Eleanor Roosevelt to E. Ralph Wiborg

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Eleanor Roosevelt to E. Ralph Wiborg

21 September 1947 [Hyde Park]

My dear Mr. Wiborg:

I do not think the Truman doctrine is leading us down the path to war. I do not think it was a wise way to do something which obviously had to be done, but that is not going to lead us to war. I think we will get back on the right track very quickly2

No, I do not think there is any danger of democracy and liberal Protestantism being crushed between two totalitarianisms, but I do think that both democracy and liberal Protestantism have got to show good cause as to why they should not be crushed and the way to do it is to really live the Christian doctrine instead of giving lip service, and to really accept the responsibilities as citizens, that democracy to be successful, entails.3

I think perhaps that what you forget is that in a democracy the leadership for the most part, comes from the people. Occasionally individuals rise to heights and they point the way, but day by day and year by year, it is the people who have to guide democracy.

I think Mr. Henry Wallace is a fine person but I do not think he is very wise as a politician. He has succeeded in misleading the Russians into believing that the majority of the people of the United States agree with them and that of course, leads them to do things which they would never otherwise do. I think the present times require great patience, great courage and firmness and on the part of each one of us a willingness to work for the things we believe in, day in and day out, and not to be afraid to set our minds so that we keep our country in the right track, and in so doing, keep it an influence for good in the world.

                                      Very sincerely yours,


1. E. Ralph Wiborg to ER, 11 September 1947, AERP.

2. On the Truman Doctrine, see header Document 210.

3. ER did not directly address Wiborg's assertion that Roman Catholicism represented one of the "totalitarianisms." For ER's views of Catholicism as a political power, see n3 Document 26, n5 Document 151, Document 248, Document 282, and header Document 393.

Huac and the Hanns Eisler Case

In September 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) subpoenaed the composer Hanns Eisler (1898–1962), a German Jew who collaborated with Berthold Brecht and whose brother Gerhart was a confessed Communist, to appear before the committee. He and his wife Louise fled from Germany to Cuba in 1933, where they applied for a permanent visa to the United States. In 1939, ER, who had known the Eislers through mutual acquaintances in New York, Donald Stephens of the National Arts Club and Alvin Johnson of the New School of Social Research, interceded on their behalf with two letters to Sumner Welles, who was then the undersecretary of state, expressing her certainty that "the Eislers are not Communists and have no political affiliations of any kind." Though the Eislers' visa application was denied in Cuba, they succeeded a year later, without ER's help, in gaining entry to the United States through Mexico.1

In follow-up to Eisler's own testimony, the committee summoned Welles on September 24 to question him about the Eislers' visas. In support of his testimony, Welles submitted ER's two 1939 letters to him, one dated January 11, the second dated February 7. When the New York Times reprinted the two letters in their entirety, ER then tried to reach Welles by telephone.2

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Eleanor Roosevelt to E. Ralph Wiborg

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Eleanor Roosevelt to E. Ralph Wiborg