British diplomacy with America and Ireland, an Ambassador's letters, 1909-1962 - Description

The Correspondence of Arthur C. Murray, 3rd Viscount Elibank; an Introduction

The correspondence of Arthur Murray, 3rd Viscount Elibank, between 1909 and 1962 is of considerable interest to historians for a number of reasons. Firstly, it includes material on British politics in this period, especially relating to issues such as the Irish Question and the decline of the Liberal Party; secondly, it sheds light on Anglo-American relations from the First World War to the Second; and thirdly, above all, it reveals Murray's personal and political relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt from the time when FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, in Woodrow Wilson's wartime Administration, through his Presidency and until his death in 1945. The original correspondence is housed in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. It is arranged in chronological order within each file (volume) and includes letters to and from a wide range of important figures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Arthur Murray was the fourth son of the 1st Viscount Elibank, a Scottish peer, and eventually succeeded to the title in 1951. Born in 1879 (three years before Roosevelt), his early career was spent in the army and included service in China and the Northwest Frontier of India ? on the border with Afghanistan and now part of Pakistan. In 1908 Murray entered Parliament as the Liberal M.P. for Kincardineshire, on the east coast of Scotland. His eldest brother, Alex, was the Liberal Chief Whip in Asquith's Government. Another brother, Gideon, pursued a career in colonial administration and was a fervent imperialist. In 1910 Murray became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Edward Grey and thus observed ?at close quarters?, as he put it in his book of the same title, the Foreign Secretary's efforts to avert a European war. When war came, Murray again joined the army and served with distinction as a lieutenant-colonel with the 2nd King Edwards's Horse in France and Belgium.

Volume 1 (MS 8805), January 1909-May 1918

The first part of Murray's correspondence in this collection covers the years from January 1909 to May 1918 (MS 8805). It shows his interest in Home Rule and refers to his position as Treasurer of the Home Rule Council, of which Winston Churchill was the Chairman and Robert Harcourt the Secretary. This remained an important issue throughout the war and beyond. Other interests included his Bill to end the traffic in worn-out horses, about which he corresponded with Walter Runciman, then President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (Runciman to Murray, 19 December 1913). Obviously much of his correspondence from July 1914 onwards was concerned with the onset of war in Europe, including the domestic political situation, and his service in the army. But his career changed dramatically in August 1917 when he was appointed Assistant Military Attaché to the British Embassy in Washington.

In fact, Murray was one of a number of new faces brought in to strengthen British representation in Washington following the US entry into the war in April 1917. Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, the British Ambassador since 1912, was close to some of the leading Republicans and was also very critical of Wilson's policy of neutrality after 1914. He was therefore out of favour with Wilson and his Democratic Administration. Following the American declaration of war on Germany, a British War Mission was sent to Washington, led by Lord Balfour, to discuss Anglo-American cooperation against Germany and her allies. Balfour recommended the establishment of a permanent mission to the United States and this job was given by Lloyd George, to Lord Northcliffe, the press baron, while the Earl of Reading was given the job of negotiating the finances of cooperation with the USA. Reading arrived in the USA in September 1917, at the same time as Murray.

Murray quickly settled into his new post and was soon on good terms with his colleagues in the British Embassy and other contacts, including Arthur Willert, The Times correspondent in New York, who had joined Northcliffe's war mission. Murray wrote very positively to Eric Drummond ? Private Secretary at the Foreign Office ? about Reading's work in Washington (Murray to Drummond, 18 September 1917). But, like Willert, Murray was concerned about the lack of rapport between Spring-Rice and Woodrow Wilson and at the divided nature of British representation in the USA between Reading and Northcliffe at such a crucial time. He felt there needed to be a Supreme Head of the British War Mission and that Reading was the best man for the job (Murray to Drummond, 1 Nov 1917).

The first reference to Franklin Roosevelt in his correspondence appears in November 1917 when Murray referred approvingly to a conversation he had had with Roosevelt who, at this time, was Assistant Secretary to the Navy in Woodrow Wilson's Administration (Murray to Swinton, 25 November 1917). Since 1914 Roosevelt had been a strong supporter of greater American preparedness for war and of aid to the Allies. His views on these issues had been similar to those of his cousin Theodore, and he had been rather critical, privately at least, of Wilson's policy of strict neutrality. Not surprisingly, therefore, he got on very well with members of the British Embassy, including Murray. Murray also knew a large number of other figures in the Wilson Administration, including Frank Polk, Counsellor to the State Department and later Assistant Secretary of State, and William Phillips, the then Assistant Secretary of State. He was also on good terms with Wilson's foreign policy advisor, Colonel House, who was an admirer of Sir Edward Grey.

In April 1918, after about seven months in Washington, Murray returned to London where he worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, headed by William Tyrrell. He kept in close touch with William Wiseman (British intelligence in USA, based in New York) whom he had got to know while in Washington and who told him that he could be very valuable to what he termed ?the Cause?. Wiseman was on close terms with Colonel House and also regularly met Woodrow Wilson at the White House. Wiseman corresponded with Murray while the latter was in London and used a code (for key see MS. 8805, img 299-304) in which Wilson was COLLIER, House was BEACH and Reading was SWIFT. Murray himself was ARROW. Murray passed on Wiseman's intelligence to Eric Drummond, the Private Secretary in the Foreign Office (e.g. Murray to Drummond, 31 May 1918).

While working at the Foreign Office Murray also received telegrams directly from Lord Reading, who had become Head of the British War Mission and had also replaced Spring-Rice as British Ambassador in February 1918. A major issue of concern was the situation in Ireland which was proving to be a thorn in the side of better Anglo-American relations. A bill giving Home Rule to Ireland had been introduced in 1912 by Asquith's Liberal Government, of which Murray was, of course, a member but it had met with stiff opposition from the Unionists in Ulster, supported by Conservatives such as Sir Edward Carson. The Bill had been blocked by the House of Lords but eventually became law in 1914, only to be suspended upon the outbreak of the First World War.

To make matters worse in Anglo-Irish relations, the Easter Rising of April 1916 had been met by executions of the ringleaders, including Sir Roger Casement, and this had led to much criticism in the USA, as had the proposal to introduce conscription in Ireland. Reading urged the British Government not to introduce conscription by force (Reading to Murray, 7 May 1918). He believed it was necessary to give a generous measure of Home Rule to Ireland, while at the same time including safeguards for Ulster (Reading to Murray, 12 May 1918). He welcomed the Proclamation of 18 May, allowing voluntary recruitment in Ireland, but feared that the ?psychological moment? to introduce Home Rule was being lost (Reading to Murray, 24 May 1918). Ireland remained a problem for Anglo-American relations throughout the war and beyond.

Volume 2 (MS 8806), May 1918-August 1918

Murray's efforts during the War on behalf of Anglo-American relations continued to be the main focus of his correspondence from May to August 1918 (MS 8806). Steady progress was being made in the American war effort ? despite the German offensive in the spring of 1918 ? and Wiseman wrote to Murray that there was a ?good war sentiment? in the USA (Wiseman to Murray, 7 June 1918). Murray's role in British intelligence relating to the USA is indicated by a comment in this letter. ?Both Reading and House were delighted when I told them of the arrangement you and I had made in London, and what you were doing for us. We all feel that the circle is now complete?. Another compliment is contained in a letter to Murray from the Military Attaché in Washington. ?Your policy of playing the game with the US has proved to be the best, as in times of emergency they give us everything they have got? (Miller to Murray, 24 June 1918).

Indeed, by the end of June, Murray and the British had cause for satisfaction as regards the US contribution to the war. Describing his own role, Murray said that since August 1917 he had been doing his best ?to speed up the American War Machine?. Initially the American Government had been handicapped by the fact that the USA was such a large country and also there was a severe winter at the end of 1917. But President Wilson had made the vital decision to put US battalions into the British forces in Europe, rather than waiting for separate US divisions to be formed which would have taken much longer, and this had greatly helped the Allied war effort in 1918 (Murray to Freeman, 27 June 1918).

However, Ireland continued to be a problem, and Murray was worried about the effects on American opinion of the delay in Home Rule and the introduction of conscription in Ireland. It was, he wrote, ?imperative that the problem of the distressful island should be solved? (Murray to Freeman, 27 June 1918). Writing to Wiseman in July he said ?I must confess I am very disappointed about the Irish situation in general.? He lamented that there was very little progress on Home Rule and that ?it looks very much as though there are certain elements in the Unionist Party, not unconnected with the Government, who propose to make every endeavour to shelve Home Rule?. He continued: ?We may have to wait till after a General Election before there is any real move to settle the Irish Question either by itself or as part of a federal movement? (Murray to Wiseman, 9 July 1918).

Lord Reading returned to Britain on 6 August 1918 and Murray met him at Liverpool and then accompanied him to London. Murray warned Wiseman that Reading was not prepared to continue indefinitely as Ambassador to the USA and was anxious to return to his position as Lord Chief Justice as soon as the war situation allowed. But there seemed every prospect that the war would continue into 1919, even though the German spring offensive had been turned back. Murray also took the opportunity to complain about a speech made by Lloyd George in the House of Commons in which he had given the impression that Wilson had only agreed to brigade US troops into the British and French armies after the German attack of March 1918 whereas the American President had already agreed to this before March (Murray to Wiseman, 8 August 1918).

Volume 3 (MS 8807), September 1918-December 1918

Events moved quickly at the end of 1918 and the next part of Murray's correspondence (MS 8807) reflects this time of rapid change which saw the sudden collapse of Germany and the end of the War. Murray's communications to Wiseman were usually passed on to Colonel House and, sometimes, to the President himself. ?The letters, cables and documents you have been sending Sir William have been of the greatest value and I want you to know of my warm appreciation?, House wrote to Murray. ?It is only through such complete information as you give that one can correctly advise those on this side. I hope you will come over here soon so as to keep in touch with both countries? (House to Murray, 4 September 1918). Wiseman referred to the high opinion that House had of Murray. ?He often talks about you and feels that we have found an ideal person to be our eyes, ears and adviser in Europe?, wrote Wiseman. ?He has already settled what you are to do at the Peace Conference!? (Wiseman to Murray, 5 September 1918).

As well as supplying intelligence to Wiseman and his contacts, Murray was also in touch with a number of American officials and politicians visiting London on the way to France. One such visitor at this time was the Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, Franklin Roosevelt. Murray said to Roosevelt that ?it would be a good thing if there were available a fast ship to bring over to this country important people like himself and to take back important personages to the United States?. According to Murray, Roosevelt ?agreed that the plan was a good one, and said it could be easily worked?. Murray therefore asked Wiseman to start the ball rolling in Washington. (Murray to Wiseman, 11 September 1918) Wiseman later reported that the US authorities were not very responsive to Murray's suggestion. ?They point out that there are now fast transports leaving practically every week. And a special ship detailed for the purposes mentioned would only save about a day if it happened to be available when wanted and might easily be on the wrong side of the water? (Wiseman to Murray, 4 October 1918).

One question that became increasingly urgent at this time was the continued absence of Lord Reading, as British Ambassador, from the USA. He had returned to Britain with Murray in August 1918 and was due to return in October. But he fell ill with jaundice and was then urged by Wiseman to stay in England for the visit of Colonel House and Wiseman in late October (Wiseman to Reading, 17 October 1918). In the end Reading did not return to the USA as he did not wish to continue as Ambassador beyond the end of the war and by November it was clear that Germany and her allies were in full retreat. But Murray was anxious to renew his direct ties with the USA and travelled to New York in early November. He arrived in Washington on 18 November by which time the war was over and the US Congressional elections had taken place.

The results of the elections were, of course, a setback for Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats as they gave the Republicans a majority of seats in both Houses of Congress. Murray cabled to Reading (and Wiseman) from Washington to say that the change wrought by the elections was very apparent. Although the Republicans were not due to take over until March they were becoming ?openly intolerant? of Wilson's conduct of affairs. There was growing criticism of his advocacy of a ?League of Nations? and of his forthcoming trip to Europe. However, Murray felt that Wilson still retained great prestige amongst the American people and that he would be able to carry out the Fourteen Points put forward in his speech of 8 January 1918 to a joint session of Congress, provided that he explained them ?in a convincing manner? (Murray to Reading, 22 November 1918).

Murray returned to England at the end of December. By then the British General Election that had been postponed because of the war had taken place and Lloyd George's Coalition Government had been returned with a large majority. The ?Coupon Election? as it soon became known, because of the endorsements given to Lloyd George Liberals but denied to Liberal supporters of Asquith, contributed greatly to the division and decline of the Liberal Party. Murray himself was returned unopposed for his seat of Kincardineshire. While associated with the Asquithian section of the party rather than with supporters of Lloyd George, Murray's role during the War meant that he had not openly criticised Lloyd George's Government and this, added to his local popularity, meant that there was no serious move to oppose him.

Volume 4 (MS 8808), January 1919-December 1936

Murray continued to be an influential figure in Anglo-American relations for some time after the end of the war, as can be seen in the next part of his correspondence, which covers the years from January 1919 to December 1936 (MS 8808). As well as being a Liberal MP he remained associated with the Foreign Office and kept in touch with key American figures such as John W. Davis, the US Ambassador in London, whom he knew from his time in Washington. Murray also continued to correspond with Arthur Willert, who had returned to his job as The Times correspondent in Washington. For example, Willert wrote a long letter to Murray in the summer of 1919, full of gossip about Woodrow Wilson, US politics and Anglo-American relations (Willert to Murray, 10 July 1919).

However, Murray's most regular correspondent continued to be William Wiseman. In a letter about the same time Wiseman referred to issues such as the need for a new Ambassador to Washington, especially in view of the impending visit of the Prince of Wales to the USA, and the problems that Ireland and De Valera were causing for relations between Britain and the USA (Wiseman to Murray, 3 July 1919). Murray replied that he would be raising the issue of the appointment of a British Ambassador in the House of Commons. He was critical of Lloyd George over Ireland and said that the delay in achieving an Irish settlement was harming both Anglo-American and Anglo-Imperial relations. He also mentioned to Wiseman that he had recently lunched with Colonel House and had arranged for him to visit Sir Edward Grey, now Lord Grey, at Fallodon (Murray to Wiseman, 28 July 1919).

In fact, it was Lord Grey, Murray's close friend and mentor, who was eventually appointed as the British Ambassador to Washington. Murray was naturally pleased with this choice and wrote to Sir Horace Plunkett that it would ?wipe out some of the irritation resulting from the delay in the appointment? (Murray to Plunkett, 13 August 1919). Indeed, Murray was asked to accompany Grey to America, which he did in September 1919. However, Grey, Murray and the British party arrived just at the moment when Wilson collapsed during an exhausting nationwide tour in defence of the League. Wilson became an invalid in the White House and access to him was severely restricted by his wife. Thus Grey never met Wilson and he and Murray returned home in March 1920 after several frustrating months in Washington.

In the same month the Senate voted against American membership of the League, which subsequently became a major issue in the Presidential election campaign of 1920. The ailing Wilson was unable to run for a third term, as many had suspected him of intending to do. Governor James Cox of Ohio was the eventual Democratic nominee and Franklin D. Roosevelt, aided by his illustrious name and his reputation as an efficient and energetic Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was nominated as his Vice Presidential running mate. Murray sent Roosevelt a congratulatory telegram after the nomination in July and Roosevelt's reply showed his warm regard for Murray. "I wonder much if there is any chance of your coming over this autumn", he wrote. "Do let me know beforehand if you do", adding, "Give my regards to any of the old crowd you may happen to see" (Roosevelt to Murray, October 1920).

However, Murray was much less involved in Anglo-American relations during the 1920s. One reason for this was the defeat of the Democrats in the 1920 elections which saw a landslide for the Republicans in Congress as well as for the Presidency. This meant that Murray was no longer familiar with the main figures in the American Government. Secondly, Murray- as a Liberal ? had political problems of his own. Although he held his seat in the 1922 election, when the Liberals were badly split between supporters of Asquith and Lloyd George, he lost in the 1923 election and then decided to retire from active politics. This was partly because of ill health, which was another reason for his lower profile in the 1920s. Franklin Roosevelt, of course, had his own health problems, having succumbed to polio in 1921, although he recovered and was elected as Governor of New York in 1928. Murray's correspondence during the 1920s is therefore much thinner than before and perhaps the main items of interest in this period are his letters from Colonel House.

1932 marked a turning point in the relationship between Roosevelt and Murray. Roosevelt, of course, won the Democratic nomination for President in July and announced his intention of offering a "New Deal" to the American people. Given the onset of a severe economic depression since 1929 and the unpopularity of Hoover and the Republican Party, there was every chance that Roosevelt would be successful in the Presidential election. Murray cabled his congratulations to Roosevelt after the party convention ? the first time they had been in contact since 1920. Roosevelt in turn replied to Murray via Willert, with whom he was still in touch. "It gave both Mrs Roosevelt and me a great deal of pleasure to hear from a friend and associate of so many years ago", he wrote, and in his own hand added: "I do wish you could come over this autumn. It would be grand to see you again" (Roosevelt to Murray, 25 August 1932).

Thus began a period of continuous correspondence between Roosevelt and Murray that lasted until the President's death in 1945. Encouraged by Roosevelt's warm reply, Murray answered that business commitments kept him from visiting America but that, as someone with ?no axe to grind? and with friends in high places, he was anxious to use his contacts on Roosevelt's behalf. He suggested that, in preparation for the forthcoming World Economic Conference in London, the President should invite to Washington an old Liberal colleague of Murray's ? Walter Runciman ? who was President of the Board of Trade in the National Government (Murray to Roosevelt, 1932). In the event, Ramsay MacDonald went himself, but this did not secure the success of the conference, which fell into disarray following Roosevelt's ?Bombshell? message opposing currency stabilisation.

In Europe most of the blame for the failure of the Conference fell upon Roosevelt and this contributed to something of a retreat by the President from foreign affairs. This was reflected in his correspondence with Murray which fell off sharply for two years and, even so, was largely from Murray. After the landslide victory of the Democrats in the congressional elections of 1934, Murray sent Roosevelt a cable of congratulations and received a note of thanks with the footnote: ?when are you coming over to see us all?? (Roosevelt to Murray, 13 November 1934). A visit was eventually arranged for May 1936 when Murray and his wife spent a week in Washington. The visit was primarily a social affair, including a memorable trip down the Potomac in Roosevelt's yacht, but the two men talked often about world affairs (Murray to Roosevelt, 26 May 1936).

During the visit Murray again suggested to Roosevelt that Walter Runciman should be invited to Washington to discuss trade and other issues. The President took up the idea and gave Murray a letter for Runciman inviting him to visit the White House later that year (Roosevelt to Runciman, 4 May 1936). The final details were arranged between Roosevelt and Murray in a series of telegrams in December 1936 in which Murray, anxious to maintain secrecy, referred to Runciman, somewhat dramatically, by the code name of CORNWALL, presumably because his Parliamentary constituency was St Ives, in Cornwall. On Christmas Day 1936 the President agreed that the British minister should come to the White House after the Inauguration (Roosevelt to Murray, 25 December 1936).

Volume 5 (MS 8809), January 1937-December 1943

The next section of Murray's correspondence covers the period leading up to the outbreak of war in September 1939 and the eventual US entry into the war in December 1941 (MS 8809). It opens with Walter Runciman's visit to Washington beginning on 23 January 1937. There was some publicity about the visit but the official story was that he was staying with relatives and might also be seeing the President. Roosevelt and Runciman had a wide-ranging discussion about trade, war debts, the American neutrality laws and the international situation in general. The Runciman visit was therefore very important in Anglo-American relations and owed much to Roosevelt's friendship with Murray and his penchant for informal diplomacy. One of its effects was to convince Runciman of the need for good Anglo-American relations, and he therefore supported the idea of a trade agreement between the two countries in a major speech in the House of Commons on 25 May 1937.

A few days later Stanley Baldwin resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Neville Chamberlain. In the resulting reshuffle Runciman resigned and took a seat in the House of Lords. Murray wrote to Roosevelt immediately after Runciman's resignation, explaining the circumstances surrounding it and saying that Runciman hoped that the President would not feel that the progress they had made towards closer Anglo-American relations would be undone. Roosevelt replied to Murray, voicing his disappointment that Runciman had gone but adding ?I am confident that the good work that he started will go on? (Roosevelt to Murray, 17 June 1937). In fact, Roosevelt proceeded to invite Chamberlain to visit the USA, but the new British Prime Minister replied that the time was not yet right for such a visit.

In October 1938, shortly after the Munich agreement, Murray and his wife paid another visit to Roosevelt ? this time to the President's family home in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt and Murray talked over the European situation, and the President stressed the need for Britain and France to improve their airpower. He said that, in the event of war, he would do his best to provide the basic materials for aircraft that did not come within the scope of the arms embargo. He also asked Murray to deliver a confidential message in person to Chamberlain ? an indication, perhaps, of his lack of confidence in the US Ambassador to London, Joseph Kennedy. Roosevelt said he wanted the Prime Minister to feel that he had ?the industrial resources of the American nation behind him in the event of war with the dictatorships? (Note of conversation between Roosevelt and Murray, 23 October 1938).

When Murray returned to London at the end of November he saw Lord Halifax, who had replaced Eden at the Foreign Office, and reported his talks with the President. Chamberlain was not keen to see Murray but, on Halifax's advice, eventually did so. On 14 December Murray met Chamberlain in the Prime Minister's room at the House of Commons and gave him Roosevelt's message. Murray then wrote to the President saying that Chamberlain had deeply appreciated the statements and was encouraged by them. Murray continued: ?He asked me to tell you that he was immensely grateful to you for all that you had done and were doing, not only by your very powerful messages to Hitler at the time of the crisis, but generally by your exceedingly sympathetic and helpful attitude throughout these trying times? (Murray to Roosevelt, 15 December 1938).

Murray had planned to visit Roosevelt again in 1939 but the outbreak of war prevented another trip and, although they often wrote of the President vacationing with Murray in Scotland once he had retired, the two men did not meet again. After the resignation of Chamberlain in May 1940 Murray's role as a go-between was much diminished. Churchill had his own direct line of communication with the President, dating from Roosevelt's message to him on 11 September 1939 that began their famous wartime correspondence. Murray had been one of Churchill's many critics in the past and he sometimes warned Roosevelt against Churchill's judgements during the War. For example, he told Roosevelt that Churchill was thinking of appointing Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper publisher, as British Ambassador to Washington ? an idea that filled Murray with horror (Murray to Roosevelt, 22 April 1943). But the President was able to develop a personal relationship with Churchill, for all his faults, that would have been impossible with Neville Chamberlain.

Volume 6 (MS 8810), January 1944-December 1948

During the War, and the immediate post-war period that saw the onset of the Cold War, Murray continued to correspond with friends and colleagues from earlier years such as William Wiseman (MS 8810). Murray wrote to Franklin Roosevelt in August 1944, following the liberation of Paris from German occupation. He and his wife had met Roosevelt's mother in October 1937 in Paris ? at about the time that the President made his ?quarantine speech?. Murray also referred to their friendship in the First World War and to Roosevelt's efforts to support Britain since 1939. He ended his letter: ?With my affectionate good wishes, and much hoping that you are keeping in good health under the strain of your tremendous responsibilities and never-ceasing work and anxieties? (Murray to Roosevelt, 31 August 1944). In fact, Roosevelt's health was beginning to give way under the strain of office and this was to be Murray's last letter to him before his death at Warm Springs in April 1945.

Soon after Roosevelt's death Murray received a letter from William Phillips, another old American friend from the First World War, who had been based in London in 1944-45 and had spent some time with Murray. In April 1946 Phillips was acting as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State in Washington while many State Department officials were in San Francisco for the conference on the United Nations. ?I was here at the time of Franklin's death and attended his funeral services at the White house?, he wrote to Murray. ?His passing was not a surprise to me, for I have known for a month or more that he was failing rapidly, and if we look at it from his point of view and not from that of the country, we must be glad that his release came when it did. Another Woodrow Wilson period would have been frightful to contemplate? (Phillips to Murray, 23 April 1945).

Murray later wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt: ?You know how warm was my affection for Franklin, and how intense was my admiration for his character, his mighty courage, his outstanding statesmanship, and his momentous achievements in peace and in war for the benefit of humanity? (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 24 May 1945). The President's widow replied: ?Seeing you was always a great pleasure to both Franklin and to me and your wife was always included in the friendship? (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 21 June 1945). Murray dined with Eleanor Roosevelt at his London home in January 1946 and continued to correspond with her thereafter. Murray, as ever, was critical of Churchill ? now Leader of the Opposition ? particularly in relation to his ?Iron Curtain? speech in February 1946. Mrs Roosevelt's view was that: ?Mr Churchill's speech in Fulton, Missouri, I think was unfortunate. I had heard him try out similar ideas on Franklin but Franklin never responded?. She added: ?I am ...afraid that our President is not as well equipped to manage both Mr Stalin and Mr Churchill as Franklin was? (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 10 October 1946).

Another regular correspondent in this period was the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King. After Roosevelt's death he wrote to Murray: ?It is consoling to know that you and I have shared so intimately the friendship of two of the greatest men of our day: Lord Grey and President Roosevelt? (Mackenzie King to Murray, 15 May 1945). Murray sent Mackenzie King his congratulations after the Canadian general election of September 1945 when the Liberal party was again successful ? in stark contrast to the diminishing fortunes of the British Liberals (Murray to Mackenzie King, 2 September 1945). The two men were eventually able to spend some time together in London at the end of 1945 and to renew their friendship, which was undoubtedly heartfelt on both sides ? a sure sign of which was Murray's use of Mackenzie King's nickname ?Rex?. But like Roosevelt, Mackenzie King's health was beginning to give way under the pressure of public affairs, as is clear from a letter he wrote to Murray on 9 April 1947, and he finally retired after more than twenty-one years as his country's leader in November 1948.

Volume 7 (MS 8811), January 1949-December 1953

Murray's correspondence in this next period continued to be dominated by friends and memories from the Roosevelt era (MS 8811). In June 1949 he sent Mackenzie King a congratulatory telegram following the recent Liberal victory in the Canadian general election. The Liberals were now led by Mackenzie King's hand-picked successor, Louis St Laurent, but Murray cabled him: ?Result of election is a great personal triumph for you as well as for your eminent successor? (Murray to Mackenzie King, 27 June 1949). Murray wrote again in February 1950, reminiscing about his stay at the Roosevelt's Hyde Park home in October 1938 and adding as a postscript: ?Franklin always used to talk to me about you in terms of admiration and affection? (Murray to Mackenzie King, 17 February, 1950). Alas, Canada's longest-serving Prime Minister was not to enjoy a very long retirement and died in July 1950. ?He and FDR were not only friends but their outlooks on life and its problems were practically in every sense similar, Murray wrote to another friend (Murray to Osler, 24 July 1950).

But it is perhaps Murray's correspondence with Eleanor Roosevelt that is most interesting at this time. Murray had written to her only rarely while she lived in the White House but after the President's death their letters and meetings exceeded in number those between Murray and Franklin Roosevelt. A constant theme of Murray's letters was the achievement of FDR as President. Following the conclusion of the NATO alliance in April 1949 he wrote to her describing the treaty as ?a wonderful thing indeed; a momentous step in the direction, as we hope, of an abiding world peace; a glorious monument, above all, to Franklin. I rejoice with you at this fulfilment of so much that was so very dear to his heart? (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 16 April 1949). The former First Lady was now a US Ambassador to the United Nations, living in New York City during the week but returning to Hyde Park at the weekend. ?I seem to thrive on hard work?, she wrote to Murray (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 24 April 1949). And, again, in November: ?I feel very well and enjoy being busy? (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 7 November 1949).

In December 1949 Murray wrote to her about her memoir ?This I Remember?. ?For present generations and for posterity you have, in your sympathetic and revealing story, performed a service of outstanding historical importance, and one of which ? if you will allow me as an old friend of you both to say ? Franklin, I feel, would be infinitely proud? (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 1 December 1949). In another letter he wrote: ?'THIS I REMEMBER' will now take a privileged place in my bookshelves alongside your earlier very interesting volume, 'THIS IS MY STORY', given to Faith and myself when we were at Hyde Park in October 1938 and in which Franklin wrote his name. What an absorbing and important contribution to the history of our times are those two books from your pen? (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 25 January 1950).

Mrs Roosevelt was due to stop off in London in June 1950 on her way to Norway to unveil a statue to the late President and she therefore arranged to meet up with Murray (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray 10 May 1950). She had various engagements while in London but was able to find time to meet Murray for tea at his home (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 28 May 1950). No doubt they reminisced about Murray's visits to Washington in the 1930s but Murray was also, like Mrs Roosevelt, deeply concerned about contemporary issues, not least the onset of the Cold War and relations with China. In September 1950 ? while the Korean War raged ? he wrote a long letter to Mrs Roosevelt criticising US policy for driving China into the arms of Stalin. (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 15 September 1950). He returned to this theme when he dined with her at his London home in April 1951. Mrs Roosevelt passed Murray's views on to President Truman and to the State Department ? which, needless to say, completely disagreed. But, interestingly, the State Department took the time to produce a point by point rebuttal of Murray's views ? testimony as much to Eleanor Roosevelt's abiding influence at this time as to the force of Murray's arguments (Hickerson to Eleanor Roosevelt, 13 June 1951). Mrs Roosevelt herself was much more sympathetic to Murray's point of view (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 18 June 1951). Murray continued to correspond about the Korean War until its conclusion in 1953.

Volume 8 (MS 8812), January 1954-December 1962

Murray ? now the 3rd Viscount Elibank ? continued to correspond with Eleanor Roosevelt in his final years (MS 8812). Writing to her in March 1954, he said: ?I much wish you were about to take your accustomed seat on the sofa in my sitting-room?. He also commented on the divisions in the Republican Party over the excesses of ?McCarthyism? and Eisenhower's failure, as Murray put it, ?to defend that great soldier-statesman, General George Marshall, against Senator McCarthy's monstrous and unworthy slurs?. By contrast, Murray was enthusiastic about Adlai Stevenson, the rising star of the Democrats (Murray to Eleanor Roosevelt, 8 March 1954). The former First Lady replied: ?I think Adlai Stevenson is coming along and I hope he will be our next Democratic candidate.? (Eleanor Roosevelt to Murray, 30 March 1954). She was unable to get to London that year but met up with Murray in March 1955 on her way to visit Israel. Prior to dining with Murray she was received by the Queen and Queen Mother, had a meeting with Eden and lunch with Sir Winston and Lady Churchill (Note by Murray, 11 March 1955).

Murray's other main correspondent in these years was Sir Walford Selby, Minister to Austria 1930-36. They shared similar views on the inter-war years and the events leading to Munich and the outbreak of war in 1939. In particular, they felt that successive foreign secretaries after 1931 were as guilty of appeasing Hitler as Chamberlain himself. An opportunity to debate this issue arose when Sir John (later Lord) Simon died in January 1954. Simon's obituary in The Times was very critical of his role as foreign secretary, 1931-35, but this verdict was challenged by Leo Amery, the former MP, in a letter published on 12 January. Murray then wrote his own letter to The Times, rebutting Amery's defence of Simon and adding: ?It cannot be said that I waited until Simon was dead before criticising his Foreign Secretaryship. That has never been my practice as, inter alia, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill have had reason to know? (Murray to The Editor of The Times, 17 January 1954).

Murray received full support for his attack on Simon from Selby, who had a published a memoir of the 1930s entitled ?Diplomatic Twilight? the year before. Selby wrote to Murray to congratulate him on his ?terrific? letter to The Times, adding: ?It was during Simon's Foreign Secretaryship that was laid the seeds of the Munich disaster and the disaster of 1939? (Selby to Murray, 19 January 1954). Lord Vansittart, who had been Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1930 to 1938, also joined the debate with a defence of Simon but Selby was equally dismissive of him, arguing that he was out to save his own reputation (Selby to Murray, 21 January 1954). Selby wrote his own letter to The Times arguing that Vansittart's claims to have warned about Germany's strength after 1935 were exaggerated and that, in any case, he and the Foreign Office had failed to devise a realistic plan to contain Germany. The letter was not published but illustrates the way in which the arguments of the 1930s were being refought in the 1950s (Selby to The Times, 22 January 1954).

Selby also urged Murray to publish the story of his relationship with Franklin Roosevelt, especially as it would shed light on British foreign policy in the 1930s (Selby to Murray, 6 August 1954). Murray had been thinking about doing this ever since the President's death in 1945 but finally committed himself to the task in September 1954. ?It will be of a personal nature, descriptive of my long friendship with him, and of Faith's and my visits to him at the White House and Hyde Park?, he told Selby. He added that he did not want this memoir to be primarily political, although it would necessarily allude to Roosevelt's ?help to Great Britain before and during the 1939-45 War? (Murray to Selby, 25 September 1954). Murray's memoir eventually appeared as an article in The Contemporary Review in June 1955 entitled ?Franklin Roosevelt, Friend of Britain?. It was his last substantial publication. He died, aged 83, in December 1962, one month after Eleanor Roosevelt.

October 2008.


Select Bibliography:

Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945, Oxford University Press, New York, 1979

Tony McCulloch, ?Franklin Roosevelt and the Runciman visit to Washington in 1937: informal diplomacy and Anglo-American relations in the Era of Munich?, Journal of Transatlantic studies, 4.2 (Autumn 2006)

Tony McCulloch, ?Franklin Roosevelt and Arthur Murray: a very special relationship, 1917-45? (forthcoming)

Arthur Murray, Master and brother, John Murray, London, 1945

Arthur Murray, At close quarters: a sidelight on Anglo-American diplomatic relations, John Murray, London, 1946

Arthur Murray, Reflections on some aspects of British foreign policy between the two World Wars, John Murray, London, 1946

Arthur Murray, ?Franklin Roosevelt: Friend of Britain?, Contemporary review 187 (June 1955)

D. Cameron Watt, Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain's place, 1900-1975, Cambridge University Press, London 1984

Sir Arthur Willert, The road to safety: a study in Anglo-American relations, Derek Verschoyle Ltd, London, 1952


To cite this resource:

McCulloch, Tony (2008) The correspondence of Arthur C. Murray, 3rd Viscount Elibank : an introduction, Last updated: 6 October 2008.