CLARK MELL EICHELBERGER:
Mobilizer Extraordinaire of American Public Opinion (n. 54)
by Patrick Killough
Born in Freeport, Illinois in 1896, Clark Mell Eichelberger imbibed the traditions of the Lincoln - Douglas debates. In the First World War he left Northwestern University and enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his wartime service he convinced himself that only a League of Nations able to prevent fuure wars was worth fighting for (n. 55). Young Eichelberger later did social work in Chicago and lectured on world trends. In 1923 and later he sailed for Europe and Geneva to study the League of Nations in action. In 1927 he went to work for the American League of Nations Association. He was the dynamic director of a Chicago office created to influence the isolationist Midwest. In 1933 he went to New york to become the Association's executive director at a low ebb in League fortunes. For Germany had just quit the Disarmament Conference and had given notice of intent to withdraw from the League (n. 56).
With a "warm, outgoing personality, a charm of manner, and a deep, rich voice,"
(n. 57) Clark Eichelberger spoke out powerfully on the Chataqua circuit for the economic and social work of the League of Nations (n. 58). In 1935 Eichelberger and associates lost out to the demagogy of Father Charles E. Coughlin and William Randolph Hearst in the Association's campaign to have the Senate ratify U.S. membership in the International Court of Justice.
Eichelberger, along with James T. Shotwell and William Allen White, pushed through Congressional revision of the neutrality act. And their long-planned Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) first assembled on Sunday November 4, 1939 at New York's Murray Hill Hotel. In early 1942 CSOP leadership accepted Eichelberger's proposal that the Commission begin drafting sketches of the proposed postwar international organization (IO). Around the same time Eichelberger was informally recruited by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles to work in the Presidential Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy. As Eichelberger saw things, Welles's idea was that Eichelberger would be able
to guide the combined educational programs of the organizations with which I was affiliated along the lines of State Department policy (n. 59).Along with Welles, Shotwell, Isaiah Bowman (who had been with Shotwell in the Inquiry and was now President of Johns Hopkins University), Ben Cohen and others, Eichelberger worked cordially and collegially in 1942 and 1943 on the State Department subcommittee which discussed international organization (IO). Questions they raised about the coming international body included:
-- Who should be a member?
-- How should the security, economic-social and other groups relate to the IO as a whole? (n. 60)
Mr Eichelberger had great respect for Sumner Welles and the latter's effort to be more open with Congress and publics about the IO to be formed. He was unimpressed by Secretary Hull's caution and secretiveness with the public. Roosevelt, ultimately forced in the summer of 1943 to choose between Hull or Welles as top policy maker at the State Department, reluctantly backed the venerable Hull. After Sumner Welles's departure, Eichelberger noted a rapid decline in favor of the established State Department bureaucracy of the influence of "outsiders" like himself and Shotwell in "official" postwar planning. This decline began, however, fairly soon to be reversed by the public relations skills and concerns of the new Under Secretary (later Secretary) of State, Edward Stettinius.
To Eichelberger 1943 stood out as the annus mirabilis for arousing and mobilizing American public opinion. For 1943 ws the year of the Fulbright and Connally resolutions in favor of postwar international organization. The military situation improved. Rotary Clubs, veterans' associations, women's groups and churches all over America were poring over and discussing materials prepared by the CSOP and others about postwar organization. In 26 States, following itineraries prepared by the Shotwell-Eichelberger networks, bipartisan teams of Congressmen, including Senator Harry S Truman, made eight speaking tours in support of international organization (n. 61). May 1943 saw the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture take place at Hot Springs, Virginia. Eichelberger held an important one-on-one meeting with President Roosevelt on October 25, 1943. In November came the Moscow Four Power Declaration. On November 11 some 44 nations signed the agreement establishing the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Yes, 1943 was a year to be grateful for.
The long series of personal meetings between Franklin Roosevelt and Clark Eichelberger had begun in 1936 and lasted until late 1944, with a related exchange of letters and memoranda. The historian Charles Beard argues that through these exchanges FDR used Eichelberger as an entirely new sort of private executive agent -- one deniable if necessary -- for influencing American publics (n. 62). Eichelberger, for his part, seems almost always to have been well out in front of the President in assessing the willingness of Congress and publics to commit themselves to a successor to the League of Nations. He tried often to persuade FDR to commit himelf publicly to a postwar IO for peace. Usually, however, he had to content himself with permission to float (without attribution to source) the President's trial balloons via Eichelberger's immense network of private voluntary associations (n. 63).
Eichelberger's public education juggernaut was already oiled and read to roll as soon as the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals were published on October 9, 1944. To small businessmen and farmers he proclaimed that "peace will be made on Main Street this time" (n. 64). Just before the San Francisco Conference, the Shotwell-Eichelberger brain trust orchestrated "Dumbarton Oaks Week," April 16 - 22, 1945. At that time 28 State Governors issued supporting proclamations. Just before his death, FDR wrote a note calling on all Americans to study and pray for the Dumbarton Oaks proposals (n. 65). The juggernaut kept on rolling even after Senate Ratification of the UN Charter Treaty in July 1945. The Eichelberger networks induced Rotary, Lions, veterans' groups, labor unions and other private associations through their thousands of local chapters to stand firmly behind the UN. And they did so until well into 1946. Then public enthusiasm for universal collective security rapidly waned as the result of growing disillusion with the behavior in the UN and elsewhere of the Soviet Union.
On April 25, 1945 the conference to write the UN Charter opened at San Francisco. It was the largest diplomatic conference in history up to that time. The U.S. Delegates were eight in number, but Cordell Hull was too ill to attend, though he later signed the Charter. The very large American Delegation taken in combination with the international Secretariat of the Conference included 47 members of the CSOP, one of whom was Clark Mell Eichelberger, Consultant for the American Association for the United Nations (n. 66).
Eichelberger writes colorfully of the work of the Consultants and Observers at San Francisco. To him the private American groups at San Francisco served to "humanize" the austere Dumbarton Oaks draft while Delegates converted principles behind its text into the UN Charter. Eichelberger gives Under Secretary Stettinius, beginning in early 1944, credit for restoring and improving the parntership between State Department, Congress and publics interrupted by the cashiering in 1943 of Sumner Welles. If only for a very little while the State Department became "an instrument of the people" (n. 67).
Like other contemporary reporters, Eichelberger gives the Consultants and Observers full marks for their successful call to establish a UN Human Rights Commission and to win as a matter of right qualified private group access to economic and social bodies of the UN. Eichelberger, almost uniquely among commentators, credits the private American groups with a role in creating an interim body to function after the close of the San Francisco Conference and before the first meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council.
At a crucial juncture, his CSOP colleague, Conference Delegate Virginia Gildersleeve tipped Eichelbeger off to a desire of the US delegation to keep the Charter text short and, consequently, devoid of any explicit mention of education or a Human Rights Commission in its text. Eichelberger at once swung into action and within hours mobilized a team of Consultants to make the delegation reverse itself. In this connection, Philip Murray of the CIO joined other Consultants to turn the tide.
Like others, Eichelberger saw the example of active give and take at San Francisco between U.S. private groups and American and other nations' delegates evolving before his eyes into a living model of and a compelling argument for later non-governmental organization access to the ECOSOC and to specialized agencies of the United Nations.
The conference itself was the first time in modern political history that private organizations were given the right to appear before official bodies on matters in which they were competent (n. 68).Mr Eichelbeger was present in the Senate gallery on July 28, 1945 when that body voted to ratify the UN Charter. Like Shotwell, Cord Meyer and others, he soon judged that the August 7, 1945 atomic bombing of Hroshima radically changed the rules of the world in which the UN must operate. Throughout the land thoughtful private American groups were suddenly confused. Was their work to build the UN now over or in vain? Was the UN already obsolete and should there be a rush to a true "world government" as the only way to control the bomb?
My speech to you today is about the unparalleled partnership from 1939 into 1946 between the U.S. Govenrment and private groups, as together they and others built the United Nations. The people involved felt an esprit de corps growing through the long months: a spirit still tangible in the early days of the new IO. Clearly, the face-to-face intimacy still at work in 1946 had been built in 1942 - 1943 in the Sumner Welles teams at the State Department, through the Congressional speaking tours of 1944 and, above all, in on-the-spot collaboration at San Francisco in 1945.
During the first of the General Assembly meetings to be held in New York City, Delegates Tom Connally and Arthur Vandenberg were in the temporary lounge discussing the pros and cons of a President's future inclusion of Senatorial representation on delegations to future diplomatic conferences. Eichelberger had no qualms about dealing himself into the conversation between his old comrades.
They did not mind my presence and comments, a fact which illustrates the informality of the early days. ... (F)eelings of initiative, adventure and comradeship that developed among Americans and representatives from other countries in the early days at Lake Success helped give the United Nations a congenial foundation (n. 69).(54) The name Clark Mell Eichelberger, either alone or almost as often paired with that of James Thomson Shotwell, pops up everywhere in studies of American internationalism from the 1920s into the 1950s. Very useful is Mr Eichelberger's own (1977) ORGANIZING FOR PEACE: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE UNITED NATIONS. He is also a major player in the pages of Robert A. Divine (1967) SECOND CHANCE and in Dorothy B. Robins's (1971) EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY. In my speech today I follow for the most part ORGANIZING FOR PEACE.
(55) Eichelberger (1977) 2; Divine (1967) 26f.
(56) Eichelberger (1977) 53.
(57) Divine (1967), 27.
(58) Eichelberger (1977) 11.
(59) ibid., 197.
(60) ibid., 201.
(61) Eichelberger (1977) 209-211. Robert A Dahl, (1950) CONGRESS AND FOREIGN POLICY 207 - 210 notes the historic importance of the1944 Congressional-private partnership in joint outreach to American publics in support of a postwar IO. See also Divine (1967) 248.
(62) Charles A. Beard "'In Case of Attack' in the Atlantic," pp. 98 - 112 in Robert A. Divine (ed.) CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF WORLD WAR II. The citation is from Beard's own 1948 work PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND THE COMING OF THE WAR.
(63) Eichelberger (1977), 224 - 248 passim.
(64) Divine (1967), 248.
(65) Eichelberger (1977) 259.
(66) ibid., 263.
(67) Eichelberger (1977) 267f. Also Robins (1971) 112.
(68) Eichelberger (1977) 272. See also James T. Shotwell (1960) THE LONG WAY TO FREEDOM 584.
(69) Eichelberger (1977) 287f.
lightly edited 03/22/2004
Black Mountain, NC