Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Rusk

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Rusk

13 July 1948 [Hyde Park]

Dear Mr. Rusk:

Thank you for your letter of July 12th. I think, however, your information is slightly erroneous on the subject of Jim Hendrick's resignation and I do hope you will at least ask him to come and tell you his real story.

Mr. Sandifer has always been friendly and absolutely fair.7 Dr. Kotschnig is the one I think, who made Mr. Hendrick's situation untenable. He told me of the situation and I told him I thought no man had a right to stay in a position where he did not feel he was able to give to the maximum of his ability and that if he felt he could do better work in this new position, he should take it.

I am sure Mr. Hendrick could not return unless there was a very clear understanding not only that he was not demoted, which he told me he had been on his return from the Human Rights Commission meeting in New York, but that the rating given him by Dr. Kotschnig was not completely satisfactory.8

I can think of no one with whom I would rather work, and no one whose loss to the Human Rights Commission is greater. I could only conclude that the treatment given him by Dr. Kotschnig had been given because the Human Rights Commission seemed to the Department so unimportant they did not think he was deserving of retaining his same standing.

As far as I am concerned, there has never been anything which Jim Hendrick and I have not worked out with the Department, not always, I fear, to the Department's entire satisfaction, but nearly always so.

I shall be delighted to see you any time you happen to be in New York City. I can come down, or I would be happy to have you come up here for a night.

                                    Very cordially yours,

                                     Eleanor Roosevelt


1. ER to Dean Rusk, 19 June 1948, JPHP, HSTL. For examples of the ER-Hendrick collaboration see Document 295. For information on Dean Rusk, see Biographical Portraits.

2. On Walter Kotschnig, see Biographical Portraits. This was not the first time ER had attempted to influence personnel matters in the State Department. In May 1947, she wrote a letter to George Warren, advisor on refugees and displaced persons, concerning the resignation of Arthur J. Altmeyer:

I am very much troubled about this rumor that Mr. Altmeyer might resign. I have written him an airmail letter, telling him how important I think it is for him to stay on.

If there is anything you can do in the State Department to urge upon him to stay even until September, I hope you will do it … (ER to George Warren, 14 May 1948, RG84, NARA II).

3. Hendrick wrote Rusk June 28 to inform Rusk of his decision to resign. Rusk replied July 7, saying that he was "sorry the circumstances are such that we did not work more closely together," and that "was partly [Hendrick's] fault" as "early in his assignment," Rusk "satisfied [himself] that your attitude on human rights was what we needed in the UNA" and that he could:

count on [Hendrick] to keep the cause of human rights moving as fast and as strongly as the traffic would bear at any particular time. The great amount of independence with which you were allowed to operate was directly due to that confidence of mine that you would keep pressing for an adequate human rights program until curbed by higher authority.

Rusk concluded by saying that "it will be almost impossible to find a replacement who can do the thing" Hendrick managed and that while he was "not discouraged about the prospects for an adequate human rights program," he "fully recognize[d] that much bitter controversy is ahead of us if we are to mend some of our ways on these matters" (Dean Rusk to James Hendrick, 7 July 1948, JPHP, HSTL).

4. James Hendrick to Dean Rusk, 28 June 1948, JPHP, HSTL.

5. For examples of disagreement between the State Department and ER and the HRC over the drafting of the human rights covenant, see header Document 289 and header Document 295.

6. In a letter to ER dated July 22, Hendrick summarized a discussion he had with Rusk, which probably took place after Rusk wrote to ER:

I told him there was no use in my trying to work for a person who didn't trust me and whom I didn't trust, and I recited at some length the difficulties I had had. I believe Dean got the point; but he felt it was too late to make readjustments. He did try his best to keep me on—but under unchanged circumstances. So we parted, regretfully, with nothing accomplished. The only spark of hope was that maybe the great work in Human Rights lies ahead of us—not in the next two years, but after that. By this time it may be that circumstances in the State Department will have changed; and if it is humanly possible I shall then be back clamoring at Dean Rusk's and Sandy's [Deputy Assistant Secretary for UN Affairs Durward Sandifer] doors for a job, and hope that the doors will be open.

Hendrick wrote to ER again the next day to add that he felt he had "underestimated the degree of cooperation Dean Rusk offered me," and that Rusk was "doing his best" to keep Hendrick at the Human Rights Commission. He then reported that Rusk had suggested he be transferred to the legal advisor's office, an opportunity Hendrick felt "would be good, perhaps, for a short time but death over a long stretch" because of what Hendrick observed to be a "general atmosphere … of defeatism" and opposition in the department to the Covenant on Human Rights (Dean Rusk to James Hendrick, 7 July 1948, JPHP, HSTL; James Hendrick to ER, 22 July 1948, AERP; James Hendrick to ER, 23 July 1948, AERP).

7. The same report included Durward Sandifer's review, stating Kotschnig's opinion "that while Mr. Hendrick's individual performance is excellent, his work in directing the work of his subordinates is not outstandingly effective." It is unclear from available documentation to which "subordinates" or events this comment referenced (US Civil Service Commission, "Report of Efficiency Rating," 31 March 1948, JPHP, HSTL).

8. Hendrick did not return to the State Department after his resignation, but instead joined the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), the initial implementing agency of the Marshall Plan, in August 1948 (James Hendrick to ER, 18 August 1948, AERP).

On Wallace, the PCA, and the Mundt-Nixon Bill

On June 4, 1948, ER once again used her column to discuss the anti-Communist Mundt bill. Most pundits believed that the bill, which passed the House in May, would die in the Senate Judiciary Committee where members debated the bill's constitutionality. Nevertheless, opponents of the bill converged in Washington by the thousands and staged mass pickets before the White House and the Capitol. Commenting on the spectacle, the New York Times reported that the Mundt bill "has stirred divisions so violent as to be without example here in many years."1 ER, who remained opposed to the bill, questioned the tactics of those who protested the bill in Washington:

I am afraid that the demonstrations in Washington against the Mundt Bill will have the effect of gaining votes for it rather than reducing them. Why Henry Wallace allows his party to lend itself to this kind of perfectly open Communist manipulation, I will never be able to understand.

If the Mundt Bill passes, it will be one more thing on which the Communists can attack us—another piece of restrictive legislation which all of us who are liberals will deeply regret. It is naive and absurd not to recognize the fact that the Communists will be enchanted if it passes, and that, in inspiring demonstrations such as have occurred in the national capital, they are carrying on the same sort of maneuvers that they have used before. The Communists are using other people, notably Wallace's third party, to accomplish the ends they have in view—their usual tactics.2

After reading this column in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roy N. Lokken, one of several erstwhile ER supporters to protest her attitude towards Wallace and the Progressives, sent ER a six-page, single-spaced, typewritten letter on June 20. Lokken, a World War II veteran and founding member of Washington State's Progressive Party, argued that "had it not been for the leadership of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party the Mundt Bill would be the law of the land now." Moreover, he asserted that, in addition to failing to recognize this contribution, ER's columns included "several misrepresentations and falsehoods" concerning Wallace and the Progressives which he would "not like to believe … were deliberate." He "would rather believe" that ER was "misinformed." Yet he could not help but argue:

The record shows, however, that since January you have engaged in a number of ill-advised and not altogether truthful attacks on the intellectual integrity of Henry A. Wallace and the intentions of the members of the new party movement. Either you have been much too busy to get the facts, or you have acted out of a desire to protect the party of your husband. The latter reason may be understandable, but I can see no moral foundation for placing party above country, political expediency above the truth. The former reason would constitute intellectual dishonesty which I find it hard to believe of you.

He then disputed the criticisms the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) launched at his organization, declaring that only the Progressive Party provided the:

genuine progressive leadership (no generals) and work for the things all progressives profess to believe in, and ADA shoots spitwads at us. I am sorry to say these things, but what else can I say of a group which, for all its high-sounding pretensions, has actually made a record for itself of inaction, defeatism, and ineptness. We are attacked as being barbaric agitators, etc. That is the price dynamic liberalism has had to pay ever since the days of Jefferson's republicans, when they were called Jacobins and were accused of being inspired by agents of the French government. But it is because we are dynamic, because we are working for progressive principles, that we are attacked. The attacks against us are eloquent testimonies that we are working and that our work is getting results. The ADA is not so attacked, it achieves "respectability," because of its inertia, which suits reaction just fine. The less you do the better you are treated. It is when you get out and work for the things you believe in that you are attacked. Witness the life of your own husband.

Lokken concluded his letter with a challenge to ER: "I hope for better things from you in the future, as there have been better things from you in the past."3

ER wrote the following letter in response to this criticism.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Rusk

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Rusk