Eleanor Roosevelt to Bernard Baruch

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Bernard Baruch

19 October 1948 [Paris]

Dear Mr. Baruch:

Thank you for your long letter. I wish you could go to Russia. They are behaving in every committee in a purely obstinate manner. With us, in Committee #3, they insist on making attacks and then when any one is foolish enough to answer them by attack in return they insist on answering again, with the result that no work in hand is done. Committee #3 should be discussing questions on its agenda and not questions which come up in Committee #1. We are told by the Russians that the United States is making atom bombs to destroy the other nations of the world. The pretext for that is the discussion of the Article on the right to life. I think you would be interested and amused just following through in the different committees if you were here.

I am going to make a suggestion to the Secretary that in every one of the committees we invite the Russian block to spend an evening with us and tell us all the things they think. We will try to answer them or at least discuss with them. Everyone says they would not come and they would not believe what we said but I can not think of any other way in which we might begin to make a dent in this horrible problem of making people get over their fright and have some kind of confidence in one another.20

Of course, they are completely dishonest in their proposals on atomic energy and doing away with armament.

The suggestion made to the President to send Justice Vinson to Russia was a stupid one at this particular time.21

I have asked the Secretary on his return from Athens to call a special meeting of the delegation so that we can have a clear understanding of our policy on Palestine and on the Italian colonies.22 I am much disturbed by what looks to me like British influence which makes us do things which may seem essential to our defense people at the moment, but which do not take into account the long view. I have had a number of talks with various members of the Arab group in which I made it clear that I am not against any people and would be very much interested in having the US help develop the desert, but I have also let it be known fairly widely that we have recognized the State of Isreal and that I think Isreal and should have the Negeb to make it possible for them to develop and to receive emigrants.

On the question of Arab refugees I am refusing to discuss anything about repatriation or removal to some other area until the political question is settled. Of course, they will have to have relief, we can not let four or five hundred thousand people die without doing something for them, but they are a part of the settlement of the political question.

I am sorry the President wrote you as he did. It was both foolish and unjust.23

Tommy gave me a birthday party which was attended by many members of the U.S. Delegation staff—no one of the higher eschelons, and in spite of the fact that I was kept an extra hour in committee meeting, we had a very gay time.

So far I haven't been in the least tired but we are beginning to work three nights a week this week, so I imagine the weariness lies ahead.

Buzz has gone with Henry Morgenthau to Palestine which I think will be a very interesting trip for him.24

Please take care of yourself. Tommy and I send you our best wishes, and I am as always


                                        Eleanor Roosevelt


1. Bernard Baruch to ER, 10 September 1948, AERP.

2. The British delegation contested the second clause of Article 2 of the draft declaration, which stated that the rights set forth in the declaration "also apply to any person belonging to the population of Trust and Non-Self Governing Territories." The British favored a "Colonial Clause," which would make anything signed by colonial powers applicable to their colonial territories. Pressure from the British delegation changed the final draft of Article 2 to read, "No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political status of the country to which this person belongs" (Glendon, 149, 302; EUN). As ER later explained:

Under the constitutions which the United Kingdom has granted to some of its self-governing territories, the government of Great Britain has no right to make certain decisions for those territories. The respective legislatures decide on questions of domestic policy.

Therefore, when the United Kingdom signs a convention it always has to ask to include a clause which says, in brief, that this convention will go into effect immediately within the United Kingdom and its dependencies except where these dependencies have certain constitutional rights of self-government. In the case of these self-governing territories the United Kingdom undertakes to put before them as quickly as possible the undertakings in this convention and to urge them to adhere to the convention.

Always the Soviet Union and its satellites argue that this is pure camouflage, that it is just because the metropolitan territory does not wish to see these colonial territories benefitted and therefore will not adhere for them (MD, 29 April 1949).

On the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, see n2 Document 78.

3. Paul-Henri Spaak, the first president of the General Assembly (see n32 Document 77). The First Committee, chaired by Dimitri Manuilsky of Ukraine, was responsible for political and security issues (Boyd, 53-54).

4. On September 25, Andrei Vyshinsky introduced a resolution to the General Assembly calling on the five "great powers" to reduce their armed forces by one-third. He then reiterated the Soviet support for a ban on the use of atomic weapons "as intended for aims of aggression and not for those of defense" until an international control agency under Security Council auspices could be established. Vyshinsky's call for an atomic control agency that would be subject to Soviet veto directly challenged the Baruch Plan of 1946 (see n1 Document 128). Vyshinsky later criticized the US monopoly on atomic weapons, declaring, "as long as we are looking for a solution not a single state should manufacture the bomb." The next day, however, the Soviet delegation tempered its position, issuing a call for the simultaneous banning of weapons and establishment of a control agency. Still, ER remained wary of the Soviet proposal:

The US would be glad to start on a program of disarmament if there was a UN inspection force with free access to all nations. The Russian proposal is not an honest one and we would have no way of checking on what they did unless they submitted to inspection which they have refused to do. Until the UN is able to inspect, we can not afford to disarm. I am all in favor of disarmament and the use of atomic energy for peaceful purpos-es, but I am realistic enough to know that we must be strong militarily and economically to have the USSR respect us (Thomas J. Hamilton, "Russian Spurs U.N.," NYT, 26 September 1948, 1; "Excerpt From Statement Made by Vishinsky" NYT, 2 October 1948, 2; A. M. Rosenthal, "Vishinsky Changes Atomic Ban Stand; West Is Skeptical," NYT, 3 October 1948, 1; ER to Corabelle Burke, 15 November 1948, AERP).

5. Carlos Romulo (1899–1985), a delegate from the Philippines and a member of the Commission on Human Rights, was present at the UN Charter Conference in San Francisco, where he advocated independence for colonial territories. Also in San Francisco, Romulo, along with representatives from Latin America and other non-European regions, pushed for language in the charter that explicitly condemned racial discrimination (William Branigin, "U.N. Signatory Carlos Romulo Dies," WP, 16 December 1985, D8; Glendon, 11-13).

6. John Golden (1874–1955), a theatrical songwriter and producer, and a close friend of ER's, visited ER in Paris ("John Golden Dies at Bayside Home," NYT, 18 June 1955, 17; Lash, Years, 33; MD, 1 October 1948).

7. For ER's letter to Truman, see Document 384.

8. For ER's letter to Frances Perkins, see Document 383. On Drew Pearson, see n1 Document 146.

9. On Count Folke Bernadotte, see n1 Document 374. The Bernadotte Plan, which both Jews and Arabs opposed, proposed transferring the Negev to the Arabs, in exchange for giving all or part of Western Galilee to Israel. Bernadotte submitted his report, which he intended as a basis for negotiation, to the General Assembly on September 16. He was assassinated the next day by a Jewish antipartition underground group (Urquhart, 172-79, 192-93).

10. Cohen wrote to Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter November 6 that he felt a "deep sense of humiliation" over the handling of the Palestine problem. He argued that Secretary Marshall had been led to believe that any criticism of the department's position was "based on ignorance and political motives" and felt "only embarrassed and compromised by the piece-meal knowledge that is grudgingly accorded to us. (By us I mean generally Mrs. R and myself)—the others are generally content to be relieved of the responsibility and to follow the inside click [sic]." Cohen added that he did not believe that a "public row" would help the situation, as his position "would be ascribed to the fact that I am a Jew." He concluded: "My thought is therefore to try and find at an early opportunity a colorless excuse for quietly going home" (Cohen, Truman, 249). For more on Benjamin Cohen, see n36 Document 84.

11. Baruch did not travel to Russia in 1948.

12. Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet ambassador to the UN, and Dmitri Skobeltsyn, a Soviet atomic scientist and advisor to the Soviet delegation of the Atomic Energy Commission (Holloway, 164-66).

13. In a letter to Secretary Marshall on March 13, 1948, ER suggested that in an effort to ease tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union "you and the President, with a picked group of two industrialists, two labor leaders, two people representing the general public, should really demand that Great Britain, Russia and ourselves, sit down around a table before we actually get to a point where we are in a war" (Document 320). The same day, ER sent a similar letter to Truman: "I don't think I have been an alarmist before but I have become very worried and since we always have to sit down together when war comes to an end, I think before we have a third World War we should sit down together" (Document 321).

14. Brigadier General Marshall S. Carter (1909–1993), assistant to the secretary, Department of State. (FRUS 1948, vol. 1, Part 1, 13; Bruce Lambert, "Marshall Carter, 83, Intelligence Official and Marshall Aide," NYT, 20 February 1993, 48).

15. Baruch is most likely referring to Ray Tucker (1893–1963), a Washington correspondent and columnist ("Washington Whirlygig") for the McClure Syndicate ("Ray Tucker Dead: Ex-Columnist, 69," NYT, 2 May 1963, 30). On Drew Pearson, see n1 Document 146.

16. In response to Baruch's refusal to serve on the Democratic Finance Committee, Truman wrote Baruch August 31 indicating his disappointment with the decision: "A great many honors have been passed your way, both to you and your family, and it seems that when the going is rough it is a one-way street. I am sorry that this is so" (Hillman, 39; Donovan, 418; "Baruch Won't Talk of Truman Letter," NYT, 1 November 1948, 18).

17. Sensing that "all traditional avenues of negotiation" with the Russians had been exhausted, on October 5, 1948, President Truman informed Secretary Marshall, who was in Paris for the Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, that he was sending chief justice Fred M. Vinson on a peace mission to Moscow. Truman later wrote that he hoped Vinson's mission "might expose the Russian dictator to a better understanding of our attitude as a people and our nation's peaceful aspirations for the whole world." Unfortunately for Truman, however, the announcement caused a storm within the State Department and the UN delegation. Marshall, in particular, believed the Vinson mission would appear as a political maneuver right before the presidential election, and would circumvent the efforts of the Security Council. After listening to Marshall's objections, Truman decided not to move forward with the Vinson mission (Donovan, 423-24; FRUS 1948, vol. 2, 1157, 1184–86; Truman, vol. 2, 212-17; Vandenberg, 457-58).

18. In an attempt to provide Secretary of State Marshall added leverage at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, on September 21, 1948, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented to the National Munitions Board a strategic military plan for "total war," which put the United States in its strongest military position since the start of the Cold War. The new military planning program clarified the roles of the army, navy, and air force, and provided the Munitions Board a picture of the weapons and supplies needed in the event of major war (Charles Hurd, "Nation Held Ready in Military Plans," NYT, 22 September 1948, 11; "The Machinery of Defense," NYT, 22 September 1948, 30).

19. Malvina "Tommy" Thompson and Curtis "Buzz" Roosevelt Dall Boettiger (1930–), ER's grandson, joined ER on this Paris trip (MD, 23 September 1948).

20. ER first made this suggestion in letters to Truman and Marshall dated March 13, 1948. See Document 321 and Document 320.

21. See n17 above.

22. On the Italian colonies issue, see n3 Document 373.

23. See n16 above.

24. On October 15, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, and Curtis Roosevelt Boettiger, serving as ER's personal representative, traveled to Palestine to "make an on-the-spot survey of the way in which the funds contributed by American Jews are supporting large scale immigration into Israel from the DP centers and other parts of Europe." While there, Morgenthau declared that the "overwhelming majority" of Americans were sympathetic to the new Jewish state, and reminded the Israeli people that their current war for independence was reminiscent of the "early critical days of the birth of [the United States], when George Washington faced far superior forces." He also believed that it was "high time" for the Truman administration to clarify its Palestine policy. "The vacillating policy of the United Sates," said Morgenthau, "is most confusing to the people in Israel and must be a great source of satisfaction to Russia. If the Israeli Government is given any kind of a break the Israeli, of all people in the Mediterranean basin, in my opinion, would form a hard core of resistance against the spread of communism." Following their survey in Palestine, ER remarked in her column, "To both of them I think this was a trip of great interest, and I do know that it gave my grandson exactly what I had hoped—a glimpse of a world completely different from any he had ever lived in" ("Morgenthau Goes on Palestine Tour," NYT, 16 October 1948, 3; "Morgenthau Says U.S. Backs Israel," NYT, 21 October 1948, 8; "Morgenthau Asks a Palestine Policy," NYT, 1 November 1948, 3; MD, 3 November 1948).

Endorsing Truman

Other than objecting to Wallace's campaign for the liberal Democratic vote, ER remained uncharacteristically silent about the 1948 election. Indeed, after the national nominating conventions, she devoted only three columns to electoral politics. Written in September, these columns offer generic support to Democrats, singling out only gubernatorial, congressional, and mayoral candidates by name—Chester Bowles and Adlai Stevenson for the state house, Senator Paul Douglas, Representatives Helen Gahagan Douglas and Chet Holifield, and Mayor Hubert Humphrey.1 As she wrote September 10:

As a Democrat, I have been giving some serious thought to an important consideration in connection with the national elections in November. No Democrat wants any support from the Progressive Party and I should not think they would want any support from the so-called Dixiecrats.

Therefore, Democratic voters must concentrate on electing every liberal they possibly can in every state in the Union, and for every office, whether it is for Senator, Representative, Governor, or a member of a state legislature.

If we are going to elect a Democratic President he deserves to be able to carry out the things he believes in. It has been manifested that he cannot do that unless we elect liberals all the way down the line.

I have no idea whether the country as a whole has been thinking through the problems facing it and has been deciding what actual policies it wants to support on Election Day. If, however, President Truman in his recommendations to Congress has stood for the things that the average man in this country believes will be of benefit to him, then the duty of the voter in the coming election is clear. He must elect Democrats all the way up and down the board …

A Democratic President, if elected, must be able to carry out the things that the people of this country actually believe are the policies that will benefit them in the next four years, both at home and abroad. And he cannot do that alone.2

ER did not discuss Truman with readers after that.

"Frances Perkins telephoned me last night from Washington," ER wrote Joe Lash October 4, "asking for a letter endorsing Truman by name. She said Drew Pearson was saying that I was for Dewey. She made the point that we needed as big a Democratic vote as possible even tho' we were defeated, so I've written and sent her a letter to the President. If it ever sees the light of day I hope you will approve."3

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