Address Prepared For Delivery Before The Mobilization Conference Of The National Jewish Welfare Board: Presidential Paper Historical Series
Harry S Truman: 1945-1953
Address Prepared for Delivery Before the Mobilization Conference of the National Jewish Welfare Board
October 17, 1952
[ Read by Howland H. Sargeant, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs ]
Mr. Edison, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am most regretful that I cannot be with you in person to attend this Mobilization Conference of the National Jewish Welfare Board. I have some highly important matters to discuss with you and I had planned to do it in person. However, on my recent trip across the country, I found the American people were intensely eager to hear the truth. They want to see some of the fog cleared away that has been disseminated by the Republicans during this crucial year.
Now, the people of New England have asked me to make a swing through their part of the country where the Republican fog has settled heavily. Unlike the Republicans, it is impossible for me to stand in two places at once; and so I have asked Mr. Howland Sargeant, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to come in my stead and read the speech I had planned for you.
It would be a great pleasure to me to be there with your honorary president, Mr. Frank Well, who has given so much of his time and energy to your cause and to mine. Just as he has served you with ability and distinction for many years, he has served me with unfailing enthusiasm in the USO and as Chairman of the President's Committee on Religions and Welfare in the Armed Forces.
Frank Well has fought long and hard for the little people of this country. He has steadily concerned himself with their social and economic problems. He was one of the organizers of the USO, which did such a fine job for our servicemen during World War II and is doing the same kind of job today. This year he is active as national Chairman of the Citizens Committee for United Nations Day.
This meeting has been called to help the Jewish Welfare Board expand and intensify its welfare services to Jewish personnel in the uniform of the United States and to strengthen its efforts on behalf of the civilian Jewish communities. The distinguished Jewish leaders from communities all over America--gathered here in response to the call of the National Jewish Welfare Board-personify the spirit of wholehearted support the American people are giving the cause of freedom in its fight against the forces of darkness and oppression.
It is about that struggle I wish to speak today. Throughout my 7 years in the Presidency, I have tried hard to right some of the injustices and to lift some of the suffering the Jewish people experienced so bitterly during the war. The victims of the Nazi tyranny needed a chance to live again in peace and dignity, and I was determined to do what I could to help these innocent bystanders of war. I did not do this as an act of kindness or charity, but in defense of the great principle upon which democracy is based--the principle that freedom resides in respect for the equal worth and dignity of each individual person. Whoever undermines that principle has begun the slow and inevitable destruction of freedom itself.
That principle today is in mortal danger. From outside our country, that principle is in danger from the world threat of Communist imperialism. I am glad to say that this Government has taken the lead among the governments of the world in mobilizing the resources of the free world to stem the tide of Communist aggression.
At home the principle of freedom is being undermined by the forces of reaction organized in the Republican Party and led, I am sorry to say, by the captive candidate who has turned his back on the great mission he once served so well in Europe.
Let's review some history. When our Armed forces marched into defeated Nazi Germany, revelations were made that shocked the whole civilized world. The full scope of the Nazi tyranny revealed that not less than 6 million Jews had been killed by the Nazi warlords. We soon discovered that occupants of the displaced persons camps did not wish to move out into the life of the country, although living conditions in the camps were poor.
I sent Earl G. Harrison, former Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, to look over the camps and give me a report. He told me that the vast majority of the Jewish displaced persons felt their future would be secure only in Palestine. On Mr. Harrison's recommendation, I asked the Government of Great Britain to make available immediately 100,000 entry permits into Palestine. In order to relate the proposed permits to the larger problem of Jewish resettlement, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was formed. This Committee again repeated the recommendation that 100,000 entry permits be issued. You know the rest of the story as well as I do. The Jewish Agency for Palestine went ahead with plans to partition Palestine and to 'proclaim the State of Israel.
I am proud of my part in the creation of this new state. Our Government was the first to recognize the State of Israel. Dr. Chaim Weizmann is an old and dear friend of mine. It was a great pleasure for me to have him stay overnight in the Blair House. I could not help but notice the many thousands of people who passed by Blair House to see the flags of the United States and the new country of Israel flying side by side.
I admire the courage with which the State of Israel has approached difficult problems. Since its creation, it has admitted not 100,000 but 700,000 refugees. This has not been easy. The United States has lent great support and assistance in both public and private funds.
I hope that whoever follows me in the Presidency will continue to give our country's fullest support to our technical assistance program not only in Israel but throughout the entire Near East. Peace between Israel and the Arab States has been an important objective of our Near Eastern policy. I hope that we shall soon see the day when Israel and her neighbors will sit down at the peace table and will reach a full settlement of all their differences so that our friends in the Near East, Arabs and Israelis alike, may enter together upon a new partnership for the mutual advantage of all their peoples.
The American people understand the problem of Israel. Part of our sympathetic interest in the future of Israel stems from the fact that we, too, once 'proclaimed our own independence in a ringing declaration which is still an inspiration to freedomloving peoples throughout the world. We, too, are people of diverse origins who have gathered strength from many cultures. For over three centuries, the best fighters for freedom all over the world have migrated to our shores and have added their talents and their strength to make our country great.
But 25 years ago a group of our legislators banded together to write into law a principle which is repellent to every tradition we have--the repellent principle that northern Europeans and western Europeans are more desirable immigrants than any other 'people in the world.
Now this principle is stated in the National Origins Quota System. It was conceived and written into law in 1924 under a Republican President and a Republican Congress.
The Republican Party takes full credit for this legislation. They boasted of it in their 1932 platform.
That was the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party all right, although the dinosaur was younger then. But he was big enough to do a lot of damage when I proposed to the Republican 80th Congress an act to permit considerable numbers of displaced persons to enter this country under a selective migration system. The Both Congress passed a bill, but they wrote into it provisions that intentionally discriminated against Catholics and Jews.
I am proud to say that I made those provisions an issue in the campaign of 1948 and the Democratic 81st Congress repealed them. Once those provisions were repealed, we got a workable and effective displaced persons program going and when the act expired nearly 400,000 persons had been admitted under it.
The Displaced Persons Act expired in June of this year. America is not weaker because of the admission of these displaced persons--it is stronger. We are all better for the displaced persons program. But there are still many people in Europe who need our help and we need the strength of character and the skill that they can bring to us.
Among them are the victims of the Soviet tyranny who have managed to escape and cross through the Iron Curtain but who are destitute. And on this side of the Iron Curtain, certain densely overpopulated countries such as Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Greece have thousands of people who could help us as they help themselves. But they cannot do so under the present immigration laws. So this year I asked the Congress to modify our laws and admit an additional 300,000 people over the next 3 years.
I don't have to tell you what happened. The Congress passed the McCarran Act which contains nothing to help the overpopulation of Europe, and which reenacts and codifies the discriminatory National Origins Quota System.
That bill came to me for signature. The discrimination it contained against people from eastern and southern Europe alone would have been enough to merit a veto. But in addition to that, this bill made second-class citizens out of those who had been naturalized; and it established cruel and restrictive procedures against aliens. So I vetoed the bill and the Congress passed it over my veto. Having that new immigration law on the books leaves us with a lot of unsolved problems, so I have appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Philip Perlman to study the present law and report to me before the next Congress meets.
Now, let's have a look at who is responsible for enacting these prejudices against foreigners and against religious minorities into the law. Although the bill bears the name of a Democratic Senator, I fought him on this bill all the way and I am going to keep right on, because the spirit of it is contrary to everything America stands for. But the Republicans in Congress were almost solidly behind this bill. I don't think I have to tell you that the Republicans in the Senate voted 4 to 1 to override my veto. And in the House they voted 7 to 1. It was they, with the help of some Democrats, who put it over. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, let me tell you about the record of the socalled "truth squad" the Republican high command named to follow me around.
I am glad to have them following me, but so far they haven't come close enough to learn any of the truths I've been giving out. They keep a safe distance behind me so their dinosaur plates can protect them from getting any new ideas.
When the McCarran bill was up in the Senate, they had three opportunities to vote for human dignity and failed every test. The first opportunity came when Senator Humphrey offered an amendment to recommit the McCarran bill and hold hearings on Senator Lehman's fair-minded substitute. Senators Hickenlooper, Millikin, Ferguson, and Case all voted against Senator Humphrey's amendment.
The next opportunity came when Senator Lehman offered an amendment substituting the text of his fair-minded bill for the McCarran bill. Again, Hickenlooper, Millikin, ferguson, and Case, the members of the "truth squad," were right there along with their Republican cohorts to vote for their prejudices against the Lehman bill.
The third chance came when I returned my veto message on the McCarran bill. And again, Hickenlooper, Millikin, Ferguson, and Case voted against human dignity. Remember that two more nay votes would have sustained my veto. The list of yea votes reads like a roster of the Republican caucus in the Senate.
I think you should invite the members of the "truth squad" to come and tell the truth about themselves. It would be very educational and might cause them to do some much-needed soul-searching.
We struck great blows for freedom when we liberated Europe, recognized Israel, and began our refugee and displaced persons programs. Throughout this whole fight, the Republicans have bitterly opposed important humanitarian measures, and have actually supported religious discrimination. They are responsible for creating, over my protest, a new order of second-grade citizenship.
They have done these things in the name of anticommunism. What a familiar ring that has! My administration has fought communism abroad and at home. We have fought it hard, and fought it well. We don't just talk about it, we do something. But the means we use preserve, not destroy, the Bill of Rights. Our means are based on legal process and on the assumption that a person is innocent until he is proven guilty. These are the oldest and most fundamental guarantees in the Bill of Rights. They are basic to the preservation of freedom.
Throughout the world, since 1917, one group of tyrants has sought to destroy these principles through communism. But other tyrants, scarcely less dangerous, have concealed their true purposes behind the mask of anticommunism. We who wish to preserve our liberties must strip off the mask of hypocrisy to see the real man behind it. When we look behind the mask of the great majority of Republicans in Congress, this is what we see:
The National Origins Quota System, based on "Nordic" superiority;
Discriminatory provisions in the displaced persons bill, directed against Catholics and Jews;
Second-class citizenship, imposed by the McCarran immigration bill.
What do these add up to ? They add up to the philosophy of racial superiority developed by the Nazis, which we thought we had destroyed when we defeated Nazi Germany and liberated Europe. We must be vigilant lest the philosophy of our defeated enemy gain a hold in our own country under the guise of anticommunism.
Among those who voted for the McCarran bill and to override my veto was the Republican candidate for Vice President.
Among the other Republicans were Senators Jennet and McCarthy. Together with ex-Senator Revercomb, the champion of the anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish provisions of the original DP bill, these men have been embraced by the Republican candidate for President.
The Republican candidate for the Presidency cannot escape responsibility for his endorsements. He has had an attack of moral blindness, for today, he is willing to accept the very practices that identified the so-called "master race" although he took a leading part in liberating Europe from their domination.
My friends, the Republican candidate for President was asked about immigration, but he had no views on the subject. Yet it gave him no difficulty to appear on the platform with ex-Senator Revercomb and endorse him for election. This is a task which was too distasteful for the Republican candidate in 1948·
Here is the record of the Republican Party. They adopted immigration by exclusion in 1924. They bragged of it in 1932. They reaffirmed it in 1948, 1950, and 1952. Their platform is silent this year. Their candidate has nothing to say on the subject but he will endorse anyone who wears the Republican label, no matter what his record is on civil liberties.
Now against this kind of assault on fundamental liberties the people of our country have one champion on whom they must rely, and that is the President of the United States. That's why I vetoed the McCarran bill.
You'd better be sure when you pick a President this year that you have a man who understands what the Bill of Rights is all about. And you'd better have a man who is not afraid to veto measures that endanger those rights.
My friends, these are perilous times for those who love the principle of freedom. Make no mistake about it, freedom is threatened today at home and abroad. We must pick a man for President who understands the sinister forces that are lying in wait for him and for you. Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-foreignism grow only in concealment. They have hidden themselves within the Republican Party for years. If you want to protect and preserve freedom, you must resist the forces that work against it both abroad and at home.
When you choose a President this year, you must guard against every invasion of civil liberties. You must choose a man who will not sacrifice principles to expediency. That is why I have been crisscrossing the country to bring out the facts and tear away the mask of hypocrisy from the Republican Party. That is why I am urging everyone to vote for Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, the man who talks sense to the American people.
NOTE: The President's address was read by Mr. Sargeant at 1 p.m. at the Statler Hotel in Washington. The opening words referred to Irving Edison, president of the National Jewish Welfare Board.
The conference was held in Washington October 17-19.
Reprinted with permission from John Wolley and Gerhard Peters of the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara at the American Presidency Project.
This is part of the presidential paper historical series featuring past presidential public papers related to immigration law. The papers of our past Presidents show the impact of immigration law in American history. We thank the efforts of the American Presidency Project who have gathered these important archival documents.
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