Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Wales Latham

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Wales Latham

19 January 1947 [New York City]

Dear Mrs. Latham:

I was very much interested by the COMMON CAUSE statement of principles which you sent to me.2

The one division which I question a little is: "Help Defend America's Freedom by Helping Those Who Defend Freedom Abroad".3

There is starvation and deprivation today in many places where Democracy is not practiced and yet I think it is only by showing that Democracy respects all human beings and is inherently humane, regardless of political beliefs, that we will set the example by which people can understand as a contrast4 to the totalitarian philosophy. I would give priority to those whose need is greatest, but I would never mix need and relief with politics.5

                                       Very sincerely yours,


1. IWW; Latham to ER, 11 January 1947, AERP.

2. The six-page document to which ER refers, "Common Cause: A Call for a New Birth of Freedom," declared that "America is challenged … both at home and abroad" by a new "Fascism: a second aggressive totalitarian movement which by appealing to the worst in human tradition and by setting religion against religion, nation against nation, and race against race would revive the military state and plunge all mankind again into war." The destruction of the Fascist powers, in sum, did not end "the conditions of insecurity, frustration, and fear out of which Fascism came continue to ride the world." For democracy to triumph, "America must bring forth a great faith" and show the world that democracy means "personal worth, freedom, equality, rule of law, public morality, individual opportunity, [and] individual responsibility."

The attached list of its organizing committee included several liberals with whom ER had longstanding ties: Adolph A. Berle, Jr.; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; Constance Sporborg; Dorothy Thompson; and Sumner Welles ("Common Cause," attached to Mrs. Wales Latham to ER, 11 January 1947, AERP).

3. This section of the statement of principles reads:

The frontiers of freedom today rest in those countries which are struggling to preserve the free way of life and individual, religious, and national freedom under grueling totalitarian pressure. It is to the selfish, as well as to the humanitarian, interest of every American who prizes the free way of life to bring material and moral assistance and comfort to men, women and children who have suffered deprivation, starvation, and persecution because of their devotion to democratic principles.

The names and addresses of people in France, Italy, Greece, Austria, and other countries, and lists of the simple everyday necessities of life which they need so desperately, will be furnished to any member of Common Cause wishing to participate in the work. Many of these people, both Jews and Gentiles, are in the displaced persons' camps in Europe, unable to return to safety to the lands of their origin and unwelcome in the devastated countries to which they fled or to which they were deported. Many of them have suffered terribly even during the period when they have been under UNRRA, and their fate is now more uncertain than ever. Aid must be given to them, and homes must be found for them. The sacred right of asylum for political refugees must be upheld against totalitarian efforts to force their return ("Common Cause," ibid).

4. Typographical error changed. File copy of document read "contract" rather than "contrast." ER corrected errors in ink on outgoing copies of correspondence only.

5. ER had made this argument previously. For example, see her August 23, 1946, column, in which she stated that she did "not want food and medical supplies confused with military supplies, since the former were sent to Yugoslavia to help the people" and that she hoped "that we will always distinguish between the people and their governments in countries which are not our type of democracies" (MD, 23 August 1946).

Eleanor Roosevelt and Americans for Democratic Action, Part 2

Henry Wallace reacted to his exclusion from the ADA by emphasizing what the ADA and the PCA had in common. He used his new position as editor of the New Republic to present his case in a January editorial:

The point I want to make is that the liberals today in the so-called warring groups are about 90 percent in agreement. Some people who have read about "Mrs. Roosevelt's ADA and Henry Wallace's PCA" have written in, asking, "How does it happen that Henry Wallace and Mrs. Roosevelt are in warring camps?" The answer is, "We are not." I am not a member or an officer of the PCA and Mrs. Roosevelt, to the best of my knowledge, is not a member or an officer of the ADA. I spoke to one organization urging unity in the progressive ranks. Mrs. Roosevelt spoke to the other. We both believe in using the underlying liberal force of the country to make the Democratic Party into a genuine progressive instrument.1

Major newspapers covered the dispute with headlines such as "Liberals Attack Wallace's Policy"2 and the United Press syndicate distributed articles, such as the one below, defining the debate as an ER-Wallace schism to its affiliates.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Wales Latham

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Wales Latham