Eleanor Roosevelt to Edward Flynn

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Edward Flynn

8 June 1945 [Washington, DC]

My dear Ed:

I had lunch today with President Truman. He is very much worried by the democratic situation in New York City and frankly, I am worried about it too.16

I hardly think that the ticket even with Mr. O'Dwyer to head it, can stand up against the Republican ticket.17 I do not vote in New York City so I suppose it is no concern of mine, except I feel that every democratic defeat helps Dewey in the State.

I rather think your having been ill means that they haven't had the benefit of your advice and I do not know whether they can do anything about the two nominations, by what has been said about them, I should think they were exceptionally weak, and Mr. O'Dwyer not strong enough to carry them against what looks to be a fairly strong Republican ticket.18

I think Mr. Fitzpatrick will have every opportunity now to build up the democratic organization in the State,19 but even the best of democratic organizations will not win unless we have the completely unattached liberals and many of the liberal Republicans, with us and we definitely have to show the farming part of the State that we are serving their interests in Washington and through Washington, in the State.

In addition, we definitely have to hold the colored vote and show that the gestures made by Mr. Dewey were not honest-to-goodness interest.20 This is not going to be easy and we better be planning our program now for the city and the state. Mr. Dewey is capable of playing a clever political game and we will not only have to be good politicians but really make our party honest, standing for the things which most of us as individuals know are right.

I meant to talk to you about all this when you came to lunch, but seeing President Truman made me conscious of the fact that he is really troubled.

                                      Very cordially yours,


1. Lash, World, 130; ER to Lorena Hickok, 16 July 1944, LAHP, FDRL; Lorena Hickok to ER, n.d.; Lorena Hickok to ER, 20 November 1944, AERP.

2. Trude Lash, notes, 15 April 1945, JPLP, FDRL; ER to Trude Lash 2 and 4 June 1945, JPLP, FDRL.

3. Over the course of her first month outside the White House, ER met with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, his wife Jane, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, FDR's former assistant Jonathan Daniels, Postmaster General and former Democratic Party Chair Frank Walker, and FDR's former law partner Harry Hooker. See also Document 10 and Document 11 (HSTE; MD, 1 May and 2 June 1945; "Henry S. Hooker, Lawyer, 84, Dies," NYT, 19 May 1964, 37).

4. ER refers to an NBC radio broadcast from Paris by W. W. (Bill) Chaplin (1895–1978), the Paris-based radio correspondent for the Associated Press, the International News Service, and the National Broadcasting Company, who provided live reports on conditions in southern Germany and Austria. She may have heard his Memorial Day report on civilian wartime behavior in the neighborhood of the Dachau concentration camp. Following his visit to the liberated camp, Chaplin called for a stern justice in occupied Germany and railed against the "propaganda" about "good Germans" who claimed not to have known about the camps. Or she may have heard his June 1 report, in which he reported that German soldiers rather than Allied troops were still policing the Austrian Tyrol region and argued that the Americans occupying Germany should take a page from the Russian playbook, stop being soft, and act more like "conquerors." Chaplin's partner in these reports on Germany, Roy Porter, told of ongoing sabotage perpetrated against Allied troops, Germans who continued to act as though their country had not lost the war, and the incompetence of some American personnel supervising the occupation. A New York City native and president of the Overseas Press Club, Chaplin had reported extensively on World War II and spent sixteen years with NBC. In addition, his reporting career included stints with Associated Press and the International News Service (Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center, radio broadcast tape "[NBC] News Report from Paris," RWB 522 B1, 27 May 1945 and an abbreviated version of this story on radio broadcast tape RWB 520 A1, 30 May 1945; radio broadcast tape, "[NBC] News," RWB 556 A1, 1 June 1945; "NBC Reporter W.W. Chaplin," WP, 22 August 1978, C11).

5. The major NBC affiliate in New York City.

6. For examples of correspondence ER received from soldiers from 1942 through 1945 see boxes 827-842, Children Named After Eleanor Roosevelt and Letters from Servicemen and Women, Section 100.1 of AERP.

7. In November 1944, after a particularly vicious campaign, FDR received his smallest margin of victory, 25.6 million to 22 million votes for Dewey. Dewey's advisors knew that the CIO PAC's get-out-the-vote campaign played a decisive role in FDR's victory; however, they took heart from an analysis that showed that a shift of less than 300,000 votes in a few key states would have sent Dewey to the White House. In a postelection strategy session, RNC chair Herbert Brownell urged Dewey to adopt a domestic agenda that included support for the FEPC, anti-poll tax legislation, extension of Social Security to 20 million uncovered workers, and an equal rights amendment for women as a way to bring working class and minority voters into the Republican camp (R. Smith, 438-41; Kennedy, 792-93).

8. See n1 Document 5 and n2 Document 11.

9. Seven southern states levied taxes on voters, a policy designed to disenfranchise black voters who, as low-paid tenant farmers and sharecroppers, rarely had money to spend for any purpose. Although two states had repealed the tax by June 1945, five still collected it. The House had three roll call votes on measures to abolish the tax in 1945. A Senate filibuster blocked consideration of the measure (Key, 578-618).

10. Paul E. Fitzpatrick (1897–1977), son of the Democratic Party leader in Erie, businessman from Buffalo, and strong party advocate for FDR, replaced New York State Democratic chair James Farley when Farley refused to endorse FDR's fourth reelection campaign. Fitzpatrick chaired the state party from 1944 to 1953 and, with Ed Flynn, helped muster critical support for Truman's renomination in 1948 ("Paul E. Fitzpatrick Is Dead at 79," NYT, 2 July 1977, 13).

11. Tammany Hall was the home of the New York City Democratic machine, whose relationship with FDR remained frayed after Governor Roosevelt forced the resignation of Mayor James Walker, September 1, 1932. Torn by internal disputes and La Guardia's successful multi-party coalition, Tammany sold its headquarters in 1943, moved into the offices of the New York State Democratic Committee, and remained ineffective throughout the 1940s, only to revive briefly in the late '40s and '50s under the leadership of Carmine De Sapio (Freidel, 75-76; Allen, passim).

12. ER meant the political machine controlled by Kansas City boss Tom Pendergast. Once the most powerful machine in the nation, it collapsed in 1939 after Pendergast was imprisoned for income tax evasion (Hamby, Man, 233).

13. Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly's machine worked to support FDR, Democratic governors, and the national party thereby securing the support of party leaders. As Harold Ickes recalled in his diary, when Attorney General Frank Murphy wanted to "clean up Chicago because it was the worst mess in the country," Murphy "hoped 'they' would let him go ahead. I found out," Ickes noted, "that it was surmised that the President would not permit Murphy to go ahead with the investigation on account of Ed Kelly." Murphy then told Ickes that he knew he was waiting "for the green light that probably will not flash." Weakened by a series of scandals, the machine splintered in 1945 (Wilson, 69-71).

14. In 1937, Perkins refused to deport Harry Bridges, one of the organizers of the 1934 longshoreman's strike, when evidence later surfaced that he might be a Communist. Although Bridges's deportation hearing had been scheduled for April 25, on April 6 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Kessler v. Strecker that it was illegal to assume that membership in the Communist Party implies the desire to "overthrow by force and violence the government of the United States." Perkins decided to postpone the Bridges hearing until the Supreme Court ruled on Kessler. Rep. Martin Dies, Jr. (D-TX), then accused her of concealing evidence, and Rep. J. Parnell Thomas introduced a resolution demanding her impeachment. Although the Judiciary Committee rejected the resolution, the Republican minority reported that Perkins had been "lenient and indulgent" and that she deserved the "official and public disapproval of this Committee." ER supported her throughout the controversy. For Truman's assessment of Perkins, see n6 Document 2 (G. Martin, 406-19; ER to Anne Choate, 9 February 1939, AERP).

15. ER to Hickok, 11 June 1945, LPHP, FDRL; ER to Trude Lash, 12 June 1945, JPHP, FDRL.

16. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's announcement in May 1945 that he would not seek reelection caught political party leaders by surprise and set off a scramble for viable candidates. See also Document 31-34.

17. See n3, Document 10. The New York City mayoral race had three credible, well-supported candidates: O'Dwyer, the mayoral candidate endorsed by both the Democratic and American Labor Parties; Judge Jonah J. Goldstein, the Republican-Liberal-Fusion Party candidate; and La Guardia's anointed heir, City Council President Newbold Morris, who ran under the No Deal Party banner. Socialist Party candidate Joseph G. Glass, Workers Party nominee Max Schactman, and Industrial Government Party candidate Eric Hass also competed for the mayoralty ("6 in Mayor Race Discuss Housing," NYT, 22 October 1945, 30).

18. ER was not the only Democrat concerned about O'Dwyer's vulnerability. Goldstein had been elected to the general sessions bench as a Democrat. After Goldstein's rival for the Liberal Party nomination announced that he would seek reelection as city comptroller rather than challenge Goldstein, O'Dwyer worried that an unchallenged Goldstein could undermine party support for his election. He immediately telegraphed party leaders to call a conference "to substitute more outstanding candidates as his running mates" for city comptroller and city council president. Goldstein then attacked O'Dwyer, hinting that an O'Dwyer administration could not control either the Tammany machine or the Communists who sought to infiltrate city hall. O'Dwyer's supporters then countered that his victory would seriously undercut Dewey's chances for reelection as governor and another future run as Republican presidential candidate.

November 6, the voters proved ER's and O'Dwyer's fears misguided as they gave O'Dwyer a landslide victory, elected his entire slate, allowing Goldstein only one district victory, the tradition-al Republican Ninth in Manhattan (Ibid; James A. Hagerty, "Record Plurality," NYT, 7 November 1945, 1).

19. See n10, Document 16.

20. Dewey worked hard to make inroads into the African American vote. In December 1944, after losing to FDR, he urged the Republican National Committee to adopt a twelve-point charter that included strong public commitment to anti-poll tax legislation, extension of social security payments to categories omitted by the New Deal, and a Fair Employment Practices Commission. Three months later, Dewey had also proclaimed the week of February 12-18 as "Negro History Week" and, two days before ER wrote this letter, appointed Elmer A. Carter, the African American editor of the National Urban League's magazine, to the five-member State Commission Against Discrimination charged with enforcing a new law against employment bias (Smith, Dewey, 439-40; "Negro History Hailed," NYT, 11 February 1945, 34; "Dewey Picks Anti-Bias Board of 5 to Bar All Job Discriminations," NYT, 7 June 1945, 21).

On Earl Browder and the Communist Party of the United States

Eleanor Roosevelt often intended her column to spur public debate. In this case, as her close friend Joseph Lash argued, she intended that her response to Moscow's demotion of Earl Browder, whose leadership of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) helped launch support for a Popular Front politics, be read in Moscow. Yet the column also shaped American press coverage of the actions taken by the CPUSA. For example, the New York Times, which did not carry My Day, found this column so important that it requested permission from the New York World Telegram to print the column in its entirety the day following its release. The Times introduced the column by saying ER "expressed her belief yesterday that issues involved in the future peace and friendly relations between the United States and Russia would be solved only when the whole situation of Communists outside the Soviet Union is cleared up 'authoritatively.'"1

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Edward Flynn

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Edward Flynn