Secret White House Tapes

Meeting with John Foster Dulles—December 20, 1949

About this recording

  • John Foster Dulles
December 20, 1949
Recording begins after conversation had already begun. Eisenhower and Dulles are
discussing amphibious landings of small aircraft. Dulles had recently been flown out of
an unidentified location after his boat had been frozen in the bay. They continue
discussing amphibious flying with DDE recounting his experiences in the Philippines in
the late 1930s.

The conversation then turns to a current water shortage in New York City. DDE states
"Well, I don't know. I'm trying to be one of the best savers of water in our honorable
city and in time I've realized what a waster of water I was." Dulles says the situation is
evidence of a "complete lack of foresight and planning." DDE recalls hauling pails of
water when he was a boy in Kansas.

After an intelligible portion of the recording, the conversation has turned to the subject of
national debt. DDE states that "Now, if we can't have the things we need in this world,
or we believe we need except at the cost of debt that we can't carry." They discuss the
changes that have taken place since the turn of the century in people's perception of
government. Dulles says in earlier times there was a "voluntary willingness of people to
come forth with responsibilities. Then we've seen a combination being hit us all at once
and in the first place we became much more materialistic, I think, that the individual is
thinking more about amassing personal wealth . . . It was looked upon more as a personal
privilege rather than a kind of a trust that had been in my grandfather's time granted by
God and so forth. Society got more complex and we had to fill up and get more urban
population. Science made everything more complicated. Then you had the effects of the
world war, a world depression, and the Second World War."

He continues to talk of the role of moral law and how it effects "a manmade law and a manmade institution which was designed to protect the individual rights and to counterpoint, you might say, the
moral law. Because if they didn't do that they had no moral sanction. Now, I think
there's got to be, obviously, a greater limitation on liberty and freedom in one case when
you had a more primitive society but the accept result is the possibility that this freedom
and moral law are exhausted, that I think may lead you inevitably to the communist
thesis, which is illogical application of it."