Dean Gooderham Acheson papers
Scope and Contents
Acheson considered these papers to be his private papers, as opposed to the papers he created professionally as a lawyer and publicly as a civil servant. Acheson's legal files remain with the firm of Covington & Burling. Many of Acheson's official papers are now in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. Acheson's son, David C. Acheson, donated these private papers to Yale University between 1981 and 1983.
This finding aid was edited slightly in 2003 when being converted to an on-line format.
Conditions Governing Access
The entire collection is available on microfilm, with the exception of Box 56 and Box 70 from the main accession and Accessions 1983-M-005, 1986-M-009, 1989-M-044, 1991-M-065, 2003-M-050, 2003-M-075, 2007-M-056, and 2011-M-070. Patrons must use HM 258 instead of the originals.
Existence and Location of Copies
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
42.83 Linear Feet (128 boxes)
Language of Materials
Biographical / Historical
From New Haven, Acheson moved to the challenging intellectual climate of the Harvard Law School. Here he came under the influence of Felix Frankfurter. He received his law degree in 1918 and then worked for two years as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis. In 1921, Acheson joined the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. Acheson would continue to be affiliated with the law firm, or its successors Covington, Burling and Rublee, and Covington, Burling, Acheson and Shorb for the remainder of his life.
In May 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Acheson to the post of under secretary of the Treasury. Acheson resigned five months later following a disagreement over Roosvelt's gold-purchasing program and resumed his Washington law practice.
Acheson returned to government service in 1941 as assistant secretary of state for economic policy. In this position he helped manage the Lend-Lease program and he was instrumental in the development of several postwar institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the Bretton Woods agreement, which led to the creation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).
From 1945 to 1947, Acheson held the post of under secretary, often functioning as the acting secretary of state for the absent James Byrnes. Acheson became a trusted advisor to President Truman and in 1949, following a short term away from the State Department, President Truman asked Acheson to be his secretary of state, replacing George C. Marshall. In this post war period, Acheson became the principal architect of United States' Cold War foreign policy. He helped to forge an alliance between America and Western Europe to oppose the Soviet Union and the expansion of Communism.
Acheson feared that the Soviet Union would be able to expand its sphere of influence over the Middle East, and in 1947 he orchestrated military and economic aid to the governments of Greece and Turkey under what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. In that same year, he outlined the main points of the Marshall Plan for war-ravaged Europe. Forecasting that political and social upheaval might result if conditions did not improve quickly, Acheson advocated a massive American economic aid package to stabilize and rehabilitate seventeen western and southern European nations.
Acheson also believed that collective defense would be necessary to stop further Soviet advances, and one of his first accomplishments as secretary of state was to facilitate the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). When Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Acheson immediately labeled this an act of aggression and moved swiftly to secure a United Nations Security Council emergency session resolution condemning the North Korean attack. For the first time an international organization sanctioned a military response to halt an infringement on another country's sovereignty, and American troops, under UN authority and General Douglas MacArthur's direction, entered combat in Korea. War on the Korean peninsula would command the attention of Truman and his advisors for the duration of the administration.
Acheson was a controversial government official and a lighting rod for criticism. During his time in the State Department, the governments in countries in Eastern Europe and China became Communist. Acheson was accused of being "soft on communism." Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy declared that the State Department was harboring communists, and Acheson's refusal to testify against Alger Hiss brought calls for his resignation.
After leaving public office, Acheson continued to voice his opinions on foreign policy through his lectures and writing. He gamely played the role of elder statesman and would serve as an unofficial advisor to the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. His book, Present at the Creation,won a Pulitzer Prize.
In 1917, Acheson had married Alice Stanley. They had three children: Jane Stanley (later wife of Dudley B. W. Brown), David Campion (later husband of Patricia Castles), and Mary Campion (later wife of William P. Bundy). Acheson died suddenly from a stroke at the age of seventy-eight on October 12, 1971.
- Acheson, David C.
- Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
- Adenauer, Konrad, 1876-1967
- Alsop, Joseph, 1910-1989
- Alsop, Stewart, 1914-1974
- American Council on Germany
- Benton, William, 1900-1973
- Bickel, Alexander M.
- Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986
- Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941
- Brewster, Kingman, Jr., 1919-1988
- Bundy, McGeorge, 1919-1996
- Citizens Committee for Peace with Freedom in Vietnam
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Clifford, Clark M., 1906-1998
- Coffin, Henry Sloane, 1877-1954
- Democratic Party (U.S.)
- Diplomatic and consular service, American
- Dodd, Thomas J. (Thomas Joseph), 1907-1971
- Douglas, Paul H. (Paul Howard), 1892-1976
- Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
- Eden, Anthony, Earl of Avon, 1897-1977
- Europe -- Foreign relations
- European Economic Community
- Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
- Fulbright, J. William (James William), 1905-1995
- Galbraith, John Kenneth, 1908-2006
- German reunification question (1949-1990)
- Germany -- Defenses
- Griswold, Alfred Whitney, 1906-1963
- Hand, Learned, 1872-1961
- Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986
- Hiss, Alger, 1904-1996
- Hull, Cordell, 1871-1955
- Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
- Indochina -- History -- 1945-
- Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
- Kennan, George F. (George Frost), 1904-2005
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
- Kent, Sherman
- Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
- Korean War, 1950-1953
- Lefever, Ernest W., 1919-
- Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963
- Lewis, W. S. (Wilmarth Sheldon), 1895-1979
- Lovett, Robert A. (Robert Abercrombie), 1895-1986
- MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982
- Marshall, Charles Burton, 1908-1999
- McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
- Menzies, Robert, 1894-1978
- Mexico -- Politics and government -- 1910-1946
- Middle East -- Politics and government -- 1945-
- Morgenthau, Henry, 1891-1967
- Nitze, Paul Henry, 1907-2004
- Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
- Norodom Sihanouk, Prince, 1922-2012
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- Pearson, Lester B.
- Presidents -- United States
- Press and politics
- Ridgeway, Matthew B.
- Rogers, William P.
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
- Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
- Rostow, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1913-2002
- Rostow, W. W. (Walt Whitman), 1916-2003
- Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
- Seymour, Charles, 1885-1963
- Shulman, Harry, 1903-1955
- South Africa -- Foreign relations
- Soviet Union -- Foreign relations -- United States
- Stettinius, Edward R., Jr. (Edward Reilly), 1900-1949
- Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
- Stimson, Henry L. (Henry Lewis), 1867-1950
- Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958
- Symington, Stuart, 1901-1988
- Thacher, Thomas D. (Thomas Day), 1881-1950
- Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
- Tuchman, Barbara W. (Barbara Wertheim), 1912-1989
- Tuttle, H. E. (Henry Emerson), 1890-1946
- United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1953
- United States -- Foreign relations -- Soviet Union
- United States -- History -- 1945-1953
- United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1953
- United States. Department of State
- United States. Department of the Treasury
- United States. Supreme Court
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Warburg, James P. (James Paul), 1896-1969
- Wheeler-Bennett, John Wheeler, Sir, 1902-1975
- World politics -- 1945-1989
- Yale Corporation
- Yale Law School
- Zimbabwe -- Politics and government -- 1965-1979
- Guide to the Dean Gooderham Acheson Papers
- Under Revision
- compiled by Diane E. Kaplan
- January 1984
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository
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