London Diary

views updated

London Diary

9 January 1946

I didn't write last night because it was too late after I got back from Mrs. LaRue Brown's31 where I went for dinner and got things tidied up so I could go to work this morning. Miss Cuddy comes at 8:30 and apologizes for being late, when I just barely manage to drink my tea and get it taken away!

Yesterday morning I worked with Miss Cuddy till 10:30 and from then till one I attended a meeting in Mr. Stettinius' room, going over the people the delegation was to back for the various positions with the reasons for the choices. They now want Spaak of Belgium for President of this session of the Assembly32 The Big Five are not asking for any of the elective positions so as to avoid being thought to want too much domination!33 The British and ourselves would like Pearson of Canada for Sec. Gen., but that will take Canada off the Security Council.34 This type of choosing runs through all the positions but all may change at a moment's notice so I won't tell you any more.

I went to a Red Cross ceremony which I described in my column, all except the fact that I had to make an extra speech to the British staff to tell them how much we appreciated their work.35 I got home barely in time to go to the Browns. Mr. Brown came to get me and we walked as it was only three blocks and the rain was just the usual drizzle. I got home about ten and worked till 12:30.

Secy. Byrnes got in on time yesterday and Mrs. B. came with him. Mr. Bevin called on him in the evening and he saw the Senators and Mr. Stettinius and all seems to be serene on the atomic bomb statement which stirred up such a rumpus with Sen. V.36 I am not sure the gentleman does not like a little newspaper publicity. The mail is heavy on every conceivable subject as it was last time, so I keep both secretaries busy though their has been no work for the conference yet for Miss Norton to do.37

I went at eleven-thirty today to the delegates and alternates meeting here in the hotel with the Secy. He talked pleasantly to us till one and then we had a picture taken and I lunched with the Dulles. At three I was at the office, signed mail, dictated all she had and the first draft of my Albert Hall speech,38 was home at 4:15 for a photograph for the paper which will carry my column,39 got rid of them and of Miss C40 and at five Mr. Van Kleffens of the Netherlands came to tea. You will remember him as the Minister for Foreign Affairs but he is now not very popular with the new government and has had a breakdown which sent him to Switzerland for a month and apparently eliminated his name from consideration as Sec. Gen.41 Louise Morley,42 Frank Walker's daughter,43 a Lt. Woodlock,44 a friend of Mrs. Woodward,45 Miss Fosdick and Mary Hornaday46 came in too and I think every one had a pleasant time. Mary Hornaday has been to Yugoslavia and Greece and is deeply stirred by what she has seen. I had dinner alone tonight, read a long memo on the refugee question which we must try to put off till the next part of this session, and still be prepared on if Great Britain insists on having it taken up. A new type of political refugee is appearing—people who have been against the present governments and if they stay at home or go home will probably be killed. Britain is supporting most of them and would like the expense shared—the budget for the job might run to double what is contemplated for the whole of UNO.47 I have a few more things to read tonight.

If the second part of this session isn't till May, the Russian trip may be possible this April. Otherwise it will have to wait till towards the end of the summer as I want to be home this summer. The session may keep us away sometime anyway. All of our people want this session to end in three weeks and if that happens then even if I went to Germany I'd be home if they can arrange for me to fly, by the 18th or 8th.


1. Lash, World, 209-11.

2. ER recorded her impressions of the British countryside in My Day:

It is a moving thing to return to a country which you have seen in time of war and take stock of what the intervening years of continued war have done not only to material things, but to the people themselves.

As we drove through Southampton and then through the countryside and the little villages, I marveled at the work which had been done to clear up destruction in the towns. Anyone who has known the British countryside in the past cannot help but see great changes—fences, walls, hedges, which then would have been in 'apple-pie' order, now very often resemble our rather haphazard ways in the United States. A traveler coming from the United States for the first time might not realize that spaces between houses in towns and villages are usually the work of a bomb and not the result of never having been used.

Nature has a way of covering up very quickly the scars made by man in the woods and fields, but if you look carefully you will see where exploding bombs have left their marks in regions far from military objectives. What strikes the experienced eye is the neglect which has come about because people could not afford to keep up their houses or grounds. The actual cutting down of woods, necessitated by the need for increased agricultural production, must have been a great sacrifice to many landowners. In the United States to see a bit of fence knocked down and not immediately replaced is nothing very unusual, but here in the days before the war it would have been very quickly repaired (MD, 8 January 1946).

As she traveled to London, she noticed "that while the shops put on a rather brave display in their windows, there is really little to buy and the rationing system is still in full force." The delegation, however, stayed in relative luxury:

We are staying at Claridge's where we are spared the rigors of a private home or a less luxurious hotel. Having been warned that we would be cold, I suffered from the heat on arrival and had to turn off the little electric heaters which I am sure had been turned on to keep the American guests happy. I am glad that when I was here before in 1942 I stayed in a number of British homes. Otherwise I am afraid that this visit would give me little conception of what the life of the average individual family has been and still is in this embattled island (MD, 9 January 1946).

3. Senator Tom Connally (D-TX).

4. Lady Astor (1879–1964), born Nancy Langhorne in Virginia, married Waldorf Astor in England and became the first woman member of the British Parliament. She held her seat for twenty-five years. After the Munich agreement, the press wrongfully charged Lord and Lady Astor and their friends with being Hitler sympathizers and labeled them "the Cliveden Set," referring to the Astors' country home. FDR referred to the supposedly pro-Nazi "Cliveden Set" in a press conference and when Lady Astor complained, ER wrote to apologize. ER attended a luncheon with women members of Parliament arranged by Lady Astor when she visited Great Britain in 1942 (Fox, 422-23; Lash, Eleanor, 664; "Lady Astor Dies; Sat in Commons," NYT, 3 May 1964, 1).

5. For Adlai Stevenson, see n14 Document 70.

6. Lady Astor entertained the delegation at Cliveden, the Astor family mansion in Buckinghamshire (see n4, above).

7. ER reported on her reunion with Lady Stella Reading in her column:

I can hardly tell you how heartwarming it was to have Lady Reading, who has been head of the Women's Voluntary Services all through the war, knock at my door almost before I had taken off my coat after arriving. She was leaving the hotel, because the rooms were needed for our party, and going to the country for the weekend. Her own little house, into which she is just moving, would not have the water turned on until Monday. Just to see her for a few minutes made me feel welcome (MD, 9 January 1946).

8. Philip Noel-Baker and his wife. See n15 Document 78.

9. For the Albert Hall speech, see Document 81.

10. John Winant (1889–1947) had held the position of American ambassador to Great Britain since 1940. Prior to his appointment as ambassador, Winant, a progressive Republican and FDR's close friend, served as assistant director (1935 and 1937) and director of the International Labor Organization (1937–1940) where his integrity and commitment to labor issues won him many friends. As US ambassador to Great Britain during World War II, Winant's sincerity and practical assistance earned him affection and respect. ER liked Winant, who had helped arrange her 1942 trip to Great Britain. Financial difficulties plagued Winant throughout his career. Poorly managed investments in Texas oil fields in the 1920s, ill-advised stock purchases before the 1929 stock market crash, an unwillingness to cut household staff and expenses, and unrestrained philanthropic giving left him bankrupt by 1935. By 1946, he owed creditors about three-quarters of a million dollars. Despair over his indebtedness contributed to his suicide in 1947 (Bellush, 81-85, 92, 121, 134, 227).

11. After Ambassador Winant's visit, Dorsey Fisher, an American embassy staff member who had accompanied ER in her travels in Great Britain when she visited in 1942, and Louise Morley (see n17 below) stopped by and the three of them went to eat at the American Embassy Canteen: "I think we all feel better because we know the food is American Army food so we are not taking away from the scant provisions of Great Britain." Before unpacking, ER talked with Henry Tosti Russell who represented United Features, the distributor of My Day in London (MD, 9 January 1946).

12. Mildred Cuddy was ER's secretary in London for her columns and personal correspondence. The secretarial work for ER's UN-related duties was performed by Agnes Norton, who had been assigned to ER by the State Department (ER's London Diary, 4 January 1946, AERP).

13. Maude Livingston Hall Gray was ER's aunt, confidante, and regular correspondent. See also Document 74 (Lash, Eleanor, 180-81).

14. David Gray (1870–1968), Maude's husband, served as the American minister to Ireland from 1940 to 1947 ("David Gray Dies; Former Envoy, 97," NYT, 13 April 1968, 25).

15. ER's friendship with Martha Gellhorn (1908–1998), a journalist and war correspondent, extended back to the early years of the New Deal when Gellhorn wrote field reports for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Lorena Hickok brought Gellhorn's work to ER's attention, and ER introduced Gellhorn to FDR so that he could hear her observations firsthand (NAWCTC).

16. Mary J. Hornaday (1906–1982), a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, also chaired ER's first White House press conferences ("Mary Hornaday Dies, Former Monitor Writer," NYT, 22 April 1982, D23).

17. Louise Morley Cochrane (1918–?) worked for the American Red Cross in Great Britain. ER accepted Morley's invitation to speak to almost 1,000 British women wed or engaged to US servicemen who found it difficult to obtain passports and transportation necessary for them to join their husbands or fiancés in America. Later during her stay in London, ER spoke to 700 officers and enlisted men, also at Morley's request ("GI Brides in Britain Demonstrate Again," NYT, 14 October 1945, 19; Lash, Years, 47).

18. Herman LaRue Brown (1890–1969), one of FDR's Harvard classmates and an attorney, supported him politically in Massachusetts. His wife, Dorothy Kirchwey Brown (?–1981), had worked with ER in the 1920s building the League of Women Voters (Lash, World, 211n; Finding Aid, Herman LaRue Brown Papers, Harvard Law School).

19. Dorothy Fosdick (1914?–1997) served as State Department advisor to the US delegation to the General Assembly. Fosdick, who participated in American planning for an international organization beginning in 1942, worked on the creation of the United Nations at the Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco conferences, and advised the American delegation during the first sessions of the new organization ("Dorothy Fosdick, 83, Adviser on International Policy, Dies," NYT, 10 February 1997, B9). See also Document 99.

20. Malvina Thompson did not date most of the letters she sent to ER in London and not all the letters may have survived. One of the letters ER refers to here contains news of various friends and family members and of Tommy's work. In one paragraph, Tommy refers to some of the frequent topics of ER's daily mail during this period: "In all the mail that has come in there is nothing very fundamental in the way of suggestions, and no letters from anyone with any weight. I know we all should have weight, but most people just want peace, a free Palestine, a world language, world currency, a new calendar, etc." (Thompson to ER, n.d., JRP, FDRL).

21. Senator Vandenberg strongly objected to the wording of the agreement on atomic energy that Secretary of State Byrnes had signed in Moscow in December because Vandenberg feared it would lead to a giveaway of American atomic secrets. On December 28, before leaving for London, he met with President Truman to voice his objections and together they drafted a press release stating that the United States would not share secrets about the making of atomic weapons without putting an adequate international inspection system in place first. Vandenberg, however, wished to make sure that the Russians and the British agreed with the American interpretation of the agreement. He leaked his concerns about what he regarded as Byrnes's soft attitude toward the Russians to the press, which printed reports about a split in the American delegation over the atomic issue. In response to pressure from Vandenberg, Connally, and Truman, Byrnes announced on January 6, before leaving for London, that the United States would seek a revision or clarification of the agreement with the Soviet Union and Britain on atomic energy in order to insure that the United States would not be asked to share atomic weapons secrets. "Four days before the opening of the first United Nations Assembly meeting here [in London]," the New York Times reported, "Secretary of State James F. Byrnes faced the embarrassing task of advising Moscow and London that the agreement he signed in Moscow to create the United Nations Commission on Atomic Energy was not acceptable to the United States Senate." On January 8, the Times reported that Byrnes carried with him to London a new formulation of American policy on atomic energy aimed at reassuring Vandenberg and healing the split in the American delegation over the issue. Byrnes denied having receiving a letter from Vandenberg, although reports from London indicated that Vandenberg had sent him "a communication worded in rather sharp language" (Hamby, Man, 342-46; James B. Reston, "Senators Demand Atom Pact Change to Insure Secrecy," NYT, 7 January 1946, 1; W. H. Lawrence, "Byrnes Declares Congress Has Veto on UNO Atom Plan," NYT, 8 January 1946, 1).

22. Andrew Browne Cunningham, Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope (1883–1963), who held the post of first sea lord, and Lady Nona Cunningham. ER and Cunningham were both at the second Quebec conference between FDR and Churchill in September 1944 (DNB; Woolner, 31, 160; MD, 13 September 1944).

23. Senator John G. Townsend, Jr. (1871–1964), a Republican senator from Delaware from 1929 to 1940, served as an alternate delegate to the first meeting of the UN General Assembly. ER "liked" Townsend whom she thought "honest, plain, … but not very brilliant" ("Americans Sailing for UNO Assembly," NYT, 30 December 1945, 5; "John G. Townsend Jr., 92, Is Dead," NYT, 11 April 1964, 25; Lash, World, 214).

24. For Dorothy Brown, see n18. "The Marchessa Roselli" was possibly Signor Piero Roselli (?–1960), an Italian lawyer with many British clients. Lady Salter was the wife of Sir Arthur Salter, who directed the requisitioning of ships for the British during World War I, headed the economic and financial division of the League of Nations secretariat in the 1920s, and later became a professor at Oxford ("Signor Piero Roselli," TL, 8 July 1960, 15; DNB).

25. Benjamin Welles (1916–2002) was the son of ER's old friend Sumner Welles ("Benjamin Welles, Biographer and Journalist, is Dead at 85," NYT, 4 January 2002, C10).

26. ER never provided a more thorough identification for "Mrs. Blaisdell." Based on State Department and newspaper records, she most likely was either the wife of Thomas C. Blaisdell (1895–1988), chief of mission for economic affairs in London; or the wife of Donald C. Blaisdell (1899–1988), an advisor of the US delegation to the Preparatory Commission of United Nations in London at the time (Jesus Rangel, "Thomas Blaisdell Jr., Who Helped Frame Aid Plan, Dies at 93," NYT, 31 December 1988, 8; RDS 1946, 143-44; "Donald Blaisdell, 88, City College Professor," NYT, 13 July 1988, B4).

27. For Cliveden, see n4.

28. New York Times reporter James Reston noted Vandenberg and Dulles's absence when the American delegation met the press:

They stayed away, it appears, for two reasons—first, they undertook to come here and carry out the instructions of the Truman Administration and those instructions have not yet arrived; and, second, there is excellent reason for believing that they did not want to be questioned about America's policy on atomic energy until they could see Mr. Byrnes here tomorrow and find out whether they can agree with what he proposes.

Reston concluded however that what appeared to be a significant split in the American delegation was "one of procedure rather than of substance" (James B. Reston, "Our UNO Delegates Divided Over Plans," NYT, 8 January 1946, 1).

29. Frank Comerford Walker (1886–1959), a friend of ER's, served as an alternate representative on the American delegation. His daughter Laura Hallie Walker accompanied him to London. Walker, one of FDR's chief political advisors, served as postmaster general from 1940 to 1945 and chairman of the Democratic National Committee between 1943 and 1944 ("Walker One of Farley's Best Friends," WP, 1 September 1940, 2; "Frank Walker, Ex-Postal Chief," WP, 14 September 1959, B2). For Louise Morley, see n17.

30. Josephine Roche (1886–1976), a leading reformer in the coal industry, invited the United Mine Workers to organize the workers at her company, Rocky Mountain Fuel. FDR appointed her assistant secretary of the treasury and she helped shape welfare and health policy during the New Deal. When ER and her friend Esther Lape pressured FDR to initiate policies to improve medical care for the poor, he asked the Interdepartmental Committee to Coordinate Health and Welfare Activities, which Roche chaired, to prepare recommendations. The 1938 Roche Report and a conference that followed resulted in the drafting of the Wagner Health Act of 1939, but the American Medical Association opposed the bill and it died in committee. From 1939 to 1944 Roche worked as president of the National Consumers' League (NAWCTC; Lash, Eleanor, 465-66).

31. For Mrs. LaRue (Dorothy) Brown, see n18.

32. The American delegation initially encouraged Trygve Lie (1896–1968), Socialist foreign minister of Norway, to run for president of the General Assembly, but, when the Russians supported him, the United States failed to speak on his behalf. Paul Henri Spaak (1899–1972), Socialist foreign minister of Belgium, won by a few votes. ER thought the American delegation had handled the election badly (OEWH; Lash, Years, 45; CBE).

33. As the permanent members of the UN Security Council, each of which could prevent it from acting by exercising a veto, the Big Five (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China) possessed much greater power in the UN than the other member nations (OEWH).

34. The Russians objected to Lester B. Pearson (1897–1972), the leader of the Canadian delegation to the UN, because he was from North America and the UN headquarters would be there. They suggested instead either the Yugoslavian ambassador to Washington, Stanoje Simitch, or the Polish foreign minister, Wincenty Rzymowski. The two sides compromised by choosing Trygve Lie of Norway, whom the Russians apparently preferred all along (CBE; Lash, Years, 51). See also n23 Document 84.

35. ER did not describe the Red Cross ceremony in her My Day column, but she mentioned the role of the American Red Cross in assisting the wives and fiancées of American servicemen (MD, 10 January 1946). She also spoke to a group of these women. See n15 Document 94.

36. For the controversy stirred up by Senator Vandenberg, see n21. Byrnes's public assurances that the United States would not share any information on the making of atomic weapons without the establishment of an effective international inspection system mollified Senator Vandenberg and reunified the American delegation on the issue (James B. Reston, "Byrnes Unifies Delegation: Senators in Accord on Bomb," NYT, 9 January 1946, 1).

37. For Miss Norton, ER's secretary for her UN work, see n12.

38. For the Albert Hall speech, see Document 81.

39. As United Features Syndicate distributed My Day (and the photograph that its members could use to illustrate the column) in the United States and Europe, ER probably meant the photographer with the syndicate rather than one sent by a specific paper.

40. Her secretary, Mildred Cuddy.

41. Dr. Eelco Van Kleffens (1894–1983), foreign minister of the Netherlands, who during WWII worked with the exiled government in London. After his return from the San Francisco conference, the Dutch press, most notably Waarfeid, attacked "his leadership of the smaller nations" at the conference, declaring that it disturbed "the good relations" between the Netherlands, Britain, and Russia ("Dutch Election Asked," NYT, 27 June 1945, 5).

42. For Louise Morley, see n17.

43. For Frank Walker's daughter, see n29.

44. The editors have been unable to identify Lt. Woodlock.

45. Possibly Ellen Sullivan Woodward, ER's good friend, who had run the women's divisions of various agencies, beginning with the Civil Works Administration (NAWMP; A. Black, Casting, 35).

46. For Mary Hornaday, see n16.

47. The issue of refugees and whether they should be forced to return to their countries of origin became the hottest issue at the first session of the General Assembly. ER may have been reading the memo on the refugee question ("Refugees," USGA/Ia/SCHCom/Del Min/3) in preparation for the meeting with her advisors on the refugee issue the following day. The British initially favored the establishment of an agency within the UN to deal with refugees; the Americans sought the creation an independent agency (see n12 Document 78 and header to Document 86).

Drafting the US Position on Refugees

On the day the General Assembly convened for the first time, ER met with her alternate, former Senator John Townsend (R-DE),1 and a group of American advisors to determine the American position and strategy regarding the urgent problem of postwar refugees. This issue would later dominate the agenda of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs) on which ER represented the United States.2 The group discussed a tentative draft State Department position paper entitled "Refugees," which outlined the role the UN should play in handling the refugee crisis in Europe. It proposed that the UN take general responsibility for refugee matters, but called for the creation of "a specialized international agency" to deal directly with the refugees. The General Assembly would first establish an ad hoc committee to report on existing intergovernmental refugee agencies and make "recommendations as to the form and scope of action of the specialized agency." The General Assembly would then draw up an agreement for the establishment of the new agency and determine its relationship to the UN. An alternative plan presented in the position paper established the same agency, but retained it as "a subsidiary organ" of the United Nations with a separate budget line. The United States believed that Britain would push in the General Assembly for creating a refugee organization as a subsidiary of the UN and for including the cost in the regular UN budget. The position paper raised "serious objections" to such a course of action.3

About this article

London Diary

Updated About content Print Article