to Mr. Williams
May 2, 1945
Dear Mr. Williams:
As a historian, I have considerable respect for the type of Missourian you sketch. Granted all you say about their clan loyalties, their stubborn conservatism, and their complete willingness to admire the feats of thugs and outlaws, they nevertheless have a very valuable courage, sense of justice, realism, and unwillingness to be stampeded, which when directed into socially useful channels can be very valuable indeed. In Mr. Truman’s public life at least, I do not say that they have had anything but a beneficial effect. I am not in the least appalled by his connection with the Pendergast machine. Since Washington, exceedingly few presidents have reached their office without the support of machines just as bad or worse. Just under fifty percent of all the corruptionists in the United States supported Lincoln, with Lincoln’s acquiescence, and the percentage that supported Franklin Roosevelt was just as great, and I should not care to lose the Administrations of either from our history.
The Truman Committee did a very courageous job. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that Mr. Truman is the only member of either House of Congress who grew in stature during the war years. When you consider how many more than one there were in the Civil War and First World War Congresses, that fact alone seems to me very reassuring. In fact, I think that Mr. Truman comes very close to that hypothetical creature, the mean of the American mind and character. If he does, we have a ready test of that mind and character, and whatever their variations I believe in them. I think he is likely to be a good President. At any rate, nothing on the record suggests that he is a Johnson, and only Republican campaign oratory has suggested that he is a Coolidge.
I have been trying to get to St. Louis for some scholarly research for nearly a year, but so far have not succeeded in making it. I will have to get there eventually. I hope that you and I can meet when I do and talk it out over a stein of Michelob, which is not available in these uncivilized parts.