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Letter from Dean Acheson to Ranald MacDonald, March 11, 1937.
Dean Acheson Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Jeremy Schiffres 11, Dean Acheson on Leadership

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Acheson was very good about keeping in touch with close friends with whom he frequently shared personal ruminations. In this 1937 letter to Ranald MacDonald, a fellow Yale alumnus, Acheson expresses approval of President Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan as a means of checking the Supreme Court, which had begun to rule unconstitutional some of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Acheson argues that when governmental officials perceive an action as needing to be taken, it is best for them to be able to act without restraint. Acheson writes longingly for “middle 19th century England, when the country was run by a small group of highly intelligent and quite largely disinterested men,” a view that parallels Justice Brandeis’s views. Although at this point Acheson had returned from his role as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to work at the law firm of Covington & Burling, he would soon be afforded the opportunity again to be a leading intellectual figure in politics.