Description

    Over 250 letters between brothers Dwight and Edgar Eisenhower

    Dwight D. Eisenhower Archive Containing the typed correspondence - over 250 complete letters - between Eisenhower and his older brother Edgar and spanning the years 1941 through 1967. Through the correspondence, Dwight Eisenhower can be seen progressing from general to president to retiree, all the while noticing his own increasing stature and, when time allowed, enjoying a game of golf. Both brothers are candid in these private letters, which cover a wide range of topics. Many of these letters are published in the Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower and quoted in books and scholarly journals.

    More specifically, the archive contains over 150 original typed letters signed by Dwight (usually "Ike," "D.E.," or "Dwight," but also "Dwight D. Eisenhower," "D," or "Your brother Dwight") and over 90 yellow carbon-copy typed letters (unsigned) from Edgar and addressed to "Dwight." Some letters contain handwritten postscripts and a few are marked "Personal & Confidential." All are organized chronologically in three binders.

    Dwight Eisenhower's older brother Edgar N. Eisenhower worked at the Tacoma, Washington, law firm of Eisenhower, Hunter, Ramsdell & Duncan throughout this entire twenty-six-year correspondence. The two brothers (there were five Eisenhower brothers in all) were very different. Edgar, who held very strong politically-conservative views, felt that the federal government was usurping power from the states, even writing to Dwight during his presidency that the "the Federal Government is violating the Constitution" (letter dated November 19, 1959). Because of his strong feelings against centralization, Edgar appears to have avoided Washington throughout his brother's administration, even refusing to attend his second inauguration. Yet according to these letters, the brothers' relationship was usually amicable, often lighthearted. They share family news, golfing stories, and their impressions of various politicians, such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. They discuss politics, current events, and the fitness (or unfitness) of federal appointees. Edgar offers his opinions on the Income Tax Law, recommends appointees to the Supreme Court, critiques the president's speeches, and on one occasion, complains of the disadvantages of being the president's brother. For some Tacoma friends, Edgar even requests in April 1955 that Dwight "make inquiries as to whether visitors are ever admitted to No. 10 Downing Street." They weren't and the president didn't, but Dwight always responds to his brother's requests and appears to have truly valued his opinions, treating Edgar as an important advisor and calling him, in March 1956, his "best political friend in the entire Northwest." At times the president even accepted Edgar's suggestions for presidentially-appointed positions.

    The General: "War and the Army take men into strange places"

    This voluminous collection begins with Dwight writing from San Antonio on October 7, 1941, two months before the U.S. entered World War II. In that letter, written on stationery reading "Headquarters Third Army, Office of the Commanding General," the general expresses optimism that "the Russians are still hanging on - I devoutly hope they can continue to do so. Someone has got to help wear out that so and so of a Hitler and his army, and it doesn't look as if the British were accomplishing too much."

    After the war had begun, Dwight notes on November 16, 1942, following his recent arrival in the Mediterranean as Supreme Commander Allied Force of the North African Theater of Operations, that "War and the Army take men into strange places. . . . In an operation such as this, reports come in so slowly that I cannot even make a close approximation of my losses. . . . My day is one of work and drive and, of course, I suffer from the usual difficulty that besets the higher commander - things can be ordered and started but actual execution at the front has to be turned over to someone else." He takes pride in noting that "the newspapers at home have had some publicity on the actions of the expedition I am commanding. . . . This operation has, of course, been building up for a good long time and I have naturally been quite a busy man since, in the last analysis, all responsibility for the preparations was mine." Because of censors, the general's war-dated letters reveal more of his inner thoughts than specific news from the front. Of no surprise are his feelings about the Axis powers: "I believe we have a long weary road to go before the Axis really starts crumbling; but I feel on the other hand that when it does start to go, the collapse will probably be quick. I have developed such a violent hatred of the Axis and all that it stands for, I sincerely hope the drubbing we give them will be one that will keep that crowd from wanting another war for the next two hundred years!" Later on March 8, 1943, he wrote, "I am confident, completely! . . . We're going to clear the Axis out of Africa - and that's something!" He was proved correct two months later when the last Axis forces in Africa surrendered at Tunisia.

    As a result of his successes, the fifty-three-year-old general had to learn to handle his rising fame. Even though he had an aversion for "glory grabbing" and he "constantly shunned the headlines," he did take time in his missive dated December 1, 1943, to sign an extra signature in the lower margin - "Dwight D. Eisenhower" - for a certain "little negro boy . . . to put it in his scrapbook."

    The Candidate: "This whole political business is very confusing"

    Following the end of World War II, Edgar became more critical in his letters about the condition of America, particularly its leadership. He suggested in a letter dated January 14, 1951, that Dwight might be the solution. "If we had a man in this country whom all the rest of the people could say was honest and sincere, we would rally behind him with such force that no country would dare attack us." Over the next year, pressure increased from other sources for Dwight to run for the presidency in 1952. Four months after an organized effort was mounted to draft him into the presidential race (and seven months before finally announcing his candidacy), Dwight wrote a critical missive from Europe on December 6, 1951, as the first Supreme Allied commander (on letterhead reading, "Supreme Headquarters / Allied Powers Europe"). In this letter, he questioned the motivations of political parties which were "composed of professionals; men whose party must win if they are to wield any power and influence and who, therefore, become cold-blooded - or, as they would say, extremely practical - in their methods of attaining victory." His "chief quarrel" with politicians was that they were more interested in "obtaining power" than "in the eventual good of the nation. . . . It is this kind of thing that disturbs me mightily as I survey the national scene." Despite his misgivings about the realities of American politics, his sense of duty compelled him to consider the possibility of taking a leadership role. "I have frequently expressed to you my feeling concerning any possible political role for myself - I don't think anyone could have a greater personal antipathy than I toward such an eventuality. But what bothers me is that, if I criticize . . . what is now being done or not being done by our governmental officials, I am forced to ask myself, 'What am I doing about it, or what do I intend doing about it?'" But like a twentieth-century version of Cincinnatus or George Washington, he states that his "personal ambition has remained unchanged for a number of years. It includes a hope that I may withdraw into a more reasonable tempo of daily duties and pressures than I have been confronting during this entire decade. I would like to go to a farm and, operating from there, I should like occasionally to meet with people whose opinions I respect. . . . I should like to remain completely unpartisan and devoted solely to the good of our country." He continued to harbor misgivings even after his decision to run in the spring of 1952. "On the whole, I think that I have drifted into one of the most difficult and complex situations of my life" (May 15, 1952). "This whole political business is very confusing" (August 13, 1952).

    The President: "I am like a woman convinced against her will"

    Following his election in November 1952 as the thirty-fourth U.S. president, the correspondence between the brothers grows more concerned with politics and their relationship appears to have changed, with Edgar, the proud older brother, taking on the role of a candid - even pushy - advisor. It appears that Dwight might have considered his brother for attorney general, but, instead, informed him that "In view of your own unavailability (because of your name), I have selected the top man in the country!" (November 14, 1952). That man was Herbert Brownell Jr.

    Over the next eight years, the Eisenhower brothers had many disagreements, some heated. In a spirited exchange in early 1954, Dwight states in one letter that he is "astonished" at Edgar for being "influenced by silly rumors spread by irresponsible people." The president explains that the "political game" was something Edgar didn't "seem to be able to get into [his] head." Sufficiently annoyed by the end of the letter, Dwight closed, "But it is rather disturbing to find one's brother that seems always ready to believe that I am a poor, helpless, ignorant, uninformed individual, thrust to dizzy heights of governmental responsibility and authority, who has been captured by a band of conniving 'internationalists.'" A few letters later, all was forgiven.

    Two years later on November 8, 1954, Dwight, again annoyed by a missive from Edgar, points out "that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is." More moderate in his views, Dwight, who accepted Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal as part of America's future, was often repulsed by Edgar's hard-line conservative views which would have unraveled the New Deal. Defending the New Deal, the president writes, "Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this - in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. . . . This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon 'moderation' in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

    Angry again on May 2, 1956, Dwight attempts to disabuse his brother of the notion that "the Government is rapidly drifting into a socialistic state." He ends the four-page letter by acknowledging his own acceptance of the limitations of his office. "It is silly to believe that any individual in the world--or, indeed, any party--can actually turn a whole population back from a course it has pursued in the belief that that course is assisting the majority of the population. (Naturally, I am now speaking of a self-governing country.) Neither I nor anyone else can bring about the abandonment of projects supported by the government that are generally believed to help the social or economic welfare of vast portions of our population."

    Most of their exchanges, though, were amicable and insightful. In stressing the complexity of American Cold War foreign policy, Dwight writes on February 27, 1956, "Now it is very true that we want every nation we can reach to stand with us in support of the basic principles of free government. But for a long time, I have held that it is a very grave error to ask some of these nations to announce themselves as being on our side in the event of a possible conflict. Such a statement on the part of a weak nation like Burma, or even India, would at once make them our all-out ally and we would have the impossible task of helping them arm for defense. Moreover, if a country would declare itself our military ally, then any attack made upon it by Communist groups would be viewed in most areas of the world as a more or less logical consequence. Since so much of the world thinks of the existing ideological struggle as a power struggle, the reaction to the kind of incident I talk about would be, 'Well, they asked for it.' On the other hand, if the Soviets attacked an avowed neutral, world opinion would be outraged."

    At times, Dwight gets more personal. On inauguration day January 21, 1957, he took time out of his busy schedule to write Edgar a lengthy missive which included naming the most unpleasant part of the Inauguration: "viewing of the parade." He turned serious as he expressed concern that for the next four years, he would once again perform a job "that at times is nothing but frustration. We have never successfully got across to America as a whole the cold war requirements in fighting Communism. Some people simply will not wake up to the great danger inherent in inflation and most want more services from government with lower taxes." He confided to his brother his ambivalence about serving a second term as president. "The only reason that I rather resent signing on to do my best for the next four years is that there are so many things Mamie and I have wanted to do for so long, and this time it is more difficult for me than it was in 1953 to believe that I personally had the duty of standing again for this office. Possibly I am like a woman convinced against her will."

    The Retiree: "The pressures on me never cease"

    After Dwight left the White House to retire at his farmhouse in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in January 1961, the two brothers continued to write about politics, golf, and health problems. They also discussed Dwight's presidential library, civil rights, and the 1964 election. Finally, away from Washington, Dwight was able to withdraw into that "more reasonable tempo of daily activities" that he had wished for a decade earlier. But he remained busy, perhaps too busy, complaining on June 19, 1964, that "The pressures on me never cease and I see no immediate promise of them doing so." His final letter in this collection is dated November 7, 1967, and, just as the first letter twenty-six years earlier, is addressed to his big brother at the Puget Sound Bank Building in Tacoma. Dwight Eisenhower died at Walter Reed Army Hospital on March 29, 1969, of heart failure. He was survived by his brother, Edgar, who did two years later on July 12, 1971.

    Included with the letters are two Christmas cards. The outside of one reads, "Season's Greeting 1955" and bears the presidential seal on the front flap. The inside reads, "The President and Mrs. Eisenhower extend their best wishes for Christmas and the New Year." The other card states, "Our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Mamie and 'Ike' 1958. Also included is the 1953 printing of Eisenhower's Inaugural Address (Washington: Government Printing Office, five pages). All items in this archive have been well cared for and are in extra fine condition.




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