Eleanor Roosevelt to Chester Bowles

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Chester Bowles

23 June 1948 [Hyde Park]

My dear Mr. Bowles:

Many thanks for your letter of June 18th. I know little about General Eisenhower and hesitate to take any part in politics, but I shall consider again in light of the Republican nomination.8

                                          Very sincerely,

                                        Eleanor Roosevelt


1. For background on FDR, Jr.'s, draft Eisenhower announcement and ER's correspondence with Truman and Marshall about it, see Document 332 and Document 333.

2. Philadelphia hosted the Democratic Convention from July 12 to 15, 1948 (Hamby, Man, 448-50).

3. Liberals within the Democratic Party also looked to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas as a possible candidate, if they could not persuade Eisenhower to run. A strong defender of civil liberties who became chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and worked closely with FDR and ER during the New Deal, Douglas, unlike Eisenhower, possessed solid liberal credentials. In 1944, ER had supported Douglas as a possible replacement for Wallace on the 1944 ballot. On April 11, 1948, the ADA's National Board issued a call for "an open Democratic convention," asserting that "this Nation has the right to call upon men like Dwight D. Eisenhower and William O. Douglas if the people so choose." In June, ADA vice-chairman Hubert Humphrey came out in favor of either Eisenhower or Douglas. Liberals held Douglas in high esteem, but polls showed Eisenhower to be the stronger candidate and Southern Democrats viewed Douglas as too liberal (Hamby, Beyond, 224-29, 237-39; Parmet, 75).

4. In his memoirs, Bowles, who in an April 2 radio broadcast called for Truman to step aside, presents his meeting with Eisenhower in a somewhat different light:

No one knew Eisenhower's political views, and I felt it was quite possible that he did not have any. I decided to find out. I called his office at Columbia University and an appointment was arranged for the following day. After a two-hour discussion I was convinced: (1) that he wanted to become President; (2) that this desire was qualified by his reluctance to participate in the turmoil of political life; (3) that his ideas on domestic policy were almost wholly unformed; and (4) that he was incredibly naive politically. As evidence of this latter point General Eisenhower seriously asked me at the end of our discussion if it might be possible for him to be nominated by both parties. I came away badly shaken (Bowles, 211).

5. ER and Eisenhower did not know each other well, but enjoyed a cordial relationship. He was among those who hosted her trip to England during the war when she visited American troops and she corresponded with him occasionally both during and after the war about issues such as the problems of soldiers waiting for demobilization in 1946. In 1945, after the end of the war, he came to Hyde Park to lay a wreath at FDR's grave.

In June 1948, ER invited Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, to spend a night in Hyde Park. Eisenhower replied, "I venture to suggest that if you and I should ever, simultaneously, uncover an idle day on our schedules it would be scarcely less than a minor miracle. However, I do hope that the not too distant future will bring us some opportunity to take advantage of your great courtesy and thoughtfulness." The day before Bowles wrote to her about signing the statement Helen Gahagan Douglas had prepared, ER renewed her invitation to Eisenhower, telling him if the Eisenhowers felt like driving up for lunch any weekend after July 3rd, to just call and "say you are coming" (Lash, Eleanor, 659, 662; ER, Autobiography, 287; ER to Eisenhower, 10 November 194(3?), DDEP, DDEL; ER to Truman, 12 January 1946, HSTSF, HSTL; ER to Eisenhower, 8 June 1948; Eisenhower to ER, 14 June 1948, AERP; ER to Eisenhower, 17 June 1948, DDEP, DDEL).

6. Neither Bowles nor Douglas nor ER retained a copy of the statement Bowles references in this letter. However, on July 3, nineteen party leaders, including Bowles but not Douglas, sent telegrams to all the delegates to the Democratic convention inviting them to participate in a caucus they planned to hold in Philadelphia on July 10, two days before the beginning of the convention. The telegrams called for "an open and free Democratic convention" and urged the delegates to "seek for the leader of our party the ablest and strongest man available" (James A. Hagerty, "19 Party Leaders Make Caucus Call to Block Truman," NYT, 4 July 1948, 1).

7. Warren Moscow, "Dewey Desperate, Stassen Declares," NYT, 23 June 1945, 12; "Vandenberg to Be 'Available' to End; Statement Indicates," NYT, 22 June 1948, 1, 2; Alexander F. Jones, "Convention Still Wide Open As Bands Play," WP, 22 June 1948, 1.

8. ER made no public statements of support, before or after the Republican convention, for other presidential candidates or for an open Democratic convention. However, she did hold private conversations about Eisenhower with those she trusted. For example, Joe Lash later recalled that when FDR, Jr., first told ER about his plans to call for the drafting of Eisenhower, his mother wanted to know, "Where did General Eisenhower stand on domestic things? Suppose he reaffirmed his refusal to run? Was he prepared to be cold-shouldered by the president and his friends? Had he consulted people like Bernard Baruch and Ed Flynn?" Hubert Humphrey also recalled that ER discussed the prospect of an Eisenhower draft with him several times in 1948; however, his memoirs do not reveal when they talked or what she said (Lash, Years, 146; H. Humphrey, Education, 110-11).

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Chester Bowles