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William O. Douglas

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Douglas sends thanks for comments on his extraordinary foreign policy speech

about China, the Soviet Union, and India

William Orville Douglas, 1898–1980. Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1939–1975.  Typed Letter Signed, Wm O Douglas, one page 5¾” x 9”, on stationery of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C., April 28, 1955.  With original envelope.

This is an excellent association letter in which Justice Douglas thanks a correspondent for writing about one of Douglas’s speeches—an extraordinary one entitled “Democracy vs. Communism in Asia” in which Douglas delved into international relations among the United States, China, the Soviet Union, and India.

In this letter, Douglas writes, in full:  “I thank you for your gracious letter of April 26 generously commenting on my recent speech at Daytona Beach.  I am pleased to know you found merit in it.  It was good of you to write me as you did.”

Douglas was nothing if not unafraid to speak his mind.  Serving as a member of the nation’s highest court did not deter him from commenting on both national and international affairs. The speech to which this letter refers was a 1½-hour address that Douglas delivered to an audience of about 2,000 people in Daytona Beach on April 6, 1955.  He spoke at the invitation of   the Daytona Beach Rotary Club, which presented him as a “gift” to the community in celebration of the club’s 50th anniversary.

Douglas argued that the United States should settle its differences with the People’s Republic of China so that China would no longer be a “martyr” in the eyes of “sensitive” Asians who were striving for independence, nationalism, and equality.  He advocated American action to drive a wedge between China—which had fallen to the Mao Zedong’s Communists only six years before, in 1949—and the Soviet Union.  He added that the United States should find a way to work with China to achieve that goal. 

He talked, too, of the “great drama on the stage of Asia today,” which he said was “the drama between Red China and India.” While China was “staging an industrialization program the Communist way,” Douglas said, India was doing it “the democratic way.”  The question, he said, was “which will best succeed.”  Although some Americans thought India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pro-Communist, Douglas said, he was really an enemy of Communism:  “In our newspapers we hear only about the anti-Western speeches Nehru makes,” he said. “We don’t hear about the anti-Communist speeches he makes.”

Douglas urged Americans to remember four points about Asian psychology:  the desire for independence; the desire for racial equality; the desire to abandon the status quo, which then meant political and economic feudalism; and the predominance of a socialistic philosophy, due to the Marxist influence.  “We have no conception of how the U.S.S.R. has exploited the printing press in Asia to spread the Marxist philosophy,” Douglas said.  He added that Communist books were cheap but that books about the “American way of life” cost as much as the typical Asian worker earned in a week.

It was an extraordinary speech by a sitting Supreme Court Justice. 

Douglas has signed this letter in blue ballpoint pen.  The letter is on engraved Supreme Court stationery, and a portion of the federal eagle watermark appears at left.  The letter has two normal mailing folds, neither of which affects the signature, and shows a tad bit of handling.  Overall the letter is in fine to very fine condition.  The envelope bears Douglas’s typewritten initials above the printed return address. It has been opened at the top, and a portion of the sealed flap has been peeled away.  It is in fine condition.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.


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