committee of National Liberation, and it was a federation of anti-Fascist
groups that had been underground up until the fall of Mussolini. It ranged
from the Christian Democrats on the right to the Communists on the left.
And it had the Republicans and the Partito d' Azione, and the Socialists.
When I went into Naples, for instance -- naturally, these are the people
you would look to for useful advice on whom you could trust and whom you
And the group would come in, you see, the Catholic Party, the Christian
Democrats on the right, all the way to the Communists on the left.
I would tell them something like this, I had a little speech. I would
say that I couldn't use five or six different viewpoints on the same person.
This would simply confuse me. I said that I hoped that the left would
lean a little to the right, and the right would lean a little to the left
and they would come
out somewhere near the center and give me a composite viewpoint. If each
of the groups in there gave me a separate viewpoint on each person, I
would simply be confused, you see. In each case I asked them to appoint
one man who would serve as spokesman, and who would attempt to give me
a unified opinion. And that's the way it worked. And it didn't work too
So I think that I have covered the Employee Loyalty Commission. I did
want to emphasize this: In '46, the Gouzenko case and the fact that we
in the thirties had been focused primarily on anti-fascism and anti-nazism,
and since the Communists, with the exception of that two-year period from
'39 to '41, had been anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi, it was understandable that
they hadn't paid great attention to them, as later took place.
But the situation had changed. Nazism had been destroyed; now we had
another antagonist and we had to shift our thinking process, and therefore
these disclosures indicated that there was some reason for believing that
some of these people had embedded themselves in Government. I don't think
it could ever be said that they had in any major way affected top Government
policy except in the way that it would have gone anyway, because they
were anti-Nazi and so was any fair-minded man who didn't belong to the
German-American Bund, or the Ku Klux Klan, or the then contemporary equivalent
of the John Birch Society.
So there was considerable pressure from Congress and the public to do
something about loyalty in the Government, at that time. A congressional
committee, the Civil Service Committee of the House, had produced a report
recommending something of the sort, and that, as I understand it, plus
the then still secret '45 report on Bentley, was the basis for setting
up the Loyalty Commission. At least, that's my understanding of the matter.
Something had to be done; it had to be done because there was a need
for it, and it had to be done to reassure the country that this matter
was being handled well. These are both considerations, and while if I
had written the final report alone it might have been somewhat different,
I mean the report of the Loyalty Commission; I don't think it was such
a bad report by and large.
I don't know what I said finally about it back in '47. I'd have to check
to see what I said then and read
it over to make sure, but as I look back on that thing, I don't think
it was too bad a report.
We ironed out a good many things and I think that progressively, though,
especially after McCarthy came along, that the picture was worse, even
under the Truman administration. Because in 1951 Truman issued a new directive
diluting the degree of evidence necessary to sustain a finding of disloyalty,
and that I was very much opposed to and I think it was a mistake.
When the Eisenhower administration came in they reversed it entirely
so the total burden was on the man accused, which seems to be contrary
to all our concepts of fairness. All you have to do is make an accusation
and then it's up to the man you charge to disprove it, not you to prove
Then they put loyalty and security together in the same pot and when
they fired hundreds and hundreds of people on security grounds, which
might mean only that they were drunks or homos or blabbermouths or didn't
pay their debts, they talked about getting rid of Communists and security
risks in the Government.
Well, there's always been this kind of turnover in the Government. The
numbers game was played by
the Eisenhower administration for several years, and this was the result
of the work of that eminent patriot, Senator Joe McCarthy. I would like
to quote for him, in his memory what Dr. Samuel Johnson said almost two
hundred years ago, to Boswell, who was that CIC man who tailed him around
all day and all night, wrote about every time he belched, but he was a
very perceptive observer nonetheless. Johnson said, "Patriotism, sir,
is the last refuge of a scoundrel." And Boswell. said as I recall something
like this: "Dr. Johnson didn't mean true patriotism, true love of country,
which is a noble and fine thing, What he meant was that pretended patriotism
which in every country and in every time was cloaked self-interest."
And that was McCarthy. He was no patriot. It was the last refuge of a
scoundrel. He was cloaking self-interest under the guise of patriotism.
End of chapter.
I'd like to talk about my relations in recent years with historians who
have come to see me in the search of information about the Truman era.
First of all, I have met some fine men and some able historians, with
whom my relationships have been very satisfactory.
For example, Professor Alan Harper of Queens College, whom I have found
to be reliable and conscientious and responsible. I can think of other
historians, a young man named Richard Longaker, who saw me several years
ago and who later wrote a book, called The Presidency and Individual
Liberties, published by the Cornell University Press around 1962.
I appreciate him because he took a statement that I wrote for Mr. Truman,
which Mr. Truman sent while President, to the Attorney General, CJ. Howard]
McGrath, about the weighing and balancing of internal security consideration
and individual rights considerations, and he said that this was a model
statement by a President on this difficult subject. Since I wrote it I
naturally found this pleasing.
And I recall Professor [William E.] Leuchtenburg of Columbia who was
program chairman of the American Historical Association convention and
who graciously and immediately gave me more time than the program called
for when I phoned him and told him I couldn't handle my critique of the
Barton Bernstein paper on civil rights in the Truman administration in
the fifteen minutes allotted me. So he gave me thirty, and I
even ran over that.
On the other hand I have had some very frustrating experiences with historians,
and Barton Bernstein is one. On the two things in which I have gone to
the mat with him on issues of fact I have found that he was wrong. I could
use a stronger word, but I won't.
It seemed to me that he was so committed to a thesis that he was willing
to blow up something into evidence which was not evidence at all, perhaps
even fabricated, certainly distorted wildly. Then there was another young
professor. He had written -- I won't mention his name -- he had written
a thesis, several hundred pages about civil rights in the Truman administration,
I had in the past borrowed this thesis and returned it to him, and when
he learned that I was going to be a commentator on the Bernstein paper,
he wrote me and sent me the thesis saying that he thought Bernstein had
plagiarized from his paper. I wrote him that I would return the thesis
-- it was sent at his instigation, not mine, although I was glad to get
it. I returned it in January '67 after the meeting in New York, the Historical
Association. I also wrote him that I was not going to get in the middle
him and Bernstein on a question where I didn't have the time and it wasn't
my business anyway to decide who had plagiarized whom, and that was an
affair between him and Bernstein.
Well, early in January he started writing me letters demanding his paper
back, and I wrote him, within a day after I got his first letter, I wrote
asking him would he reconsider, I said, because I could now see that I
was going to spend the rest of my life defending Truman on civil rights
matters, among others, and his paper was, if nothing else, a useful chronology
of the events of the Truman administration. If he couldn't let me have
it -- if he didn’t have a spare copy, would he let me know and I would
then have his paper Xeroxed, you see, which would take a couple of days,
maybe, two hundred pages. Several days later, long after my letter should
have reached him, he writes back with another somewhat choleric demand
for his paper back. I assumed our letters had crossed, although the time
interval was such that it shouldn't have been. So I wrote him again giving
him the benefit of the doubt and saying politely that I would have it
Xeroxed you see, and return it
within two days or so. And then I got a third and a fourth letter from
him without any reference to any of my letters but simply demanding in
increasingly more choleric terms that I return his paper, you see. These,
needless to say, annoyed me. I couldn't understand why he didn't answer
or make some advertence to my request and my letters. But I did Xerox
his paper and returned it to him, and after it was returned (this wasn't
his fault), I got, I think, a fourth letter from him, again demanding
that I return his paper, which he had sent me at his own instigation and
which, by the way, I actually returned in the month I said I would. This
I found a little frustrating.
Then there was a young man out at a great Middle Western university,
a professor of history. He wrote me; he sent me a memorandum which I had
written and forgotten about back in March, 1950, to Charlie Murphy suggesting
that we ought to have a conference at the White House to consider what
should be done if the Supreme Court outlawed the Plessy vs. Ferguson
doctrine, that separate but equal accommodations were Constitutional.
I said we'd have all kinds of problems about what to do with state programs
which were in deliberate violation
and even state statutory directed violation of any anti-segregation ruling.
Of course, this was four years before the ruling actually came down but
I didn't know that.
I also said I didn't think that there was going to be such a ruling,
that I had talked to Solicitor General Philip Perlman on that and he didn't
think so, but we had to consider that it was possible. They didn't have
to reach the Constitutional point. He thought they were going to simply
rule in these cases (which mostly involved higher education), that the
accommodations did not meet the Plessy vs. Ferguson test. They
were separate, but they were not equal. And that's the way they did rule.
In any event, I discussed the different programs that we might have to
consider, and how we might have to handle them, and whether there should
be a deferment of time, a year, for them to get in step with the anti-segregation
ruling and so forth. And this young man wanted to know if that conference
had ever been held at the White House and asked other questions about
how the amicus curiae doctrine -- the business of the amicus
curiae policy of the Department of Justice, filing the amicus curiae
briefs in support of private litigants, had arisen. It started in the
Truman administration while Phil Perlman was Solicitor General.
And I wrote him back that as far as I could recall no such conference
had ever taken place because the Korean war had come along a few months
later and we were too busy with that to worry about other things. And
secondly, that I didn't know anything about the evolution of it, but I
had talked to, I think, it was Abe [Abraham J.] Harris who had been Assistant
Solicitor General. He gave me a number of names of people who would know.
The Assistant Solicitor General, actually, was not the Assistant to the
Solicitor General. He was the legal counsel, as he is now called. But
he had that title. He didn't handle Supreme Court litigation, but he gave
me the name of Arnold Raum, Bob Stern and Phil Elman, and maybe one or
two others. I wrote all this out to this man at Wisconsin.
In other words, I did quite a bit of work for him -- several hours --
in research through my own papers, in telephone calls, and in waiting
memoranda, and so forth. I said to him, "Now, I have been glad to do this
for you, will you do me a small shore in return." I said, "I wrote the
official Democratic Party document on how to answer the Republican charge
that we're the party of high prices and inflation in the 1966 campaign.
Here it is, I wrote him, and here is the official Republican document,
charging us with that. Would you ask somebody in your political science
and in your economic department to look these papers over and ask the
economists how they rate them on their merits, as economic documents,
and ask the political scientists, how do you square them off together
against each other on the merits of their political polemics. How effective
are they as political documents?"
And he wrote me back saying that he had only been there six months and
that he didn't know anybody in the political science or economic departments.
And I wrote him back and I said that he was flunking the test. He ought
to get out and cross the expertise lines, and furthermore he didn't have
to know anybody in those departments, this was a good way to meet them.
I could have written to the heads of those departments myself and probably
gotten this chore done, but since he had
asked me to do something. I mean, this was an interesting project --
for political scientists and economists -- I thought it would be a matter
of some interest. I felt sure that it would be little or no trouble at
all on his part. It would take an hour or two of his time at most, no
more than I -- had taken in working for him, but he never did it. And
he was indignant, actually. He wrote me an indignant letter saying, nobody
had ever treated him this way. You yourself, Mr. Hess, have told me that
President Truman had said that if he answered all the requests he got
from scholars he'd be writing a lot of M.A. theses, and Ph.D.'s too.
Well, then there was a young man from the University of Pennsylvania,
a graduate student who was writing his Ph.D. thesis. He called me up and
I invited him to have lunch with me at the National Press Club. And he
was writing his thesis on the Truman Temporary Commission on Employee
Loyalty, which I've just been talking about -- twenty years ago. He had
been out to the Truman Library in Independence and he had looked over
my files, because they're the most extensive on this. I was the only member
of the working committee of the
Commission that kept daily memoranda -- wrote daily memoranda about what
had happened. And he asked some pretty sharp questions about this thing.
Incidentally, I have today answered the question he asked. That was the
question. What happened? Why? He said at some point in the life of the
Commission it seemed to him that the Commission had suddenly changed pace,
that its attitude had suddenly changed. Why? He's right. That was a ,pretty
sharp question. It did change to some extent, and I have told why and
when it changed.
Now, before I talk to a man on these historical matters, I want to know
what his general outlook is, because I have a perfect right to talk to
anyone I want to, and refuse to talk to anyone I want to. The first thing
I find out, when they're writing about matters such as this, is what is
their general political outlook. I don't care if they're Democrats or
Republicans. I don't care whether they're conservatives or liberals. My
impression is that Alan Harper is a Democratic Socialist, or was anyway,
a New Leader magazine type. But he's a hard-hitting, pragmatic
type of liberal, strongly anti-Communist, and has very little use for
the ivory tower type of liberal who is a perfectionist and doesn't understand
that the best is the enemy of the good. Although I myself am not a Socialist,
I see merit in his kind of thinking as I have just described it. I believe
in enlightened capitalism, regulated in the public interest.
When I cross-xamined this young man from Pennsylvania it turned out that
he was what I would call a latter day Wallacite, no Communist, perfectly
sincere. But he thinks, as the Wallacites did twenty years ago, that Communists
are only leftwing liberals, extreme leftwing liberals. If they happen
to be with you on a cause, you can make common cause with them. Over and
over again, liberals have found in the past I mean, before his time, that
this was not true, you couldn't. And that's why the ADA, which I have
never belonged to, by the way, was formed, because up to that time, whenever
liberals formed an organization, they admitted Communists, and the Communists
would usually corrupt the organization, take it over and steer it in their
way, because they were the people most dedicated, most willing to spend
long hours. When there were meetings they would stay to the bitter end
when everybody else had gone home they'd put through the resolutions
that the others had fought against. Up to that point they'd block everybody
else's, and then when everybody else had gone home they'd put through
their resolutions, that sort of thing.
So a small group of dedicated people in an organization which doesn't
mean the life blood of the average man can control it, because the others
aren't that much interested, and they won't go to all of these lengths,
and moreover they're not cohesive. They represent different points of
view. They quarrel among themselves.
But he thought that the Communists were just leftwing liberals, moreover
he thought that the underdeveloped countries might be well advised to
start off with Communist governments because you needed so much public
investment in order to get them off the ground. The little fact that once
you have a Communist government it's awfully hard to get rid of it apparently
didn't enter his mind. I mean, after you've had any totalitarian, really
totalitarian government, that's the trouble. I would say that there might
be a sense in starting off with some kind of Democratic-Socialist government,
because you do need a lot of investment in the public sector in some
of these underdeveloped countries, and capitalists who want big returns
on their money are not going to take the risk. Why should they in a country
whose future is very doubtful. But communism, no.
In any event, I wouldn't want Bertrand Russell interviewing me to write
the report on that loyalty commission, or even my good friend, Lewis Mumford,
whom I've had some correspondence with lately about Vietnam. It isn't
that I wouldn't be glad to have a drink with Bertrand Russell or Lewis
Mumford and talk things over at any time, but I don't want them to be
representing my views on history, or to be reporting them, because their
commitments are so contrary to my views, that I don't believe they could
do it objectively, it's impossible. Even as Barton Bernstein would have
trouble doing it.
So in any event, after I had talked to this young man for a while, I
said, "No, I'm sorry, we can have a nice lunch here, but I'm not going
to give you any further information on this subject, because you're not
the man I would want to write this up." Needless
to say, he got quite angry, and our parting was less than harmonious,
because he was indignant, and he wrote me afterwards and I wrote him and
we both tried to explain our points of view.
But my point of view is basically, as far as talking to historians, that
is on highly controversial issues, I mean, it doesn't make much difference
if the issue is not controversial, on the highly controversial issues
where there are strongly opposing points of view, I want a man who is
neither beyond the last outpost of what I call liberalism on the left,
that is totalitarian communism or something, or beyond the last outpost
of conservatism on the right, I mean over on the lunatic right, the John
Birchers and the like; neither kind of man am I willing to have interrogate
me on historical matters.
Secondly, if a man expects me to devote a lot of time to him, I expect
that if I ask him for a little of his time to do something that is of
interest to me, that he's going to do it, because my time is valuable
to me and I would hope that he would understand that, and he would not
regard it as some kind of an outrage for me to request equal time. So
this is my memorandum to
I have a great many papers here; here for instance is a memorandum from
me, dated June 28, 1950, addressed to David Bell, who was then Charlie
Murphy's assistant at the White House, and he in turn read it and sent
it on to George Elsey. It's about my paper, which I have given you a copy
of, written in 1948 making recommendations for improvements in U.S. counterintelligence
and secret intelligence, including CIA, and Dave read it and wrote George
Elsey, "Didn't I understand" (this was in longhand on the draft), "that
there was a good group reviewing the CIA setup and procedure -- Admiral
Souers." (Admiral Sidney Souers was then the executive secretary of the
National Security Council -- no, by this time, I guess he was director
of the CIA, either had been or was. He was for a time director of CIA,
and I've forgotten whether -- he was either in that job or at the White
House at this time. I guess he was at the White House by this time.) "Has
Admiral Souers ever seen this document. It’s fairly stimulating to me,
as a layman at least. DB" That's David Bell. And George Elsey wrote, "Steve:
Won't you show this to Souers. I think he should see it and so should
Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter had replaced Souers as director of CIA.
I'll give you that to Xerox and return.
Here is a document that to me is at least rather fascinating. In 1948
I wrote three articles which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post,
November 27, December 4 and December 11, 1948, called "How We Caught Spies
in World War II," about the many hundreds of German agents, actually they
were virtually all Italians, because it was in Italy, that we captured
them during World War II. I was commanding officer of the Fifth Army Counter
Intelligence Corps throughout the Italian campaign, 1943 to 1945. Now,
my article was sold by my agent to several foreign publications. It was
sold in France to France Soir the largest circulation newspaper
in France; it was sold in Italy to a publication called Tempo in
Milan; I think it was sold in Indonesia, and in other places. A month
or two after my article appeared in Tempo in Milan, in Italian
of course, an answer appeared, a two-article series called: "The Italian
Spies Reply to Spingarn." It was by a fellow known as Georgio Pisano,
who was a German spy during the war who knew Carla Costa, whom I've
referred to, and others.
His thesis, in effect, was that I was bragging about something that wasn't
much to brag about because he was satisfied on the basis of his information
and what he had seen, that a double agent, a defector in German espionage
circles, had turned over to us a total list of all the German and Italian
spies, and so it was sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. It hadn't
been our great work, it was just that some traitor had sold them out.
Well, it wasn't quite that simple. He was wrong. The fact of the matter
is that most of our information about Italian agents was done by sweat,
that is by lengthy interrogation of captured agents about the people they'd
been trained with and associated with on the other side, you see. That
was where most of it came from. It is true that we, that is, the allies,
had double agents in German ranks, in the Abwehr, for instance.
The fact of the matter was we, that is, the allies, did have German intelligence
officers on our payroll, as it were, but we couldn't use their information
on suspects unless we got it independently from our own
sources, otherwise, we'd have blown them. You see, they were too valuable
to blow that easily, do you follow me?
SPINGARN: If they reported to us who their agents were and we had no
other information, it would soon become apparent that it was an internal
leak. So we had to have outside information. So it was a matter of policy
at the highest level, that no agent was ever reported even though known
to us, until we had independently confirmed it. Thus, we saved these valuable
double agents, you see, who were too valuable to be blown for mere names
of the agents they could disclose.
So, we really got our information the hard way from interrogating suspects
and captured agents. It was like a snowball. Initially we weren't catching
many, and then the flow became greater. In the beginning of the Italian
campaign, we caught very few agents for the first year. But then we knocked
the German air force out of the air, virtually, for all practical purposes,
and they had to substitute ground espionage for aerial photography and
reconnaissance, which is indispensable to any army. So they tried to do
by mass espionage efforts, and by sending spies over in great numbers.
And then we began to catch them in droves. And every spy we caught, of
course, knew other spies, because they were trained together, and they
went out on missions together. So, in this way, we built up an enormous
list. In fact, after a while, the problem was how to make the list usable,
there were so many names on it.
I was complaining. Every day, sometimes two or three times a day, from
the Fifteenth Army Group, our higher headquarters, would come down a list
of names and identifications, physical indicia, and other facts about
new agents, known and suspected. With fifty or a hundred of these sheets
in your hand, each one alphabetical in itself, but not together, it was
almost useless. So I urged higher headquarters to put this in a pamphlet
form, with all the names alphabetical and then cross references to the
basic memoranda which contained further details on the individual agents,
stuff that one of our CIC agents could put in his pocket and carry around
and use as a screening device.
This violated many concepts of security, but it met the key precept which
is, "Get things done." This
was classified information, but our people were carrying it around in
their pockets. And it turned out to be very useful. In the meanwhile the
lists would come down with the new memorandum, and our agents were instructed
-- there were spaces between each name -- to write in longhand, at the
proper alphabetical point, the new names as they came down. Then every
month or two all of them were collated and a new pamphlet was put out.
This was a good working tool, in screening people. Of course, each office
and sub-office in my outfit had the total file of memoranda, of all the
supporting documents. So it was not true at all, as my spy friend, Mr.
Pisano, thought, that we had found all those names at one crack, or been
given them all by some German traitor. At least that was his theory of
the thing. This is a translation of this Italian's, the spy for the Germans,
two articles in the magazine, Tempo, which I give you to Xerox
and return to me.
HESS: Does that pretty well wind that up?
Twelfth Oral History Interview with Stephen J. Spingarn, Washington,
D.C., March 28, 1967. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: What would you like to discuss this afternoon, sir?
SPINGARN: To start with, I want to turn over to you, Jerry, the large
batch of material in this folder here, which I will ask you to have Xeroxed
and returned to me. There are some things that I might just briefly mention.
Here, for instance, is a newspaper story from the New York Times
of the 1950 convention of the National Counter Intelligence Corps
Association, and there is a picture of General Mark Clark, who was our
principal speaker, and others including myself.
I was at that time administrative assistant to President Truman and I
had served as Mark Clark's Fifth Army Counter Intelligence Corps commander
in the Italian campaign. I carried up to the convention for Mr. Truman,
a message to the National Counter Intelligence Corps convention which,
in fact, I had drafted, commending them and the work they had done, but
warning against "Gestapo tactics" by CIC or other U.S. security personnel.
I'll just put this in the folder here.
Here is an extremely interesting letter, to me at
least, a longhand letter of 19 January 1945, from Lewis Mumford to me.
He says: "Today we received your note about young Geddes." Geddes was
Lewis' nineteen year old son, his only, son, who was killed in action
while an infantry rifleman, point man for his platoon, in Italy, in September,
1944. This is now four months later, and at his request relayed through
my mother, I had made an investigation of the circumstances surrounding
Geddes' death and sent the report of this to my mother to pass on to Lewis.
He later, as I have already said, wrote a book, a beautiful book about
Geddes called Green Memories, in which he incorporated some of
the material I had written. I think this is particularly interesting in
view of my recent, late '66 and '67, correspondence with Lewis about our
Vietnam involvement, and the atrocities in Vietnam.
I've always felt Geddes' death may have had a great deal to do with Lewis
returning to his position of idealistic pacifist which he had been in
the twenties, before my father persuaded him that this didn't make sense
in a world in which aggression was on the move.
There is also a letter somewhere in this folder from Hiram Bingham, who
was chairman of the Central
Loyalty Review Board of the Government.
Hiram Bingham was a conservative Republican, he had been United States
Senator from Connecticut, and he was chairman of the Loyalty Review Board,
which supervised the work of the agency loyalty boards during the Truman
administration. This letter was to Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder,
congratulating him on the fine record that the Treasury had had, and the
good work its loyalty board had done in the loyalty field. This letter
is dated 1951. I think it's interesting in the light of what I had to
say about the handling of Treasury loyalty cases, three or four years
earlier in '47, in connection with the disclosures that came to the Treasury
abruptly in the middle of the deliberations of the Truman Commission on
As an afterthought, I might add, in connection with Mr. Bingham's letter,
in 1953, that is two years later, I was acting chairman of the Federal
Trade Commission and I was engaged in a public debate with the international
oil companies answering their attacks on the Federal Trade Commission
because of the publication of the FTC staff report on the international
petroleum cartel, the international oil monopoly. They had a pamphlet
prepared, which contained attacks on the Commission which they sent to
Government officials and opinion molders in sixty-seven countries, and
one of these attacks said, "Remembering Alger Hiss, we think that everyone
in the Federal Trade Commission, who had anything to do with the oil report
should be investigated by the FBI."
I went to Mr. Bingham, who was then still chairman of the Loyalty Review
Board for the whole Government, who was in our own building, a tenant
of the Federal Trade Commission as it were, and I asked him to give us
a letter similar to the one he had given John Snyder, because we had had
possibly an even better record. We had never found it necessary to prefer
charges against any employee of the Federal Trade Commission on a loyalty
matter. Mr. Bingham said that he thought he could do so only if the White
House authorized him to do it. I then called up Donald Dawson, who handled
such matters at the White House, and asked him if he saw any objection
to doing that, and he said no, he thought it was a good idea, and he authorized
me to tell Bingham that and I went back to Bingham and told him that but
he still wouldn't give me the letter. And then he went into a
At this time Mr. Bingham was close to eighty, and he told me he had to
consider his future, that there were a lot of people attacking him, that
Mrs. Roosevelt had been over to the White House only the other day, he
said, and that he was sure that she was over there to attack him and so
forth and so on. I found it rather interesting and, frankly, rather amusing,
but I didn't get my letter.
I have to say that I felt a certain admiration for a man of eighty who
was thinking about his future, but that didn't get me my letter.
Now also in connection with the question of Communists in Government
in the Truman administration, I have here a newspaper clipping from the
Evening Star of October 2, 1952, that was during the middle of
the 1952 campaign between Eisenhower and Stevenson and it contains a long
statement by General Bedell Smith who was then director of the Central
Intelligence Agency, and who, of course, had been General Eisenhower's
chief of staff throughout the African and European campaigns, and he says
that both nominees, that is both General Eisenhower and Governor Stevenson
agreed not to make the CIA a campaign issue. Here is a quote from General
It would be well if there were no further serious attempts to exploit
either this organization (the CIA) or the general subject (of Communists
in Government) for political purposes, as in my opinion plans for
Communist elimination from sensitive places in the Government and
the machinery which implements these plans are about as effective
as can be devised under our American system.
This is General Bedell Smith, General Eisenhower's chief of staff, and
then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, talking in the middle
of the 1952 presidential campaign.
HESS: At a time when it was a very hot issue.
SPINGARN: In the middle of McCarthism, at a time when it was a very hot
issue, and a lot of mileage was being won or lost on that ground. Here
is the program of the third annual National Counter Intelligence Corps
convention in New York, in 1950. The program says, among the other things
on the program is: "Message from President Truman delivered to convention
by Stephen J. Spingarn, administrative assistant to the President." Here
is some interesting, well, interesting to me if no one else, souvenirs
the war years. Here, for instance, is a letter I wrote from Italy on
19 March 1945, to Alberto Tarchiani to congratulate him on his recent
appointment as Ambassador to the United States. I had met him in the first
weeks of the Italian campaign during the Salerno beachhead phase, and
other momentoes and letters of the war period. I notice with amusement
here, an organizational chart which I made for my Counter Intelligence
Corps outfit before we went into Italy, showing how we planned to operate.
Being a good bureaucrat, I naturally thought in terms of an organization
chart, and, after all, you had to organize them somehow, and I want to
say that this may look good on paper, but it never works at all like this,
it just never worked that way at all, and that's been my experience with
most organization charts that are prepared before an operation, they just
never work out that way at all.
Here is this thing all beautifully typed up, the same organization chart,
"Approved, Stephen J. Spingarn, Major, MI, commanding," yes, sir.
I have here copies of, for instance, the CIC Reporter for June,
1948; July, 1948 and some other
issues. The cover of the June issue is called, "The Future of CIC" and
it has headlined "Taylor," who was an assistant to the Secretary of the
Army, I think, in which he says:
The CIC inherited some wartime conditions, many factors which could
no longer be justified as necessities. I am satisfied that there has
been almost day-to-day improvements and corrections that were necessary
to the organization.
It has a quote from me under the heading "Spingarn" and I say:
Ignorance of even the fundamentals of counterintelligence was displayed
by top War Department counterintelligence personnel who visited us
overseas during World War II. This setup will not be good enough for
World War III [which I hope never happens].
And there is, by the way, my program for CIC and CI, starting in this
issue and continuing into the next, which I presented to the Joint Chiefs
of Staff as well as to the National Counter Intelligence Corps Association,
and I also drafted a resolution summarizing and endorsing my program.
It was unanimously adopted by the convention of the National CIC Association
in '48 and readopted in '49, '50, '51, '52 and I think right up to 1953,
and submitted to the President and others. I have here, also, the transcript,
after I submitted my recommendation
to the Joint Chiefs of Staff through General Gruenther, who was then
the staff director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who later became Supreme
NATO commander under President Truman, as I recall, and who had been my
chief of staff at 5th Army, at the end of the African and throughout the
He set up a staff committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before which
I testified, this is my testimony on my recommendations, before that staff
committee, is '48, but in '52, Lawton Collins who was Army Chief of Staff
under President Truman, wrote me a letter which I have included in other
papers I have given you, which says a number of my recommendations had
been put into effect.
There are many other things in here, but I'll just let them speak for
There is one thing here that I think is of interest -- has great human
qualities -- and that is my Carla Costa correspondence file. I already
described how I wrote the three articles in the Saturday Evening Post,
and then I got a letter from Carla Costa. You could see that secretly
she loved the publicity I was giving her. But she said it wasn't true
that she had ever been a
stool pigeon or squealed. Here is my correspondence with her, and also
I asked my mother to look her up in 1959 and Mother bravely did so and
invited Carla to her hotel in Rome and the two ladies spent the afternoon
together having tea and dissecting me, and here is Mother's longhand letter
to me describing her interview with Carla Costa. It's rather amusing and
I certainly want you to take good care of it because I want it back. I
may write some more about Carla Costa someday, she was an interesting
young lady. As a matter of fact, what I would like to do is to get some
good journalist who is in Rome, to look her up and write a story about
where is she now and what is her thinking now, this is more than twenty
years after the war. Carla would be around forty now, she was eighteen
or so when we arrested her. When Mother saw her, she was as good a Fascist
as ever, I suspect she still is, she was a child of fascism. She was a
very brave young woman, we couldn't help admiring her heroism, even in
spite of her benighted ideas.
Now here is an item that is interesting. While I was at the White House,
I received, from a fellow whom I could remember (if at all), only in the
but addressed to me as "Steve," and writing on the letterhead of the
American Associated Insurance Companies, he was evidentially a CIC veteran
whom I had met at a CIC convention, among other things he wrote:
A client of mine has a war reparation claims pending against the
Netherlands Government but is getting the well known run around. This
claim concerns some fourteen thousand of personal properties and so
forth. It's been kicked around for several years now and the best
settlement offer he has received to date is three hundred dollars.
My client, who is just about to abandon the claim to a lost cause,
said you could practically write your own ticket as to the fee, in
fact it was offered to me on a fifty percent contingent basis on anything
recovered over the three hundred dollar original offer. With the potential
recovery of the full amount, we would all fare handsomely. I would
appreciate it, Steve, if you would give it some thought. If you are
in a position to handle that matter, let me know and I'll secure full
He's writing to an administrative assistant to the President whom he
thinks will take a case against a foreign government on a fee, I mean,
I don't think he did this in bad faith, you know, the matter is perfectly
openly stated, he thinks that maybe I practice law on the side.
I couldn't believe that an intelligent man would think that this would
be possible, you know, and I wrote
him a letter which is pretty sharp, in fact, very, very sharp. This is
July 11, 1950:
Dear Mr. ____________:
While you addressed me as "Steve" I do not remember meeting you,
though I assume from the context of your letter I must have done so
at the last CIC convention. I received your letter of July 8th this
morning and it nearly shocked me out of a year's growth. I have been
almost sixteen years in the Government, including my three years overseas
with the Counter Intelligence Corps, and I'm frank to say that I have
never been approached so blandly with so insulting a suggestion as
the one contained in your letter, that I, a Government official, should
represent in attorney capacity, a client of yours attempting to obtain
settlement of a war reparation claim pending against the Netherlands
Government. Is it really possible that you could, apparently in good
faith, make such a suggestion which is so contrary to the most minimum
standard of good morals and ethics? I am frank to say that I'm deeply
disturbed by the thought that a fellow veteran of CIC, an organization
for which I have great fondness, could even entertain such a cynical
and contemptuous attitude towards his Government and its employees,
much less put it into words. I hope, indeed, that this does not reflect
the standards of ordinary decency and fair play with which your CIC
outfit operated during the war.
This is a pretty rough letter but I believe that yours rated it.
I am compelled to say that I think you owe me an apology. Very truly
yours, Stephen J. Spingarn, Administrative Assistant to the President.
This was a rough letter, perhaps too rough, but I was mad when I read
that letter of his. I mean I don't think
there was anything corrupt about it. It just never occurred to him that
there was anything wrong about this. He was very above-board about the
whole thing, but he's a lawyer, you understand. That he could have really
thought that a presidential assistant would act as an attorney in a claim
against another Government, my goodness! And then he writes me, this time
he writes Mr. Stephen J. Spingarn:
Dear Sir; [This is July 28, 1950.] With considerable esteem I regard
your letter of July 11, 1950, as truly a literary masterpiece. It
clearly reflects your heroic stature and qualities of statesmanship.
[Dripping with sarcasm.] It is encouraging to note that a man of your
astute perception stands near the helm of our ship of state ready
to assist our skipper through troubled waters. I trust the tact and
diplomacy you employed, is characteristic of that generally practiced
in Washington today. Sincerely, Thomas H. ___________.
P.S. Ste – whoops -- never again shall I take thy sainted name in
vain. Me thinks you are working too hard. When that over inflated
cranium of yours returns to normal, reread my letter of July 8. In
good faith I extended to you an honorable business proposition provided
you were in a position to engage in the private practice of law and
I thought I made it quite clear that offer was for your consideration
only in the event that you could so practice. Any other interpretation
is of your own construction.
Well, now I read all of this with considerable
amusement, I'm frank to say, but at the time I was angry because it seemed
to me that no one should have thought that there was any possibility that
a presidential assistant could handle such a case. What kind of a Government
would it be if such things happened. It would be a Government riddled
HESS: That particular letter is already in your papers at the Library.
I remembered it when you started reading that.
SPINGARN: Well, I'll throw it in anyway. You can hitch it up with the
HESS: It's been quite a while, several years since I've read it.
SPINGARN: But this fits into my concept of ethics in Government. The
first thing is to make people understand what are ethical principles of
Government, not to treat their Government with contempt or to think that
Government is composed of people of low ethics that can easily be corrupted
or at least persuaded to do things that are unethical, if not worse.
Now, here too, is material -- well, I guess this is mostly personal.
One of the things it contains is the legislative history of the Foreign
Statute and the extension made of it by the first War Powers Act of December
18, 1941, on which I worked. Does that strike any responsive chord? I'm
pretty sure there's a copy in the Truman Library already.
HESS: There could well be. I just don't know.
SPINGARN: I'm pretty sure there is. The point is, it simply recites the
fast moving events that night after Pearl Harbor, revolved around immediately
getting war powers legislation through, particularly with respect to the
extension of foreign property control, which meant blocking the efforts
of the enemy to use assets in this country of the nationals of countries
whom they'd overrun and could control.
There was a fight after the legislation was passed, even while it was
still pending, there was a big fight between the Treasury and Justice
Department as to who was going to get that job -- foreign property control
and the alien property custodian function. Each department had its own
draft of legislation, but the Justice hadn't been very bright. Their idea
of what to do was simply to re-enact the World War I Alien Property Control
Act and that's what they did. That was the way the bill
originally went up. And when we got up before the House Judiciary Committee,
they looked at the old act, and it talked about kingdoms no longer in
existence and it was obsolete in so many respects that they said, "How
can you re-enact something that isn't applicable, isn't pertinent in many
respects?" The Justice people kind of stuttered then because it really
didn't make sense. They needed new legislation, you see.
Now the Treasury had a draft, it was only a page or two long and theirs
was dozens, the old act was many pages long. Ours was a flexible thing,
and functions under it could be put anywhere.
The old statute definitely put it in Justice, ours let it up to the President
to decide. That left it open and we could still fight for it to function
in Treasury. I had it in my pocket. We were riding back in a cab from
that first meeting when the committee had looked askance at this extension
of re-enactment of an obsolete statute, and Oscar Cox, who was then Assistant
Solicitor General representing the Attorney General and he was really
quarterbacking this deal, on this bill. Oscar had been a Treasury lawyer
until not very long before that and I knew him well. I knew he liked flexibility,
if he liked anything he liked flexibility in legislation. He didn't like
long spelled-out statutes, he liked things with a lot of room for delegation
and maneuver. So I took this out of my pocket and I showed it to Oscar,
and I said this thing will do it and it will do it very easily and quickly
and with lots of flexibility, I gave him a little sales talk and he bought
it right away and that was the thing that went into the bill instead of
the Justice draft.
When Justice learned about that, they were fit to be tied they were so
mad, oh, they were fit to be tied. And I can remember one Sunday, Oscar
Cox presided at a debate, you might call it, between Justice and Treasury
in his office as to whether to go back to some Justice version, they by
then had their own revised draft, which was definitely going to put it
in Justice, or keep the Treasury's version which by now was already in
the bill, you see, and they argued that ours was unconstitutional, too
broad a delegation and all sorts of things.
Frank Shea was the Justice Department lawyer and he was then Assistant
Attorney General in charge of the
claims division, and he was going to be, obviously, the alien property
custodian if this thing went through, so he had a wide personal interest
in this thing as well as a departmental interest. Oscar Cox had Francis
Biddle, who was Attorney General, he had Francis Biddle's proxy, he was
going to decide this debate right then and there that Sunday, and Shea
was there with an assistant and I was there with -- he wasn't my assistant,
but at this particular moment I was in charge of the Treasury team, Ansel
Luxford, a very able lawyer now practicing law in this city and the debate
went on before Oscar for some time, and after a while Oscar closed the
debate, and he said he was satisfied, he'd go along with the Treasury
draft, and Frank Shea was so mad, I'll never forget it, I mean, there
was still some details to be tidied up. Frank Shea cracked his hat on
his head, his face broke into a black storm, and without a word he stormed
out of there -- mad, mad, mad -- he left his assistant behind to carry
on with the details, I'll always remember that little episode. As events
turned out, we won the battle, but we didn't win the war. We got the provision
in there which would have permitted it to be in
Treasury, but eventually the alien property function was put in the Department
of Justice. That's an amusing item. A few minutes ago, I referred to that
letter that Hiram Bingham wrote to Secretary Snyder congratulating him.
Here's the letter, November 7, 1951:
The Honorable Secretary of the Treasury [That's John Snyder, although
his name is not mentioned.] My dear Mr. Secretary: In reviewing the
accomplishments of the various executive agencies under the loyalty
program, I have been so favorably impressed with the record established
by the Treasury Department that I am tempted to send you my congratulations.
The efficient and prompt manner in which your Department has always
handled matters concerning loyalty, has won our wholehearted appreciation.
I have also been impressed by the remarkable work done by your Department
in keeping out ineligible persons concerning whose loyalty there might
be reasonable doubt. I thought it might interest you to know that
a fine record for loyalty has been made by the Treasury Department.
Cordially yours, Hiram Bingham, Chairman, Loyalty Review Board.
Remember Hiram Bingham was a conservative Republican who had been Senator
from Connecticut, and I might add a funny story about this. This letter
is dated November 7, 1951. In January, 1953, or December, 1952, I went
in to see Mr. Bingham, as I've mentioned, to get a letter for the Federal
Trade Commission along these lines. I had a copy of this letter and I
waved it in his
face. I, after all, had set up the Treasury Loyalty Board, Don Hansen
and I, he was my assistant, had written the regulations and I was the
legal member, and I had gotten it started so that I felt that I was much
involved in whatever this letter said about the Treasury's record. He
said to me -- now, of course he was trying to fight off my attempt to
get a letter from him for the Federal Trade Commission -- "Oh," he said,
"that letter has risen to haunt me before," or words to that effect. He
said, "You know how that letter got written?"
I said, "No, tell me."
He said, "Well, John Snyder had me over to the Metropolitan Club one
night and we had a few drinks together and he asked me for this letter
and in a weak moment I agreed to give it to him." He said, "I've regretted
it ever since."
Well, maybe so, but the fact remains that he may have had a few drinks
when he agreed to write it, but he wrote it, and he wrote it on the basis
of the record of the Treasury Department and he had the files and he reviewed
their cases and I'm sure he wasn't lying when he said they had a good
they did have a good record, and all he was sorry about was that he had
written a letter saying that, because that meant that other agencies might
come to him and try to get letters out of him of that sort, and he didn't
want to go passing letters of that sort out like decorations on a Christmas
tree. There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamed of in
your philosophy, Horatio or Hiram too.
HESS: Want to look through those papers there a minute?
SPINGARN: Yes, I think so. As I have pointed out, in the 1966 campaign,
I was requested to and did a lot of writing. I gave more than seven hundred
hours of volunteer services to the Democratic National Committee and the
party in that campaign, and I spent over six hundred dollars of my own
money, out of my pocket, for which I asked no reimbursement, except an
acknowledgement of it as my contribution to my party. I facetiously asked
that I also receive an acknowledgement of seven hundred odd hours of services
at $1.25 an hour, which was then the minimum wage, although in February
1967 it was to go up to $1.50, but I didn't claim the higher rates.
The total amounted to over $1500; I note that a
lawyer in this city gets at least $30 an hour for his time, so on that
basis my contribution would be on the order of over $20,000, that's $30
an hour, and that's the minimum, the high priced lawyers get a lot more
than that. This is what any lawyer would charge, about $30 an hour; I
mean, the ones with reputations charge a lot more.
Anyway, to give you an example of how moribund the committee was in 1966,
here is one fact sheet called, "The Last Stretch of the Campaign" which
I wrote. It's an account of the glorious achievements of the glorious
89th Congress, which is one of the three best Congresses in American history,
the others being the first Wilson Congress in 1913 and '14,and the first
Franklin Roosevelt Congress in 1933 and '34. Quite possibly the 89th is
better than those two which would make it the best U.S. Congress, at least
from the standpoint of anyone who is not to the right of center, I mean,
any moderate, or progressive or liberal person.
Well, I wrote this on October 5th, now mind you, Congress didn't adjourn
until October 22, 1966, I wrote this on October 5th. The national committee,
at that time, had two publications about the achievements of the
89th Congress both of which had closed their books in 1965 a year earlier,
although this was the middle of the '66 campaign, and many of its best
achievements came in '66. So I wrote this thing. I sent it to the committee
on October 5th with a notation that it should be updated when the Congress
adjourned to report later achievements -- because in the last two or three
weeks of Congress, the bills go churning through like crazy, and in the
last two or three weeks of the 89th Congress in October '66, I would say
a third of all the major measures were passed, of the whole Congress perhaps,
somewhere around a quarter or a third, a very large share.
Well, I turned it over to them on the 5th, they didn't put the thing
out until about the 25th, three weeks later, that was three days after
adjournment, and they didn't update it, despite the fact that I had written
them that it could be done in fifteen or twenty minutes. I wasn't writing
extensive items, I was just saying a line or two about each major measure.
I could have done it myself if they had given it back to me, in twenty
or thirty minutes at the most, but no, the committee with its research
division and all that didn't
have the time or the perspicacity to do it, typical of their operation
in the '66 campaign.
Here's another example. On October 9th I wrote a long fact sheet, a ten
page fact sheet, on how to answer the Republican charge that we Democrats
were the party of high prices and inflation. The next day I gave a copy
to the committee, but knowing that they moved with glacial speed, I went
down to a printer and had three hundred copies whipped off at my own expense
-- $110 -- and then I started sending them out air mail special delivery
all over the country, and special delivery in the city of Washington,
to the White House people, the Cabinet, and congressional leaders and
many other Congressmen and others -- in each case with a personalized
letter. This is the way to do it.
The committee didn't put my thing out as an official DNC publication
till the 27th. Now while mine was being printed, that is between the 10th
and 12th, it was dated the 13th, it actually came off the press the 12th,
there was a change, a new figure, I think it was unemployment came out,
and it dropped the unemployment figure a notch, one tenth of one percent,
a little bit more favorable. So I went down to the printer and
corrected it from let us say 3.9 to 3.8 or maybe it was 3.8 to 3.7 as
the unemployment figure -- I did that. When I turned it over to
the national committee and they printed it, they corrected it back to
the old figure, they have a research division, but they didn't have the
latest figures, and I had changed it in midstream. I think this is just
a detail, it didn't make that much difference, but it simply meant that
they weren't on their toes. They with their research staff...
HESS: It did show that they weren't keeping up with the changes.
SPINGARN: They weren't keeping up with the changes; I had made a change
while the thing was at the printers to the latest figure which had just
come out while it was at the printers, it came out between the 10th and
12th of October. They didn't put it out until about the 27th and they
corrected it back to the one-month old figure, which was the latest they
evidently knew about.
Incidentally, the longer I live, the longer I realize that packaging
is very important in the presentation of ideas. Don't sell Madison Avenue
short. I mean, we kid a lot about Madison Avenue presentation, but Madison
Avenue knows what it's doing. In particular
things you may think it's pretty phony, but the fact remains, over and
over again I have found that a mediocre idea well presented will prevail,
and a good idea badly presented will fail. So presentation is very important.
Right now I'm talking about voter education. I'm talking about the materials
that you put out in a campaign which you want your side to use in defending
your side of the case. Just mailing it out is not good enough. The way
to do it, first of all, is to send it to key people all over the country,
the people who influence other people and the people who are at the point
of a pyramid from which other politicians and political groups depend.
And when you send it to them, don't send it to them cold, send it with
a personal letter explaining the importance and the value and how it can
be used, and send it in a package special delivery, festooned with magic
markers – expedite – important – urgent -- you know, all that stuff, make
something that will get through the outer guard, so the secretary brings
it right in to the big man, and it looks like an important document and
he starts reading it. If you send it by ordinary mail without personalized
letters, it probably will end up in his
wastepaper basket or it may never get to him, some junior down the line
may look at it and throw it in his out box.
HESS: It will end up on the bottom of some stack.
SPINGARN: It will end up on the bottom of some stack, that's right. I
had a little example of that only today. This was in a different field.
I was so busy with this tape recording that I forget that I hadn't applied
for my new license tags in the District of Columbia and my registration
which has to be on your car by the 31st, this Friday. I looked at the
letter advising me of this, and they said they cannot guarantee unless
you put it in the mail by the 20th of March that they can deliver it to
you before the 31st. That would mean I would have to go down and stand
in a long line to get it which is a bloody nuisance.
I didn't want to do that, so Sunday, two days ago, I wrote a personal
to Mr. England, the director of motor vehicles, whom I do not know, except
I've had correspondence with him on one or two occasions. I wrote him
a personal letter. Dear Mr. England (in effect I said), Through negligence
I have failed to do this until now. I have been very busy, and while I
that's not a very good excuse, I hope it will commend itself to you that
the business has been mostly caused by the fact that I have been tape
recording my memories of the Truman administration for the Truman Library.
You know, almost everyone thinks well of Harry Truman now, his stock is
on the rise, and people who called him terrible names once upon a time,
now think admiringly of old Harry, they wish he were back and things like
that. So I put my check in the envelope, this is Sunday, two days ago,
and I put a special delivery stamp and the usual magic marker red and
blue paintings on the outside. Today I got my license tag, two days it
took, you see.
HESS: You know how to expedite things.
SPINGARN: That's the way to do it. I am speaking about a general modus
operandi. This applies to all the things I'm talking about. Do it that
way with a personal message and a special delivery stamp.
One other thing I want to tell you about the Democratic National Committee
while I'm on it. Every businessman knows that to get volunteer services,
you should remember that you are getting them for free, and one thing
they expect is recognition of the fact that
they have given free valuable service. This is the cheapest thing on
earth. All it involves is a good letter from an important person. Every
corporation knows that, but the Democratic National Committee doesn't.
Traditionally, you never get any thanks from the committee for anything
you do for them. The only way I've ever gotten thanks is by being absolutely
obnoxious and writing letter after letter demanding them, you see. This
is ridiculous isn't it?
I went out on the road for the Democratic National Committee in the '64
campaign for a week, at the end of the campaign, unpaid, of course, a
volunteer, I enjoyed it, but still I thought I was entitled to a letter
from somebody, at least John Bailey, maybe the President, because it was
at a specific White House request that I went out, not the committee.
Did I ever get such a letter? No.
Similarly in this campaign, I performed valuable services. I know I did.
I mean that they used my stuff -- they put it out as their own publication,
and I worked hard -- seven hundred odd hours -- over $600 out of my own
pocket -- I was not even a volunteer. I was invited by them to work for
them, asked. Did I get
a letter? No. I didn't get a letter until I had (a) written one letter
to John Bailey, that didn't work; (b) another letter to John Criswell,
and (c) I got Dave Chewning, a fine chap, who was a Democratic National
Committee official and who was the national director of "Operation Support"
who was the fellow who solicited me to work for them, I got him to help
me, and eventually I got a mild letter from Bailey, which didn't satisfy
me, and then I got a good letter from John Criswell. It took two or three
months, and considerable effort on my part to get my services thanked
for. You know that was ridiculous. There ought to be -- I mean I'm giving
this advice to the Democratic National Committees of the future -- there
ought to be a laid-on program that everybody, however lowly, who works
for the committee as a volunteer, gets a nice letter, at least from the
chairman, oh it can be facsimile letters, it's no problem. And when they
do more than routine services, it probably should be from the President
of the United States, that's the way it should be.
Matt Reese, the very able head of the registration, get-out-the-vote
division of the committee from 1961
through the 1964 campaign and into '65, knew that. He had in his "get-out-the-vote"
pamphlet, a laid-on thing so that these thousands and thousands of volunteers
were going immediately to receive a facsimile letter from Lyndon Johnson,
the President of the United States, thanking them, and they were only
going to do a few days work. These are the wellsprings of human motivation,
this is the way you get them back again; they will proudly display that
letter for years to come, and it's the cheapest thing on earth. Now why
doesn't the national committee know that?
I have here a large pile of materials, most of which speak for themselves,
some of which I think I would like to comment on briefly. Here, for example,
is a memorandum of May, 1964, summarizing my files, the material in my
files about the Consumer Dollar Study which President Truman asked the
Federal Trade Commission to launch in September of 1952, and which we
had begun work on when the new administration came in and killed it immediately,
but dead, and nailed the coffin lid down. I have been trying to revive
it since 1964, and this is the material I gave Esther Peterson at that
time, and she was much interested in
it and the White House people showed interest, and Bill Wirtz, Secretary
of Labor, showed interest in it. He wrote me: "Dear Steve, This thing
has real guts, I hadn't heard about it. I'm going to try and see what
I can do about it." I've talked to him since, and last month February
23rd, Senator Brewster of Maryland, to whom Esther Peterson's office had
given my material on loan, announced on the floor of the Senate that he
was going to introduce a bill to have the Federal Trade Commission make
a Truman type Consumer Dollar Study, and I have been up and talked to
his staff man who is working on that, Shep Abels, I think his name is,
and I plan to follow up on that, too. Yesterday or the day before, I wrote
to Mrs. Esther Peterson's successor, the fair Betty Furness of refrigerator
fame -- national conventions and refrigerator fame -- and I told her that
I hoped that I could get together with her for lunch or something when
she comes down here. She's going to be down here on a full-time basis
about May lst, and I mentioned this Consumer Dollar Study which I hope
to get her support for now that she's replaced Esther Peterson in that
job. So there's that item. I think I've previously mentioned that item
HESS: Yes, I think we have a copy of that.
SPINGARN: Now here is a quotation from The Presidency and Individual
Liberties by Richard P. Longaker, published by the Cornell University
Press, 1961. Longaker was then an assistant professor at Kenyon College
as I remember. An assistant professor of history who interviewed me back
sometime before this book was written, around '60 I suppose, 1960 or thereabouts
or earlier. He said -- this is quoted from pages 59 and 60:
The White House will always find it difficult to combat the natural
alliance between the police agencies of the administration and security
minded members of Congress, but it is possible for the President to
oppose these natural affinities by making his wishes specifically
and completely clear. In this concern a letter from President Truman
to his Attorney General concerning internal security legislation might
be titled "A Model Statement of Presidential Intent."
And I set out below in its entirety what is actually a memorandum from
President Truman to Attorney General McGrath, dated May 19, 1950, which
is the document Mr. Longaker referred to. It was drafted by me after discussion
with President Truman. I was then his administrative assistant.
I have asked Steve Spingarn to talk to you about ways and means of
improving executive branch policy formulation in the field of internal
security legislation. He knows my views and I shall be glad if you
will discuss the matter fully with him. In summary this is my thinking
on this matter. Our internal security laws must be adequate. To the
extent that they are not adequate now, they should be strengthened.
Excessive security, however, can be as dangerous as inadequate security.
Excessive security brings normal administrative operations to a standstill,
prevents the entertaining of ideas necessary to scientific progress
and, most important of all, encroaches on the individual rights and
freedoms .which distinguish a democracy from a totalitarian country.
Every proposal for new internal security laws, therefore, should be
carefully scrutinized not only from the standpoint of how much will
it add to national security, but also from the standpoint of the other
considerations noted above and particularly the last. Harry S. Truman.
Now I have talked about the oil cartel report. This is a column from
Drew Pearson, January 3, 1953, it's called "Oil Baby for Ike," in other
words, this is seventeen days before Eisenhower became President, he was
President-elect. Secretary of Defense Lovett was a Republican, but he
was Truman's last Secretary of Defense, and here's what Drew Pearson says:
Secretary of Defense Lovett is moving heaven and earth to kidnap
an embarrassing baby from the doorstep of General Eisenhower before
he becomes President. It is the Justice Department's grand jury probe
of the big oil companies who are operating international cartels in
alleged violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act,
also a sixty-seven million dollar civil suit brought by the Justice
Department against certain oil companies for overcharging the Government.
Lovett, himself a Republican, wants to get rid of both before the
Republicans take over because it will be extremely embarrassing for
the Republicans to dismiss the two cases. It happens that the Rockefeller
family contributed eighty-five thousand dollars to the Eisenhower
campaign, H. R. Cullen, the big Texas oil man contributed around fifty
thousand while other oil moguls chipped in heavily, so if Eisenhower
should dismiss the two suits, it would look like a payoff. Lovett
has asked the National Security Council to consider the matter on
the grounds that the two suits would jeopardize the holdings of oil
companies in the Near East. He and Secretary of the Interior Oscar
Chapman have signed a report to this effect. Secretary of State Acheson
has abstained from signing because his law firm represents the Standard
Oil Company of New Jersey. Meanwhile the oil companies, especially
Standard of California and Texas, are hurting their own case by spreading
reports that the cases against them were inspired by Communists. They've
employed the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton which published
a booklet of oil companies' inspired editorials, castigating the Federal
Trade Commission and saying the Government generally is riddled with
Communists. This charge that the United States Government is Communist
dominated is being sent to sixty-seven foreign Governments and editors
and "molders of public opinion" in sixty-seven foreign countries.
(1) The Federal Trade Commissioner who sparkplugged the carefully
documented cartel reports on the oil companies is Stephen Spingarn
former attorney for the Secret Service, one of the most trusted organizations
in the Government. (2) What really hurts the American oil position
in the Near East is not lawsuits in the United States but British
wrangling with Iran. This not only has played into the Russian hands
but it's helped to
alienate the Arab world.
I'll put that in there too. Now in connection with that same oil cartel
report, here is a March 1, 1953, column by Drew Pearson called "Trade
Commission Row." He says:
The backstage details haven't been told, but two feuding Federal
Trade Commissioners have been trying to get their Commission to disown
and denounce each other. They are Lowell Mason, a Taft Republican
and Steve Spingarn, a Truman Democrat. Mason struck the first blow
by intriguing with his fellow commissioners to repudiate Spingarn.
All Spingarn had done was defend the Commission against attacks from
the oil companies which had accused the FTC of Communist tendencies
for investigating the international oil cartels. Mason, a big business
spokesman, got Chairman Jim Mead, former Senator from New York to
join him in a resolution to embarrass fellow commissioner Spingarn.
The resolution declared Spingarn was speaking for himself and not
for the FTC in denouncing the oil cartel even though it was the FTC
that originally exposed the cartels' price fixing. However, Commissioner
John Carson sided with Spingarn to deadlock the matter. Mason then
got the fifth member of the Commission, Albert Carretta, out of a
sick bed to vote against Spingarn. Carretta came to work just long
enough to cast his vote then went back to bed for another week. [This
is true. He had a fever and he got out of bed and he came up to cast
the deciding vote and then went back to bed again. It was funny, the
two other Democrats on the Commission voted against me with Mason.
Carson, an independent, with a Republican background, sided with me.
Continuing the Pearson item.] Irony is that Spingarn was repudiated
for defending the FTC while Mason has been critizing the FTC for seven
years. In speeches before business
groups, he has even compared the FTC theories to the thinking of
a Soviet Commissar named Krylenko. Using this as an excuse, Spingarn
drew up a resolution against Mason even parodying the language of
Mason's resolution against him. The lineup was the same. Carson voting
with Spingarn and Mead and Carretta voting against. As this deadlocked
the issue, Mason was able to remain aloof and disqualify himself from
voting. [Of course, when you offer a resolution, it has to carry by
a majority, a tie defeats it.] Note, in spite of Mason's blast at
his own agency, he doesn't want to abolish the FTC, he would be content,
he said, to change its 'muddled thinking.'
It's funny, you know, that Jim Mead should line up against me because
Jim and I were liberal Democrats and friends up until the point where
he thought I was taking over his prerogatives, when he appointed me acting
chairman, and people began to ask him if he'd resigned from the Commission
because it seemed to have a new chairman. But we made up later. He was
a great guy.
HESS: You think that was the reason he voted against you here?
SPINGARN: It was partly that, I think, and partly because, and perhaps
more so -- this is speculation, partly it was this -- I was being critical
of my own administration, because it was still the Democratic administration,
and I was criticizing the State Department and the National
Security Council and others for wanting to drop or downgrade these oil
investigations, and I was urging them to keep them going. Now everybody
seems to have some oil connection. I remember on one occasion I was trying
to find somebody at the State Department to discuss their position on
the oil thing with, and I went all around Robin Hood's barn. I talked
to an Assistant Secretary and the Under Secretary and the legal adviser
and any number of people, and each one said he had an oil connection,
his old law firm, or he was beneficiary of a trust which was in oil, and
I went around and around and each one said that he was not in a position
to discuss it because of that, but why don't you talk with so-and-so.
Finally after talking to six or eight men, I was referred back to the
man I started with. At that point I gave up.
HESS: Oil was pretty influential then.
SPINGARN: Oil was and always has been and will continue to be pretty
influential, there's no question about it. It has never made much sense
to me that Hunt and Murchison and Richardson, Cullen and these people
have built up fortunes of hundreds of millions, some say even a billion
dollars in one or two cases, such as
Paul Getty, largely on this oil depletion allowance, a tax gimmick. Now
I'm not saying that oil isn't entitled to some depletion allowance, but
not twenty-seven and a half percent. This has made some fabulous fortunes,
and it doesn't make sense to me, but then I'm not a Texan or an oilman
and maybe if I were it would make more sense, I don't know. Nobody has
ever been able to do anything about that and I don't see any prospects
in the near future that anybody's going to.
Here's another thing I'd like to mention, I don't think I have these
exact quotes before, but I have referred to them. The two main lines of
attack, that I know on Lyndon Johnson or two of them anyway, maybe there
are others, one is that they don't like his style, he's crude or he just
hasn't presidential style, and the other is that he is very mean to his
staff, you know, hard and brutal and tough to his staff. I wrote a letter
to the New York Times last November but they never published it.
I have some quotes here which I'd like to get into the record. I start
Recently two historians wrote of an eminent American politician:
'It was a smart thing for intellectuals in general and writers in
to hold the President up to ridicule thereby proving that they themselves
were sophisticated. They called him "timid" and "ignorant," a "man
of no education," they shouted that he was nothing but "poor white
trash" and so forth. Most of the outstanding newspapers at the beginning
of his term of office were opposed to him and remained so throughout,
indeed many mercilessly berated him, calling such names as a "half-witted
usurper," "simple Susan," "baboon" and the "head ghoul of Washington."
They were speaking of a man [I said] who had never gone to Harvard
and whose wife could not have spoken French to Andre Malraux. This
crude country bumpkin was named Abraham Lincoln.
By the way, in the interest of historical accuracy, I should correct
that statement because I believe that Mary Todd Lincoln could speak French.
She had had a pretty good education down in Kentucky, where she came from
a socially elite family, nevertheless, in principle this is true because
she was regarded as a backward provincial by the ladies of Washington.
Kentucky was not regarded as very fancy country, you see, in 1860, and
so she was treated as somewhat of a provincial, country cousin, even if
she had had a pretty fair education by the standards of the time. And
Lincoln himself had many of the characteristics of a country boy, many
of the characteristics, and they stayed with him, and were one of his
most endearing features, in the light of history anyway, whatever the
of that day, whatever the Hans Morgenthaus of that day may have thought
I was much amused by this great historian, Hans Morgenthau -- by the
way Hans Morgenthau is professor of both political science and history
at the University of Chicago, and I asked an eminent historian what the
historians thought of him, and he said they thought he was a political
scientist. I haven't asked the political scientists about him but maybe
they think he's an historian, that often happens.
Personally I don't think he's an historian because he said, in this terrible
article he wrote in the November 26, 1966, issue of The New Republic
called "Truth and Power," in which he mercilessly flayed Lyndon Johnson
as a ruthless, corrupt politician who was trying to silence the dissenters
among the intellectuals by either vilifying them or by corrupting them,
by giving them jobs, and he said there that Abraham Lincoln was the only
perfect combination known to history, of truth and power.
I say, "Hans, look back again, read the histories, you will find that
the people of your style were just as hard on Abraham Lincoln as you are
today on Lyndon
Johnson, and I predict for you, right now, Hans, that a century hence
the historians will say that Lyndon Johnson was a fine President, maybe
a great President." This partly depends on what happens in the rest of
his term. And I am sure they will say that about Harry Truman.
A few years ago, a representative group of historians, rating all the
Presidents in numerical order as to their views of their greatness, rated
Harry Truman eighth, as I recall, and think it quite likely that he might
step up to fifth or sixth in a century or even by the end of this century,
I'm sure he'll move ahead of Polk, they rated him peculiarly enough seventh
as I recall. I think it quite likely that he might move ahead of both
Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, I mean within the realms of possibility.
And that would leave only Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Andrew Jackson
ahead of him and maybe he will be matched with Andrew Jackson. He is the
same kind of man in many ways.
HESS: You're answering my questions before I even ask them.
SPINGARN: I continue this letter:
In 1966 a man who served under him had this
to say about a leading politician of our day: 'He was not kind and
considerate, he bothered nothing about us, he knew the names of only
those very close to him and would hardly let anyone else come into
his presence. He was free with abuse and complaint. He was exacting
beyond reason, and ruthlessly critical. He continuously exhibited
all the characteristics which one usually deplores and abominates
in the boss.'
That man was Winston Churchill, the book is called From My Level,
it's by a senior British servant of Churchill's period called George Mallaby.
In other words, Winston Churchill was a little rougher on his staff than
Lyndon Johnson is, but they loved him, they loved him.
By the way, Pierre Salinger says that John Kennedy could be very rough
on his staff, I mean, he could use icy sarcasm and things like that. I
say this, that I have hardly ever known a hard-driving executive who was
not hard on his staff, he's hard on himself and he's hard on his staff.
He sets high standards of performance for himself and he naturally sets
them for his staff too. I have said before that President Truman was not
that kind of a person, that was the principal difference between him and
Lyndon Johnson, and I'm not sure that President Truman's Presidency might
not have benefited
if he had had a little more of Lyndon Johnson in him. I'm not sure that
he wouldn't have benefited, because sometimes, it seemed to me, that the
President was too easy on staff men or subordinates who had muffed the
ball, who had fumbled, who were deservingly being criticized and attacked,
you see, for real errors.
HESS: I was going to ask you if you put that in the category of a failing
on Mr. Truman's part?
SPINGARN: Well, yes, I would. A failing, it's such a beautiful benign
failing that, it was one of his sweetest qualities, you know, my goodness,
if you worked for him you couldn't help appreciating the fact that you
knew you were never going to get really badly chewed out, whatever you
did. I think if he had in him a little more of Lyndon Johnson in this
area but not quite as much as Lyndon has, you understand, maybe somewhere
in between the two would be the perfect combination, you see, a man who
would most of the time be benign and kind but once in a while would get
mad and could act just like any other angry man when he feels that the
people working for him have not met his standards.
HESS: When it was necessary.
SPINGARN: When it was necessary, that's right, and who could ruthlessly
eliminate men who had failed him. Now this is difficult for a President
to do, and the things about President Truman, and he's not the only one,
I think it could have been said of most other Presidents -- it was true
of Franklin Roosevelt -- that if the man was attacked by the President's
opposition, he was likely automatically to spring to his defense, even
if the man didn't deserve a defense, even if the man had really failed
and done things he deserved to be dropped overboard for. I think that
is one of the most difficult things for a President to do, to show a certain
amount of ruthlessness to a man who has not measured up to standards.
By the way, while I'm on this position, on this situation, I'm talking
now briefly of ethics, too, in Government, it has always seemed to me
that one of the most important ingredients of running a good clean Government
-- now in a Government of two and a half million people, there always
will be a few crooks, no group of two and a half million people has not
got some crooks or more typically weak people who can be corrupted by
people who have a lot of money to gain by
corrupting them, this you will never be able to avoid. You simply have
to have sufficient checks and balances to catch those people, you hope.
Most people in Government are honest or they will be honest and
they will be ethical if they feel that those above them are honest
and ethical, and are setting a proper standard for them. But if they feel
that those above them are, I don't mean corrupt, but if they see their
boss accepting large gifts and rich hospitality from some lobbyist, it's
likely that they're going to reflect his pattern of operation, this is
the way it goes.
If I were President of the United States, which there isn't a likelihood
of my ever being, I would do this, (a) I would call in all my Cabinet
officers and my agency heads and I would say, "Boys, this is going to
be as ethically clean an administration as I know how to run. First of
all I am going to adhere to what I regard as standards of ethical conduct
within the context of the traditions of the Presidency myself." By the
way, there are rules that apply to a President that don't apply to other
people. I mean, for instance, the President cannot very well refuse to
accept a gift from a visiting potentate, that would insult the man,
and yet this is different. He's the symbolic head of state, he has to
be treated in a separate category all by himself, on many of these matters,
that doesn't mean that he has to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars
of free gifts for his estate up at Gettysburg from companies that have
an interest in Government, that doesn't mean that at all. And I guess
we know who I'm talking about.
HESS: The only former President with an estate in Gettysburg.
SPINGARN: Well, let me give you a minor witticism that's not mine but
which I enjoy. You know the resemblance between President Eisenhower and
HESS: They both had a Gettysburg address.
SPINGARN: They both had a Gettysburg address, that's right. That's the
only resemblance. General Eisenhower's Gettysburg address brought in a
lot more returns, at least in terms of material returns than Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address which has brought in a lot more spiritual returns.
That's what I would say if I were President. I would say, "I expect each
one of you to conduct yourself in an upright fashion and not to permit
yourselves to be richly entertained by people or receive fancy gifts
from people who have interests in Government, or in any other way do things
a sensible man should know is not appropriate for senior Government officials
or any Government official. And I expect you to call in your subordinates,
your bureau chiefs and give them the same kind of lecture and tell them
to do it to their subordinates." (In other words, pass it down the line
all the way.) I'd say, "This Government is going to be run not only honestly,
but so that it looks as if it is run honestly."
That coupled with the kind of program I've discussed, and which may be
in force now because I haven't followed, actually, what's been done in
this field, but my impression is that something is in force, I don't know
how well it's working -- a system of agency ethics boards, or whatever
you want to call them, with an overall ethics board, and a general Government
rule of ethical standards with perhaps variations for particular situations,
obviously the Bureau of Internal Revenue may have problems say the National
Park Service doesn't have because of the nature of its work, the
terrible pressure on these men. If you're in an area where hundreds of
millions of dollars are being juggled around, the pressure of corruption
is much greater than if you're not in that kind of an area, obviously.
The police are often corrupt because that's where the money is.' A police
officer by winking at a violation in gambling or something like that can
permit people to make millions, can't he? Or by permitting narcotics traffic
or whorehouses to operate or anything like that, you see, because there's
pressure there. The same thing was true of the Counter Intelligence Corps.
We were under corrupting pressures because we exercised such great powers
over the civilian population. Well, that's my idea of how to establish
as ethical a Government as it's possible to get while you're still dealing
with imperfect man.
Now, another thing that I have wanted to discuss for a long time has
been highlighted lately by the Central Intelligence Agency's problem with
the secret subsidization of our student groups and other private organizations.
I myself have been a counterintelligence officer. I am familiar with this
work, or have been. I have a thesis which I have often discussed with
CIA friends and which, naturally, they disagree with, and that is that
a lifetime or longtime career in intelligence is corrupting for people
engaged in it. I don't mean corrupting in the sense that it makes them
crooks, I mean, that it imperceptibly blunts their ethical sensibilities
in many respects and at least it establishes for them a kind of world
of their own in which they don't understand how real people think in the
real world; because the central credo of intelligence and counterintelligence
is that ends justify means.
I'm not talking about the ninety percent of CIA work which is research,
overt intelligence. I'm talking about the ten percent that involves secret
intelligence, whatever the proportion is, that's the figure often given.
In secret intelligence you use any instrument that is available. You
use criminals, you use narcotics addicts and traitors and smugglers. You
use pimps, you use whores, you use homosexuals, you use anybody you can
use, because you're trying to get people through their weakest and most
vulnerable points, and you are also trying to find the secret passages
where information can be passed and these corrupt
channels are that kind of place. They deal in people's weaknesses and
deal in the secret channels of communication between countries, so obviously
you have to use them.
Now, in wartime that's one thing. War in itself is an abnegation, I guess
you could call it, of ethical man's credo that ends don't justify means,
to a large extent at least. Even in war there are some things we say we
won't do -- we don't know what we'd do if we were up against the uttermost,
nobody does. But you do things in war you wouldn't do in peace, that's
for sure, and my conscious was never hurt by the things I did in war,
I mean, because I didn't torture or do those things but recommending or
even ordering the assassination of some enemy spymaster on the other side,
didn't hurt my feelings, he was an enemy, he would have done the same
for me if he thought it worthwhile.
That wouldn't hurt my feelings, but in peacetime it's different. Now,
I ran across a situation in Italy during the war, right at the end, after
the war was over. A bunch of Italian entrepreneurs came to some allied
counterintelligence officers, including men
I knew, British and American, and they told them they would like to reopen
a gambling casino, which was on the Italian side of the Swiss border or
was the Swiss side of the Italian border -- the point was that you had
to go through Italy to get to it, it was hung out over a cliff, so in
some way it was necessary. I guess it was in Italy. Anyway it hung over
both countries and you had to go through both to get to it because of
the mountain terrain. It had been closed during the war and they wanted
to reopen it. Their interest was financial, of course, but their appeal
to the counterintelligence people was that there were a lot of Nazis holed
up in Switzerland, life was rather dull for them and they would be attracted
down to this place and that it would be a good listening post for intelligence,
and possibly they could even pick up some of these Nazis. But in any event,
it would be a good listening post.
Well, they wanted the allied intelligence officers to front for them
with the Italian Government to get the necessary permission, and they
did. Well that sounds all right so far, it was a perfectly legitimate
intelligence operation; but the thing that didn't sound
all right to me was that it turned out that a good deal of money changed
hands in the course of this transaction. That is to say, the entrepreneurs
paid large sums to some of these allied intelligence officers, ten, twenty,
thirty thousand dollars each for helping them on this matter. Now, to
me, that sounded strictly off limits. When one OSS man who was in charge,
he was a young fellow but he was in charge of some of the men who were
involved in this thing -- he was supposed to be very brilliant, I don't
know if he was or not, I didn't see that side of him perhaps, and he's
still in CIA I'm told, and probably developed and matured, he was only
in his mid-twenties then, he wasn't involved personally but some of his
people were -- when he was told about it, he said he didn't see anything
wrong in that. That seemed to be peculiar.
If I were running an intelligence operation, I would want to know whether
my people were making recommendations to me for an intelligence operation
that was based on their best judgment, or the fact that they were getting
ten or twenty thousand dollars for the recommendation. That's what I would
want to know, and I wouldn't trust a man who would take money.
Well, that's only one phase. Now let's take that student subsidization
thing. I would say that it was quite likely justified in the first instance,
quite possibly. It started, as I understand, in 1952 , in the very last
months of the Truman administration, and it was run all through the Eisenhower
-- well right up to the present. At that time, the Soviet Union was sponsoring
world conferences of students and these were propaganda devices to propagate
the Communist point of view among the young people of the world, and they
were dominated, even when they were held outside the Iron Curtain countries,
they were dominated by the Communist delegations. The delegations came
from all over the world, but our side wasn't being effectively represented
because with these young people of the Communist countries, the State
paid their way there, that was no problem. But our people didn't have
the money to send anything more than feeble little delegations, if at
all. The idea was to send our people, young Americans who might if they
chose, could answer some of these charges. And, actually, the National
Student Association was not, certainly, a reactionary group, in fact,
according to Joe McCarthy, perhaps a
Communist front, I suppose. A lot of people called it socialistic and
leftwing. These people were by no means stooges, but the fact remains
that they were not Communists, they were anti-Communist in basic thrust
and, therefore, they could make articulate answer-backers of the Communist
And apparently they weren't too bad, I don't know what the reason is,
but the Communists have found these youth conferences -- a law of diminishing
returns has set in -- they haven't found them useful enough to hold them
any more and they're not being held on any big scale any more, several
have been scheduled and then been cancelled. I gather that in that particular
propaganda effort we seem to have done all right, but this continued long
after, it seems to me, it had outlived its usefulness. It's perfectly
clear that you could never have gotten Government support for this operation
on an open basis in 1952 or '53. I'm sure you couldn't. The Congress would
have said, "What! Subsidize this leftwing group of youngsters? Why certainly
HESS: McCarthy would have been all over them.
SPINGARN: All over them; that's right, but this thing
continued, apparently, of its own weight like most bureaucracy, long
after, it seems to me, its usefulness had passed. It seems to me that
they should have tried, if they needed it, to institutionalize it in the
open or drop it, one or the other. Because, what I'm saying is, that these
people in CIA don't understand how people in the real world think, and
they can't understand why they're shocked at all to find that private
institutions, and this is the way many people would think, that private
institutions are being clandestinely corrupted, they would say, by the
secret intelligence agency, behind closed doors, unbeknownst to all but
a handful of people in the institution itself because the rank and file
never knew this. Only a handful of officers knew the facts, you see, that
the money was coming from the CIA.
Now, I say, that the intelligence people have insensibly had their ethical
sensibilities blunted to the point they don't understand how human beings
in the real world think about such things. They can't understand why they're
shocked at all by it. They say, well, we do it for national security.
Well, they do it for their concept of national security
but national security is like patriotism, I mean, it's a big broad tent,
and McCarthy said he was doing it for national security, everybody says
they're doing it for national security, but the fact is that national
security embraces more than just these frontal little conflicts with the
Communists, it also embraces our credibility and reputation around the
world as a free country, and if the rest of the world says, "Well, they're
no better than the Communist, they're doing the same kind of dirty things,"
and actually the secret police are just as powerful there as they are
in the Soviet Union, the chances are that the repercussions of a thing
like this, in those terms, may be much more hurtful than whatever help
you will get from the operation itself.
This should always be considered, but I don't believe the CIA type of
mind is capable of considering that, because they live in their own world.
They don't see the real world and they don't understand how human beings
outside the intelligence community think. I think that the President ought
to have some kind of a setup which would permit people in the real world,
I'm not talking about ivory tower perfectionists, I'm
talking about pragmatic liberals who are willing to do things that Hans
Morganthau would say were terrible, but who on the other hand, understands
how human beings in the real world feel about these things and would not
permit the CIA to get into this kind of thing, where in the alleged interests
of national security, they win a minor victory and lose a major propaganda
war. That doesn't make sense. If you just put it on practical terms, not
even talking about the morals, or ethics of the whole thing.
Now, here's a little humor item. Here's an item that amuses me, it's
from the Drug Trade News of December 22, 1952, and it says that
I have a reputation of being one of the hardest working commissioners
at the Federal Trade Commission. This was because they had printed a previous,
somewhat disparaging, story about me...
HESS: During the fair trade episode?
SPINGARN: No, it wasn't fair trade, I don't think, it could have been,
I've forgotten what the basis of it was. But, in any event, they had printed
a somewhat disparaging account of me and some of my friends, the staff
at the Commission talked to them and said, this fellow is a
hard worker, you seem to think he's not working at his job. As a matter
of fact, my hours were irregular and that confused people. I got in late,
you know, but I stayed late, much later in the evenings and I came in
later in the morning, and I took my work home. And I used to shock the
staff at the Federal Trade Commission because when I held conferences,
I didn't stop at five o'clock, this was terrible. I wasn't used to stopping
at five o'clock in the Treasury, you know. I ran a conference until we
finished, and everybody started to shuffle their feet and they started
talking about car pools, and all these things that bureaucrats think about,
but I ran it till six-thirty or seven, and this was regarded as...
HESS: At five o'clock they'd get a little nervous.
SPINGARN: At five o'clock they started getting nervous, that's right.
Now, this is the humor item involving President Truman. J. Strom Thurmond,
in 1950, was Governor of South Carolina and for reasons best known to
himself, I suspect at the urging of the members of the WCTU, or some other
benign or misguided group like that, he issued this following pompous
and sanctimonious statement of May 1, 1950, from the
office of the Governor, on his official letterhead:
I am a strong advocate of temperance and have never indulged in drinking.
As Governor I have regarded it important to set an example which would
encourage temperance and have not permitted the serving of alcoholic
beverages in the Governor's Mansion. Alcohol is unnecessary to a full
and enjoyable existence, [Well that's your opinion Strom.] whether
in social gatherings or in the privacy of one's own home. By abstaining
from the use of alcohol in my own life, I am convinced I have been
able to render a greater service in the position of public trust that
I have been honored to hold. J. Strom Thurmond, Governor
Well, when Mr. Truman saw this, he burst into laughter, he thought it
was so funny, you know, that any man would issue a statement like that,
a self-serving statement like that. Like most of our other Presidents,
Mr. Truman enjoyed an occasional drink.
I have never fully trusted a man who won't take a drink. I'm exaggerating
because I've known men, fine men, who didn't take a drink. In the immortal
words of Abraham Lincoln, this is a real quote, "It has been my experience
that people without any vices are not likely to have many virtues." Liquor
in moderate quantities is a great social blessing and in immoderate quantities
it can be a curse.
I'm getting sanctimonious myself now. There's a
1966 kicker on this. David Chewning of the Democratic National Committee
asked me to write some speech material for, oh, what was his name, Bradley
Morrah, he was a South Carolina state senator who was running against,
now Republican Senator Thurmond for the U.S. Senate seat. I did quite
a bit of research on J. Strom, and I remember digging up this from my
1950 White House files and, but the best thing of all I found was this.
Thurmond ran against Truman as the Dixiecrat candidate for President.
Of course, he only got about a million and a quarter votes, about the
same number as Henry Wallace the leftwing Progressive Party candidate
got. Shortly after that, I believe, while Thurmond was still Governor
of South Carolina, he was photographed standing on his head by Life
magazine. Thurmond is a physical culture addict and this was apparently
because he had just married his twenty-one year old secretary. It was
a very romantic match. According to the press reports at the time, he
proposed to her by calling her in and dictating the proposal to her. She
didn't answer, but she retired to the other room and dictated her answer,
typed it up I mean. In any event, he was a man in his latter forties then,
as I recall, and she
was twenty-one, and apparently because he wanted to demonstrate his good
SPINGARN: Virility, he permitted himself to be photographed standing
on his head, by Life magazine. This was not taken kindly
in South Carolina. They didn't like their Governor being photographed,
shown all around the country, standing on his head, they did not regard
that as dignified or appropriate for a Governor, you see. A couple of
years later, I place it in 1950, he ran in the Democratic primary against
Olin Johnston, who was then the Senator, the longtime Senator from South
Carolina and a much better man, a moderate, sensible, populist-type Democrat,
who was pretty sound on most things except the usual Deep South prejudices
on segregation and even there he was no racist, as Strom had been. So
wherever Strom went -- he lost, by the way, Olin Johnston beat him --
wherever he went during that campaign, hecklers in the audience would
shout, "Why don't you stand on your head, Strom. Why don't you stand on
In my 1966 writings for Mr. Morrah I covered this incident, and I said
that the fact of the matter is Strom obeyed them, he has been standing
on his head
ever since, and that's his trouble, he's looking at the world upside
down so he doesn't know what is really there, and he sees good things
as bad and bad things as good.
Strom Thurmond, by the way, is a rightwing extremist. He has sent out
letters, I've seen copies of them, I've received copies of them, endorsing
things like the Manion Forum, that's Clarence Manion, the former dean
of Notre Dame Law School, who is a nut, I mean, a rightwing nut, and who
has a radio forum, hundreds of stations, Dean Manion is, by the way, a
founding father of the John Birch Society, and still a member of the JBS
national council, and that's how far right he is. I've gotten poop from
another organization of similar lunatic right fringe views, also endorsed
by Thurmond, officially endorsed by him, he sent out letters urging people
to give money to them. Thurmond is always involved in rightwing things.
I mean, the John Birch Society type thing, I'm not talking about the ordinary
conservative viewpoint, but far to the right.
In 1964, Pageant magazine interviewed Senators and Congressmen
and newspapermen, Washington newspapermen, and asked them to rate their
colleagues, in the
Senate in the case of Senators and in both houses in the case of newspapermen,
in relative order of usefulness to the country, effectiveness as a Senator
His fellow Senators rated Strom Thurmond as one hundredth among a hundred
Senators in effectiveness, and the journalists rated him the same way
-- one hundredth -- that's Strom.
And yet in this 1966 campaign, as always, Strom's thesis was that only
he was holding the door, the gate, against the awful convolutions of this
terrible socialistic, communistic government. And if they don't send him
back, why the walls of the republic will fall, and all will be ruined.
This man who is so ineffective, that his fellow Senators rate him one
hundredth. Nobody pays any attention to him except to laugh at him.
Well, my work on Strom Thurmond was an exercise in futility, as I knew
it would be, because he won handily in the South Carolina 1966 Senate
race. So much for that.
Here is an October 31, 1964, letter from Shannon H. Ratliff, assistant
to the President, that is assistant to Lyndon Johnson:
Dear Mr. Spingarn; The President asked me to thank you for your note
and the enclosure. Your letter to the Times was very well done
and should do much to bring this issue into perspective....
I wrote a letter to the Times about Walter Jenkins. This is the
middle of October 1964, I think the fourteenth of October 1964 was the
day of Walter Jenkins' fall. It was interesting because I had written
him a letter a day or two earlier, and I actually got a letter, I think,
on the very day the newspaper announced his tragedy, I got a letter from
him answering my letter. I wrote a letter to the New York Times
which was published in which I pointed out that Walter Jenkins had given
twenty-five years of devoted service to his Government, that nobody who
knew him had the least doubt about his loyalty, his integrity to his Government,
and his effectiveness as a public official, and that it seemed terrible
that a man could have his total career ruined, his Government career ruined,
by an offense which his society rated so low in the scheme of offenses
that he could post twenty-five or fifty dollars collateral and forfeit
it and that ended the offense as far as any punishment was concerned for
that offense, directly.
Continuing Ratliff's letter:
...The President was also most encouraged by your report on the poll
results in Pennsylvania. We certainly appreciate the help you have
been giving us. With best wishes, Sincerely Shannon H. Ratliff
The poll was that one I mentioned before by a political scientist at
Lafayette College who used his classes every campaign, every election
to poll in advance, to see how the thing was coming out in the different
major contests in that area and who had been surprisingly close to the
actual results; and part of my idea, this is just a small part, for the
national committee in this KOED project, this could be one of many things
that could be done all over the country. We could set up, you might say,
a separate, independent intelligence, political intelligence or reporting
agency outside the regular party structure, because within the structure
you're always getting men on their own stewardship, and no man is likely
to say that he's done a bad job. He hopes that things will turn out right
and if they don't turn out right, why then he'll try to explain that later,
but not beforehand.
And I have here a letter of June 15, by the way, which President Lyndon
Johnson wrote me:
Dear Mr. Spingarn; I am indebted for your spirited defense of my
administration and its policies in the New York Times and The
New Republic. Your vigorous style and viewpoint remind me so much
of the great President you served.
I am heartened not only to have President Truman's confidence, but
the support of those who worked with him to achieve so much and who
want that work to continue now. Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson
You know, as I close this thing out now, as I must, I'm reminded of what
Will Rogers used to say, "I like to hear a man talking about himself,"
said old Will, "because then I know I'll hear nothing but good." I realize
I have been saying a lot of good about myself. Sometimes I have leaned
to the idea that one should never speak well of oneself, but in the long
run, I think, probably, I come closer to the advice given by William S.
Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan in one of the operettas, it goes something
like this; "If you wish in this world to advance, your merits you're bound
to enhance. You must stir it and stump it, and blow your own trumpet,
or, trust me, you haven't a chance."
Jerry, I can't think of anything further that I want to say at this time.
I know you will be available if I have afterthoughts. I'm going to give
of this material .I have to take down and Xerox and return it to me,
and I want to close this out by saying to any historians who may read
this transcript or listen to this tape, that I will always be glad to
talk to historians who think that I have anything to contribute, but on
the one hand (a) I hope that if they expect to use my time, that they
will not spurn pro bona publico requests that I make
of them for a little of their time as a quid pro quo,
and secondly I reserve the right not to talk to men who I think are so
emotionally committed to some preconceived thesis with which I disagree,
that I do not believe they could accurately write about that situation
or accurately reflect my views or the general picture, and I refer to
the young historian from Pennsylvania in that connection, and in the first
connection I referred to the historian from Wisconsin.
Have you got any questions that you want to ask me?
HESS: No, I think that very well covers all the questions I have on all
the subjects. My last question is usually, what is your estimation of
Mr. Truman's place in history, but you've covered that quite well just
a few minutes
SPINGARN: I will add only this on that. I think that he had a magnificent
record in his own administration during his years as President on the
foreign policy front, I mean, that will be the gems in his diadem. But
I also think he did what was possible and achievable in the domestic areas,
and I don't think that a man should be judged out of the context of his
time, by standards of today, the things that he did or tried to do were
impossible then -- the votes weren't there
-- and still even in the civil rights field there were demonstrable achievements
although they were not showy, perhaps, or extravagant, there was no civil
rights legislation passed but I've already mentioned some of the things
other than legislation that were done.
HESS: I have a question on that. Why do you think that he was so successful
in foreign policy matters?
SPINGARN: I don't know, Jerry, I'll have to think about that for a while;
I'm not sure that I know why. Let's put it this way, the great challenge
of the postwar period was the emergence of the Soviet Union from a position
of relative isolationism before the war to an aggressive world power,
and just as the main thrust
of the'30s had been defense against Nazi and Fascist aggression, and
by the way, we flunked those tests miserably all through the '30s and
that didn't stop a world war, it brought it on sooner, so the main thrust
of the '40s, the late '40s and the '50s was, what was the free world going
to do about defense against another form of totalitarian aggression --
communism. It isn't communism within its own borders that should distress
us. Yugoslavia, at least since they stopped supporting the guerrillas
in Greece, has been non-aggressive.
Yugoslavia should give us no concern. We may not like their form of Government,
there's more but still relatively little freedom there. But it should
not be a major matter of concern to us until aggression steps in, until
they move outside their borders against neighbors or non-neighbors for
that matter, and that was the great challenge, therefore, of his years,
and it seems to me that Mr. Truman met that challenge magnificently, and
he built a series of defenses against that aggression.
I don't think that we who are living today, almost fifteen years since
he left office -- fourteen years -- should
forget that, although there have been rifts in the Communist lute, although
it is no longer any monolithic bloc in the sense that it once was, that
aggression is aggression and that wherever it occurs, within the realms
of our possibilities, we should do what we can to deter it. In some cases
this may be simply physically impossible as it was in Tibet, for example,
as it was, perhaps in Hungary in 1956, although that was an act of foolishness
on the part of the Eisenhower administration. They had come in on thundering
promises of a policy of liberation not containment, and when the Hungarians
had the misfortune to believe them, they couldn't help them. Well, you
mustn't make promises beyond your capacity to perform. There was no contiguous
border with Hungary.
So I suppose, that's the reason why Mr. Truman has gotten such great
credit for his foreign policy, but I don't think he should be downgraded
for his domestic policies. I think that his program was good. A wave of
conservatism sets in after every war. We'd had a New Deal period in which
we'd made progress in a few years which usually takes generations in most
countries and Harry Truman kept the issues before the
country, and in the sense of making this possible later by keeping the
educational processes running, he made a substantial contribution even
on the domestic side.
HESS: Fine. That's everything I had to cover. I wish to thank you very,
very much for your time. It's been a major contribution to the Library.
SPINGARN: Thank you, sir, and I would be inaccurate if I didn't say that
I've enjoyed every minute of it.
HESS: Well, good, and if you have anything else later on, let us know
and we can record that and put it right on the end of the transcript.
SPINGARN: Right, will do.
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