Modern history

Chapter 32

New York: Dewey and the State

Crazed with avarice, lust and rum,

New York, thy name’s Delirium.

—Byron R. Newton

I£ you wish to make democracy conservative, you must give it something to conserve.

—Lord Randolph Churchill

I DROPPED in to see Mr. Dewey at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City on a bright morning not long ago. I had useful talk with two of his exceptionally able and friendly associates, Paul E. Lockwood and James C. Hagerty, and then an hour with the governor himself. Dewey is an alert and aggressive conversationalist. He covered a gamut from the effect of weather on politics to Hindus in India to what makes a best seller to whether or not Anaconda runs Montana. He has sharp, positive opinions, and he sometimes says, “I don’t agree with you!” He mentioned Roosevelt once, with a curious abstract and impersonal half-bitterness, saying that FDR had stolen the faith of people, seduced from them their self-confidence. Once he paced to the window and looked down at the street, with its hurrying crowds in the thin, electric sunshine. “Mecca!” he exclaimed. But he did not go into what particular holy stone, what especial tablet of the devout, drew the thronging millions to New York. He looked steadily at the people crowding and weaving their way four abreast down the sidewalks. “Anybody who thinks this country isn’t fundamentally okay is crazy. Sure there are a few crazy reactionaries and a few crazy left-wingers, but you could put the whole bunch in Grand Central Station.”

Mostly he talked about New York state, its historical piquancies, its heft and beam, its truly imperial variety. “Why, this state is as big as countries in Europe that fight wars!” He mentioned his own farm, near Pawling, and described (the phraseology is his), “the soft loveliness, the incomparable rolling dairy country” of Dutchess County. “My farm is my roots.” About agriculture Governor Dewey had much to say. “The heart of this nation is the rural small town.” New York is one of the leading agricultural states in the union, but 60 per cent of its agriculture is marginal dairying; half the farmhouses need a paint job badly, and one-third have no electricity—in the Empire State, the most favored in the land! This, Mr. Dewey thinks, is outrageous. “Electricity and a vacuum cleaner mean whether or not the farmer’s wife dies at fifty with a broken back.” He talked about the work of H. E. Babcock, chairman of the board of directors of one of the best universities in America, Cornell, whom he called “the Kettering of American agriculture.” He mentioned the extraordinarily high level of the state’s agricultural schools, the research that was going on in grasses and hay, and the need, rich as New York is, to import grain. He reverted to his own farm, and how proud he was that his farmers “milk standing up,” that his cows don’t sleep on wet concrete but on soft, dry, warm straw. He pleaded the necessity of improving the quality of stock, and talked of research and developments in this direction. “You can get any cow artificially inseminated in every county in this state, at cost. The best sixty bulls in the state serve every farm.”

About New York City, the governor did not say a great deal; I have an idea he doesn’t like it much. “New York City isn’t a melting pot, it’s a boiling pot.” Nor did he talk about contemporary politics at all. He mentioned the old corrupt machines with contempt; he pointed out of the window again, saying “No crook can get away with buying that any more!” and meaning by “that” the broad mass of moving people. Dewey is acutely conscious of the great historic tradition he inherits. From De Witt Clinton to AI Smith, New York has had notable chief executives. He talked about Smith warmly. New York has, he mentioned among other things, a much better budget and financial system than the federal government. “And we don’t use New Deal methods either!”

Mr. Dewey has, I was told by those close to him, some positive reformist ideas about the structure of state governments. That a state may have a governor belonging to one party, and a lieutenant governor to another, seems to him little short of idiotic from the point of view of rational administration. If I gathered correctly the line of his thought, he believes (1) that primaries should be abolished in favor of the convention system, (2) that all governors should have four-year terms, not two, because two hardly give a man time to move around in, (3) that the organization of state government should follow the federal pattern more closely, with only governor and lieutenant governor elected among administrative officials, and the others, including judges, appointed, subject to confirmation by the state senate and to some such system as that in Missouri, which gives the electorate a chance to review a judge’s record. Mr. Dewey is a strong believer in executive authority—very strong. But, just as strongly, he wants decentralization and community authority, for instance in such matters as juvenile delinquency and what it derives from—poor housing. For some elected representatives of the people on a local level, Mr. Dewey has considerable contempt. “There are bums that make you cringe.”

What runs New York? Public opinion, Mr. Dewey thinks. What runs Dewey? Dewey. What does Dewey believe in most? I didn’t ask him directly, but I imagine the answer would include two items at least, himself and efficiency.


Dewey: Four Sources of His Power

Mr. Dewey, as of the moment of writing, is probably the most important Republican in the United States and a strong contender for the presidency in 1948, though he is not an avowed candidate. Several factors contribute to this:

(1) In both foreign and domestic policy he falls roughly in the middle between extreme conservatives like Taft and Bricker, and the liberal wing of the party represented by Stassen.

(2) Dewey or no Dewey, any New York candidate goes into the convention with a great head start.

(3) His strategic position vis-à-vis putative opponents in Congress is excellent. He does not have to expose himself to public inspection on a variety of issues; he does not have to vote. Moreover, on the sidelines so to speak, he can buttress his own record. His administration as governor will continue to be good; he can easily go out of his way to be attractive to all manner of special groups; he can avoid committing himself on controversial issues.1

(4) His personal qualities, including in particular the mainspring of a powerful ambition.

Brief Outline of Career, Record, Attributes

Thomas Edmund Dewey was born in Owosso, Michigan, a town of some eight thousand people, on March 24, 1902. His father, George Martin Dewey, was the local postmaster and also the editor of a weekly newspaper; his paternal grandfather helped found the Republican party when it was organized at Jackson, Michigan, in 1854, and a remote cousin was the Admiral Dewey made famous by the war with Spain. On his mother’s side Dewey’s descent is mostly Irish; his maternal grandmother was born in County Cork. The family traces its origin to a forebear named Thomas Dewey who landed near Boston in 1634, and hacked out a clearing near what is now Dorchester. The name was spelled “Duee” then. The governor was not named for this Thomas Dewey, however. He takes his name from his mother’s side of the family.

The Deweys thus have roots. The family was not, however, nor did it ever pretend to be, of any considerable wealth or distinction. Tom grew up in a pleasant enough house on a pleasant enough street, where his mother still lives; his upbringing was as conventional as that of any normal middle western boy. He set type in his father’s shop, sold magazines, did farm chores, and went to the public schools. He did, however, show leadership and ambition above the average; by the time he was thirteen, he had a crew of nine other youngsters working for him. Also the bent of his mind, from earliest days, was toward argumentation and debate. His high school yearbook, published in 1919, gives him the motto, “First in the council hall to steer the state, and ever foremost in a tongue debate.” Dewey himself was editor of this yearbook.

Childhood bites deep into a man. Few people have capacity for basic change. The hardest thing to conquer is a man’s own genes. These bromidic remarks are called forth by a minor circumstance: I have just looked at two pictures of Mr. Dewey in Life. They were taken some thirty years apart. But Mr. Dewey as an infant of three, and Mr. Dewey as a nationally known prosecutor, have the identical facial expression, and even point an index finger to the cheek with the selfsame gesture, as Life points out.

Dewey went on to the University of Michigan, and did well both scholastically and otherwise. What interested him most was singing. He had a good resonant baritone voice, and placed first in a Michigan singing contest; this encouraged him to pursue voice as a career. He followed his singing teacher, Percy Rector Stephens, to New York, and at the same time began to study law at Columbia. Briefly he sang as a cantor in a New York synagogue; he didn’t know Hebrew, but spelled out the syllables in phonetic English. The time came when he knew that he must choose between the two professions, music and law. He was conscientious enough to know that he could not do well at both. One legend is that he had a bad sore throat when about to sing a concert; this frightened him because it showed on what minor accidents a musical career could depend. At any rate he chose law, took a degree at Columbia, and started practice in 1925. He still likes to sing for fun. There are strong traces in him of the artist who never quite became an artist.

A man who gives up art puts a load on his subconscious. I do not mean to be too fanciful, but that Dewey is one of the neatest men who ever lived would suggest to any psychologist that he is still overcompensating for old artistic impulses, driving down and suppressing former tendencies to abandon. One of his biographers even records that he kills flies neatly, so that they will not make a spot on the wallpaper. That he drinks sparingly, and carefully limits himself to a package of cigarettes a day, is another indication of the rigorous will with which he controls himself, and avoids disarray. Consider too his extreme self-centeredness and self-consciousness. Mr. Dewey (it is an admirable trait) will never be “one of the boys.” This too connotes a tendency to be on guard, or rather a fear of being caught off guard. To the point is the fact that he is violently camera shy. For years he had trouble with photographers. The New York camera men—a grim crew they are—once boycotted him for a time, or only snapped him in the most fearsome and unbecoming poses, with his mouth wide open or blowing his nose.

Dewey’s speaking voice, as every American knows who ever listened to the radio in the last two presidential campaigns, has a full, rich quality; yet it sounds schooled. It is full of vitality, yet the delivery seems contrived, like that of an elocutionist. In depth of tone it strikingly resembles that of his friend and neighbor, Lowell Thomas. One early joke about Dewey was to call him “Lowell Thomas E. Dewey.”2

The interlude with voice also led to Dewey’s marriage. His wife, Frances Eileen Hutt, a grandniece of Jefferson Davis, who was born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, was a promising young mezzo-soprano, also studying with Stephens. She sang in New York churches and, under the name Eileen Hoyt, had small roles in several of the John Murray Anderson revues and, of all things, in a road company of George White’s Scandals. She married Dewey in 1928, and gave up her musical and stage career.3 The Deweys have two children, and their home life has been very happy. For a time they lived in the Tuxedo neighborhood; they gave it up because it was too stuffy and fashionable, and later bought the farm at Pawling. It cost $3,000 cash, with a $27,000 mortgage.

Here perhaps is place for another personal item. Two things gravely hurt Dewey in his first presidential run in 1940, jokes about his youth and about his size. To attack him on either score was, of course, hardly fair. There is nothing reprehensible about a man younger than forty running for the presidency. But when Mr. Ickes announced to the nation that he had tossed his diaper into the ring, all was lost. As to his size Dewey is five feet eight, which is not so very short. It was preposterous to attack him as Dollfuss or a dwarf. Yet the jibes were merciless. He posed for Life in a very deep chair in the Executive Chamber at Albany; when the magazine announced that the governor was sitting on two telephone books, the country tittered. Dewey keeps a very large dog, Canute, and so the story rose that “he rode it to work.” He was called “the chocolate soldier of Albany.” One joke was that he had a “tinker toy approach” to foreign affairs, and another was, “I don’t mind changing horses in midstream, but what about a Shetland pony?” Dewey once told Leonard Lyons of the New York Post that, of all the things Lyons had ever written about him, he resented only one—a statement that he wore built-in high heels.

Dewey, while still a struggling young lawyer, became interested in Republican politics, and worked doggedly at small party jobs, starting at the bottom as a watcher at the polls. Presently he was chosen chairman of the New York Young Republican Club. He comes by his Republicanism honestly enough. During the 1946 gubernatorial campaign, the well-known New York Times illustrator S. J. Woolf asked him “Why are you a Republican?” Dewey answered: “That’s a question I have never been asked. I believe that the Republican party is the best instrument for bringing sound government into the hands of competent men and by this means preserving our liberties…. But there is another reason why I am a Republican. I was born one.”

The great racket-busting days, the Dewey-splashed-over-the-national-Iandscape days, began in 1931. The late George Z. Medalie, a famous New York public figure, liked him and, when Medalie was appointed United States district attorney for the Southern District of New York, took him on as his chief assistant, at the period when federal authorities were vigorously going after gangsters and racketeers for income tax evasion. Dewey leapt into this work with fervor. He chose some able young assistants, built up a staff fanatically loyal to him, established good techniques in teamwork, and began to become known as an aggressive, fearless, incorruptible prosecutor. Medalie resigned in 1933, and for a brief interval Dewey succeeded him as United States attorney.

Historical accidents are always provocative to explore. I do not mean that Dewey is an accident. I mean merely that in July, 1935, the time, place, and circumstance were all propitious. New York was bursting with corruptions; as in Chicago, thuggery was destroying the reputation of the city. What is more, the rackets struck at the very heart of the business interests of the community; the gangsters were getting rich not merely at the expense of other gangsters, but at that of the free enterprise system itself. All this was made possible, of course, by the co-operation, active or passive, of politicians. A grand jury investigation broke down, and the jury asked the governor of the time, Herbert H. Lehman, impeccably able and distinguished, to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the rackets issue. Lehman set about to find a man. A Democrat, he asked four Republicans in a row to take the job, Charles Evans Hughes Jr., Judge Thomas Thacher, Charles H. Tuttle, and finally Medalie; all four turned it down. Then the offer went to Dewey, who accepted. Where would Dewey be today if Lehman had not chosen him? Where would he be today if Hughes, Thacher, Tuttle, or Medalie had taken the post? It is a rare circumstance indeed that national power and eminence should come to a man as a result of a personal decision not by one other man, but by four.

Dewey went into action and put on a very impressive show, with Star Chamber and Blue Ribbon overtones. All the paraphernalia, the hideouts and tapped telephones and so on, became famous. More than any other American of his generation except Lindbergh, Dewey became a creature of folklore and a national hero. What he appealed to most was the great American love of results. People were much more interested in his ends than his means. They liked the impression he gave of being a man always in strict training, a zealot. Another key to all this may be expressed in a single word: honesty. Dewey was honest. That he was also relentless, able, dramatic, and full of guts and tricks, hardly mattered. Plenty of people might have been relentless, dramatic, and full of guts and tricks. What I am saying is of course a considerable reflection on the state of civilization in New York City as of that time. What staggered everybody—including the defendants—was that a prosecutor actually was an honest man, who could not be fixed or bought, and with no strings attached except his own. He had no ax to grind except that which ceaselessly hewed out his own career.

On the other hand, fighting fire with fire, Dewey used methods which today seem slightly sensational to say the least. Witnesses were held under exorbitant bail; some highly dubious things went on; there is no doubt that some civil rights were violated. The most famous case was that of Lucky Luciano, the vice king. This gaudy episode could be described at vast lubricious length. After Luciano was convicted and safely salted away, it became known that some, at least, of the confessions that helped put him in Sing Sing were wildly, almost comically fraudulent. Also celebrated was the later prosecution of Jimmy Hines. Dewey had to do this job twice. The judge at the first trial threw the case out. To get a conviction against Hines, who was not only deeply involved in the policy racket4 but a Tammany chieftain of exalted rank, was certainly an achievement. But Hines might not have gone to jail except for evidence from associates who got some very fancy favors from the Dewey staff. Dewey’s record was spectacular in some respects. As special prosecutor he is supposed to have gained seventy-two convictions out of seventy-three cases tried. But these figures are not quite so impressive if the details are analyzed closely. Another point is that, after the second Hines trial, Dewey himself seldom appeared in court. He left the actual mechanics of prosecution to his extremely able young assistants.

Dewey ran for public office for the first time in 1937, when he was thirty-five, and was elected district attorney by an overwhelming vote, running on the Republican, Fusion, City Fusion, Progressive, and American Labor Party tickets. That he was supported by the ALP at this time, only ten years ago, will be a surprise to many. Also it may be a source of astonishment that the man who led the ticket, running for mayor, was none other than the celebrated Little Flower, Fiorello La Guardia, later to become one of Mr. Dewey’s mortal enemies, and vice versa. The whirlpool of New York politics tosses up strange combinations. Dewey was not so active as district attorney as he had been as special prosecutor. For one thing he spent a good deal of time campaigning and running for other offices. He ran for governor in 1938, and was beaten—after a tense, close fight—by Lehman. In 1940 he campaigned all over the country for the Republican nomination for the presidency, but Willkie squeezed him out.

Nevertheless, as one looks back, Dewey’s achievement as a prosecutor is substantial. In one category he prosecuted Wall Street’s Richard Whitney; in another Federal Judge Martin Manton, who was forced to resign from the bench and who got a stiff prison sentence; in still another Charles E. Mitchell, former president of the National City Bank, over income tax. Mitchell won an acquittal in a criminal suit, but in a civil case was forced to make large restitution to the government. As to gangsters the list is as long as an ape’s arm, all the way from “Waxey” Gordon to “Legs” Diamond in the early days to the late Arthur Flegenheimer, alias “Dutch” Schultz, once the boss of those racketeers whose particular prey was restaurants.

Dewey: the National Scene

That Dewey should have proceeded into major politics was of course inevitable. This is a country where, even if you have never had ten minutes of administrative experience, you are a good political candidate if you are celebrated enough. The district attorney’s office is almost as conventional a springboard to higher office in New York state as is the governorship to the presidency. The wheels were in full motion by 1940. Some of the professionals did not, however, take Dewey as seriously as did members of his own entourage, when convention time approached. “The original plan,” it has been written, “was to use him as a stalking horse and trade him off later.” But Dewey was not to be handled in any such cavalier way. One of the Republican hierarchy said, “We drafted this monkey, and, by Jesus, he took us serious.”5

Dewey ran for the governorship of New York state (after Willkie could not be persuaded to run) in 1942, and won handily. So at last—and he was still only forty—he had reached great office. He was the first Republican governor since 1922, and proudly he took up residence in Albany in what was once called the Stadt Huis. In 1944, as everybody knows, he finally won the presidential nomination, ran against Roosevelt, and was defeated.6 In 1946 he ran for re-election to the governorship of New York, and won by the greatest majority known to the history of the state.

We have mentioned Dewey’s ambition several times. It is only fair to point out that he has never made the slightest attempt to capitalize his enormous fame, except politically. Even when temporarily out of office, in the middle 1930’s, he rigorously resisted any temptation to be vulgarized or exploited. He is by no means a rich man, and he has a healthy regard for the power money brings. He could easily have become a millionaire several times over by succumbing to various movie and radio offers; he would have had to do nothing except give permission for movies or radio serials to be built around his career and name. Be it said to his honor, he never did so. Nor has he ever accepted any of the innumerable invitations to lecture that might have brought him a small fortune.

What beat Dewey in 1944 was not so much Roosevelt as the war. As Irving Brant once wrote, “The choice was not simply between Roosevelt and Dewey, but between Roosevelt and Dewey at Teheran.’’7 On the conduct of the war and foreign policy Mr. Dewey was, naturally, in a cleft stick. He could not possibly afford to take nor would he have wanted to take a defeatist line; yet he had to continually attack Roosevelt for the way the war was being conducted. He could not easily condemn the whole structure of the international coalition; thus he was restricted to sniping along the edges, and some of this sniping was pretty silly, as for instance when—mispronouncing the name—he went out of his way to mention a Russian general who had taken part in the Rumanian armistice negotiations. It was revealed later, by John Chamberlain in Life, that Dewey had become privy to the secret that the United States had broken the Japanese codes, and had patriotically made no disclosure of this fact during the campaign, though it might have gravely embarrassed the administration. General Marshall, in highly secret and dramatic circumstances, did in fact communicate with Dewey urging him not to speak out. But had Dewey divulged the story, this would almost certainly have cost him more than it would have won, in that people could have said indignantly that he was sacrificing the national interest for private political gain.

Also Dewey had his own awkward past in the field of foreign relations to live down. He was never so overtly isolationist as Taft or Lindbergh. Yet there were some compromising statements on the record. For instance on January 10, 1941, he said that Lend Lease “would bring an end to free government in the United States and would abolish the Congress for all practical purposes.” Later of course he changed his mind. Dewey has slipped and slithered a good deal in matters of this kind. Dorothy Thompson, in a famous speech delivered during the campaign, made pointed allusion to certain of these shilly-shallyings:

What do you think of a campaign in which the candidate accuses the president of not being tough enough with Japan while his supporters suggest that he provoked Japan into war against us?

What do you think of a campaign that suggests that the Republicans in Congress might support a world organization on the Dumbarton Oaks model if Mr. Dewey is president, and might not if Mr. Roosevelt were re-elected?

After the European war was well under way, and the situation of Britain and France was terribly dangerous, I had more than an hour’s talk with Mr. Dewey about foreign policy…. Mr. Dewey was at that time against any aid to either Britain or France beyond cash and carry … He did not believe that the fall of Britain or France would directly menace the United States …

All men live and learn. I do not intend now to cast any aspersions upon Mr. Dewey’s honesty at that time, however unintelligent I thought his attitude was.

But when Mr. Dewey now attacks the president for not going far enough—at the very time when Mr. Dewey thought he was going much too far—I can only consider it a brazen impertinence.

Dewey, it should be mentioned on the other hand, took a strong line in slapping down men like Gerald L. K. Smith and Hamilton Fish. He forthrightly repudiated Fish, who was running for re-election to Congress, which took courage. There were some notable isolationist Democrats whom Mr. Roosevelt did not quite dare repudiate at the same time, like Walsh of Massachusetts.8 After Dewey’s running mate, the ineffable Bricker, had said that he would welcome Gerald L. K. Smith’s vote, Smith’s America First party nominated him as its own vice presidential “candidate,” without his permission of course. Not one American in a thousand will recall that Bricker was thus a candidate for vice president on two “tickets.” Dewey denounced Smith for this in resounding terms—as well he might.

On domestic policy too Dewey had to do some fancy side-stepping. Halfway through the campaign it became clear that it would be suicidal to attack the whole New Deal as such. The people were, at that time at least, in no mood to sacrifice the reforms that had come in twelve long years of effort. In an extraordinary speech on the west coast, Dewey practically came out for Roosevelt’s own domestic program. Howard Brubaker commented in the New Yorker, “Governor Dewey’s visit to the Pacific Coast was fraught with peril. He was in a train wreck in Washington and in California he accidentally swallowed the New Deal.” This caused some gnashing of teeth among the more reversionary Republicans, naturally. One columnist wrote, “The new Republican leader accepts definitely the principle of governmental intervention in the economic life of the nation,” and another, using his own very special definition of “liberalism,” said, “Already, even such a measure as the Wagner Act, which is vicious from the standpoint of American liberalism, is indorsed by Mr. Dewey.”

Dewey: Personal

A blunt fact about Mr. Dewey should be faced: it is that many people do not like him. He is, unfortunately, one of the least seductive personalities in public life. That he has made an excellent record as governor is indisputable. Even so, people resent what they call his vindictiveness, the “metallic” and “two-dimensional” nature of his efficiency, his cockiness (which actually conceals a nature basically shy) and his suspiciousness. That Mr. Dewey is crammed with ego is well known. His voice is baritone, but he can sound tenor notes. People say that his sense of humor is vestigial, and that he is as devoid of charm as a rivet or a lump of stone.

I talked to a good many public men during my trip, Republicans and Democrats both, who had worked with Dewey at various conferences. All, to a man, respected his abilities; almost all—perhaps jealousy enters into this—seemed to dislike his personality. During one governors’ conference, when each chief executive’s car was supposed to take its place in line according to the seniority of the state, he insisted nevertheless on being first. I heard one public official say, “Tom Dewey is the only man I ever met who can strut sitting down.”

There are plenty of vain and ambitious and uncharming politicians. This would not be enough to cause Dewey’s lack of popularity. What counts more is that so many people think of him as opportunistic. Most Americans like courage in politics; they admire occasional magnificent recklessnesses. Dewey seldom goes out on a limb by taking a personal position which may be unpopular on an issue not yet joined; every step is carefully calculated and prepared; he risks almost nothing; he will never try to steal second unless the pitcher breaks a leg.

But in conclusion there is something else to be said: people may not “like” Dewey, but (a) an inner core of advisers and friends, including some extremely distinguished people, have a loyalty to him little short of idolatrous, and (b) he is one of the greatest vote-getters in the history of the nation.

Tentative Glimpses of the Empire State

New York, the city, overshadows New York, the state. This is natural, but a pity. The Empire State has, as the phrase is, everything—from a history varied and colorful in the extreme to contemporary statistics that rock and tease the imagination—and some of its wonders ought to be better known. It has spacious frontage on two great lakes; it has Niagara, which in the original Indian means “bisected bottom lands,” and that most majestic of all American rivers, the Hudson; it has Long Island nibbling into Manhattan from the Atlantic like a trout with a double tail; it has two husky mountain footstools, and open country astonishingly beautiful, tender, and diverse. It is only the twenty-ninth state in size, but it holds 10 per cent of the population of the United States; every tenth American is a New Yorker, and every twentieth is a resident of New York City.

Think of California with its glowing diversity of agriculture, and Ohio or Pennsylvania with their immense industrial accomplishments; throw the two together, and you have New York. But the Empire State is richer. Its citizens and corporations pay approximately almost a fifth of all federal income taxes, and its industrial development may be gauged from the fact that during World War II it held 9.9 per cent of all war contracts in the nation. As to agriculture, New York has various superlatives. A fantastic proportion of all the ducks eaten in America are raised in a Long Island enclave covering hardly more than a hundred acres, and its dairy business is worth about two billion dollars a year. This is roughly equal to the income from the garment trade. Diversity! In New York City, the sewing machines clatter and the needles fly, producing almost 75 per cent of all the clothes American women wear. A few score miles away, the milk trains thunder all night across the countryside.

New York history goes far back, as everybody knows, to the Dutch and British. To appreciate quickly the nature of the Dutch contribution in one field, we have only to think of names like Roosevelt or Santa Claus—no connection between the two intended. As for the British bedrock consider merely that the present court of general sessions has never missed a meeting since 1776, when it took over without interruption from the royal court of general sessions. Of the 308 battles of the Revolutionary War, ninety-two were fought on the soil of what is now New York state.9 We have talked in this book about historical markers like those so picturesque in Utah and Montana. New York has six thousand similar markers. Before the Dutch there were, of course, the Indians. Normally we associate Indian lore with the Dakotas, the West, or even the upper middle western states. But New York had the Iroquois, the Algonquins, and the Five Nations Confederacy; there are at least five hundred Indian place names in the state today. New York still maintains an Indian Affairs commissioner, and there is an Indian reservation (Shinnecock) within eighty-five miles of New York City.

The American West is, we like to think, the region par excellence of expanses of property almost limitless. But New York (in great contrast to New England incidentally) was also the home of enormous land grants. We instinctively turn to California when we think of the old railway builders, their exploits and depredations. But New York has a railway story so choked with purple scandal that California’s seems like a Sunday school recital by comparison. Recall Gould, Fisk, Drew, and Vanderbilt, to say nothing of some early journalism by a bright young muckraker named Theodore Roosevelt. We think of various religious manifestations and these too we are likely to associate with the West. But the Shakers, the Mormons, the Lily Dale spiritualists, the Oneida Community, and the Millerites who waited for the end of the world on a hilltop, all came out of New York. (So did Chautauqua and the woman’s suffrage and temperance movements.) We think of political corruption and Chicago comes to mind. But recollect Boss Tweed. We think of New York—it is almost impossible to think otherwise—as preeminently industrial. But its first wealth was built on furs.

The story of California is, we have seen, the story of migrations. That of New York is one of communications and transportation. It is not so much the migrations of people that have made New York, not of people on foot anyway, but the intercommunication of peoples made possible by machines. One need only recall the Clermont and the De Witt Clinton. Consider too such a phenomenon as the Erie Canal. We have scarcely mentioned canals in this book so far. They played a consummately important role in American development. The Erie Canal, which became in a manner of speaking the Barge Canal of today, was opened in 1825; its function was to lay a water-level route across the state, link the Great Lakes to the Hudson, open up the Mohawk Valley, and tap the dormant hinterland. History repeats itself on ascending planes. Today one of the biggest projects in the state is the tremendous “thruway” which, if it works out as planned, will perform precisely this same set of functions, but by a multi-laned road instead of water, and at seventy miles an hour instead of three.

The assessed value of property in New York state is 24 billion dollars, and it produces 23 per cent more manufactured goods than any other state. It holds 19 per cent of all the factories in the country, and handles more than a third of all American foreign trade—33 per cent of imports, 41 per cent of exports. It has the highest per capita savings in the country, and by far the biggest pool of skilled labor. It has more millionaires than any other state, the greatest volume of retail sales (13.3 per cent of the American total), and the greatest volume of wholesale trade (26.3 per cent). Its allotment to education is the highest absolutely and proportionately of any state ($169 per pupil-year), and it was the first to establish its own rent controls. It has roads, like the parkways in Westchester, that cost $300,000 a mile to build. Also it has Jones Beach; Sing Sing and Ticonderoga; seventy state parks; the memory of Yankee Doodle and Rip Van Winkle; thirty fish hatcheries; West Point (which is the Fort Knox of silver); the highest waterfall east of the Rockies; celebrated colleges for girls like Vassar; Fire Island and the contemporary mythology of Wolcott Gibbs; and among historical monuments everything from the Battlefield of Saratoga to the home of the author of “Home Sweet Home.”

New York is, as everybody knows, a great state for cities, but it has more dude ranches than Wyoming. “The country around New York is surpassingly and exquisitely picturesque,” Mr. Dickens wrote more than a hundred years ago. It still is. Fly from La Guardia Field; glance down for a moment at the bridges and the skyscrapers and the roads built by that beneficent Caesar of the parks, Robert Moses; then in an instant you are flying over forest. New York City is the supreme apotheosis of a civilization based on ferroconcrete. Yet there are deer crossings twenty minutes out of Manhattan, and on the tip of Long Island I have seen vegetation literally subtropical.

Finally, the cities. New York state is broken down into eight great economic “areas” by the state Department of Commerce, and seven “districts.” Most of these hinge on a city. These hinge in turn on a single industry or complex of industries for the most part, which makes their economy extraordinarily vulnerable. Let the industry shut down, and overnight the city is dead as Baalbek.

BUFFALO (population metropolitan area 857,719, city limits 575,901) is, however, strikingly diversified. It is a great town for milling (it mills more grain than Minneapolis), steel, airplanes, waterpower. Buffalo is, in fact, the eighth industrial city in the nation; in any other state it would have a much greater reputation as a metropolis than it has, but being in New York it is overshadowed by Manhattan, though the latter is 398 miles away. In another direction too Buffalo is diversified; it is one of the most polyglot cities on earth; I had a letter recently asking me to speak at one of its public schools (No. 51), at which children of twenty-six different racial stocks are pupils. The chief groups are the Germans (originally from Alsace, the Rhineland, and the Palatinate) and the Poles; whether in East Prussia, Pomerania, or Milwaukee, Poles and Germans seem always to be mixed up together. Buffalo grew slowly; its foundation was the furniture trade and other handicrafts; it is not a toadstool like Detroit. It has several distinguished citizens, like members of the Schoellkopf family (Niagara Falls Power Company), General William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services, and John Lord O’Brian, a public servant who has worked and worked well for every president since Wilson. Buffalo, according to one of its own councilmen, has the worst rat problem of any American city; its rats “take the tops off the peanut butter jars and dive into the Buffalo River and catch fish.” It is a city with a very strong presidential tradition. Fillmore and Cleveland, though not born in Buffalo, lived in it, and Cleveland was once Mayor; McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, and Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in there. Recently it had a schoolteachers’ strike that gained—and deserved—national attention. Its leading politician for years, and a man who came closer than anybody since Thomas C. Platt to being a boss on a statewide level, is Edwin F. Jaeckle, the former Republican state chairman. An old-timer and a hardboiled citizen, he was once close to Dewey, but is not close now.

In ROCHESTER (population 411,970 metropolitan area, 324,975 city limits) we have, as everybody knows, Eastman Kodak. Close to Lake Ontario, and the chief town of the Genesee Valley area, it is an attractive city, a rock-ribbed Republican stronghold for many years, and, in a social sense, something of a center of New York feudalism. People still ride to hounds near Rochester. It is, of course, what with Eastman, one of the great centers of scientific research in the world, and it has a splendid university. Also it is the headquarters of Frank Gannett, father of the so-called Committee for Constitutional Government, who is probably the most reactionary newspaper publisher in the United States.

In central New York is SYRACUSE (population 258,352 metropolitan area, city limits 205,967). Anybody who ever went by rail to Chicago, until about ten years ago, knows how the New York Central trains ground through Syracuse directly on the street level; one was reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s furious denunciation of Omaha for permitting the same kind of thing. This has been remedied now. Syracuse, like Rochester, is strongly Republican; it too has a flourishing university; its personality is not quite so distinct as that of Rochester; it has L. C. Smith typewriters and Solvay chemicals, and dozens of other industrial enterprises making everything from traffic signals to building blocks.

The charming town of AUBURN, the headquarters of the Finger Lakes area, is not far away; south of this is ITHACA, with Cornell, which has what is probably the most beautiful university campus in America. Ithaca, nobody will remember, was an early seat of the movie industry: it was here that early serials like the Exploits of Elaine were filmed. In the Mohawk valley are ROME and UTICA. Next we reach SCHENECTADY (population 431,575 metropolitan area, 87,549 city limits) which means to most people just one thing, the General Electric Company, as near to being a model corporation as any in the land. Also Schenectady has a second very large industrial undertaking in the American Locomotive Company. It is a town still redolent with the memory of Dutch patroons. Nearer Albany is TROY, a famous textile town, and the place where the detachable shirt collar was invented; it has been severely hit by various depressions.

The capital, ALBANY (population metropolitan area 431,575, city limits 130,577), has a varied industrial development; it makes dominoes, toilet paper, chemicals, billiard balls, and felt. Its history has been rich since the days of Peter Stuyvesant, and it has a heavy shipping traffic; boats from all over the world come up the Hudson to its great port. Otherwise it lives on politics mostly. Not only does it have the legislature; it was for years a kind of political cloaca maxima, besides which Kansas City seemed almost pure. Spirited struggles are, as of this moment, still progressing between the Republican administration of the state, and the Democratic machine entrenched deeply in the city.

All this is but a top skimming of the New York urban cream. There should at least be mention of towns like Gloversville (leather), Amsterdam (rugs), Saratoga (society and spas), Hudson Falls (wallpaper), Pleasantville (Reader’s Digest), Saranac (tuberculosis), Rheims (wine), Corning (glass), Poughkeepsie (Roosevelts and regattas), Endicott (shoes), and Binghamton and Elmira in the “southern tier,” i.e. the counties off the beaten track near the Pennsylvania border, which are as different from, say, northerly New York towns like Lake Placid as is Dallas from San Antonio.

Superfinally, a word on Long Island. Here is one of the richest counties in the country (Nassau), and the bailiwick of one of the most prominent state political leaders, J. Russell Sprague. Without Sprague, Dewey would be much less than he is. Parts of Long Island are slums; parts are small poultry and rabbit farms almost like those in California; parts are as delightfully drowsy with fog as Martha’s Vineyard; one part at least is Shangri-La. The North Shore of Long Island, like Newport, is a suburb of Wall Street, or rather of what is left of Wall Street after the SEC got through with it; here, in circumstances of entrenched privilege and luxury of a type growing increasingly rare in the Western world, lives a unique moneyed society. An essay might some day be written on the difference between the great Long Island country houses and estates, from the Roosevelt (Theodore) area near Oyster Bay to the former Morgan preserves at Glen Cove, and similar houses and properties near London; one difference is that so many of the Long Island houses, even when lived in, seem like mausoleums. A striking item in the unexpected came recently when the Soviet Purchasing Commission rented the 316 acre Morgan estate as a week-end spot for Russian missions in the New York area. To most of Long Island, this was as if Caligula or Jack the Ripper had moved in. Lately the Russians announced that they are giving up the Morgan properties, and moving into the $354,000 Pratt estate near by, which is equally sanctified and opulent. It seems that the Russians have decided to stay. Whereas the Morgan property was rented, the Pratt estate was bought.

St. Lawrence Waterway in 606 Words

Thousands of controversial lines have been written about the St. Lawrence project; the problem is one of the most interesting in the United States. Its gist may be expressed very briefly, though this is not to minimize its importance. What the project would do is open up the Great Lakes to deep-draft ocean traffic, and provide abundant cheap power to the New York and New England areas.

At present a handful of small, shallow-draft ocean vessels do manage to sail up the St. Lawrence and eventually reach Chicago and Duluth; this traffic is, however, as nothing compared to what it might be if sizable ships could get through the fierce 113-mile stretch of rapids between Ogdensburg, New York, and Montreal. Build locks and a great dam here, by-pass the International Rapids (as the Welland Canal, built by Canada, by-passes Niagara), and a 2,300-mile deep-water seaway, striking deep into the heart of the continent, linking the lake ports directly to Montreal and Liverpool, to say nothing of other ports all over the world, would be the result. Think merely what an advantage this would be to the Middle West in freight rates.

On the face of it, nothing more sensible than opening up the St. Lawrence can be easily imagined. The cost (probably some $400,000,000) is not prohibitive, and the engineering problems not insuperable; the advantages to various communities, to Canada, and the American nation as a whole, could be considerable. Quite possibly the project would in time, by giving it direct access to the deep sea, make Chicago the greatest port in the world. Every chamber of commerce from, say, Detroit westward wants the St. Lawrence waterway; in Duluth and the further cities, the cry for it is intense. Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt favored the project, and so does Truman; so do many eminent citizens of New York, including Mr. Dewey and Mr. Lehman. Those who oppose it have, however, so far managed to keep action from being taken. The opposing forces include the railways, the railway brotherhoods, the power companies, and practically everybody who has a stake in the Port of New York, which means a lot of powerful people, not only in New York City itself but in New Jersey. Antagonists of the scheme assert that it would cost the Port of New York about a sixth of its present volume of traffic. Some opponents of the waterway live far afield, for instance southern senators who think that, just as Chicago and Montreal would be benefited, southern ports like New Orleans would suffer.

But the real issue behind the issue is the familiar one of power. As at present planned, the St. Lawrence project, utilizing the immense weight of water descending from the Great Lakes and concentrated into a short, narrow gorge, would produce more power than Grand Coulee or Boulder. Almost certainly, what with the way the contemporary winds are blowing, this would be put in the hands of some public agency like the TVA. Hence, the private power and utility lobbies have vigorously opposed the idea. Incidentally local power rates in Ontario, which has public power, are only about half those in New York state across the river. That the St. Lawrence project would bring power rates down is indisputable: one authority, Congressman Rankin, says that it would save consumers in New York state alone 153 million dollars per year; the state Power Authority puts the figure at 25 million dollars. Rates in New England, which are the highest in the country today, would also presumably decline. So liberal senators like Aiken of Vermont vigorously support the St. Lawrence project; the conservatives similarly oppose it.

New York Politics in General

Five presidents have been given to the nation by the Empire State; four of these (Van Buren, Cleveland, both Roosevelts) were also governors.10 Another governor, Samuel J. Tilden, was elected president by popular vote, but he never reached the White House. Also New York is a great state for presidential candidates who don’t quite win (Hughes, A1 Smith, Dewey), and for vice presidents. Run through the lists of presidential and vice presidential candidates of both parties in each election this century. There are few indeed in which a New Yorker is not one of the four contestants. Also New York’s terrific impact lies in the fact that it has more electoral votes than any other state, forty-seven. Nobody has much chance of being elected president (or vice president) of the United States without New York support.11

The leader of the New York delegation in Washington today is the senior senator, Robert F. Wagner. A German immigrant boy who rose slowly through power of character and warmth of intelligence, Wagner is one of the best public servants in America, and one of the very few men not American born ever elected to the Senate. No senator has ever done more for labor. He told me once, reminiscing about the Wagner Act, “I’ve always tried to do what I can for the working fellow.” I mentioned to him that one of his colleagues had said that what he believed in most was people—if you give them an even break. “Yes,” Senator Wagner replied, “but try to get ’em an even break.” In 1946, in his seventieth year, Wagner was converted to Catholicism.

The junior senator, Irving M. Ives, is still an unknown quantity as far as federal politics are concerned; he holds considerable promise. He was the first Republican elected to the Senate from New York in twenty-six years. It was Ives, now fifty, who set up the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, and who was the author of New York’s anti-discrimination bill and father of the State Commission against Discrimination. For a time Ives was majority leader in the state legislature, and then speaker, whereupon he became majority leader again. His record has been liberal for the most part. Ives is New York born; his father was a coal merchant in a small town near Syracuse. That Dewey should have picked Ives and insisted that he run for the Senate in 1946 is an important credit item in the Dewey ledger.

Of New York’s forty-five congressmen twenty-eight are Republicans, sixteen are Democrats; the odd man is of course Vito Marcantonio of the American Labor party. All the Democrats but one come from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The delegation as a whole covers a dizzyingly wide arc. Consider such divergent types as the extremely party-linish Mr. Marcantonio, a neighborhood boss powerful enough to have won both Republican and Democratic as well as his own American Labor party nomination; the conservative James W. Wadsworth, a former senator, who would be ranked by almost everybody as among the ten ablest men in the House; the veteran Sol Bloom, a wise and generous man who started work at the age of seven, who wrote the original “Hootchie Kootchie” ballad and who was an entrepreneur at the Chicago World’s Fair half a century ago; and another lively veteran who is beginning his thirteenth consecutive term, Emanuel Celler of Brooklyn. Among others are fuddy-duddies who pinch nickels till the metal squeaks, grimly backward upcountry Tories, a handful of careerists who sweat politics from every pore, and isolationist survivors who see a Red—and also the British lion—under every bed. Some of these last hate the Russians much more than they ever hated Hitler. Some perform the delicate intellectual adjustment of putting fear of Russia above all other considerations, while at the same time opposing such things as the British loan; apparently it does not occur to them a weak Britain will tend to increase relative Russian strength.

On the state level the main thing to say about New York politics is that the struggle is mostly one between upstate and New York City. Indirectly at least it is the legislature in Albany that decides what salary a Manhattan traffic cop shall get—to take one of dozens of similar anomalies available. Yet the city is markedly underrepresented in the overwhelming Republican legislature; it has 67 out of 150 members of the assembly, and 25 out of 56 in the senate. This underrepresentation is moreover permanent and statutory; it constitutes a serious discrimination against democracy. The struggle is, I heard it put, one of people against acreage. More than this, the hinterland is not merely geographical. It is often a peripheral area barren in ideas. And even from the purely geographical point of view, suspicion of New York City, the wicked Babylon, can be as acute thirty miles away in Westchester as in the most remote villages of the Adirondacks.

All this finds its hottest, most pointed expression in the standard issue of taxation. What it amounts to in fact is taxation without representation. New York City has something over 55 per cent of the population of the state, and it contributes 74 per cent of all state taxes. Yet, from the state, it gets only 57 per cent of state aid. An area of 365.4 square miles contributes to the state, in other words, nearly three-quarters of the revenue of an area of 49,576 square miles. Or, to put it another way, of every dollar the state receives, and spends, New York City has contributed 74¢, but it gets only 57¢ back. Moreover it costs proportionally much more to run a big city than a rural community. A dollar goes further in Chipmunk Falls than in the Bronx. It costs much less to govern two people in a community of 2,000 than two people in a community of two million. Problems of street repair, police protection, and the like increase almost in geometric proportion to the number of people governed.

“As a sovereign power,” writes Leo Egan in the New York Times,12 “the state prescribes what taxes the city can levy and, in many instances, specifies how they shall be used. On the other hand, the city has no control over taxes the state can impose nor can it say how they shall be spent.”

What New York City wants is help. The state is rich. The city is not so rich. The current state budget is $671,439,557, and its accumulated surplus is expected to reach 485 million dollars in 1947. New York City’s budget is—another paradox—much larger than that of the state, or of any other state; it was $856,960,298 for the present year, and is estimated at $970,000,000 for the next. It has to spend much more money than the state. Mayor O’Dwyer, hat in hand, went to Albany early in 1947 to plead his case. Presently came revealing headlines, like one in the New York Daily Mirror, NOT A CENT FOR N.Y.C.—ALBANY. The situation is made the more glaring by the fact that the city may not raise its own revenues, for instance by a boost in the sales tax, without the legislature’s permission. Into all this is locked the question of subway fare, as we shall see.13

Turn now to Albany. Not one New Yorker in ten thousand knows the name of his assemblyman; perhaps this is why the legislature, even if New York is the Empire State, is of such indifferent quality; apathy in the public, as we know, induces apathy in government. I talked recently to a highly respected citizen, an expert, who has been in and out of state politics for years; he ticked off, one by one, some of the members of senate and assembly. One, a Christian Fronter. Another, a nonentity from the Bronx with a gambling past. Another, an upstate ward heeler and paid agent of lobbying groups. Another, a survivor from Hines-Davis days, still on the make. “It scares you,” my friend said. “No one would believe it if you would tell them what really happens in Albany. Are the people asleep?”

Another experienced observer and critic put it a shade differently: “The New York legislature represents everybody but the people.”

But New York state as of today has no single effective boss. Like California, it is too big, too various. Even Jaeckle could not establish real authority on a statewide plane. Nor, since about 1906, has any single special interest been able to dominate New York. That was the year (Jimmy Wadsworth was speaker) when the railways were forbidden to issue passes, with which they had bribed multitudinous people. Before this New York had probably been the most corrupt of all states, if only because it was the richest. Things were fought out naked, and plunder really reached baroque proportions.

Also—let us turn to another side of the picture—New York has had some superbly public-minded and courageous servants. The list ranges from Cleveland and the first Roosevelt through Charles Evans Hughes to FDR and the present. Probably the greatest from a local point of view was Al Smith. One remarkable aspect of Smith’s career might well be studied by Mr. Truman in the White House today. Smith was a liberal who had a hostile reactionary legislature to face. He got, however, almost everything he wanted, and he put through some markedly liberal measures directly in the teeth of his own lawmakers, by being willing and able to demonstrate, from time to time, that he was a chief executive elected by the people who represented the people, that what he stood for was the people, and what he drew power from was the people.14

A final point might be that religious and racial considerations probably play a greater role in New York state—and city—than anywhere else in the nation. Traditionally each party presents a ticket to include as wide a net as possible. For instance the Democrats in 1946 ran a Catholic for governor (Mead), a Jew for senator (Lehman), an Anglo-Saxon Protestant for lieutenant governor (Corning, the mayor of Albany, and one of the best mayors in the nation), and an Italian—by origin at least—(DiGiovanna) for attorney general. Dewey, on his side, was criticized by some Republicans for having no Catholic, no Italian, among leaders on his list; he won anyway, so it didn’t matter. But it was unusual that the party should have headed its ticket with two men (Dewey and Ives) both Protestant and Anglo-Saxon.15 One Jew was, however, conspicuous on the Dewey list—Nathaniel L. Goldstein, the attorney general, and one of the ablest attorneys general the state has ever had.

Nothing could better illustrate all this than the present administration in New York City. The three top men are O’Dwyer (Irish Catholic), Lazarus Joseph (Jewish), and Vincent R. Impelliteri (Italian).

New York Daily News and Vox Pop

I have made frequent passing references to the New York Daily News, which by all odds has the biggest circulation of any newspaper in America. On Sunday it is around 4,750,000. I wonder how many people read carefully the department which I like to turn to first, the Voice of the People, one of the saltiest things in American journalism. Here are shrieks, moans, and whistles that cover every conceivable variety of topic. I do not print these letters critically. The News is extremely fair in presenting all sides in its correspondence columns. Its letters prove something well known to most Americans, but occasionally ignored, and also something which many foreign observers don’t realize at all, the enormous capacity of American citizens to take sides on public issues with ferocious vigor.

Following are some recent judgments by News readers on international affairs:


Manhattan: Russia shows by its spy activities in Canada that it badly wants the atom bomb, so I say give the bomb to Russia the same way we gave it to the Japs.


Manhattan: Churchill was right. F.D.R. was the best President England ever had.


Newark, N. J.: Strikes, discrimination, prejudice, superiority complexes—that describes the United States … I’m going to England next month to become a British subject. God save the King, and long live Great Britain!


Orange, N. J.: If we taxpayers were consulted, there wouldn’t be one U.S. soldier on foreign soil. … We should announce in plain words that if ever again a nation attacks us every man, woman and child in that nation will be condemned to death the same as Goering & Co. have been. Incidentally, it was Japan, not Germany, that attacked us. How come we condemn Goering, but not Hirohito?


Queens: War with Russia for U.S. and British oil in Iran? Listen; any jackass in Washington, D.C., who thinks I’m sweating out another war is batty. Stand for hours for horse meat, swilly pork, frozen, slimy, stinking chickens? … Hell, no! As soon as I see a war looming, I am going to take a plane to Cuba post-haste, and then to South America, and I’m never coming back.

On things domestic, News readers are not less vocal:


Hartford, Conn.: The public is taking an awful lot of abuse from the radio, Crooners, preachers, politicians, commentators, swing music, and Reds should simply be swept off the ether waves.


Manhattan: Inasmuch as everyone knows the Communists are out to destroy our Government, what is the Government waiting for? Why doesn’t it just execute all Communists guilty of direct or indirect attempts to overthrow it?



Manhattan: Why can’t we have Vito Marcantonio running for President in 1948? We should have Vito in the White House, and other men like him in Washington, for better conditions.

The News supported FDR in 1932, 1936, and 1940, and then turned violently against him. Its readers still find him a favorite object of attack:


Bronx: No matter how many crimes the Nazis committed, they never stooped so low as to execute captured generals. That fiendish action remained for the maronic [sic] Roosevelt clique to do. May their souls rot in hell forever.


Manhattan: What do you mean, News, by that crack in your editorial “Pearl Harbor Snafu” that Roosevelt was only partly to blame for the disaster? Why, FDR was the greatest warmonger of all time, was itching to get us into the slaughter from 1933 on. Didn’t he keep blasting away at Hitler? Didn’t he give the order as early as September, 1941, for the Navy to shoot Axis ships on sight? … Why, you dumb oxen, have you forgotten so soon? Pearl Harbor was only a smoke-screen for his devilish World War II plans! Wake up, you dopes, to the truth.


Trenton, N. J.: Why not elect Joe Stalin President of the United States in 1948? Then we’ll be sure to have a President with courage, prestige and dignity who will work for America first—something neither Roosevelt nor Truman ever did. He is the most courageous man of our time, as witness the fact that he scared Roosevelt to death at the Yalta conference.

Many News readers had violent feelings about the UN when it moved into the New York area:


Queens: If the United States MUST be saddled with this white elephant, the UN, then by all means let the world capital be at Hyde Park, N. Y., the graveyard of America’s independence…. On second thought, how about Death Valley as a world capital site?

Not all News letters are on political topics by any means:


Bronx: After almost two years overseas, I recently returned home expecting to rush into the arms of my loving wife, only to find that she had cleaned out our bank account and run off with a man who is married and the father of two children. What fools these mortals Le! I still love her.


Milltown, N. J.: There should be more soft, sweet music on the radio after II P.M. HOW can a fellow cuddle up to his girl with some news commentator yapping in the background?


Manhattan: Isn’t there some way to keep married couples from producing children? All they want is to have little images of themselves running around. What egos!

Finally, the News takes great delight in printing attacks on itself:


Iselin, N. J.: What a lousy sheet The News has turned out to be! … And your so-called Voice of the People is a big fraud and frameup, too. Many people I know have sent you letters praising the Democrats but you did not print any of them. I dare you to print this, you stinkers.


Brooklyn: I think your paper is a dirty, filthy, crummy rag, and it stinks like hell. … You are a bunch of Communist rats. I hate everything connected with you, from the editor all the way to the newsboy who sells this stinking paper. I can make my language stronger, but some children might read this.


Brooklyn: Mr. Bilbo was legally elected Senator, so where does Mr. Irving Ives get the right to kick about him? … I think The News is owned by Republican millionaires who force The News to keep out all letters to the Voice which are against the Republican Party.


Manhattan: Are the editors of The News a bunch of decadent intellectual punks, or are they fitted to direct the people into a better life? I think they are decadent punks, and if we lived in a virile country where dueling was legal I would enjoy meeting these decadent punks in a duel …


Bronx: News, when I realized that your fondest wish would not come true, that you could not soak the people with the 10¢ [subway] fare, I felt so sorry for you that I went out and got stinking drunk.


Bronx: The News reminds me of an opium-coated poison pill, with sex and crime stories and comic strips covering up malicious columns that work against the people’s interests. Your paper exists as a monument to the stupidity of the human race.

As Others See Us

Recently I have been asking visitors from abroad what impressed them most about the United States, with particular reference to the New York area:

An Austrian diplomat: The copiousness and variety of foreign accents heard in the streets.

A German novelist: Space. Lebensraum. The impression that no crisis can be really severe or permanent in this country because people are free to move around so much.

A young English girl: The steam rising from manholes in the streets, and the fact that so many policemen are so fat.

A foreign correspondent returning after seven years away: Rise in number and conspicuousness of Negroes, and a breakdown in standards of etiquette.

A wealthy central European refugee: “In the law courts, they have to prove me wrong!”

A Norwegian: The lack of capacity of Americans for stable personal relationships.

An English labor leader: “Suburban gardens have no hedges, and children are not taught to be responsible.”

A Russian official: The alleged influence of public opinion, and does it actually serve to control events?

A radio commentator returning after long absence: That the United States is the only country that raised its living standard during the war.

A Brazilian: Road signs like those warning motorists, DEATH IS SO PERMANENT.

A British aristocrat of great distinction and long lineage: That so many Americans do not seem to realize that any new war, for instance against Russia, will almost certainly destroy what this country would presumably be fighting for, democracy.

1 Of course there are contrary factors. For one thing the Republican party is loath to give a second chance to any candidate who has ever been defeated. For another Taft controls much of the national machine. Carroll Reese, the chairman of the national committee, is a Taft man, and so, almost without exception, are Republicans in the South.

2 Time, October 23, 1944.

3 Noel F. Busch wrote in Life, April 22, 1940, “If Dewey is inaugurated next January 20, Mrs. Dewey will be the first ex-show girl who has ever entered the White House as its mistress and easily its most decorative occupant since Dolly Madison.”

4 It is not generally known that this word comes from the Italian, polissa. Cf. Fortune, New York City issue, July, 1939.

5 This anecdote appears in both a Harper’s article by Richard H. Rovere and in a merciless New Yorker profile by Wolcott Gibbs and John Bainbridge.

6 But, on becoming governor, he had categorically stated that he intended to fill out his full four-year term, and not be a candidate for the presidency. This pledge, as made on December 11, 1942, is absolutely explicit as regards the nomination. Arthur Krock quotes it verbatim in the New York Times, June 24 1944

7 PM, July 30, 1944.

8 Cf. Public Men, op. cit., p. 387.

9 New York, in the American Guide Series, p. 64.

10 The fifth: Millard Fillmore.

11 One odd point is, however, that nobody has ever been elected president who had a voting residence in New York City. Cf. Noel F. Busch in Life, April 22, 1940.

12 February 9, 1947.

13 Further technical or financial details are hardly the province of this chapter. They could be written about for pages. O’Dwyer’s last request was for an increase in state aid of 102 million dollars. Dewey’s reply was that the legislature “should” grant the city permission to install “nuisance taxes” calculated to yield 24 million dollars. The basis of New York City public finance is the real estate tax. But, another complication, this is held to a certain level, by statutory limitation.

14 A curious point is that A1 Smith almost always warily kept out of New York City politics.

15 Widespread pressure was exerted, in fact, to run General William J. Donovan or General Hugh A. Drum, both of whom are Catholic, instead of Ives, though not by any means purely on religious grounds. But Dewey, it seemed, did not want any folk quite so conspicuous. He wanted it to be a clean sweep for Dewey and no onf eat

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