James Hendrick Memorandum of Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

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James Hendrick Memorandum of Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

3 July 1947

Persons Present: Mrs. Roosevelt, Senator Austin, Mr. Ross, Mr. Winslow and Mr. Hendrick.3

Subject: Commission on Human Rights

Relations with Congress—Mrs. Roosevelt explained to Senator Austin that the Human Rights Drafting Committee in its recently concluded session, had produced two documents. One, a declaration on human rights which would have morally binding force, and the other a convention which would have legally binding force. (The declaration was the more carefully prepared document of the two.)

Mrs. Roosevelt explained that the United States position had at all times been that there should be a declaration of human rights and in addition, a convention or conventions to furnish implementation. The United States had not felt that a convention could be achieved at once, but when it was apparent that a strong majority in the Drafting Committee wanted a convention at the same time as a declaration, the United States went along with this view.

Mrs. Roosevelt then asked Senator Austin if he would like to make any comments on two questions which were troubling her: (a) would a convention on human rights be acceptable to the Senate at this time; (b) is it advisable for the Department to sound out Senators Vandenberg and Connolly4 on the subject.

Senator Austin felt that the first question posed a very difficult problem and he could not undertake to answer it. He agreed with Mrs. Roosevelt that there would be certain elements among the Southern contingent and the reactionaries from other parts of the country where very strong opposition to a convention would be met. With regard to the second question, Senator Austin felt that it would be well to sound out Senators Vandenberg and Connolly on the subject. Senator Austin explained that he was not the person to do this. He had made it a rule to leave Congress alone except on such occasions as he was required to ask them for appropriations. The effect of his silence had, he believed, been beneficial. It was explained that Mr. Lovett might very well be prepared to see the Senators and Senator Austin agreed with this suggested procedure as a very satisfactory method of handling the matter.5

Ratification of convention—Mr. Ross suggested that if a convention was adopted on human rights, it might be possible to put it in the form of a joint resolution, in which case both Houses of Congress would participate and a majority vote would be sufficient.

United States policy on Human Rights—Mrs. Roosevelt pointed out that the essential in present day consideration of human rights was to secure publicity. Senator Austin agreed that we should insist at this time upon United Nations provision for human rights which would result in publicity in cases of serious violations. Beyond that Senator Austin felt, and Mrs. Roosevelt agreed, that United States policy should for the time being, be flexible. We should be perfectly willing to enter into a convention as well as a declaration, but we must be reasonably certain that the country will back us up. We should not try for too much. It would be most unfortunate if we were to take the lead in forcing a convention through the General Assembly and then be turned down by the Senate.

U.S.S.R. policy on Human Rights—Mrs. Roosevelt indicated her view that the U.S.S.R. would probably say very little at the second session of the Human Rights Commission and would not start to indicate a definitive position until the first meeting of the Discrimination and Minorities Sub-Commission. She expected that the declaration and the convention would have to be fought out with the U.S.S.R. paragraph by paragraph much in the same manner that the IRO Constitution was fought out. The question of whether the United States should enter into a convention on human rights if the U.S.S.R. and its satellites refuse to do so, was not touched upon with Senator Austin. Mrs. Roosevelt was inclined to feel that the U.S.S.R. position on this matter would not be reached until very late in the proceedings.

Meetings with Non-Governmental Organizations—Mrs. Roosevelt stated that she had informally received excellent reports of the work done by the Department in connection with the education of non-governmental organizations regarding certain U.N. manners. It was indicated that this sort of work might be made extremely effective in connection with problems arising on human rights.



1. Glendon, 70-71.

2. James Hendrick to Dean Rusk, 1 July 1947, RG84, NARA II.

3. Warren Austin; John C. Ross (1904–?), senior advisor to Ambassador Austin; Richard S. Winslow (1908–2000), a career State Department official who helped administer the US mission's activities; and James Hendrick. Winslow served in the US Army from 1943 to 1945 and in UNRRA from 1945 to 1946. In June of 1946 he joined the State Department, initially working on the refugee and displaced persons issue. Later that year he became secretary general of the US mission to the UN. John C. Ross joined the State Department as an economic analyst in 1937 and worked in a variety of capacities in the department before being assigned to UN affairs in 1945. Beginning in 1947, he became a member of the US delegation to the UN General Assembly (on Hendrick, see Mazuzan, 42-43; on Winslow, see RDS (April 1, 1949), 415; obituary, Harvard Magazine, vol. 102 (July-August 2000), http://www.harvardmag.com/classnotes/0304-obituaries.html, accessed 11 November 2005; obituary, NYT, 15 February 2000, C27; on Ross, see BRDS (1949), 332; "High Aide Leaves U.S. Group in U.N.," NYT, 18 August 1954, 5).

4. Senator Tom Connally.

5. The editors could not determine whether Lovett approached Connally and Vandenberg, but Lovett himself opposed the drafting of a covenant. See notes and headers for Document 289 and Document 295.

Assessing the Marshall Plan

June 24, 1947, Mary Ester R. Hill, a former president of the Texas League of Women Voters and a proponent of strengthening the UN, responded to an appeal from the American Association of the United Nations. The letter, distributed over ER's signature, sought support for "the ideal of world organization for peace through the United Nations" and asked readers to endorse the "American policy of aid to Greece and Turkey as amended in the Congress, clearly bringing American policy within the framework of the United Nations."1

Hill then wrote ER, saying that "at first" she "intended to sign the form reaffirming faith in the United Nations" but she had changed her mind. She hoped that although ER was "an ambassador to the world … [she] could afford to throw a re-assuring ray of light upon the path of a trusting but troubled citizen." Although Hill opposed military aid and regretted that action in support of Greece "could not have waited on the slow-moving machinery of the United Nations," she supported Truman's policy of direct assistance to Greece. Hill also leaned toward supporting the Marshall Plan, but she considered Henry Wallace's plan for world reconstruction "bolder and broader" than "the limited plan for economic recovery in Europe as conceived by Secretary Marshall." Yet, she remained conflicted. "While [I am] a long-time and an ardent admirer of Henry Wallace," Hill had "been led to consider that plan best in international intercourse [is that] which can not be misunderstood, circumvented or ignored by the Russians."

Hill, however, did "not enjoy being an advocate of a plan that makes Spain happy and hopeful any more than I presume President Truman and Secretary Marshall do." Moreover, "I regret to seem on the side that hates Russia for I have defended and will continue to defend Russia's rights. But I must believe we have trustworthy leadership now when day to day calls for forthright decisions." She then sought some reassurance from ER about the direction of American foreign policy.2

ER dictated the following reply.3

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James Hendrick Memorandum of Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt

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