Between 1941 and 1955 Russell Cornell Leffingwell donated a large collection of Leffingwell family materials including a few items of his juvenilia and personal memorabilia to the Yale University Library, now MS Group No. 320. Almost all of Russell Cornell Leffingwell's own papers, however, were donated to the Yale University Library by Edward Pulling, Mr. Leffingwell's son-in-law, in December, 1979. This gift, which included Leffingwell's "personal files" from his office at the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. but which excluded any correspondence with the immediate family, had been in the Pullings' possession since the death of Leffingwell in 1960. Pulling had used this correspondence with friends and business associates as the basis for his volumeSelected Letters of R. C. Leffingwell, published by Exposition Press, Inc., in 1979. After the Pulling donation arrived in Manuscripts and Archives, a few additional items (a scrapbook and photo album which had been donated to the library by Mrs. Pulling soon after her father's death) were incorporated with the recent accession to form MS Group No. 1030.
The Russell Cornell Leffingwell Papers as now constituted are a substantive but incomplete record of Leffingwell's career. When Leffingwell designated items for his "personal file" he did not include papers from his legal practice or any quantity of correspondence concerning the day-to-day functioning of the office of the assistant secretary of the Treasury for fiscal affairs. (In his will Leffingwell donated forty-six letterbooks of official letters from the Treasury period to the Library of Congress. The researcher will find other files for this period in the National Archives.)
The majority of Leffingwell's business papers probably remain in the files of the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. Though many memoranda and letters to Morgan directors are included in the Leffingwell Papers, they are only a fraction of those produced by Leffingwell in his thirty seven years with the company. Furthermore, it is not clear what proportion of Leffingwell's correspondents are represented in these papers. The researcher will find letters from Leffingwell in the W. A. Delano, Harold Phelps Stokes, Paul M. Warburg, Samuel C. G. Watkins, and Henry Stimson papers in Manuscripts and Archives, yet none of these correspondents appear in the Leffingwell Papers. Even the existing correspondents' files are incomplete; Leffingwell's outgoing letters often refer to incoming correspondence not found in the files.
The papers are arranged in four series: I. Correspondence; II. Memoranda; III. Writings and speeches; IV. Photographs, memorabilia, and writings about Russell Cornell Leffingwell.
Correspondence is by far the largest series and includes all incoming and outgoing letters as well as intraoffice memoranda. The files, composed of correspondence carefully selected by Leffingwell for its substance, are characterized by strong statements on the important issues of the day as well as genial letters to friends of long standing. There is nothing trivial in these files, none of the usual autograph requests, publishers' circulars, or charitable solicitations.
In terms of quality and quantity Leffingwell's most significant correspondents were Thomas Lamont, his chief at the Morgan Bank; S. Parker Gilbert and Albert Rathbone, colleagues from Treasury days; Carter Glass, the former secretary of the Treasury and senator from Virginia; journalists Walter Layton editor of the BritishEconomist; Walter Lippmann; and Morris Ernst. With all these men Leffingwell maintained a steady correspondence, freely expressing his views on important contemporary topics.
In response to Lippmann's queries on difficult economic questions, Leffingwell wrote long explications on subjects such as the control of postwar inflation. (Many additional letters between Lippmann and Leffingwell are included in the Walter Lippmann Papers in Manuscripts and Archives, MS Group No. 326).
The correspondence with Thomas Lamont begins in 1920 with Lamont asking Leffingwell's views on the revival of the War Finance Corporation and continued until Lamont's death in 1948. After Leffingwell's acceptance of a Morgan directorship in 1923, the files are composed almost entirely of his letters and memoranda to Lamont. This correspondence is concerned more with world events than with any internal functions in the Morgan Bank and is characterized by Leffingwell's tone of absolute certainty concerning Britain's position on the gold standard, the Reparations Commission, the political situation in France, Franklin Roosevelt's first term, Italy's "venture" in Ethiopia, the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Irving Fisher, and the evils of installment buying. In 1938 he praises Neville Chamberlain for saving the world from the "imminent hazard of a catastrophic war" but changes his view in the spring of 1939 and predicts that war is likely though he hopes the United States will stay out. To Lamont he confides his views on Palestine and Zionism, his anti-United Nations Association stance, and his concerns about the treatment of postwar Germany. With the same confidence that leads him to write of Charles DeGaulle, "he has never shown statesmanship, judgment, or common sense", Leffingwell, the Yale man, lectures Lamont on standards for scholarship candidates at Harvard. Because the Lamont files contain only Leffingwell's letters to Lamont, the reader will have to guess at certain references and look elsewhere for information.
Important letters and memoranda concerning the actions of the Morgan Co. will be found in the files of other Morgan directors. When the post-World War I financial situation in Europe was most precarious, Bernard Carter and N. Dean Jay relayed the views from the Paris office. Dwight Morrow was also in the Paris office, and his correspondence at this time as well as when he became ambassador to Mexico reflects his concern for the financial condition of Europe. At the same time E. C. Grenfell in the office of Morgan, Grenfell & Co. in London was reporting on developments there. After Lamont's death the correspondence with Henry Alexander, officer and later chairman of Morgan Guaranty Trust, becomes fuller. In particular, it contains Leffingwell's views on the consequences of government spending during the recession of the late 1950s. Other Morgan correspondents include Arthur Marvin Anderson, H. P. Davison, C. D. Dickey, Thomas Stillwell Lamont, J. P. Morgan, R. G. Wasson, and George Whitney.
During the period between the two world wars Leffingwell discussed with Parker Gilbert, Albert Rathbone, and Carter Glass specific actions of the Treasury as well as the revival of the War Finance Corporation, reparations payments, policies of the Federal Reserve, the Bonus Bill, and the legality of the post-armistice loans. The Rathbone correspondence contains retrospective defenses of actions taken by the Treasury during World War I. This is particularly true in the exchange of letters in 1936 concerning the activities of Gerald Nye's Senate committee investigating the munitions industry. These letters are far more informative than the correspondence with Nye, which is of a routine administrative nature. The files of Treasury officials William Gibbs McAdoo, D. F. Houston, and Nicholas Kelly, those of Senator Frank Kellogg, and of Federal Reserve Governor Benjamin Strong, all contain correspondence on similar contemporary topics.
Because Leffingwell considered himself neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he felt free to criticize any administration policy he did not support and in particular instances to tell each side how to campaign against the incumbent administration. (For examples of such letters see the correspondence with Cordell Hull and Wendell Wilkie). Yet he tried to establish a good relationship with each new administration. The papers include correspondence with all presidents from Wilson to Eisenhower except Coolidge, with eight secretaries of the treasury (William G. McAdoo, Carter Glass, D.F. Houston, Ogden Mills, Henry Morgenthau, John Synder, George M. Humphrey, and Robert Anderson) and with other administration appointees such as Daniel W. Bell, W. Randolph Burgess, John W. Hanes, Robert Lovett, John J. McCloy, and Edward Stettinius.
The correspondence with Roosevelt is the most extensive and interesting of any with the presidents. During Leffingwell's Washington years he had known the then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt. In later years Leffingwell felt free to address his letters "Dear Frank" and in 1932 to chat at length about the upcoming election campaign. He cautioned Roosevelt to keep an open mind to the possibility of readjusting war debts downward, and he later praised Roosevelt's move to take the United States off the gold standard.
The correspondence with Harry Truman starts on a humorous note; Truman sent Leffingwell his congratulations on the election of the company candidate to the presidency. A clipping enclosed with the note indicates that the paper saw Truman as the choice of the house of Morgan. The Truman correspondence contains a discussion of the President's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights, which Leffingwell supported, and criticism of the administration's meddling with the Federal Reserve. For other correspondence on the former topic, see the files of John A. Danaher and Chester Nimitz; on the latter controversy, see also the files of John Synder and Thomas McCabe. Leffingwell's interest in the Federal Reserve system is also reflected in his earlier correspondence with Allan Sproul.
Through the years the Leffingwells developed a long list of British friends, many from the banking community. The Leffingwells were perhaps friendliest with Dorothy and Walter Layton and saw them and their children on several occasions. But there is also a sizeable correspondence with Robert Brand, Montague Norman, Edward Peacock, and T. J. C. Gifford concerning Anglo-American relations and post World War II conditions in Britain. Many letters in fact begin as acknowledgements for the food packages sent by Leffingwell to his friends in shortage-riddled Britain.
The Morris Ernst correspondence is probably the most lively in the papers. Ernst, the crusading civil libertarian, often expressed views quite the opposite of Leffingwell's. On the question of the dissemination of birth control information Leffingwell teasingly called Ernst a "bigoted liberal". He failed to understand Ernst's criticism of the banking houses for their lack of Jewish partners and was vocal in his opposition to what he saw as the Zionist threat to the British Empire. They also disagreed over the necessity of certain McCarthy era investigations. Still the two remained friends, and in May 1960, shortly before Leffingwell's death, Ernst wrote, "I don't say I take everything that comes from your lips as gospel but as you must know you have deeply affected my moods and thinking."
SERIES II, Memoranda, includes only memoranda without a designated recipient. It is possible that some of these items were the basis for later speeches or writings. There are few manuscripts in Leffingwell's hand, so that most of the Writings and speeches series is composed of reprints of articles and addresses. An album of family photographs, a scrapbook of memorabilia from Leffingwell's years at Yale and Columbia, and a copy of Edward Pulling's book comprise Series IV.
Juvenile diaries (1893-1894) of Russell C. Leffingwell are in the Leffingwell Family Papers Mss 320.