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Honoré M. Catudal Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Honoré M. Catudal

Economic Analyst, Department of State, 1935-42; Assistant Chief, 1942-44, Associate Chief, 1944-45, and advisor in Trade Agreements Division; Special Assistant to Director, Office of Economic Affairs, 1944; Special Assistant to Economic Counselor, American Embassy, London, 1946; special assignment in office of Assistant Secretary of State in charge of economic affairs, April-October 1946; and U.S. delegate to U.N. conferences on trade at Lake Success, Geneva, and Havana, 1946-48.

Washington, D.C.
May 23, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie

See also Honore M. Catudal Papers finding aid

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened September, 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

 

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 



Oral History Interview with
Honoré M. Catudal

 

Washington, D.C.
May 23, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie

 

[1]

MCKINZIE: Mr. Catudal, where is Plainville, Kansas?

CATUDAL: Plainville, Kansas is on a branch of the Union Pacific which no longer operates passenger trains. But anyway, it's a hundred miles west of Salina, halfway between Kansas City and Denver. You've heard about Dodge City, certainly, and it's north of Dodge City. I'd say it's about fifty or sixty miles south of the Nebraska line, but straight north of Hays and Dodge City. Actually I was born in Plainville, but my early youth I spent in Hays, where my father was a doctor. We moved from Plainville to Hays and then moved back to Plainville.

 

[2]

MCKINZIE: When you were a young man did you ever think you'd go into Government service?

CATUDAL: Well, let me put it this way. I graduated from high school very young, in 1918. Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and he was one of the great influences in my life it seemed to me. I had such a small class in high school, and I was one of the first in my class of about twenty-five people who planned to go on to college. I wanted to get four years of English and four years of Latin when they just taught about three years of each of those subjects in this high school. But I got hold of a Latin teacher and she said, "Well, we could switch one year to your credit. We can have Cicero one year, and we can have Virgil another year and you can get four years that way.

Then the English teacher said, "Well, you come and see me during study period and I'll give you something to do to get the credit for four years. Well, most of the things she'd assign me to do were in speech at the time.

 

[3]

Then my first year in college was in St. Louis at St. Louis University -- a very unhappy year for me I must say. I was too young in those days, but my brother was going to dental school there, and my sister wanted to take some business courses, so my father decided to send my mother along, too, and we had a house. I was almost completely lost in St. Louis. St. Louis University, as you may know, is a Jesuit-operated school, and remember one of the very kind Jesuits there, who suggested that maybe I'd be happier and better off in another school they had in St. Mary's, Kansas, which is right between Topeka and Manhattan, Kansas.

MCKINZIE: Oh, yes.

CATUDAL: I went to St. Mary's College for about three years, and I graduated from there.

The pastor in my hometown was a Frenchman by the name of Baumstimler, believe it or not. He was an Alsatian and he'd been driven out of France when they closed down the religious orders sometime around 1909. He was very, very versed on

 

[4]

world affairs, and he collected stamps and got me interested in stamp collecting, too. Stamp collecting was another thing that broadened my horizons.

Then my father during World War I, before we got into the war, went around and talked to a lot of the people in Plainville where there were a lot of Germans. He watched very carefully what was happening in the front lines. He had been in France but he almost never talked about his own experiences in France at that time. Later on I discovered why. His first wife and his first son had died. There had been a typhoid epidemic and then they didn't have all the vaccines and the serums they have today. As long as I can remember my father he was white-haired and he was a young man. I was determined I was going to learn French. I had the given name Honore’ and my parents always called me by my middle name Marcel -- to her dying day my mother would call me that. I have a brother now that is still alive and he and my relatives still call me Marcel. My associates and friends

 

[5]

here somewhere along the line called me that. One teacher had suggested to me that I drop the "el" from Marcel and just call myself Marc. I decided it was a good idea. Marcel sounds like a French hairdresser. There actually is a hairdresser in Washington called Marcel. I dropped the "el" see, although my name actually is Honore’ Marcel and my own relatives always called me Marcel.

MCKINZIE: This Jesuit priest, then, was one of those strong influences, I take it.

CATUDAL: No, he was not. As I say, I'd only known him a year in St. Louis. I liked this guy and he was a very fine human being. Actually if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have gone to St. Mary's. St. Mary's was a boarding school in that town. In fact, it was an Indian mission back in 1840 or thereabouts in this part of the country. There was an Indian mission there and they had a small high school. Actually this was principally a high school or boarding high school, but they had an extension to the high school. They had a college,

 

[6]

of course, and I got my degree -- bachelor's degree -- at St. Mary's. There was a friend of mine who was at St. Mary's at the same time I was, and he was a freshman when I was a senior, and I see him once in a while. And it probably didn't hurt me a damn bit, but I didn't like it because it was a boarding school and they treated us like children -- like infants.

Anyway, one day in some Catholic paper I saw they were granting in perpetuity a number of scholarships for graduate students. Well, to show you how stupid I was in those days, I didn't really know what graduate work was.

In college, I was editor of the school paper, which came out weekly or monthly. English was always a pretty strong point with me in writing, and I looked forward to trying a course in journalism. Well, anyway I applied for a scholarship, and sent for the examination. These examination questions were sent out to you, and were submitted to teachers in high schools. I suspect they judged you more on your record than

 

[7]

anything else. But anyway I went to work and I earned a scholarship at Catholic University of America. They told me to get my ticket to Washington, D.C.; then get out at the station, and buy another ticket to Brookland. Really, it was a separate town. B&O has a stop there. First, I didn't know anything about the institution, and I didn't know anything about graduate work and what it entailed. I first signed up for economics. Well, I'd never had a course in economics. They didn't teach economics at St. Mary's. They didn't have a course in economics at that time. For some reason or another I decided on economics, and I still have a great feeling for economics.

Then the professor discovered I had this very French name, and so on. He gave me an assignment, After all, I was taking a course in elementary economics, just sort of auditing this, and at the same time taking supposedly a graduate course in economics. He loaded me down with work, including reading books in French on the

 

[8]

early economists. I thought, "Well, this is very interesting to me." When I had a chance to change I shifted from economics to the school of letters where I signed up for English, and eventually I got my masters degree in English.

During that one year somewhere along the line I saw where there was another scholarship being offered at that time by a man who had recently died. He left money to CU [Catholic University of America], and to New York University, to my recollection. Moreover he was one of our early, early diplomats. He'd been in Egypt, but before he died I think he was in Washington. Anyway, he left quite a sum of money in scholarships. I recall it was for work in international law, diplomacy, and/or belles-lettres. Well, with my English, I qualified for belles-lettres. I was always good in getting good grades; that was no problem with me. This time the scholarship paid cash. On the previous one, I had paid my board and room, and the tuition was paid. You get tired of eating in the same place, no matter where it is.

 

[9]

This Penfield Scholarship that I won paid $1200 a year, and in those days, 1923 or '24, that was a lot of money. The three of us who got this immediately looked around. We kept our room at the graduate hall, but we used to eat decent meals away. I must have had a little lawyer in me, and I've mentioned I did study law. I never got a degree but I was admitted to the bar.

There was an old Portuguese professor there at CU. He had gotten a doctorate degree from Oxford. He gave me the name in Paris of the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques. Well, it was somewhat similar to the Georgetown [University] foreign service program. In France many of their foreign service people went to this school and they served in high government positions. Some of them also were studying at the law school at the same time. He was one of the most brilliant teachers I ever heard in my life. I used to sit in on some of his courses -- not that I was taking these courses, but just to listen to him. If you are around anybody who's really first rate in

 

[10]

anything, you'll find he's first rate in a hell of a lot more than just his own specialty. This guy was such a guy; he was a psychologist by profession, and he had studied experimental psychology in Germany. He was very interesting. I spent this additional year at CU ostensibly directed toward getting a Ph.D., but I was no more interested in a Ph.D. than anything.

We had an agreement with the President of CU that the following year was to be in preparedness for my study in Paris. Well, I spent that following year in Paris and went to this school, Ecole Libre, and did two years work in one in this sense; I took all the examinations that were necessary. They didn't give me a degree; they gave me a diploma.

Then I went to school at the London School of Economics, to study economics. I met some interesting characters there, including Harold Laski, who was in those days the prima donna of the London School of Economics. Talk about a brilliant guy; I remember him walking up the aisle, and I was

 

[11]

sitting in the front row there. He talked very eloquently on the history of the political theory with references to Aristotle, and he’d throw in all the Middle Ages people, and throw in page references to books and so on. He had a fantastic memory. I spent a year at London, and I didn’t get any type of degree there. Just sort of enjoyed it; it was an intellectual binge for me. I saw George Bernard Shaw and in his old age, and by golly straight in body he was even then. I’d seen some of his plays here in Washington.

There were influences in my life that attracted me toward international law. Number one was my father. And there was World War I, and the fact that I had to read over as sort of an assignment the Woodrow Wilson speeches as they came out. Later, after he left the Presidency I found out where he lived, on S Street and I went walking past his place several times. I discovered from somebody who knew -- the policeman on the beat or somebody else -- that about 5 o’clock in the afternoon they’d take him out for a ride in his wife’s electric

 

[12]

car. I saw him make his last speech; here is a picture of Woodrow Wilson making his last speech, an Armistice Day speech. He had a little balcony at the front of his house on S Street; he got on that balcony, and that speech is a remarkable speech to this day. He predicted "You better watch out what the Bolsheviks are going to be doing," -- the Russians. Anyway, here he is on this balcony and there was quite a big crowd there. I was in the crowd; I can't find myself in this picture but I remember distinctly being there.

MCKINZIE: Even at the time you were at CU, Woodrow Wilson's brand of internationalism had an appeal for you.

CATUDAL: Oh, yes. When I was at CU, I continued reading his speeches, you know, and before that, in high school. As a matter of fact I probably used some of Woodrow Wilson's things; I certainly had them all around me. I was valedictorian in my class, and I had to make one of the few public

 

[13]

addresses in my lifetime when I was a sixteen-year old valedictorian of my high school graduating class. Woodrow Wilson was very definitely an influence in my life.

There was this local parish priest, and then there was my own father. Eventually when I was a student in France, I was writing to him in French. I was determined I was going to learn French; some way or another I hadn't learned it at home you see. I used to write to my father and he would answer me in French or Latin. One day just to have something to say I suppose, I told him the route I took from my boarding house, and I told him how I went and turned off the Rue de Sur la France. The Rue de Sur la Frances is a street on which the medical school of the University of Paris is located. And I can still remember that my father replied to that letter saying, "Next time you go along this route in France you look at number (such and such); that's where I lived when I was taking some post-graduate medical courses at

 

[14]

the University of Paris." I never thought of that. I'd known him only in this town that he went back to, a little town of a thousand people. All the people around that town used to think there was nobody like my father, you know. Eventually he moved to another town, to Hays, Kansas, and then eventually came back to Plainville -- trying to dodge people as he was working himself to death, really. But they kept coming after him, and he could never turn his old patients down. But he lived to a ripe old age.

Stamp collecting, this parish priest, Woodrow Wilson, my own father -- they were the things that sort of got me interested in international law. I studied in France and London; during my holidays I spent time in Vienna -- then tried to learn a little German, too. French stuck with me. I learned French real well. I avoided the English-speaking people -- Americans and English -- in France, and that was a hard thing to do in the twenties; this was 1924, '25, you know, and Paris was just loaded down with Americans.

 

[15]

MCKINZIE: What did you do when you left the London School of Economics, and came back?

CATUDAL: At this time I had used up my scholarship finances. My father sent me a donation and let me stay on in France. I spent about six months in Vienna; I was trying to learn German, and I spent almost six months in Germany before coming back home.

I made the transition from there to Government service. Well anyway, I took all the Civil Service examinations around 1927 or '28 that I felt I might possibly be able to pass. I thought, after I looked at it, if I can't do it I'll just turn the paper in and go out. For instance, I signed up for something for the Patent Office; I didn't even attempt to do that. I'd had one year of physics, in which I didn't digest any of it at all, and I could no more pass that examination than anything. I passed a number of other examinations. There was an examination given for the State Department, and to the best of my knowledge

 

[16]

it had never been given before and has never been given since. It was not for the Foreign Service; it was a Civil Service examination -- something about the domestic service -- and I passed that one. I also took the examination as translator in the English language. I took the examination in three languages: French, German, and Spanish. Well, I had never studied Spanish at all, except about a month or so before I had left on a trip to Spain to spend a month or two there during my school years. Anyway I soon discovered that with my French I could figure out Spanish. So I took the examination for translator, and I took it in German also. I had studied German for several years in college graduate school. I got a higher grade in Spanish than I did in German. I thought it was very strange because I really didn't know Spanish and I at least studied German for some years.

The first job I got with the Government was with the Department of Commerce. I was hired by the chief of the Foreign Tariffs Division. The

 

[17]

old Department of Commerce in those days was located there at 18th and Pennsylvania Avenue, in a building which is still in existence. It houses all kinds of Government agencies. Anyway, this Foreign Tariffs Division received quite an addition in staff. The chief had gotten my name from the translators examination, you see, and he said, "We adjust our jobs sort of to the background and training of our people." He even gave me a private examination also. I remember him handing me the "Gazetta Officiale," or something from Spain. And he said, "Since you can write Spanish you must be able to read Portuguese." Well, I'd never spent more than half a day, I think, in Portugal; that was the extent of my knowledge of Portuguese. The written language is very similar to the spoken language. So they assigned me to Portugal, Spain, and a number of Balkan countries. Countries like Greece and Turkey had their Official Gazette published both in their own language and in French. On some of the other countries like Czechoslovakia and

 

[18]

Yugoslavia, the Department of Commerce used to get most of the stuff on them from a German publication that was the equivalent to our Department of Commerce reports; they used to report fully on the goings-ons of the Yugoslavs. So I had the Balkan countries and Spain and Portugal.

I stayed in the Department of Commerce about a year, But I was still looking for an assignment abroad. I worked in a large room full of people, about fifty or sixty people in that room, and we had to type off all our little notes ourselves. Well, I couldn’t type worth a damn. I soon discovered, talking to my colleagues in this place, that the Chief of the division was a “dirty bastard.” As long as I live, I’ll remember him that way. He knew a hell of a lot and had a great deal of experience, but he should never have been put in charge of people. He just didn’t know how to handle people. Some of my colleagues would tell me that he would never let anybody get out of his hands.

 

[19]

I remember then getting an offer of a job, and writing this man from the Treasury Department’s Customs Bureau. They had a Foreign Service, too, and I wanted a job in their Foreign Service in France. They'd gotten my papers from the Civil Service Commission, showing the strength of the translator’s examination I’d taken. I went to the chief of my division in the Commerce Department and I said, “I’m going to leave this place, but I want to give notice enough to get a replacement.”

And he said, “Who have you talked to? I’ll get a hold of them.”

I said, “No. It won’t be necessary; I’ve made all the arrangements.”

Well, it went on for some length of time and I didn’t see any replacement showing up, so I had to tell him I was leaving for the Customs Bureau. I said to the Treasury, “Don’t transfer me; take me directly off the Civil Service registry.” This character was well-known by everybody all over the government. As a result of being hired off

 

[20]

the Civil Service registry I lost a few hundred dollars in salary. If they had transferred me, it would have amounted to maybe $100, maybe $200 more a month. Anyway, I started to work for the United States Government for, I think it was, $1,860 a year.

MCKINZIE: How things can change.

CATUDAL: My daughter when she finished high school got a job with a Government agency, for about three times that much, just as a clerk. I stayed a little more than a year in Commerce with one increase in salary. Then I got TB when I was in Paris. I was sent to a place in Switzerland called Montana Vermona high up in the mountains. Eventually, I got back to the United States and Treasury transferred me to Nogales, Arizona. I went on leave for three years. I had discovered a very knowledgeable doctor out in Tucson, Arizona. Anyway, I was flat on my back when FDR was inaugurated President of the United States. I was thrilled by that speech. At that time I was still

 

[21]

seeing the doctor once in a while, but I was getting in and out. In the meantime I had one year of law school out there in Tucson.

I had sort of been interested in law for a long time for various reasons. I was living then with a family in Tucson, after I'd spent some months in the sanitarium. During that time I had thought about getting set up in a business. Before leaving the sanitarium, I had asked my doctor what to do. I said, "I see by the papers that there are TB people all over town," and he said, "Well, let me send you the business manager of my clinic here and he can talk to you." He came out to see me and his wife came out to see me. He had had TB himself. His wife, I understand, had one, sometimes two, people in her house and it was one way of earning her a living. She charged a little bit more than just ordinary board and room, but still it was a hell of a lot cheaper than living in a sanitarium, and those people treated me just like a member of the family.

 

[22]

One of her daughters was still going to the University of Arizona at Tucson. I asked her one day if she would go over to the law school and find out for me where the classrooms were and where the law library was. I said, "I'm mainly interested in whether or not there would be steps for me to climb, because you know, Dr. Watson is pretty damn strict about his patients. I want to proposition him to let me take some law courses." I said, "I'll have all day here to read my cases and study, my cases here at home, and it would still give me something to do. In fact before I even broach the subject to him I want to know what the situation is physically." And she did; she told me the layout of the law school, and I found out how close we could get to the law school with a car. Eventually I propositioned my doctor this way; I said, "If I buy an old secondhand car and let her drive me back and forth to school I could take all the first-year law courses there except one. I could take my classes in the forenoon, and take

 

[23]

my nap in the afternoon; and at least it would give me something to do.” Well, I convinced the doctor. He said, “Well, I’ll tell you; as long as this is a sort of relaxation for you that will be all right, but if it ever begins to be a chore you’ll have to stop it.” As I saw it, that was really the most dangerous time of all, that period of getting well. I remember a friend of mine who had been at the sanitarium. As soon as he got out, in no time at all, his wife and children came from Pittsburgh and he bought some kind of a grapefruit farm near Tucson. I went out to see him one day and I saw him lifting heavy hoses and all the thing he shouldn’t do. People died; several people I knew died after they were on their way to recovery but after having been at rest so damn long they were anxious to get going. They went too fast, too quickly, and so many of them passed on.

MCKINZIE: You had a year of law school by the time Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated and...

 

[24]

CATUDAL: I had a year of law out at Arizona. Then I got this offer of a job in the State Department and came here in May of 1935. I remember going to law school one or two summers and then to night school over at GW [George Washington University] for a couple of years. Eventually I got enough law credits to take the bar exam. I probably needed another semester or so to get a degree, but I wasn't interested in the degree. I sort of created a job in the State Department. I was up here working on trade agreements; they had a lot of Ph.D.'s in economics and international trade, but they didn't have a soul in the damn place who had ever seen a customs man or seen the inside of a customs operation. I had had some customs experience. I hadn't had a hell of a lot, I can tell you that, but I knew where the books were, and the people.

Before they sent me abroad, the customs people gave me some training. First of all, they sent us to Baltimore, just to break in for a couple

 

[25]

of months, then to Norfolk, and to New York for about six months before we were sent abroad. So at least I knew about the machinery of things. Mostly I was in Washington and I was dealing with lawyers all over the darn city. One day I was waiting to talk to some lawyer in the State Department and I heard him talking on the phone. I heard him say, "He won't understand that; he's not a lawyer." Well that was in general their attitude; unless you were a lawyer you didn't understand their business. Well, anybody who could read could at least read the statutory law. Well anyway if that darn bastard is going to pull that kind of a gimmick on me, I'm at least going to see if I can't get them. I did; I got enough of law and took the bar exam, by golly, and passed and was admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.

MCKZNZIE; Can you tell me what you did in the Trade Agreements Division at that early time? What kind of work did they assign to you?

 

[26]

CATUDAL: Well, as I may have told you before, after I made this trip all the way across from San Diego to Washington nonstop, you know, urgent meeting and so on -- they didn’t know what to do with me for six months. During that time I was reading what they had done. They had already started trade programs; the Trade Agreements Act was passed in 1934. It had been on for a year when I got there. They negotiated probably ten or twelve agreements about that time; I looked over these things and I tried to study them.

The guy who was responsible for the agreement and my coming into the Trade Agreements Division, to the best of my knowledge, is still around. I haven’t seen him for quite a while now, but he’s living out here in Spring Valley. Henry Deimel was his name. He was an Assistant Chief of the Trade Agreements Division. He was the guy to whom I wrote, from Arizona, to find out whether there was any use for a guy with my kind of background. He had been Assistant Chief

 

[27]

of Commerce, so he knew my work over there. Through his auspices, I got this job in the Trade Agreements Division.

At the very beginning they had a very small staff in Trade Agreements. They were loaded down with work; they had so much work they didn't have time to even tell me what to do or to break me in. But once in a while Deimel would give me a letter to reply to. Somebody would write, asking about the thing. I can remember my early disgust with Government procedures, you know, because you never do anything right. I soon discovered that the guy who has the last look at the material has got to find something wrong or he feels that he isn't earning his salary. Now Deimel, he had gotten me in the place, and he assigned me a letter to write and I did. I sent him a draft and he made all kinds of changes. I kept a copy, with his changes, and not too long thereafter another letter arrived which required just about the same kind of reply. I used his language and everything else that I

 

[28]

had, and I sent it through him again. He still wasn't satisfied with the thing even though it included his own things. Here's a photo of the guy; he wasn't satisfied with his own stuff, by golly. Anyway, at first I didn't know quite what to do about it.

As a matter of just general practice, when a new officer reported for duty in a department (there were so few new officers in those days), they used to circulate a little memorandum. In my case it was that Mr. Honore’ Catudal had reported for duty as an Economic Analyst in the Trade Agreements Division. That's about the way they described it. So thereafter anybody else whom you hadn't met personally would know, and if you'd call to the library to get a book they had on record who you were. Now you have to be practically an Assistant Secretary of State to get a write-up of that sort, but in those days any officer in a department was written up.

MCKINZIE: They called you an Economic Analyst in those days?

 

[29]

CATUDAL: That was my first job; and the first commission I had in the State Department was signed by Cordell Hull, himself, you see, and I was called an Economic Analyst. I told you I was not an economist, at all, but I had had some experience with the customs people. And for a while I was kind of an intermediary between people. In the early part of my career I created a job for myself there. In effect, I tried to handle all the statistics and all the work that goes into making a trade agreement. I continued to read a great deal on what came out on the subject. I was kind of an intermediary for a while between my division and the lawyers we had. There was a legal division in the Department of State headed up by Judge [Green H.] Hackworth; he's still alive I'm sure.

MCKINZIE: Yes.

CATUDAL: Well, there were two State Department lawyers assigned to Trade Agreement problems. Both lawyers,

 

[30]

a junior man and a senior man -- both of them I suppose are dead now -- had never had any personal experience with customs other than maybe taking a trip abroad or something and come back through, but that was no experience at all. They had a great deal of respect for me simply because I'd had this customs experience. Toward the end of negotiations, a type of question would always come up -- these were all bilateral agreements -- in which there would be a hell of a rush to answer questions about whether they could do such and such. Well, I would talk to the junior man on this at the time. I soon discovered that if you didn't have things more specific and concrete, it was just a lot of talk. So my technique on this was simply to frame a question -- I'd do this sometimes orally and sometimes in writing -- and I'd also figure out the answers. I'd know the answer; I'd look up in what are called TD's or Treasury Decisions, all kinds of customs problems and so on. So I used to figure out questions, and

 

[31]

figure out the answers, and then I'd go and see and talk to this junior man about this, and he had a great deal of respect for my opinions. Once in a while we'd differ when I was trying to get it initialed from him. He was in the legal advisors office, and he might say, "No. I can't go along with that. You'll have to go in and see Mr. Baker," who was one of his superiors. Mr. Baker was an old fuddy-duddy.

You have to know a little bit about the setup, how these things are handled, how customs problems are handled legally. There is an Assistant Attorney General situated in New York who handles all the Government's cases on any customs. There's even a Special Assistant to the Customs Court. There's a Customs Court in New York, and it goes on the circuit sometimes to other courts. Then there is a Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, an appellate court. Well one time we got a request from this Assistant Attorney General in New York, saying that a suit had been filed involving a trade agreement and he

 

[32]

wanted the opinion of the State Department about this thing. For some reason or other this letter was eventually sent to me, and what the hell do you do in a case like that. I don't know. I was not an attorney at that time, but I took this around to Mr. Baker and offhand he proceeded to draft a damn long-winded statement about this thing and he sent it on. But that didn't begin to touch it. And I got a hold of the guy in the Department of Treasury's Customs Bureau, and asked him about this, too. I discovered the head office of the Customs Bureau was not asked in those days how to handle a particular case, unless for some particular reason they might ask about it; but it wasn't a matter of policy to ask them about every case.

Anyway, I talked to this guy in the Customs Bureau -- he's still alive, too: W. R. Johnson. Eventually he became Commissioner of Customs himself under [Henry] Morgenthau [Jr.]. He was a very able guy. Well, I went over and talked about

 

[33]

 

this and I said, “Listen, the statement that Mr. Baker was there just doesn’t -- we are going to lose this case sure as hell.” We ran the risk of the loss of a trade agreements case in the Trade Agreements program. And he said, “Well, if you can give me a copy of the incoming letter; I sometimes write things here that are signed by the Commissioner and sent on. I’ll work on it.” Well, anyway to make a long story a little bit shorter, between W. R. Johnson in Customs and myself, we boxed in Mr. Baker in this way. I had to send this memorandum; at least I thought I had to. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get the letter out of the State Department, as there had to be initials on things from the State Department. In the meantime I wrote the letter which was eventually signed by or for the Secretary of State, and enclosed in it Mr. Baker’s memorandum. In the letter proper, in effect, I told the guy not to pay attention to this, and that he would be receiving another

 

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letter from Johnson, on how to help win this case and not just a lot of words. That started something. For a long while in the State Department we used to get these kinds of problems as we had more and more trade agreements, and more and more of these cases came up in the courts. And some of these cases were damn serious. Some of them were trying to attack the constitutionality of the trade program, but those were not very many. The Supreme Court had successfully knocked out the NRA [National Recovery Act] and the "Triple A" [Agricultural Adjustment Administration] program. We were all expecting a form of attack on the trade program, too.

Mr. Francis P. Sayre was then Assistant Secretary of State. He was directly in charge of the trade program. He had as an assistant, a very able guy, by the name of John Dickey who later on became president of Dartmouth College. John Dickey was a kind of an assistant to Mr. Sayre, but he had a great big office in this old State

 

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Department Building. My own chief was terribly crowded for space. He had a small division at first, but it was gradually increasing, and he didn’t have room for the people. He didn’t have room for me up in the main Trade Agreements part. They just had a couple of rooms there in the main State Department Building. He used to be in and out of Mr. Sayre’s office every day practically. He would sometimes sit and talk to John Dickey while he was waiting to see Mr. Sayre. He saw John had a very large office, and I think there were three desks in John’s office. John was alone there and so he persuaded John. He said, “How about letting me send a guy in here with you,” and I was it. He persuaded them to let me sit in with John Dickey. Well, I wasn’t an assistant to Sayre at all, but I used his desk in the place. I got acquainted with John Dickey -- got very well-acquainted with him. I soon discovered John Dickey had been a graduate of Harvard Law School. While he was an assistant to Mr. Sayre, I found

 

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his principal job was to prepare for the expected attack on the constitutionality of the Trade Agreements Program. This was back in 1935 after I’d gotten to the State Department.

He was very much interested in me and the fact that I had been in the Customs Bureau. Guys who knew a hell of a lot had never had any actual experience with customs or the customs literature. We used to talk about this, and the fact I had taken some law. We used to talk about this problem, on how to meet the attack on the constitutionality of the Trade Agreements Program. Normally, you go to court in attacking tax legislation because you claim to have been taxed too highly; you want the thing lowered. But they were trying to get the tax increased; that’s what they wanted. We were lowering tariffs in the trade program, and the opposition wanted some way or another to raise them. There was a landmark case in which you got to show a legal interest in something; you can’t just have a general interest

 

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in it. That's worth knowing in connection with this case. You can't just be an interested citizen with a general concern; you have got to have a particular legal interest in the problem before you get a hearing in court. They had a problem there of trying to show how they were being hurt by our lowering the duty, when they thought we should be charging a much higher rate of duty. In other words, the court could not just pass on the constitutionality as a kind of an academic issue involving something that's constitutional or not. I became very well acquainted with John Dickey, and to this day I've been a friend of his. He's now retired. I haven't seen him for some yea