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1933 Dean Gooderham Acheson starts on the road to becoming "perhaps the greatest Secretary of State of the century”

“Dean Gooderham Acheson was both Secretary of State and Undersecretary of State during the Truman years, the immediate post-war period, and he is remembered as perhaps one of the greatest Secretaries of State of the century because of the structures that he left behind him and that he helped create. For example, Bretton Woods which helped set up the World Bank and the economic system that undergirded western prosperity; and the Marshall Plan which aided European recovery; the Truman doctrine which gave aid to Greece and Turkey; and basically defined the foreign policy of the containment of the Soviet Union in the early stages of the Cold War; and of course, the creation of NATO, the western political and military alliance which, together with the economic system, really created a western approach to both security and prosperity”1

Dean Gooderham Acheson U.S. Secretary of State

In 1933, a Harvard Law School professor, Felix Frankfurter, suggested Roosevelt make Dean Solicitor General of the United States. However, the Attorney General at that time, Homer Cummings, told the President, he would find it difficult to work with Dean Acheson. [Homer had previously asked Dean’s father Reverend Acheson to officiate at his second marriage but was refused on the ground that Rev. Acheson would not participate in the marriage of a divorced person!] So, Roosevelt asked Dean to be Undersecretary for the Treasury at a time when the newly appointed Secretary, William Wooden, had just discovered that he was fatally ill. So, Dean was the Secretary of the Treasury, for all practical purposes, for the first year and a quarter of the Roosevelt administration. 2.

Because of Dean’s opposition to FDR's plan to deflate the dollar by controlling gold prices (thus creating inflation), he was forced to resign in November 1933. He resumed his law practice.

Brought back as Assistant Secretary of State on February 1, 1941, Acheson implemented much of Roosevelt's economic policy of aiding Great Britain and harming the Axis Powers. Acheson implemented the Lend-Lease policy that helped re-arm Great Britain and the American/British/Dutch oil embargo that cut off 95 percent of Japanese oil supplies and escalated the crisis with Japan in 1941.Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets merely to disconcert them. He did not intend the flow of oil to Japan to cease. The president then departed Washington for Newfoundland to meet with Churchill. While he was gone Acheson used those frozen assets to deny Japan oil. Upon the president's return, he decided it would appear weak and appeasing to reverse the de facto oil embargo.

In 1944, Acheson attended the Bretton Woods Conference as the head delegate from the State Department. At this conference the post-war international economic structure was designed. It was the birthplace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the last of which would evolve into the World Trade Organization.3.

1.Excerpt from Washington Journal series interviewee and author, James Chace. May 2002. https://www.c-span.org/video/?169922-4/secretary-state-acheson

2. Excerpted from an interview with Dean Gooderham Acheson’s son, David in May 2008 by Charles Stuart Kennedy at The Association for Diplomatic Studies, Library of Congress

3. Excerpted from Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Acheson

1933 Dean Gooderham Acheson "...greatest Secretaries of State of the century”

Excerpts from several sources describing Dean Gooderham Acheson's remarkable achievements in service to the Government of the United States.


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