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Letter from John J. McCloy to Dean Acheson, September 12, 1940.
Dean Acheson Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Jeremy Schiffres 11, Dean Acheson on Leadership

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Unable to stay on the sidelines of history, Acheson reentered politics on the eve of World War II to aid President Roosevelt’s fight against American isolationism. Acheson’s dream of a class of independent intellectuals in politics, driven by liberal ideals, is captured perfectly by this 1940 letter from John J. McCloy, a fellow political advisor and friend of Acheson’s. Together they lamented both 1940 presidential candidates for pandering to interests that Acheson and McCloy viewed as running counter to U.S. interests. Specifically they disliked opposition for the British land-lease deal from Wendell Willkie, the Republican Party’s nominee, and President Roosevelt’s catering to labor unions. On the second page, McCloy concludes: “People take for granted that such things must be the democratic process. If they are, I say a plague on it—let’s invent something different,” a sentiment with which Acheson certainly agreed. Acheson believed government should be responsible for, but not dictated by “the people.” In 1941, Acheson would get a chance to lead, when he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State.