|20 September 1946
Truman Fires Henry Wallace
|Henry Wallace had served as Secretary of Agriculture, and later Vice President, in the Roosevelt administration, but in 1944 Roosevelt passed over him in favor of Harry Truman as his choice for Vice President. Instead Wallace was named Secretary of Commerce, a position he continued to hold after FDR’s death in April 1945.
It did not take long for problems to develop between Wallace and now-president Truman over foreign policy. As the administration began to talk tough about the Soviet Union, Wallace argued that U.S. policy should focus on reassuring the Soviets that their legitimate security needs would be met. In particular he advocated sharing atomic bomb technology with Moscow as a sign of good faith. Such views increasingly isolated him from the rest of Truman’s cabinet, although they earned him a sizeable following among American liberals.
The formal break between Wallace and Truman did not come until September 1946, when he gave a speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden before a labor rally. In this speech he suggested that U.S. foreign policy was hypocritical—the United States was establishing military bases in Western Europe while criticizing the Soviets for essentially doing the same thing in Eastern Europe. Though Wallace would later claim that Truman had privately endorsed the speech in advance, the president quickly distanced himself from his Commerce Secretary’s remarks. Finally, on September 20, he asked for Wallace’s resignation.
Wallace went on to become editor of the liberal journal The New Republic, and made a name for himself as a leading critic of the administration’s foreign policy.