Charles Taussig Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

views updated

Charles Taussig Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

27 August 1945 [New York City]

Mrs. Roosevelt was interested to hear the inside story of the Trusteeship fight at San Francisco; I told her the story.19 She was surprised at Bowman's performance20 also Dean Gildersleeve—her vote against independence—said that she would see to it that the Dean was not appointed to other Commissions.21 She had her usual say re Jimmy Dunn;22 She was surprisingly bitter re Byrnes; said he was a double crosser and could not be trusted.23

I said the public needed education on trusteeship. She said if I would prepare a memo for her she would use it in her column which she said had a larger circulation now [than] when she was in the White House. She said she would write it whenever I thought the time was right.24

I told her how little influence the memory of FDR had with the US Delegation but had much influence with the delegations of the smaller countries.25 She said that did not surprise her; She said that she would probably take on two radio programs in addition to her column; She did not seem pleased with Potsdam but did not go into particulars.26 Said that FDR had had considerable success with Stalin at Yalta and had said that Stalin would play ball if approached right.27



1. Charles W. Taussig (1896–1952), special advisor to the secretary of state on Caribbean affairs and chair of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, had a longstanding relationship with both FDR and ER. In addition to joining the "Brains Trust" in 1933, the young president of the American Molasses Corporation also advised American delegates to the World Economic Conference. He shared many of ER's commitments to social reform, including a restructured national health system and humanitarian outreach. Under his leadership, the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission developed what the NYT called "the first instance, pre-Marshall Plan, of successful international cooperation in economic and social aid." He, more than any of FDR's advisors, knew the president's plans for trusteeships and the San Francisco conference and, with his knack for practical implementation of controversial projects, became FDR's point man in the trusteeship planning meetings (A. Black, Casting, 31-32; "C. W. Taussig Dead," NYT, 11 May 1948; Louis, 484, 538).

2. Top Secret, Supplement to Message for the President from the Secretary of State, International Trusteeships, CWTP, Caribbean Commission: 1945, FDRL.

3. Harold Ickes, Memorandum for the President, 5 April 1945, CWTP, Caribbean Commission: July to December inclusive, FDRL.

4. Message for the President from the Secretary of State, International Trusteeships, CWTP, Caribbean Commission: 1945, FDRL.

5. Ickes, Memorandum for the President, 5 April 1945.

6. Quoted in Louis, 492.

7. Childs's column discussed the debate within the administration and amongst its allies over "the military and industrial disarmament of Germany" (Marquis Childs, "Washington Calling," WP, 12 April 1945, 6).

8. Charles Taussig, Conversation at the White House with Mrs. Roosevelt, 3 pm to 3:30 pm in the Red Room, 12 April 1945, Caribbean Commission: 1945, CWTP, FDRL.

9. See n2.

10. See n6.

11. Taussig met with FDR March 15 and discussed in depth the military's desire for control over strategic territories. Roosevelt told Taussig that he disagreed with the navy's interpretation of "strategic trust territories," that he preferred two categories of open and closed territories, and that the open territories "should be subject to international agreements." Security concerns need not dominate the debates, the president continued, because "if the military wanted at a later date due to change in strategy to make all or part of the open area a closed area, it should be provided that this could be done with the approval of the Security Council." When FDR asked if the navy was "trying to grab everything," Taussig replied that he thought "the military had no confidence in the United Nations" and asked the president if he had heard Admiral Russell Willson call the trusteeship team "the international welfare boys." FDR then stated his position clearly: "Neither the Army nor the Navy had any business administering the civilian government territories; that they had no competence to do this." As the conversation turned to the future of Asia, they discussed the position France would have in Indo-China and New Caledonia. Taussig reported that FDR, after hesitation, decided that "if we can get the proper pledge from France to assume for herself the obligations of a trustee," then he "would agree to France retaining these colonies with the proviso that independence was the ultimate goal." When Taussig asked Roosevelt if "he would settle for self government," the president "said no. I asked him if he would settle for dominion status. He said no—it must be independence. He said that this is to be the policy and you can quote me in the State Department" (Memorandum of Conversation with the President, 15 March 1945, CWTP, FDRL. See also Louis, 484-86).

12. Stettinius respected Stimson, who worked to undermine Stettinius's support for FDR's views. Stimson told the secretary of state that America fought the war "to throw out an aggressor and restore peace and freedom … and the bases (in the Pacific) had been stolen by the aggressor who had used them to attack us and destroy our power;" thus, the bases should remain under American control to prevent future attacks. Stettinius then sided with Stimson, only to back away a few days later when he learned of a State Department memorandum sent to FDR supporting the president's position. The secretary tried to remain neutral, going so far as to tell Stimson April 6 that he did not want to be a part of a military proposal. When he learned that Stimson was submitting the proposal anyway and that he would be caught between defending his department and alienating Stimson, Stettinius called Forrestal to ask him to explain to Stimson "that he had disassociated him-self" from the State Department memorandum by claiming that he "was out of town when it was written" (Louis, 490-93).

13 Leo Pasvolsky (1894–1953), an economist who served as special assistant to the secretary of state, led the drafting of the Declaration of National Independence, served as the department's point person on trusteeship and coordinated planning on the issue for the United Nations. He also served as the American liaison to the British on trusteeship issues and chaired the interdepartmental Committee on Dependent Areas, on which Taussig served. He would serve as an advisor to the American delegation to San Francisco, where he helped negotiate the compromise over veto power accepted by the Big Five nations (Louis, 360-61, 444-47; "Dr. Leo Pasvolsky of U.N. Fame Dead," NYT, 7 May 1953, 31).

14. When Stettinius replaced Cordell Hull as secretary of state, he appointed James (Jimmy) Clement Dunn (1890–1979), "a wealthy croquet-playing" foreign service officer, as assistant secretary for European affairs. When ER learned of the appointment, she phoned and then wrote FDR to express deep concern over such a stalwart conservative in such an influential position.

I am quite sure that Jimmy Dunne is clever enough to tell you that he will do what you want and to allow his subordinates to accomplish things which will get by and which will pretty well come up in the long time results to what he actually wants to do. The reason that I feel we cannot trust Dunne is that we know he backed Franco and his regime in Spain. We know that now he is arguing [with] Mr. Winant and the War Department in favor of using German industrialists to rehabilitate Germany because he belongs to the group which Will Clayton [who had once belonged to the Liberty League] represents, plus others, who believe we must have business going in Germany for the sake of business here. I suppose I should trust blindly when I can't know and be neither worried or scared and yet I am both and when Harry Hopkins tells me he is for Clayton, etc. I'm even more worried. I hate to irritate you and I won't speak of this again but I wouldn't feel honest if I didn't tell you now.

ER also knew of Dunn's close working relationship with Breckenridge Long on limiting visas to European Jews (Goodwin, 173, 525; ER to FDR, 4 December 1944, Roosevelt Family Papers, FDRL; Louis, 41).

15. The day after FDR's funeral, Stettinius called Taussig to say that he was "heart-sick" when he heard about the meetings and asked Taussig for "his word" that he "would not do anything without consulting him in San Francisco" (Taussig, untitled memorandum, 16 April 1945, CWTP, FDRL).

16. Charles Taussig to ER, 20 April 1945, CWTP, FDRL.

17. Schlesinger, 234-35; Campbell and Herring, 319-22; Louis, 538.

18. See Document 71, Document 72, and Document 79.

19. What consensus there was in the American delegation over trusteeship unraveled May 12, 1945, when the Russian and Chinese delegations proposed that "independence" be included as a stated goal in the UN Charter. The colonial powers, especially France and Great Britain, immediately objected, arguing against interference in the internal affairs of member states and "Russia's newfound interest in colonial affairs." Harold Stassen then added a third dimension—interdependence—and cited the United States, "whose strength is not based on their complete independence as separate entities, but on their unity and interdependence" as the model. An outraged Taussig retorted: "(1) Independence as a goal for all peoples who aspire to and are capable of it has been the traditional and sacred policy of this Government. It has been exemplified in our policy in the Philippines, and it has been reiterated on numerous occasions by President Roosevelt … and Cordell Hull, (2) An excellent opportunity is afforded to make a profitable gesture on behalf of the peoples of the Orient as well as those in Africa and the Caribbean, (3) The Russians and especial-ly the Chinese will be able to capitalize on their stand for 'independence' against the opposition of the non-Asiatic peoples of the West unless we take a strong position." Taussig did not sway the delegation (Louis, 537).

20. Isaiah Bowman (1878–1950), the renowned geographer, university president, and advisor to Woodrow Wilson during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, chaired the State Department's advisory committee on territorial concerns and advised FDR on issues related to Palestine. He served as a member of the American delegation to San Francisco and for most of the debates over trusteeship, remained an articulate spokesperson for colonial independence and international trusteeships. Taussig and ER considered him a strong supporter of FDR's trusteeship plans. However, after fellow delegate Harold Stassen's argument that the United States should not side with Russia and China in support of independence lest it give the two nations cover for their own ambitions while it found itself "committed to the breaking up of the British Empire," Bowman broke away from Taussig. Bowman now focused on Russia rather than the colonial areas. He responded to Taussig's position, arguing that "when perhaps the inevitable struggle came between Russia and ourselves the question would be who were our friends. Would we have as our friends those whom we had weakened in the struggle or those who had been strengthened?" He finally decided to reject FDR's vision of gradual independence because "he ultimately thought British friendship was worth more than the abstract ideal of independence" (Louis, 54, 537-39).

21. FDR had appointed Barnard College Dean Virginia C. Gildersleeve (1877–1965), founder and president of the International Federation of University Women, as the only woman member of the US delegation to the San Francisco conference. As a delegate she helped draft the preamble to the UN Charter and played a key role in the creation of UNESCO. However, she did not support FDR's trusteeship goals. Rather, she supported Stassen's claim that trusteeship policies designed to create independent states played into Russian desires for territory and told Taussig that while the delegation did not "intend to grab" territory, it did "intend to hold what is necessary for our security." When Truman did not appoint Gildersleeve to the London delegation, she accepted a request from General Douglas MacArthur to help rebuild the Japanese education system. Ironically, as angry as ER was with her over her trusteeship stance, she had to serve with Gildersleeve briefly in London when Truman appointed her as an alternate delegate to ECOSOC. ER, however, did work to prevent the dean's future appointments; and Gildersleeve resigned from ECOSOC after one year's service (Schlesinger, 237; Agnes Meyer, "Dean Gildersleeve Popular Choice," WP, 11 March 1945, B1; "Virginia Gildersleeve, Educator, Dead at 87," WP, 9 July 1965, C8).

22. See n14.

23. Two months earlier she wrote her son James, "I hate Jimmy Byrnes going in [the delegation] because with all his ability, I think he is primarily interested in Jimmy Byrnes …" (ER to James Roosevelt, 27 June 1945, JRP, FDRL).

24. Taussig did not submit a memorandum to ER. After her appointment to the United Nations, ER supported the independence position. However, as she was not appointed to the Trusteeship Council, protocol demanded that she refer questions on this matter to those who sat on the council. See Document 71, Document 72, and Document 79.

25. See n11 and n14.

26. Truman, Stalin, and Churchill, until he was replaced by Attlee July 28, held the last of the Allied war conferences at a former Hohenzollern palace in Potsdam, Germany, not far from Berlin. From July 17 to August 2, 1945, representatives of the Big Three issued a declaration demanding "unconditional surrender" from Japan; agreed that Germany, under a central Allied Control Council, must be reorganized in ways to prevent the return of military dictatorships; supported the prosecution of war criminals; settled on the management of war reparations; and convinced the Soviet Union to enter the war against Japan in mid-August. Although the conference did not address Stalin's request to redefine the German-Polish border, it did agree to his proposal to transfer German land east of the Oder and Neisse Rivers to Poland (RCAH).

ER later told Joe Lash and Sam Rosenman she "understood why Truman did not want to meet with Stalin, that he did not have the confidence that he could deal with him," and that she did not disagree with Rosenman when he said that Jimmy Byrnes "had been a very bad and evil influence and practically acted as president at Potsdam." She also told her cousin, journalist Joe Alsop, that she did "not believe that anyone had talked 'turkey' with Mr. Stalin" since Harry Hopkins (Lash, World, 404-5; ER to Joe Alsop, 26 April 1945, in Lash, Years, 86).

27. See n2 Document 14.

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Feature Syndicate's Russian Assignment

Before Truman, who was preparing to leave for Potsdam, could respond to her letter of July 2,1 ER sent another letter July 5 to say that a journalist recently returned from Russia told her that April would be just as good a time to go and, because of other obligations, she would prefer to go then. Samuel Rosenman (1896–1973), FDR's speech writer and now counsel to Truman, telephoned ER July 9 to say that the president had delegated her travel requests to him, with instructions "to see that arrangements are made for you any time you wish to go." He then agreed to consult with Hopkins as to which would be the most effective time for her visit.2

Once ER decided that spring 1946 would be the best time for her visit, she then wrote the secretary of state to ask if she could include China in this trip as well.

About this article

Charles Taussig Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

Updated About content Print Article