Michael F. Hopkins
Liverpool Hope University
I came to Princeton in August 2004 to conduct research for my book,
Dean Acheson and the Obligations of Power: Duty, Strength and Reason in US Foreign Policy,
in the series Biographies in American Foreign Policy (Rowman & Littlefield).
Dean Acheson ranks as one of the major figures in American foreign policy in the twentieth century. He served as Assistant Secretary of State from 1941 to 1945, as Under Secretary of State from 1945 to 1947, and as Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953. This was a pivotal era and he was involved in major decisions that have generated historical debate and controversy. As Assistant Secretary he helped shape the Lend-Lease Agreement and the Bretton Woods system. As Under Secretary he chaired the atomic energy committee that prepared what became known as the Lilienthal-Acheson Report. He also assisted General George Marshall in assessing the situation in China. Their negative diagnosis of the prospects for Chiang Kai-shek's (Jiang Jieshi's) Nationalists generated a great deal of criticism of the Truman administration and Acheson in particular from the 'China lobby'. He was also a vital contributor to the emergence of the Truman Doctrine and to the early stages of the Marshall Plan. When he left the
Department in summer 1947 he continued to work on the task of promoting the Marshall Plan. The range of issues that he handled as Secretary of State was vast: the formation of NATO, the Berlin blockade, the communist victory in China, the Soviet atomic bomb, British devaluation, European unity, the Korean War, the threat of Mao's China, the Japanese Peace Treaty, the Iranian oil crisis, German rearmament.
I identified a number of manuscript collections at the Seeley G. Mudd Library that appeared particularly promising. They offered the prospect of both addressing many of these issues and of revealing an understanding of Dean Acheson's ideas and approach, the nature of his relations with key individuals, the character of his recommendations and the extent to which his proposals prevailed. I worked on the following collections: the Hamilton Fish Armstrong Papers; the John Foster Dulles Papers; the James Forrestal Papers; the George F. Kennan Papers; the David E. Lilienthal Papers; the Livingston T. Merchant Papers; and the Harry Dexter White Papers. Each of these individuals had contacts with Acheson on important issues. Hamilton Fish Armstrong was the long-serving editor of the journal, Foreign Affairs;
John Foster Dulles served as an advisor to the State Department, in particular in the drafting of a peace treaty with Japan. James Forrestal held the offices of Secretary of the Navy, 1944-47 and Secretary
of Defense, 1947-49. George Kennan was an important State Department official, heading the Policy Planning Staff, 1947-50. David Lilienthal and Acheson co-authored a report on international control of atomic energy in 1946. Lilienthal later became the first chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, 1946-50. Livingston T. Merchant was a State Department official and diplomat. Harry Dexter White served in the Treasury from 1934 to 1948. He and Acheson discussed aspects of Lend-Lease and Bretton Woods.
My research proved very profitable. Each of the collections yielded valuable material and insights. The private correspondence in all the collections revealed the high regard felt for Acheson, as well as deepening my sense of his personal relations with various figures. It also supplied examples of his wit. Moreover, it was illuminating on the personalities of these key individuals and their relations with each other. The Kennan Papers included interesting exchanges on crucial issues, such as the Korean War in December 1950 at the height of the crisis over the intervention of Chinese forces. The Lilienthal Papers were informative not only on nuclear matters but also on the Congressional pursuit of communist influences in government. In addition, they contained a copy of a marvellous Herblock cartoon on John Foster Dulles's succession as Secretary of State. The White Papers were most useful on Lend-Lease, on the negotiations at the Bretton Woods conference that established the IMF and the World Bank, and
the postwar loan to Britain. The various manuscripts overall were very effective in giving a sense of how foreign affairs were handled by individuals in and out of government, of contacts between journalists and academics, businessmen and officials. The Armstrong Papers were interesting in tracing the origins of various articles that appeared in Foreign Affairs,
in particular Kennan's 'X' article of July 1947 on 'The Sources of Soviet Conduct', as well as recording Armstrong's vain attempts to persuade Acheson to contribute a piece on one issue or another.
It was a pleasure to work on these rich sources in an archive that was so efficient and helpful. I am most grateful for the award of the fellowship and to the many members of staff who made my stay so enjoyable and intellectually rewarding.