Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965; Byrnes, James F. (James Francis), 1882-1972; Ross, Charles G. (Charles Griffith), 1885-1950; Pearson, Drew, 1897-1969; Hannegan, Robert E. (Robert Emmet), 1903-1949; Clifford, Clark M. (Clark McAdams), 1906-1998
Speeches, addresses, etc.; International relations; Cabinet officers; United States-Soviet relations; Reporters and reporting

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, September 17, 1946. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

Sept. 17, 1946

Henry Wallace, at my request, wrote me a memo in the form of a letter on July 23, '46, at my request (repeat), on the foreign situation. We'd had a Cabinet meeting before Byrnes was to go back to Paris. Everyone had expressed his opinion, including Henry. I asked all of them to send me memos on the subject.

All of them approved the decision and instructions to Byrnes except Henry-so none sent real memorandums. When Henry's came on July 23 I told my morning conference that I'd received a great political document from Mr. Wallace. I sent it over to the State Dept. to Mr. Byrnes to read. Or I gave it to him at one of our 12:30 conferences. The latter, I think, is correct. He brought it back the next day-in either case. I did not acknowledge it for a few days because I only considered it as a memorandum for my use. But I did acknowledge it after it occurred to me that "my friend" Henry was making a record "for himself." This letter was twelve single-space typewritten pages. It covered everything from Genesis to Revelations.

Now I know it was a political document and not intended for my information.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, Mr. Wallace asked for an appointment. He received it, of course. He had only fifteen minutes. We talked of his trip to Mexico, my vacation to Bermuda, the desirability of a special representative to the Mexican inauguration, politics, etc. Then Henry pulled out a speech he proposed to make at Madison Square Garden, N.Y., that night. He asked me to read it. Twelve minutes of his fifteen were gone and there were important people to see. I tried to skim through the speech-supposing always that Henry was cooperating in all the phases of the administration-including foreign policy. One paragraph caught my eye. It said that we held no special friendship for Russia, Britain or any other country, that we wanted to see all the world at peace on an equal basis. I said that that is of course what we want.

Henry made his Madison Square Garden speech-and did I catch hell. At a press conference I had approved the speech on the basis of the one paragraph that really appealed to me-trusting Henry to play square with me.

Two days afterwards I had to admit my error and back up Byrnes. Henry called me up and said he was pleased with what I'd said and that he knew I'd have to say that I backed up Byrnes and the policy we'd discussed and agreed to in the Cabinet meeting.

Then he gives out a statement saying he would reiterate his Madison Square speech! I thought he was mistaken.

A newsman told Ross my press secretary that Pearson had a copy of Wallace's statement to me of July 23 and that he intended to make a "column" out of it. Ross called Henry and Henry expressed alarm and wondered what to do.

At a luncheon given by the Postmaster General-Mr. Hannegan-for Congressional candidates who had shaken hands with me earlier in the day, Ross, Wallace, Clifford and Hannegan discussed the situation and decided that maybe the letter should be given to the regular newsmen if I approved.

Ross, Clayton, Clifford and I discussed the matter, and I decided that the memo-letter should not be released. Ross had called Wallace at the start of the conference and told him not to release the paper until he had my decision. Wallace said "O.K." After listening to all sides I decided that the memo-letter was a confidential document and should not be released. That if Pearson published it in his column, there would be doubt on its authenticity because the former President, Mr. Roosevelt, had branded him a liar. I had, so had all the Senate and House leaders. Therefore it would not be looked upon as an authentic document.

I told Mr. Ross to call Henry and say that I disapproved the release. Henry told that P.M. had a copy. Then he said that another coy had gotten away. All this after he'd told Charlie that it would not be turned loose without my approval.

Well, I'm sure it was an arranged proceeding. N.Y. speech, based on memo to me, rushing me to read speech, release of memo and misstatement to Ross that it would be held. So we'll see what results.

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