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Letter from Fulton Oursler to Dean Acheson, July 15, 1946.
Dean Acheson Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Jeremy Schiffres 11, Dean Acheson on Leadership

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Sometimes Acheson’s elitism would clearly surface. During a speech at Bryn Mawr College in 1946, Fulton Oursler, senior editor of The Reader’s Digest, recorded Acheson speaking favorably about Henry VIII’s Star Chamber, a sixteenth century English court of law known for secretive sessions that lacked indictments, rights of appeal, juries, or witnesses. According to Oursler, Acheson claimed the Chamber was beneficial because it could unify public opinion by silencing dissent. Media, he is reported further to have claimed, are responsible for confusing an easily mislead populace. These comments sparked a flurry of back-and-forth letters, in which Acheson’s secretary neither denied the statement nor apologized. In Oursler’s final response, he summarizes Acheson’s speech succulently in “five words: ‘Leave the government to us.’” In the middle of designing America’s Cold War containment policy, but without the ability to reveal many important state secrets, Acheson was undoubtedly tired of being second-guessed by an ignorant public and media. Although most likely an exaggeration of Acheson’s true feelings, they reveal his wish for a government led by an intellectual elite, able to disseminate a single political message to the people.