September 20, 1946 – A busy day in politics and a turning point in the political future for newly-deposed Commerce Secretary Henry Wallace.
Here’s how the Associated Press put it:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20. President Truman fired Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace today and forebade all officials of the executive department to make any public statement in opposition to administration foreign policy. Mr. Truman announced at a White House news conference that he has requested Wallace’s resignation. It reached his desk about half an hour later. The resignation ended a cabinet crisis, but promised to blow up a political storm. Mr. Truman told Wallace on the telephone today that he must leave the cabinet. The President said they had a friendly conversation, but ice crusted the 26 words in Wallace’s letter of resignation. It began friendly enough with a ‘ Dear Harry,” and continued; THAT WAS ALL “As you requested, here is my resignation, f shall continue to fight for peace. I am sure that you will join me in that great endeavor.” That was all. The resignation evidently was demanded under pressure of Secretary of State James F. Byrnes who had a teletype trans-Atlantic exchange with Mr. Truman yesterday. It was the first discussion between the two men since last week when Wallace assailed administration foreign policy in New York City with an address which Truman previously had stated he had approved.
The President was compelled within 43 hours to repudiate Wallace’s ease-up-on-Russia proposals. In doing so last Saturday the President said Wallace had a right to express his viewpoint even though it disagreed with administration policy. At the same time he expressed complete confidence in Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and his delegation now representing this country at the Paris peace conference.
Mr Truman told a news conference also that ‘’no member of the executive branch of the government” henceforth will make any public statement on foreign policy which is in conflict with tiie established policy of the government. Mr. Truman talked with Wallace by telephone this morning shortly before announcing that he had asked Wallace to quit. The reason he literally fired Wallace was, as he explained to reporters, that it had become clear that there was’ a “fundamental conflict” between the views of Wallace on foreign policy and those of the administration. That Wallace was the second New Dealer fired from the cabinet in the past seven months. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes was ousted last February after he and Mr. Truman clashed over the nomination of Edwin W. Pauley to be Undersecretary of the Navy. Pauley subsequently asked that his nomination be withdrawn. Mr. Truman’s decision to fire the two had a long White House conference. Wallace said after that he had not asked to resign and that he definitely would remain in the cabinet. Only two days ago, after a 2 hour session with the President, Wallace had announced that he would remain in the cabinet, but keep quiet on foreign policy until after the conclusion of the Paris conference. This was plainly a stop-gap device as a truce. Apparently Mr. Truman later reached the conclusion that a clean-cut decision was necessary.
For those of you not familiar with Henry Wallace – in a nutshell:
Henry Agard Wallace (October 7, 1888 – November 18, 1965) served as the 33rd Vice President of the United States (1941–1945), the 11th Secretary of Agriculture (1933–1940), and the 10th Secretary of Commerce (1945–1946). He was the presidential nominee of the revived Progressive Party in the 1948 presidential election. He strongly supported New Deal liberalism and sought conciliation with the Soviet Union.
And here is the address that added to the drama, from CBS Radio on September 20, 1946.