Thomas Jefferson and the Case of the Missing Letters

Today’s post is written by Jackie Kilby, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

After a meeting with President George Washington in Mount Vernon on October 1, 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson rode off to Alexandria. It was only later that day did he realize he “unfortunately dropped… some papers… [on] the road between Mount Vernon and Alexandria,” as stated in his letter to James Madison.[1] At this time Madison was a Representative in the House for the State of Virginia.

On October 7, 1792, President George Washington received a package from a neighbor, who so graciously returned Jefferson’s papers that were “found in the Road.” Washington sent one letter in the stack of papers to the Alexandria post office, and then forwarded the rest to Jefferson to “relieve [Jefferson’s] anxiety.”

gw-to-tj-10-7-1792-page-1

Letter from President George Washington to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, October 7, 1792. Letters Received (Misc Letters), October 1 THRU December 31, 1792 (NAID 16972482).

The letter that Washington had mailed to the Alexandria post office was from James Madison to Daniel Carroll, a plantation owner and former Continental Congressman from Maryland. It is unknown what this letter contained, but in the preceding and following letters between Madison and Carroll, they discussed current situations with the Federal City [Washington, D.C.], Carroll’s possible return to the Maryland State Government as a Legislator, and even the public debt incurred by the newly formed Government. So it can be assumed the letter mailed off by Washington contained information of a sensitive, but not confidential, nature. Soon after Jefferson lost the letters, he informed Carroll of the dropped papers and that a letter from Madison was among them. Carroll then wrote to Madison on October 1, 1792, saying he was aware that Jefferson lost Madison’s most recent letter, and that the letter would “probably be recovered.” [2] Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Japanese American Evacuee Property Letters

Today’s post is written by Jana Leighton, an Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

On February 19, 1942, two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that allowed the Secretary of War to designate military areas and order evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security.[i] On March 13, 1942, the Portland Branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank’s Evacuee Property Department was established in response to this executive order and was part of the Evacuee Property Program. The program originally fell under the control of the Wartime Civil Control Administration. However, President Roosevelt then issued Executive Order 9102 establishing the War Relocation Authority, and the Evacuee Property Program ultimately came under that agency’s organizational authority.

The Series “Portland Branch Evacuee Files” is part of Record Group 210: The Records of the War Relocation Authority. It contains the documents created by or for the branch while fulfilling its role as fiscal agent for properties and goods (other than farms and farm machinery) of Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Japanese Americans affected by the evacuations from the west coast of the United States of America during World War II. The Reserve Bank was to assist evacuees in disposing of property holdings, protect them from fraud, forced sales, and unscrupulous creditors, in addition to arrange for orderly liquidation of business and property interests while coming under the authority set out by the establishment of the War Relocation Authority.[ii]

This meant the bank representatives regularly interacted with those being affected by the evacuation orders. Many of these interactions dealt with trying to navigate liquidation, leasing, and giving general financial information. While the series contains reports, interviews, and case files pertaining to the property of individuals, families and businesses impacted by the involuntary evacuation and relocation due to their foreign national status or Japanese ancestry, I believe the correspondence brings into focus the people who lived through this period.

Shown below is a series of letters between Hood River Valley resident Ray Sato (evacuated to Pinedale Assembly Center and interned at Tule Lake Relocation Camp)[iii] and Federal Reserve Bank Portland Branch employees (Mr. S.A. MacEachron and R.E. Everson) before the ordered evacuations of Oregon. In his letters Sato describes the uncertainty his family felt about when they would be ordered to leave their home and livelihood as well as specific questions concerning property.

portland-letters-blog-images_pages-from-port_01_034__page_05

Letter from T. Sato (by Ray Sato) to R.E. Everson, March 18, 1942, p. 1.

Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nikita Khrushchev’s Memoirs: Part III

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

As noted in a previous post, Little, Brown and Company issued a second set of memoirs in 1974. The book was called KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS: The LAST TESTAMENT.[1] Prior to publication of the book, Time magazine published highlights.

As with the earlier memoir, this, too, was of interest to American officials. As Time published the two parts of its summary, the Department of State sent the following telegrams to the U.S. embassies in Moscow, all other European countries, and Japan; the U.S. Mission to NATO; the U.S. Liaison Office in China; and the military commands for the Pacific and Atlantic. The telegrams provided a summary and assessment of the new memoir.

“. . . [I]t is clear that despite his criticisms, Khrushchev remained both a Communist and a Soviet patriot to the end of his days.” Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Dissent Channel of the Department of State

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

In recent weeks we have seen and heard many media reports mentioning the DISSENT CHANNEL of the Department of State. Most stories note that it finds its origins in the controversies over U.S. policy in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, but provide little other explanation.

While the issue of policy in Vietnam played a part in establishing the Dissent Channel, this special procedure for providing policy-makers with alternative views and recommendations outside the normal channels for the discussion of policies was a direct outgrowth of the management reform activities carried out in the Department in 1970 culminating in the report Diplomacy for the 70’s: A Program of Management Reform for the Department of State. Among other things, those reforms were aimed at creating an atmosphere of openness and stimulating creativity. Not all of the reports recommendations were carried out, but establishment of the Dissent Channel was one significant result.[1]

The following are the foundational documents of the Dissent Channel.

The first announcement of the Dissent Channel came in the following telegram of November 4, 1971, sent by the Department of State to all U.S. diplomatic and consular posts.[2]

 

To clarify procedures for submitting dissent messages and to explain how those messages would be handled, the Department sent the following airgram to all U.S. diplomatic and consular posts.[3]

 

In a memorandum of December 15, 1971, Secretary of State William P. Rogers designated the Policy and Coordination Staff as the action office for the Dissent Channel. Today, that office’s successor, the Policy Planning Staff, continues to serve as the action office.[4]


Sources

[1] Documentation on Department of State management reform is in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume II: Organization and Management of U.S, Foreign Policy, 1969-1972. See documents 312, 321-326, 329, 332, 338, 339, and 346.

[2] Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts, Telegram 201473, November 4, 1971, file CR 4, 1970-73 Subject-Numeric File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[3] Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts, A-3559, April 8, 1972, file PER 15-8, 1970-73 Subject-Numeric File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[4] Secretary of State William P. Rogers to William Cargo, Director, Policy and Coordination Staff, memorandum, December 15, 1971, file PER 15-8, 1970-73 Subject-Numeric File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records, Policy and Procedures | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Nikita Khrushchev’s Memoirs: Part II

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

As noted in the previous post, Little, Brown and Company published the memoir of Nikita Khrushchev, KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS, in late December 1970.[1] The question of authenticity of the book was of interest to all readers, but critically important to American officials in order to assess its value for an understanding of the Soviet Union.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s WEEKLY SUMMARY of December 18, 1970, discussed publication of the book as follows:[2]

“The publication of Khrushchev’s reminiscences has returned to the limelight after six years the figure of the quirky, dynamic former leader, and with it . . . the Soviet leadership’s problem of Stalin’s image.”

In mid-December 1970, Hedley Donovan, editor-in-chief at Little, Brown and Company, publisher of KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS, sent Secretary of State William Rogers an advance copy of the book. In forwarding the book to the Secretary, the Department’s Bureau of European Affairs wrote: Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Nikita Khrushchev’s Memoirs: Part I

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

In November 1970, the world was surprised by the announcement of the upcoming publication of the memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, deposed leader of the Soviet Union. Time, Inc. reported that it had acquired the material which it planned to serialize in shortened form in the magazine Life and to publish in full as a book issued by Little, Brown and Co. The articles appeared in late November and early December and the book, KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS, came out in late December.[1] Khrushchev died in September 1971. Time magazine and Little, Brown issued a second set of memoirs, KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS: THE LAST TESTAMENT, in 1974.[2]

Time, Inc. provided no details on how it came into possession of the text other than to say that it was smuggled out of the USSR. The translator/editor for both parts of the project was Strobe Talbott, then a journalist with the Time organization. Talbott later served as Deputy Secretary of State from 1994 to 2001. To create the magazine articles and books, Talbott took disjointed manuscripts and turned them into coherent memoirs, organizing and condensing the original texts.

Recognizing that questions of authenticity would arise, the first book was published with the following statement: “The publisher is convinced beyond any doubt, and has taken pains to confirm, that this is an authentic record of Nikita Khrushchev’s words.” Nevertheless, there was controversy over the genuineness of the material and Khrushchev himself issued what can only be considered a non-denial denial. The second volume went into more detail on both the source of the memoirs and the process of authentication, but still offered little on how the materials came out of the USSR.

As with any self-portrait, the finished product has limitations. There are omissions, evasions, errors of memory, deceptions, and self-justifications. Given the nature of secrecy about the inner workings of the Soviet government, however, publication of Khrushchev’s memoir, if genuine, was of paramount interest to the U.S. Government. Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Caleb Brewster

Today’s post is written by Jackie Kilby, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

After the end of the American Revolutionary War numerous veterans were disabled, or invalid, and petitioned for pensions to the United States Congress and/or their State Governments.  One such person was Caleb Brewster, a name made recognizable by the television show Turn: Washington’s Spies, as played by Daniel Henshall, and the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, by Alexander Rose.

Caleb Brewster was essential to the communication of the Culper Spy Ring, as he coordinated the exchange of intelligence and instructions between Major Benjamin Tallmadge and General George Washington and the spy ring.  Brewster did not join the Intelligence Service until 1778, but joined the Revolutionary War effort in 1776.

Caleb Brewster was injured on December 7, 1782 during a naval exchange with British troops on Long Island Sound.  He was hit by a musket ball through his shoulder, or “breast,” as he described in his letter to President George Washington.  Due to this injury he was placed on an invalid list.  After the end of the war, Brewster was supposed to receive a pension through the Continental Congress, and then the United States Congress. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fortuitous Lineage

Today’s post is written by Robert Ripson, a Processing Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

1430 hours, 28 December 2016, quittin’ time and I am heading towards the sign out sheet and to begin an afternoon of chores. However, I decide to stop and chat with a coworker to enquire what new project they are working on. “An audit of digitized papers,” was the reply. I stoop over the open folder and begin to read the context of the letter: From the War Department, 5 August, 1847. “Sir, I would respectfully request you to inform this Department at your earliest convenience. . .” Signed W.L. Marcy, Secty. of War. This was just the beginning as I noticed a second signature on the bottom left of the page. It reads, J.L. Fenimore, Esq. Bank of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Pausing a moment, I re-read the name, pause again and think, no, it can’t be, this isn’t a relative. NO WAY!

604142_box1_folder8-026

Letter from W.L. Marcy, Secretary of War, to J.L Fenimore, August 5, 1847. As payment from the War Department is being readied, Secretary of War Marcy looks for fiscal assurances that money is available for disbursement.

Continue reading

Posted in Archives II, Genealogy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A Foreign View of Guns in the United States, 1928

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

In September 1928, the U.S. consul at Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario, submitted a report entitled “Canadian Press Comments Regarding Governmental and Individual Disarmament in the United States.”  The report included the text of an editorial from THE PORT ARTHUR CHRONICLE, a local daily newspaper.  Enclosed was the following clipping of the editorial.

811-113117

Source:  U.S. Consulate Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario, Report No. 98, September 21, 1928, file 811.113/117, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State.

Posted in Archives II, Civil Records | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Lew Wallace: After the Civil War

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

An earlier post briefly discussed former Confederate general James Longstreet’s post-Civil War career in the Federal government. Among the positions he held was that of minister to Turkey (1880-81). His successor in that position also was a Civil War veteran – former Union Major General Lew Wallace. Wallace served as minister to Turkey from 1881 to 1885.

During the Civil War, Wallace led troops in western Virginia, helping to secure what became West Virginia for the Union. Serving under the command of U.S. Grant, his division helped capture Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February 1862. At the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, in April 1862, Wallace and his troops lost their way to the battlefield on the first day of fighting, thus incurring the ongoing ire of U.S. Grant, commander of the Union forces at that battle. Leaving Grant’s command, Wallace subsequently held other posts. Perhaps most notably, in July 1864, he led Union forces against those under the command of Confederate general Jubal Early at the battle of the Monocacy River outside Frederick, Maryland. Despite losing the battle, Wallace’s troops successfully delayed Early’s advance toward Washington during the third invasion of the North by troops under the direction of Robert E. Lee, allowing reinforcements from the Union forces outside Richmond and Petersburg to man the fortifications around the capital city. Wallace also served on the military commission established to prosecute the Lincoln assassination conspirators and headed the military court that tried the commandant of the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Henry Wirz.

After the war, Wallace resigned his commission and went to Mexico to assist the Mexican army. After returning to the United States in 1867, he made unsuccessful runs for Congress in 1868 and 1870.

While his quest for a diplomatic or consular posting did not culminate until 1881, the extant records indicate that Wallace began maneuvering for such an appointment in 1872. In June of that year he sent the following letter to President Ulysses Grant: Continue reading

Posted in Archives II | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment