Lot 73: Archive comprised of six typed letters and memos as president, all signed "FDR," totaling seven pages, five on White House letterhead, dated from June 2, 1937, to February 4, 1942. All are to his son-in-law John Boettiger, publisher at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and offer an intimate and important glimpse into the president's private and political concerns.
The earliest, marked "Private" in FDR's hand, in part: "I told you that so far as labor relationships go, Seattle is without doubt one of the two or three most difficult places in the United Sates. The real point of it all is, of course, that we are in the middle of a formative period. It is our hope, of course, that by the process of evolution machinery can be worked out to meet every need or individual problem and that as a result there will be the responsibility, both on the part of the employers and employees, to live up to agreements. Probably in the process there will have to be an open break with people who, like your friend, insist on being permanently against all employers. The important thing, however, is to wait until such time as people of that kind commit some unpardonable sin which gets the public down on them and it is always worthwhile remembering that if one is to wage a war, it is best not to attack until the other fellow gets himself into an untenable position." Even as the nation recovered from the Great Depression under Roosevelt's leadership, many Americans still struggled financially and labor strife continued to exist; this letter offers insight into FDR's understanding of matters from both sides of the battle between labor and capital.
The second, March 4, 1940, headed "Personal & Confidential," in part: "I saw Lew Schwellenbach the other day and he seems to be in a good frame of mind. I will send his nomination for the Judgeship to the Senate about the first of May so that there will be plenty of time for him to be confirmed. He will then remain in the Senate until the close of the session and be sworn in after that. This will give Governor Martin the chance to avoid making an appointment as his successor. I do hope you can put up a real liberal who can win the nomination. Finally, it is infinitely important that Schwellenbach stay through the session. Things here are amazingly quiet with only the appropriation bills and the Trade Agreement to worry about. The political pot boils, of course, in both parties, but I lose no sleep over that...Don't breathe it to a soul but I might find it possible if Congress adjourns by June first to go to the Coast in June!" A senator from Washington state, Schwellenbach led the passage of New Deal legislation and was one of FDR's key allies in the Senate. To his dismay, Roosevelt passed him over for an appointment to the Supreme Court and instead appointed him to a federal district court.
The third is a memo, May 18, 1940, in part: "The Post Office matter finally came to a head. The name of George Starr came over in a long list from the Postmaster General. I sent it back...Then I called up Magnuson who said that while he was not his first choice, he would interpose no objection and thought it better all around for harmony to let it go through. Bone and Schwellenbach interpose no objection. So there you are. If I turn him down personally now it will be said that I merely did not like the color of his hair and that everybody else has endorsed him. Under the circumstances I have sent the name to the Senate! Ain't it Hell!"
The fourth, October 1, 1940, in part: "There seems to be some mix-up which I am trying to straighten out. I think Schwellenbach would resign but we are not 100% certain that Wallgren will be appointed. The next few days will tell. I am just back from another short inspection trip-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Martin Bomber factor and Camp Meade. I was able to make a few practical suggestions and the main point of these trips which has never yet appeared in print is that the places visited by me-Arsenals, Navy Yards, private plants, etc.-get a real enthusiasm and speed-up production during the days following my visit. It does seem to help. Things international are not so good but every cloud has its silver lining, and I take it at that you on the Coast are a little more aware that there is an effort being made to dominate the Pacific against us." The ominous final line anticipates what was to come just over a year later with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor-the decisive moment that brought Roosevelt and the United States into World War II.
The fifth, January 29, 1942. in part: "I have not had a chance before this to thank you for that delightful 'sailor and gal' which you sent me for Christmas." This letter dates to just two months after the Pearl Harbor attack and, despite having the weight of the world on his shoulders, Roosevelt's tone is warm in this correspondence with his family over the holidays.
The sixth, February 4, 1942, in part: "It gave me real joy to have your message and to know that all of you were thinking of me." In an additional unsigned letter, September 2, 1937, in part: "I quite understand about the story in the P.I. The only difficulty here was the row between the press associations. They nearly bit each other. I cannot make a definite decision until next week on account of the Far Eastern situation." In overall fine condition. Accompanied by four of the original mailing envelopes. Enhanced by its diverse content-from labor struggles to WWII preparation to backroom political maneuvering-this is an absolutely outstanding, historically interesting archive.
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Friday, 23rd October 2015
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