• [FDR] Harold Ickes Fears 22nd Amendment, Limiting Presidential Terms, Could Cause a Revolution -- 5 Letters

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    Responsible for implementing much of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, HAROLD ICKES (1874-1952) was the United States Secretary of the Interior from 1933 to 1946. He was in charge of the major relief program, the Public Works Administration, and the federal government’s environmental efforts.  Ickes was a noted supporter of African-American causes and he removed segregation in areas of his control. He had also been president of the Chicago NAACP. Ickes created the “Black Kitchen Cabinet” made up of Black advisers on race relations.

    He was also vehemently opposed to limiting presidential terms, a move that picked up activity following the four terms of his boss.  In the five TLS archive offered here, Ickes expresses panic like concern that the passage of the 22nd amendment, limiting presidential terms to two, could lead to a revolution. He engaged in heavy politics to prevent the passage. Congress passed the amendment on March 21, 1947, and the necessary 36 states of the 48 at the time ratified it on February 27, 1951.

    The letters date, various sizes, date from 1948-1948. A signed photograph of Ickes is included.

    Washington, DC, Nov. 12, 1948, to H. Cleveland Hall thanking him for sending a newspaper containing the Montana returns for the 1948 presidential election and congratulating him on Montana’s contribution to Harry Truman’s victory: “…I am glad that my speech in your city had did have a good effect. I was delighted that the Democratic ticket ran so well in your state and I particularly noted the result in your own county…

    “Certainly Senator Murray made a great showing and so did Mike Mansfield. I came away from Montana with the belief that Murray would win and that President Truman would also carry your state. You are entitled to my congratulations as the leader of your party in your important county…”

    Washington, DC, February 2, 1949, to Daniel Clancy of Springfield, Ohio. “…My belief that the President should not be restricted to two terms of four years each has become a conviction. It seems to me nothing short of absurd to limit the right of the people to select their own President, regardless of length of tenure. In fact, I consider it a dangerous device. If the time should ever come when we had a critical domestic or international situation and the people thought that the President ending his second term was, beyond all doubt, the one man to lead the country, they might ignore any constitutional limitation and…effect a revolution…”

    Washington, DC, February 9, 1949 to Clancy. “I have your letter…to which was attached a list of suggested names for your National Committee Against Limiting the Presidency. These are all right so far as I am concerned, except for Elliott Roosevelt. I doubt whether he could add anything, whereas he might bring criticism that could hurt. If Elliott Roosevelt has any political convictions, I do not know what they are…”

    Washington, DC, March 11, 1949 to Clancy.  “I am glad to learn from your letter of March 7 that the proposed twenty-second amendment has been defeated in Indiana. Evidently you put in some good work there…I am surprised that you have not heard from former Senator Guffy. I expect to be in touch with him shortly, and will speak to him…It is really nothing less than sneering impertinence of the politicians to disregard the will of the people as expressed in 1940 and 1944, and attempt to force on them a limitation of presidential tenure which clearly they do not want…”

    Washington, DC, May 5, 1949 to Clancy: “…I do not know what happened in the various state legislatures with respect to the proposed amendment to the Constitutional limiting the Presidential terms. Whether the Democratic National Committee has taken any interest, I do not know. Some time ago, I talked with Senator McGrath and Leslie Biffle, urging them to do something about rounding up some active opposition but whether they have done anything or not I do not know…I shall write a letter to Senator McGrath and I shall also write the following Senators in the states where you say the amendment will be considered this year: Johnson of Texas; Maybank of South Carolina; Pepper of Florida and Hill of Alabama…”

    Folds but generally in excellent condition. First letter has three tape remnants at the top away from the text. The 7 ½” x 9 ½” black and white photograph has some moderate creasing in the upper left corner of the image mildly affecting the face. Otherwise, very good.

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