Archibald MacLeish12 to Eleanor Roosevelt

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Archibald MacLeish12 to Eleanor Roosevelt

27 December 1945 [New York City]

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I think the quickest and most expeditious way to brief you on the history of UNO down to your first London meeting would be through a combination of one document and one man. The document is the Report to the President on the San Francisco Conference which is the basic Bible of the whole operation. The Letter of Transmittal to the President from the Secretary of State, which I wrote, contains a summary in relatively brief form.13 The remainder of the volume treats the functional sections of the Charter in detail. You undoubtedly have a copy, but I am asking the State Department to send you one today.

The human side of the job would be best done by Adlai Stevenson in London. Adlai has acted as head of the United States Delegation since Ed Stettinius left and did most of the ground work before that. He was my associate at San Francisco and in the Department, working on the press problem in its various aspects. He is extremely intelligent, and he is also an accurate reporter. An hour or two of Adlai would be worth many days of document reading. Please don't let Adlai's modesty and self-deprecation throw you off: he is one of the principal experts on the whole subject.14

The matters weighing on my own mind are, first, the vital necessity of staffing UNO and other United Nations Organizations with new, vigorous, imaginative and effective people and not with the tired hacks of diplomacy whom the various Foreign Offices will want to get rid of, or with the rather moth-eaten relics of Geneva.15 Some of the Geneva people are, of course, excellent. A lot are not.

Second, I am worried about the Department's attitude toward the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Constitution of which was drafted at our London meeting in November.16 The Department is traditionally scornful of that whole side of foreign relations—a side which is increasingly important from day to day17 I am still in doubt as to whether the Moscow agreement on the Atomic Energy Commission with its provision for the exchange of scientific information is going to include or exclude UNESCO. If UNESCO is excluded, either on the ground that the Russians are not members or on any other ground, it would be a serious blow to the new and very promising Organization and a blow also to the forty-three nations which took part in the London meeting.18

May I say in closing what I know you realize—that millions of your fellow citizens are profoundly thankful to Almighty God that you are a member of the Delegation.

                                                  Yours faithfully,

                                                  Archie MacLeish


ER had arranged for the three-person NAACP delegation—Walter White, W E. B. Du Bois, and Mary McLeod Bethune—to receive the accreditation necessary to attend the San Francisco conference as a nongovernmental organization.19 Before she sailed for London, she asked her good friend NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White for his input on what actions he thought the NAACP would want the United Nations to take. White then contacted his fellow delegates and forwarded their concerns to ER.