Bill: 51 and Aging

An editorial from THE WITNESS by the founding editor, Bp. Irving P. Johnson, Bishop of Colorado {ret.}…Apr. 4, 1943:

The calendar informs me that Bill Spofford will be fifty-one years old this April. In spite of the calendar Bill has never grown up. I find it difficult to realize that it was about twenty-five years ago that I sent out an S.O.S. call which Bill answered. THE WITNESS had had a precarious existence since its inception in January 1917. It was started by a number of clergy who had gathered at the General Convention which met in 1916 at St. Louis. Most of the group wrote an article or two and then stopped. John Sage and I were the goats. He became business editor and I became editor-in-chief. We engaged the Rev. C.J. Shutt to act as business manager and the Rev. L.W. Applegate offered to print the paper. It was difficult getting started and Mr. Shutt died under the strain. This happened when I was in Texas holding a mission. Bishop Sage had also passed away. I hurried to Chicago to consult with Mr. Clarke who had taken over the printing. That issue of THE WITNESS was composed by a Roman Catholic and a Hebrew in the printing office. I had accepted the office of literary editor with the strict understanding that I would not be responsible for the business end. It was when I reached Chicago that I sent out a signal of distress which was answered by Bill Spofford. At that time he was trying to finance himself by acting as a referee between labor and capital in a clothing establishment and was also carrying on the work of a mission for the exercise of his ministry. Bill offered to assume charge of the business end of THEWITNESS while I could look after the literary end. It was a curious combination. No two men could have been found who placed such different emphasis upon the function of the Church and no two men could have had a pleasanter association. We agreed to disagree and did so without becoming disagreeable to one another. Owing to the fact that Bill found an occupation that was agreeable, he took over the policy of the paper more and more.

We have had a good time even though we do not see many things eye to eye. Bill is a born enthusiast whether it is for the Yankees or the underprivileged. Because of this enthusiastic devotion to a cause, he isn’t always choice in his selection of epithets by which he describes his opponents, yet when you really know him he turns out to be as friendly and as unbelligerent as one could desire. It is that he has never grown up and has a childlike wonder toward those who could feel differently toward his enthusiasms. Like “THE VIRGINIAN”, he smiles when he says things. I never knew a man who could so upset the temper of his opponent and yet at the same time keep his own temper, one of smiling friendliness.

Bill is always a friend of the underdog even though the underdog happens to turn out something of a cur. It was a matter of sincere regret when I felt obliged t o give up regular editorial work for THE WITNESS. I felt that I had told the public all that I knew. It was time for others to take over the active responsibility. I think Bill must find it hard to keep step with his new academic board even though he agrees with them in most of their thinking. This new board has asked me to write my autobiography for THE WITNESS. If I do, it will be because I have known such interesting people, and Bill is one of them.  I think Bill has made more readers angry than any editor I know; and yet if people only knew him they would understand that it is his devotion to a cause that leads to the extravagant language, and that it is not personal or malicious. I know of nothing more trying than editing an Episcopal Church paper in such a way as to make both ends meet financially and ecclesiastically. It is greatly to Bill’s credit that he has kept his good nature and has done a good job. May Bill continue to keep young for the next fifty years and continue to operate THE WITNESS for the next twenty-five years. Now that he is a grandfather, I hope that he will grow more dignified and less contentious in his attitude towards those who differ from him. –

Bill Jr  As far as I know, Bp. Johnson never wrote his autobiography for THE WITNESS board. That is too bad because, to this day, stories about him circulate in the House of Bishops. He used to visit our home on occasion when he came east and I remember him as rumpled and friendly. He was known as a wit and story-teller and a few still surface now and again. Dad’s favorite was about the time the General Convention was meeting in New Orleans during a hot and muggy September. Bp. Johnson, from mile-high Denver, had brought no warm weather clothes. He sent the following telegram to his wife: ‘B.V.D.’S – P.D.Q. – A.S.A.P. – C.O.D. – I.P.J.’ Editorial brevity, surely. Cheap, certainly. Get’s the message across, absolutely!  No wonder the Bishop and his young editor got along and stayed that way. They tell of the House of Bishops lining up in proper order for a procession. I.P.J. observed: ‘SOME LOOK ANGLICAN AND SOME LOOK ROMAN…BUT THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME AROUND THE ABDOMEN.’ Also, the Bishop was on a train with his face buried in a book, hoping that no one would bother him. But, of course, someone sat next to him and soon observed: ‘I don’t believe in God.’ I.P.J. said nothing. Soon the statement was repeated. With a sigh, the Bishop asked: ‘Do you see that cow out there? She doesn’t either!’  And back to the book.

He missed in his prophecy about Bill, however. It did take Dad some getting used to a more hands-on supervision by Dr. Frederick Grant, Biblical scholar of Union Theological Seminary, and the board from the metropolitan New York area was active, concerned and feisty. The group would meet at Union or at one of the churches where a board member was a rector or warden, and, through such gatherings, they hammered out editorial stands, negotiated differences and, once a year, had a party which, if memory serves, could have been like a few at Psi U at Trinity pre-1914. So, too, the Bishop missed out in the last paragraph. Dad never did really grow more dignified or less contentious, and he continued to operate THE WITNESS, not for 25 more years, but for 29. Both would have chortled over that.

1941 Conflict Over Leadership

Bill Jr.:

In 1941, there was a hassle over WBS Sr’s leadership of the CLID and, to some extent, his editing of THE WITNESS.  Part of it was due to the efforts to make the Malvern Conference report a meaningful program and witness in the Episcopal Church.  Part of it was a growing split between ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ or ‘pacifists’ in the CLID membership.  For the most part, the old-line founders of the organization, such as Bishop Parsons,  Dr. Mary van Kleeck and Dr. Vida D. Scudder were considered in the latter group.  The ‘liberals’, in general, tended to be neo-orthodox theologians and, in a sense, Reinhold Niebuhr was their guiding light. These persons, by and large, were seeing aid to Great Britain as a fundamental focus and believed that the executive secretary and his supporters were mis-reading the nature of the times and, indeed, were giving ‘aid and comfort’ to fascist powers.  Old friends, Wm. Cochrane of Baltimore, Alfred Baker Lewis of Boston, A.T. Mollegen of Virginia Theological Seminary, and Prof. Norman Nash were in this group.

Perhaps it was all kicked off by a letter from Alfred Baker Lewis to William F. Cochran who, for many church action groups, was an “angel” through the Christian Social Justice Fund.  Said Mr. Lewis on Jan. 16, 1941:

Continue reading “1941 Conflict Over Leadership”

The Malvern Conference: Ten Foundations of Peace


Bill Jr.:  The conference was convened on January 10, 1941, and chaired by William Temple, Archbishop of York (later Archbishop of Canterbury), while England and the Soviet Union were under great stress.  The U.S., through FDR’s ‘Lend-Lease’ program was aiding greatly, including starting to convoy allied ships.  But, until Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, the country was not at war.  What is foresighted on Temple’s part was that he and the Industrial Christian Fellowship were already planning for the post-war reconstruction. Among the main presenters at the conference were Maurice Reckitt and W.G. Peck, who had visited the U.S. under the auspices of the C.L.I.D.  These are the “Ten Foundations of Peace” issued from the conference:

1. “The right to life and independence of all nations, large, small, strong or weak, must be safeguarded.

2. “Disarmament must be mutually accepted, organic and progressive, both in letter and spirit.

3. “International institutions must be created or recast to insure the loyal and faithful execution of international agreements.

4. “Real needs and just demands of nations and peoples should be benevolently examined.

5. “A peace settlement must be dictated by a sense of acute responsibility which weighs human statutes according to the holy, unshakable rules of divine law.

6. “Extreme inequality of wealth should be abolished.

7.  “Every child, regardless of race or class, should have equal opportunities for education suitable to its peculiar capacities.

8. “The family as a social unit must be safeguarded.

9. “The sense of a divine vocation must be restored to man’s daily work.

10. “Resources of the earth should be used as God’s gifts to the whole human race and used with due consideration for the needs of present and future generations.”


Tim Spofford: It will surprise few that the Malvern Conference and the work it produced were seized upon by some as evidence of the liberal Church to create a “New World Order” and continues to this day to be seen by as such by some.  Henry Luce’s Time Magazine’s article on the conference began: “Church of England liberals moved boldly last week to seize, for the Church, leadership in “ordering the new society” which they found “quite evidently emerging” from the war.   To that end they stole a march on the Government with a program of post-war aims which, coming from any group, would be startling.  Coming from the traditionally complacent and conservative Established church it was little short of revolutionary.” 



Founding of United Nations: San Francisco

Bill Sr  (Reports from May and June, 1945 in THE WITNESS).:

This is the first conference I have ever attended where so much goes on that one is not quite sure what are the important things to report. It is a literal fact that each day a reporter goes to the press room, jots down the press conferences posted on the bulletin board, and spend the entire day running from one to another. There are luncheons, dinners, meetings. And there is the Palace Hotel, where the reporters are staying, and the Press Club where out-of-town newsmen and radio commentators are being entertained. There one can go at any time ofr the day or night and join in a rumor or gossip huddle.

However, in spite of this whirl which makes it so hard to see the forest for the trees, after more than two weeks of it, I think thast a number of things can be said definitely. Most important of all, a Charter for a world security organization will be the final outcome of this United Nations Conference. It will be far from a perfect document and there will be many who are here as representatives of special interests who will be disappointed. There are a number of representatives of India about who, whatever the subject at a press conference, manage to raise the question of the freedom of thast country.   So, likewise, with Palestine, Indo-China, Africa, Korlea and numerous other places. The Charter will dress all these problems up in pretty language about the welfare of the people and freedom at some future time. And, as Mr. Molotov said, “We all know the time will come when the voice of an independent India will be heard.”

But the fact is that the time is not yet for the very simple reason that the British Empire will not allow it. And what can be said of India can be said of every other colony or mandated area–nations are here to protect what they had before the war. Few, I presume, had such hope that it would be otherwise and the realistic view is to be thankful for a Charter which will establish a world organization which can and will maintain the peace and, thus, give nations and peoples time to solve the many baffling and complex economic, social and welfare problems that face the world. That i am sure will be accomplished and, however imperfect, it is a new achievement for the nations of this world for which we must be everlastingly grateful.

There are other things going on here about which i am less cheerful. That is the efforts being made, both inside the Conference and by powerful forces outside, to look upon this as a Conference to organize an anti-Soviet bloc. Unity of nations for world ;peace, and particularly lunity of the ‘Big Three’, is accepted as a principle by everyone. But as soon as one gets down to a specific problem–Poland, the future of Germany, Austria, the Far East–one runs into the assumption by many that war is inevitable and, particularly, war between the two strongest powers on earth, the United States and the Soviet Union. Therefore the smart thing to do is to maneuver for a strong position in anticipation of that struggle.

There is no journalist here who does a more painstaking job in checking facts than I.F. Stone. (NOTE: I.F.Stone, known by Dad and others as “Izzy”, was an independent journalist, getting out his WEEKLY through most of W.W. II through the Reagan years. His picture was, also, on the editor’s gallery wall. Before his death, he had become a T.V. ‘talking head’ and much admired. It was good to see it happen to him, since most professional journalists admired his courage and thoroughness.) I’ve spent a considerale amount of time with him here in San Francisco He says: “We must recognize that there is no alternative between the achievement of full employment in America by peaceful means and new imperialist adventures and war. This is recognized by the progressives among the technical staffs and consultants of the American delegation, who fear a tendency to find a way out of a new post-war unemployment crisis by armed conflict instead of the peaceful, but painful, process of adjusting our economy to full employment. The contrast between full emplopyment in the U.S.S.R. and a new unemployment crisis after the war in the U.S.A. would be explosive. Many people fear the impact of so socially dangerous a contrast but, while some of us conclude from it, the necessity of a full employment progran, others may think the contrast would best be avoided by and attempt to destroy the U.S.S.R.”

It is not Stone alone who calls attention to this danger. Walter Lippman noted a tendency at the Conference to assume ‘that because Germany is prostrate, the German problem is no longer the paramount problem in the world”. And he went on to point out ‘the fact that the main preoccupation of so many here has been not Germany but the Soviet Union.”

Another correspondent, representing a conservative paper, has stated that there are only two members of the American delegation who have not been indulging in off-the-record anti-Soviet talk. These two are Dean Gildersleeve and Commander Harold Stassen, who is, in the judgement of practically everyone here, the commanding figure on the American delegation. (NOTE: Harold Stassen, post-war governor of Minnesota, turned into a perennial candidate for the presidency and, of course, was denigrated. However, in explaining his ‘quest’ he said, even at an elderly age, that he still had something to say that was worth hearing. I am not sure, however, that Dad was not exercising some hyperbole when he says that everyone thought him to be the commanding figure in the U.S. delegation.)


All of this has been reflected time and again in press conferences, particularly the three that Molotov has so far held. I have attended them all and have heard him applauded by the press for his wit, his championing of peoples’ movement and self-determination of all nations by the Soviet delegation. They opposed the seating of Argentina because it is a fascist power; they have given a ray of hope to Indian nationalists, which Mr. J.J. Singh, president of the India Leaglue of America told me was headlined in every paper in that country; they have insisted that the Polish question cannot be settled without the Poles; they have skupported the request of the World Trade Union Federation for admission to the Conference in an advisory capacity; they asked that there be written into the Charter paragraphs setting forth the rights of men to work and cultural development. When asked what would be their attitude if a proposal should be made to admit Franco Spain to the world organization (and there are those here working for that end), Mr. Molotov replied; “The answer is so obvious that it do3es not require comment.” In other words the Soviet Union has held the torch for the peoples’ movements of the world. This has been clearly recognized by reporters in private conversations. And yet a large majority of them have gone to their typewriters and pounded out anti-Soviet stories for their papers.

Yet, in spite of this, something more needs to be said. There are peo0ple in this world and they will, in the final analysis, largely determine whether or not, peace is to be maintained and what kind of peace it will be. It is known that thousands of telegrams have been received from the American people by the Americlan delegation protesting the seating of Argentina. The story is that Paul Henry Spaak of Belgium supported Russia on the Argentina question, not so much from conviction, but because he had his eye on the French municipal elelctions and saw the trend of things in Europe. The story is also widespread that the French delegation, likewise because of their elections, cabled DeGaulle asking that they be allowed to move for the seating here of the Warsaw government, thinking thus to strengthen themselves with the people of France.

For after all, people vote and elect governements anecause they do the people throughout the world will have a great deal to say in the days ahead about peace and its enforcement.


Bill Jr.


How dated this report seems. It was before Churchill’s ‘iron curtain’ speech at Westminster College in Missouri; before the Marshall Plan; before President Truman beat Thomas Dewey unexpectedly in 1948. There was no Israel, or India, or numerous African states. Shoes had not been pounded on tables at the Security Council nor had a mustached and young Fidel Castro smoked good Havana cigars in a Harlem hotel or wore revolutionary garb to speak to the U.N. delegates. There was no certainty where the U.N. would be headquartered.

Actually, the Editor [Bill Sr.] had applied for, and in some sense, was a stringer for all of the other Episcopal magazines in San Francisco. He reported many of the debates and decisions as an on-going struggle between Fascism and what he called ‘democratic socialism.’ The premier of the U.S.S.R. was, due to the heroic sacrifice of so many of its citizens in Stalingrad and Leningrad and elsewhere, still the laThe whe end */ of ‘Uncle Joe.”

Having been sickened by the Palmer anti-liberty raids after WWII, Dad and others devoted to civil liberties were hopeful that civil rights and justice for all, leading to peace, could come out of the U.N. Martin Dies’ House Un-American Activities Committee had been quiescent in the war but revived under folk like J. Parnell Thomas. And Senator Joe McCarthy and his aid, Roy Cohn, were learning the intricacies of politics and the molding of opinions…in light of new communication innovations, not the least of which was T.V.

Obviously, Dad had a good time in San Francisco because he felt that he was covering a history-making event. He knew that the ‘wheels of the gods’ of history grind exceedingly small. And they did during those weeks in the City By the Bay. And, always, lurking was the shadow the Atomic Bomb which had been tested in desert exercise known by the docrinal phrase, Trinity.

Some notes home to family and Christ Church, Middletown, indicate that he enjoyed being with other professional writers and journalists without being tagged as an ecclesiaste — just a working stiff in the Press Room.

Now the Anglican Communion has had a Non-Governmental-Organization (NGO) accredited to the U.N, represented by the ex-Governor General of New Zealand, the Hon. Bp. Paul Reeves, and the organization is structuring more along peace-making and peace-keeping lines than in the past. The U.S. still owes many years of monetary support and the U.S.S.R. has divided up;into constituent democracies and trying to develop a market economy with great difficulty. And the Cuban, Fidel Castro, stands alone and greying, still speaking too long and, perhaps, still enjoying those good Havana cigars.

Will the creation and this planet know shalom with justice? The issue is always in doubt, and of course one of the key factors, as Dad always knew, was the reality of THE BOMB!


Founding of the U.N., Part II: Propaganda Mills

Bill Sr.   (“Talking It Over”: The Witness: June 14, 1945)

San Francisco is the capital of ‘the peace loving nations while the United Nations Conference is in session. But to understand what is going on it is necessary to know that it is also the world capital of the Fascist underground. It would take a lot of space to list the organizations which opened headquarters in the city for the purpose of disrupting the conference, largely of course by pouring out anti-Soviet propaganda. It is important also to know that these agencies have a very receptive press, particularly in the Hearst papers which are in effect house organs for these people who apparently would rather have a war between the U.S.A. and the USSR than a world organization to maintain peace.

Charles Rozmarek, president of the Polish-American Congress, opened a well-staffed office from which press releases are issued on every conceivable subject, from demands that the voting procedure of the World Organization be ‘by simple majority vote’ to fantastic charges of Russian inflicted upon ‘the democratic leaders’ not only of Poland, which he claims to represent, but also of Latvia, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and almost everywhere else. His agents pin neat notices of press conferences on bulletin boards urging reporters to come to the Palace Hotel to hear Mr. Rozmarek reveal more of Russia’s sins and there are enough papers in this country slanted that way to make it an effective propaganda technique.

There is also Anthony Olis who represents Lituania and one of whose press conferences I attended quite by chance. I had met that morning T.X. Dombrowski, the editor of THE PEOPLE’S VOICE, a Polish-American weekly that supports the present Warsaw government. He was anxious to hear what Mr. Olis had to say. So we went to a small hotel room to find an American businessman expounding on the crimes of the Soviets to about a dozen people, including several representatives of Mr. Rozmarek’s Polish Congress. Following the meeting my well-informed friend questioned Mr. Olis rather closely on Polish-Lithuanian relations and asked if common hatred of Russia has resolved their own bitter differences. Mr. Olis insisted that he did not even know the Polish gentlemen present at his conference. However a couple of hours later we ran into Mr. Olis arm in arm with two of these London Poles as they got their air and sunshine on the deck of a ferryboat. And the next day the Hearst papers presented the release that Mr. Olis had given to the handful who were interested enough to find out what he had to say. Of course it is not only the Hearst press that gladly picks up these attacks on Russia. The Chicago Tribune, the New York News, the Scripps-Howard papers and many others follow the same line under such headings as ‘Fear of Russian Expansion’, ‘German Red State Seen’, ‘Fear Communist Regime’. ‘Russians Issue Veiled Threats’. etc., etc. Anything to create fear of Russia, with columnists Simms, Sokolsky, Peglar, Crowther, Von Wiegand and others pouring it on day after day, with the latter, posing as a champion of Christian civilization, shouting in big black type that ‘the Christian era of civilization is tottering under the impact of scientifically organized militant atheism and totalitarian Communism.’

Yugoslavia’s General Mihailovich has his emissaries at the conference in the person of Louis C. Christopher of the Serb National Federation, and Zivko Topalovich, president of the Yugoslav National Democratic Committee, both of whom got big newspaper space as a result of their press conference at which Tito was denounced as a murderer and, of course, a mere tool of the Soviets. Stephen Shumeyko of Maplewood, New Jersley, got a long story sent out by one of the press services when he claimed to represent ‘twenty-five million Ukrainians who are determined to get out from under Soviet tyranny. Even Carl O. Alexander, representing himself to be a spokesman for Finland, got space for his press release about the ‘brave democracy of the north’ that had not wanted to fight really on the side of the Nazis ut had been forced to do so because the Russians are such horrible people. Present also is Capt. Francisco Lucientes, officer of the blue shirt army of the Falangists of Franco Spain, the equivalent of the Nazis’ stormtroopers, who has been staging a behind-the-scenes campaign to win a place for fascist Spain in the World Organization — and at one point was making such progress that the Friends of the Spanish Republic called a hasty conference to determine what steps should be taken to offset his campaign.

There are also the agents of Norman Thomas running about, weeping over the fate of the 16 Poles whom they really don’t care a hang about but it does offer a swell opportunity to do some more cracking down on the Soviets. Thomas, incidentally, is now writing letters to the papers and making speeches urging a soft peace for Japan, just as he previously urged a soft peace for the Nazis, affirming that the only one to gain by the unconditional surrender of Japan will be ‘Joe Stalin and the communists.’

That of course does not exhaust the list of anti-Conference agencies. The notorious Gerald L.K. Smith was holding press conferences and posted notice for a mass meeting ‘to which everybody is invited but the Russians’ –a meeting which never came off incidentally since a newspaper exposed that the ‘Protestant League’ sponsoring the meeting did not even exist. Then there is Mrs. Lyrl Clark Van Hyning, representing the We the Mothers Mobilize for Peace, Inc., who held a press conference at which she pleaded for a ‘permanent, righteous peace’ which meant that it must not be contaminated by any Russians.

The hierarchy of the Roman Church of course cannot be overlooked. For days before the Conference opened the Rev. Fulton Sheen, the number one anti-Soviet spellbinder of Rome, was addressing mass meetings up and down the coast on the sins of the Soviets. A well publicized solemn mass was celebrated by Archbishop John J. Mitty ‘to bless the cause of Poland’ (meaning the London Poles) with huge space given to the service while not a line appeared about a United Nations service held at our Cathedral which was a standing-room-only affair — this ins;pite of the fact that members of the cathedral staff personally called upon editors to invite them to the service. And while this was going on in San Francisco mass meetings were sponsored by the Roman Church in Chicago, Buffalo, Cincinnati and elsewhere, with archbishops and other dignitaries as headliners, to present the Vatican line which was frankly stated last week by his Holiness Pope Pius XII who, after first trying to squirm out of the tie-up between the Vatican and the Nazis, charged Russia with having ‘created those mobs of dispossessed, disillusioned, disappointed and hopeless men who are going to swell the ranks of revolution and disorder in the pay of a tyrant no less despotic than that of those for whose overthrow men planned.”

So when Z. Zhukov, a very genial Russian correspondent at San Francisco, charged that there are agencies at the Conference spreading anti-Soviet ‘calumnies’ in an effort to smash the unity of the United Nations, he was reporting facts. When he called it ‘‘Catholic propaganda which mostly follows outright reactionary political aims” and when he stressed the tie-up between this propaganda and such agencies as the Polish-American Congress and others I have mentioned he was right again. Likewise when he called them ‘people who are stubbornly holding to the rags of Goebbels’s heritage’ he was likewise right.

The anti-Sovie stluff that fills the papers these days is not accidental. So use your head before you fall for it.

Bill Jr.

It seems that the propaganda mills were grinding small on both sides. The genial Soviet and Polish newspaper men were, undoubtedly, making their ‘pitch’ to Dad. Also, his old colleague in the 1920’s labor troubles, Norman Thomas, came in for heavy criticism obviously. It was a symbol of the various schisms and breakdown of unity in the American left, even among the old Christian liberals. Dad thought that both Reinhold Niebuhr and Norman Thomas became members of the ‘establishment’, which in a real sense they did. He would maintain that he kept his ‘revolutionary’ integrity but, as he got older, it became a more isolated witness. In the case of the U.N. Conference, the wonder is that anything resembling a United Nations came out of the Conference at all. Remember, this was two months before the atomic bomb was dropped on HIroshima and Nagasaki and the world changed forever.

Bill Sr. (“Talking It Over,” The Witness,  May 10, 1945)

‘I want to urge everyone to keep in mind that conflict makes the best newspaper story. And never before in history have so many reporters gathered in one place. Inquiry at the press office of the State Department revealed that there are more than 2000 accredited press-radio-newsreel people here. News agencies from all over the world have offices in the Conference center; so likewise with radio with not only all the American networks, but networks of Canada, Australia, Britain, the Soviet Union and other countries having set-up studios here. The press room, with hundreds of typewriters clicking all at once, sounds like a factory; a press conference is a mass meeting.

This great mass of men and women earn their living by writing stories acceptable to their papers. And the best story is a fight. To illustrate: one local paper carries the banner headline CHAIRMANSHIP DEMANDED BY U.S.; another shouts in big red letters: SOVIET DEMANDS OPPOSED; a third has an eight column head; NEW CRISIS SEEN IN RUSS ATTITUDE. The next day, the ‘crisis’ settled by unanimous vote, the heads drop from eight columns to three and announce: CONFERENCE IN COOPERATIVE MOOD.

To me the reporting of this Conference has been bad. Again to illustrate: I have attended the Molotov press conferences and have heard him applauded for his wit and praised for his frankness. Then I have picked up papers an hour or two later to find these same reporters calling Mr. Molotov a ‘master of evasion,’ ‘the tricky Russian spokesman,’ ‘the mysterious Mr. Molotov.’

I was deploring this to a friend of mine who is one of the top-ranking newsmen here. ‘I’ve stood all my life for freedom of the press’ I said, ‘but I’m beginning to think there is too much of it here. ’

I got my ears properly pinned back. ‘It is not freedom that is the matter,’ he replied. ‘It is a lack of a realization of their responsibility. The press has a sacred obligation, particularly on such a history-making occasion as this, to be painstakingly accurate and to stress harmony and cooperation when they find it, as well as disagreements. That’s where you fellows come in, Bill. If the Church had properly done its job more reporters would have an awareness of their responsibilities and obligations.

A lot of prayers have been authorized by bishops petitioning God to guide the statesmen so that peace and justice may be estalished. The number of reporters here and the skill, diplomalcy and honesty they show may also prove of great importance to the world. So until some bishop authorizes a prayer for them I’d suggest you remember them in your private devotions. They need them, I think, even more than the statesmen. But since I suspect that it may be some time before your prayers bring about the desired result, I suggest that you discount the scare-heads and conflict stories being pounded out on thousands of typewriters every day in San Francisco. There is harmony and cooperation where it counts most. That’s the all important fact.’

Bill Jr.:  

Again, how far back in time this all seems, in our era of instant world and cosmic news coverage. And, now, those folks in the San Francisco press-room would be the ‘talking heads’ of TV and stars in their own rights, negotiating contracts for early or early-early or late or late-late shows and cross-fertilizing each other on infinite numbers of shows that create opinion and, thus, make ‘news’. Their columns are in the morning papers, on Op-ed page, and then they talk about it all day and evening. The ‘civil right’ of getting objective news is, perhaps, harder to achieve than ever….and, as Dad said, ‘conflict makes the best news story.’




Founding of the UN: Part III (May 24, 1945)

Bill Sr: 

San Francisco: — The world is a living, growing organism and it is impossible to prevent changes. For the United States to attempt to do so would lead us into another war, and probably on the wrong side. That statement was made by one of the top men associated with the American delegation at an off-the-record meeting, and he indicated that it was recognized by the delegations of the Big Five and doubtless by the representatives of most of the nations attending the Conference. And because it is recognized he believes that provision will be made in the charter to be written here, not only for amendments, but for periodic Constitutional Conventions of the World Organization when the entire Charter would be thoroughly revised in the light of new events.

If this is a fact, and certainly the position held by the speaker gave it great authority, it is one of the most encouraging things that has happened here. He had no doubt whatever that a Charter will be approved at this Conference, not a perfect document, but one which is a good start.

It was recognized from the start, he declared, by the four sponsoring nations that the Dumbarton Oaks Proposal was a cold documenht, lacking soul. This purpose, objective or soul, as he called it, has now been given to the Charter by writing into it such phrases as ‘with due regard for principles of justice and international law’; ‘the solution of international economic, social, cultural and other humanitarian problems and promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, language, religion or sex.

Originally these objectives had been stated only in the section on the Economic and Social Council. It is now agreed among the Big Four and presumably by everyone else, that they shall also go in Chapter One which sets forth the basic objectives of the World Organization. It has also bleen agreed among the Big Five that there shall be a Human Rights Commission, which was one of the recommendations of the Cleveland conference of the Federal Council’s commission on a just and durable peace. This holds out more hope to the little people of the world who, if words mean anything, will be encouraged to work for their own freedom and economic, social and cultural development.

Problems, of course, must not be minimized and I can merely state them briefly:  There is the world court. Some want the old court brought back to life, others a new court. Some want nations compelled to bring their disputes to court and the decisions enforced by the World Organization if necessary. Others want the nations to come to court voluntarily. Progressives want a new court, compulsion and enforcement. But it appears at present that they are losing out.

There is a tangle on trusteeships, with the U.S. army and navy strong enough to force the U.S. delegation to say, through Commander Stassen, that nothing would be done at this Conference which would in any way interfere with the complete defense of the U.S. That means that we are going to hang on to what we consider strategic defense areas, without placing them under the World Organization, and of course if we stick to that position it will force the other nations to do the same thing. In that event the peoples of the world certainly will not be relieved of that ‘crushing burden of armaments’ they were promised in the Atlantic Charter.

On the matter of Regional Organizations it looked for a time as though we were also to play a bad role by insisting that we would run the Western Hemisphere –Monroe Doctrine st;luff–with little regard for the World Organization. Naturally if we play that game — and we may yet when the Charter goes to the U.S. Senate to be ratified — then Britain, France, Russia and everyone else able to do so will do the same and the world will be back in the old rut of power politics and blocs.  However Mr. Stettinius told a press conference on the 14th that the U.S. delegates agreed that the world organization must be paramount, and the following daly agreement was reached on this point with the latin American nations. So at the time of writing (May 21, 1945), I can find no evidence that any delegation places regional security arrangements ahead of World Organization.

Meanwhile keep in mind that the final Charter has to be ratified by governments, including our Senate. That fact, I think, has made some of our delegates take a more conservative position than they otherwise would.



Founding of the UN: Part IV

Bill Sr. (‘Talking It Over’: THE WITNESS, May 31, 1945)

San Francisco:–Some years back I was a labor manager for a large clothing firm with the job of seeing that the terms of a contract entered into with a union were maintained. There were to be no strikes or stoppages of work since the contract provided impartial machinery for the settling of all disputes, whatever they were. But there were many times during those days when workers with a grievance, real or imaginary, violated their agreement by folding their hands and refusing to work. The reason was simple: for years those workers, without a union, without any other way of righting a wrong, had used a stoppage of work as their only weapon. It was impossible to change them over night simply because the president of the firm and the president of their union had signed a piece of paper. They had to be reconditioned to peace and it took time. But it was accomplished so that today there are neither stoppages nor labor managers since things run so smoothly that they are not necessary.

The United Nations Conference will set up a world organization to maintain peace. It was for that purpose that delegations from forty-nine nations, with their staffs of technicians and experts, came to this city. They will accomplish their aim and in doing so will do more to give the world peace and security than any meeting in history. It is tremendously important for all of us to keep constantly in mind that the creation of machinery to maintain peace is the primary objective of the Conference, with all other things secondary. This has been stressed repeatedly by leaders here.  Mr. Eden made it clear in his opening speech. Mr. Stettinius said it over and over again–’we are here dealing only with machinery; no consideration will be given at his Conference to specific problems.’

Naturally many are disappointed, particularly the hordes of people who are here on the fringe using pressure to have their own special interests served. But if you will read back over the record since April 24th I think you will agree that the Conference ran into most of its difficulties when it considered matters that never should have come before it. This Conference was not called to settle disputes between the London and Warsaw Poles; between the Jews and Arabs over Palestine; between empires and their colonies. This is not a world legislature but an organizing committee out of which will come the set-up with the apparatus to deal with all the hard problems that confront the world. And if that is accomplished, and it is going to be, then the Conference of the United Nations will be the most successful international meeting ever held. Out of it will come, as Mr. Stettinius has pointed out, ‘new world community institutions such as courts, police organizations, parliamentary and welfare groups.’ He also said that great emphasis is being placed on the importance of the Economic and Welfare Council of the World Organization. ‘Men see,’ our Secretary of State told the reporters, ‘that they have to create a world economy that will give to the people and nations the things they need. You can’t talk peace to hungry people.’

That it s a tremendous and long time job, of course; everyone in his senses knows. The people of India want to be free. The people of Africa want to be free. The people of the world want to be rid of armaments and all the burdens that go with war. This Charter, which will be signed by the representatives of forty-nine nations, will, when ratified by their governments, create the machinery for the peaceful settlement of these and many other problems. But it is of course silly to think that all the problems are to disappear merely because forty-nine men put their signatures on a document. The people of this world are conditioned to get things the hard way — by fighting for it. It is going to take a long time to educate them to understand and use the machinery being created here. So we ought not to expect too much too soon. If it took four or five years to educate 2000 workers in a factory how to work under an agreement which provided the machinery for peaceful living, you can imagine the difficulties we are going to have making the World Organization effective. Again to quote Mr. Stettinius:

‘The millennium will not arrive the morning after the conference closes but we will be able to say we have made distinct progress toward world peace.’  And as far as I am concerned –and in spite of all the crabbing and knocking and pessimism that one reads and hears over the radio–I think that is an understatement.

There is another angle to this Conference which i want to report, and that is the recognition by our State Department that there are people other than governmental officials who are interested in world organization.  From the very first release of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals the people, individually and collectively, have been encouraged to offer their suggestions and criticisms. The attitude was illustrated by a story told by Archibald MacLeish at one of the meetings held daily here for the representatives of national organizations, sponsored by the State Department. At a meeting on Dumbarton Oaks held this past winter, a woman representing a large organization interested in peace came to him and said; ‘Mr. MacLeish I am here upon your invitation. But I want it distinctly understood that I did not come in order to find out what the State Department wants me to do. i came in order to make the State Department do what I want it to do.”

If the State Department is not doing what the people want to have done it is surely not because the Department has not made every effort to understand the will of the people. There are 75 national organizations represented here, each with two consultants. There were those who came thinking that it was a mere gesture and that they would neither be consulted or taken seriously if they were. All of them now testify that quite the opposite is true. They do meet regularly with the American delegation and many of the amendments, particularly those dealing with human rights and basic freedoms, can be credited to these consultants. Commander Stassen paid a great tribute to this group at one of his press conference. Likewise did Mr. Stettinius who told reporters that ‘many suggestions made by individual citizens or civic groups are reflected in these amendments’ and he went on to describe the assistance and advice of the consultants as ‘invaluable.’ ‘Seldom,’ he said, ‘has there been a greater demonstration of respect for democratic rights or a fuller proof of the high value of democratic procedures.’

All of which is something for all of us to remember when the Charter being drafted here goes to the United States Senate. That will be another time when we have to make the democratic process work by insisting upon ratification.”