By David Langbart
The Great Depression had a serious negative impact on the situation of American diplomatic and consular officials overseas. As the end of the first year of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency drew near, the President sent the following note to Secretary of State Cordell Hull:
MEMORANDUM FROM THE PRESIDENT
FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
I think it would be nice for me to send a letter, personally signed, conveying my Christmas and New Year greetings to each of our Ambassadors and Ministers. The letter should convey the greetings to them and all of their Diplomatic and consular staffs and their families. Will you have a draft prepared?
[Source: Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1930-39 Central Decimal File (ARC ID 302021), File: 120/152.]
Ten days after the President’s request, Secretary Hull sent him a draft. In a cover letter, the Secretary of State noted that the holiday greeting could be addressed to the head of all American diplomatic missions – Ambassadors, Ministers, Ministers Resident, Diplomatic Agents, and Charges d’Affaires – who would communicate the message to consular officers over whom they had jurisdiction. Because there were a number of consular officers not under the jurisdiction of a diplomatic officer, Hull suggested that a circular instruction be sent in such cases. Ultimately, to ensure that all consular officers received the greeting, it was sent under cover of a circular instruction to all consular officials.
After approval by the President, the Department prepared the letters for his signature and then staggered their dispatch in the diplomatic pouch so that they would arrive in the week before Christmas.
The President’s message read:
As the year draws to a holiday pause before its close, I take much pleasure in sending out to you and through you to your personal and official family, and to the Foreign Service staffs in [name of country], my heartiest good wishes. Your loyal and intelligent cooperation with us in Washington has made these recent months of our association a source of great satisfaction and encouragement to me in this important period of our country’s development.
In offering my best greetings for Christmas and the New Year, I look forward in confident anticipation to continuing mutual cooperation in 1934.
Some Foreign Service officers responded to the President’s message. Their comments make it clear that the message had its intended positive effect. Roosevelt sent similar messages in future years.