The bulk of Schlesinger's journals cover the years 1952-2002. They document Schlesinger's work for the Democratic Party in the 1950s; his tenure as a member of John F. Kennedy's campaign and presidential staffs; his activities as a journalist, professor, and public intellectual after moving to New York in 1966; his role as an advisor to the Democratic Party and its leadership, such as Robert and Ted Kennedy, Averell Harriman, George McGovern, Bill Clinton and Al Gore; and his friendships with other politically-oriented intellectuals, the staffs of the Kennedy and other presidential administrations, and prominent cultural figures. The earliest journals in this series date back to the early 1930s and are included here in their original handwritten versions. A teenage Schlesinger began keeping them to record his travel experiences and his observations and musings about his destinations.
Schlesinger wrote not just for public consumption, but also for himself, and his personal journals provide perhaps the greatest insight into his opinions, and in some cases his daily life. Although entries include some information and reflections on Schlesinger's private life, their focus, like Schlesinger's, is on current events. The journals are not deeply introspective. Personal remarks usually center on his progress on current writing, his teaching, and personal and family milestones. Mentions of such topics are, in any case, brief.
Most of the journal entries report and comment on the news of the day. Schlesinger is often present and frequently participating in the events he describes. For instance, Schlesinger went to nearly every Democratic National Convention during his adulthood, and often had some official or unofficial role or influence; he was on President Kennedy's staff and participated in meetings on such topics as Cuba, Vietnam, and civil rights legislation; he drafted speeches, and took official trips, such as one to South America in 1961; and he found himself at the center of the events in the aftermath of the President's assassination. Later, after leaving official public life, his friends and colleagues in political and other circles continued to call on Schlesinger for advice and to comment on their plans of action, speeches, letters, and editorials. At dinners, cocktail parties, and informal gatherings, he was there as Robert Kennedy decided whether to run against Lyndon Johnson in 1968, as George McGovern mounted his 1972 campaign, and as Ted Kennedy struggled seemingly every four years over his presidential aspirations. His views on Bill Clinton's campaign and presidency are here, as well as his contributions as an unofficial consultant to the Al Gore campaign in 2000.
Schlesinger was very active socially and many of his entries are framed as reports on a party, a trip to a friend's country home, or a lunch at the Century Club. Although he is often not the main character in the events about which he writes, he narrates with a distinct point of view while reporting facts and the opinions of others.
In addition to the usual motivations for keeping a journal, Schlesinger used his as an aid in writing his books, letters, articles, memorials, and speeches recalling past events. For this reason, entries may contain annotations made some years after the fact. Schlesinger also sent copies of pages to colleagues to help them recall or write about specific past events. Although an edited version of these journals was published after Schlesinger's death (xxJournals, 1952-2000xx by Arthur M. Schlesinger; edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger. New York: Penguin Press, 2007), it is not clear whether or not he planned for their publication in some form as he wrote them. He certainly used them as source material for his memoirs, however, as well as for other writings requiring him to look retrospectively at events in his own lifetime.
The journal entries are sometimes supplemented with copies of letters, memoranda, speeches, invitations, meeting minutes, and other related material. Of note, in this regard, are the letters to and from John Kennedy during the 1960 campaign. Some earlier entries, in the 1950s, consist of actual meeting minutes and notes rather than conscious journal entries.
The journals are typed, though there are some handwritten annotations and additions. Several entries appear to have been typed from notes (by Schlesinger or his secretary, Gretchen Stewart); others were written directly on the typewriter. It is not possible to determine when or who typed the entries, except when Schlesinger refers explicitly to the action of typing himself. (See, for instance, January 26, 1974 when his son Robert comes in and taps on a few keys in mid-sentence.) During the 1950s, a variety of paper and typewriters were used. Sometimes copies were made of pages or pages were retyped later from carbons or copies. Multiple copies of the same entries have been retained when there appears to be some possible variation.
Entries in the journal are dated the day Schlesinger wrote them rather than with the date of the events described. Depending on the regularity with which he was keeping the journal at the time, entries could cover a single day or take a more retrospective view of a preceding month or even months.
The years of Adlai Stevenson's unsuccessful campaigns for president, 1952 especially, are well represented; otherwise entries are sporadic in the 1950s. Schlesinger began keeping his journal more regularly during Kennedy's presidential campaign. It is only in 1961 that the journal takes on regularity and uniformity in presentation, and he begins to use continuous page numbers. Schlesinger's White House years, 1961-1963, are the best documented in the journals, averaging over 400 pages per year. The journals for most other years consist of 60-100 pages, the exceptions being 1968, 1971, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983 which are each 150 pages or longer. Schlesinger tended to write in his journal more often during important political years, notably those with presidential elections.
With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times
REVIEWS OF ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER JR.'S EARLIER BOOKS:
"Mr. Schlesinger's study of Brownson is a masterly one. It has technical brilliance -- a sure control of materials, an affective handling of background, a skillful use of colors an a certain bravura of execution. It has, in addition, sincerity and integrity, sympathetic understanding, and an astonishing maturity."
"Mr. Schlesinger's service, performed not merely adequately but brilliantly, is to reinterpret Jacksonian democracy in the light of an immense body of facts which had previously been ignored. . . . a remarkable piece of analytical history, full of vitality, rich in insights and new facts, and casting a broad shaft of illumination over one of the most interesting periods of our national life."
"It is a serious work, both in tone and in its manifest political purpose. Yet is also nasty nice writing, done with kid gloves which almost conceal the fish-hook in each fingertip. . . . The book will enthrall and gratify every citizen who for any reason is anti-MacArthur."
"[Schlesinger] makes clear that the causes of the depression are to be found chiefly in the malpractices of our own Government during the Twenties . . . One of the valuable features of this book is the emphasis the contributions of political theory by intellectuals, philosophers and scholars. . . . It is narrative history, brisk, lively, colorful, brilliant; full of personalities and anecdotes and humor and drama."
"Spacious and monumental in form, scholarly and authoritative in character, spirited and affluent in style, it promises to be one of the major works in American historical literature. . . . Mr. Schlesinger has recreated, in rich and wonderful detail, the major debates experiments, struggles, accomplishments -- and failures -- of these two hectic years."
"It is one of the many merits of this brilliant book . . . that Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. does not indulge in foresight . . . the most masterly achievement of Mr. Schlesinger is his combination of the historian's viewpoint 'above the battle' and the reporter's eye of the contemporary witness."
". . . a remarkable feat of scholarship and writing, set in the widest historical and intellectual frame . . . It is exciting in this book to see the historian take over, to see the mere chronicler of events, at first content to use his limited and staccato exposure to great events, give way to the scholar of contemporary America."
"On Vietnam [Schlesinger] is probably the most articulate of the doubters (rather than doves). . . . There is some excellent description of the difficulties in applying our great power in a country where the enemy is not rich enough to afford us good targets . . . The failing of his book is that Schlesinger has not used the same tough standards on President Kennedy as he has on President Johnson."
"The greatest defect in 'The Crisis of Confidence' lies in the liberal ideology that Schlesinger expounds. . . . Schlesinger wavers from one vacuous synthesis to another. In the end, his case rests on faith in the Kennedy way, which in turn rests on personal magnetism."
"[H]e has done his homework for this book, in fresh circumstances, and has some new things to say. . . . One of the things that makes it difficult to weigh this thesis properly is that it seems to have been conceived, and partially executed, when Vietnam still held center-stage . . . our best current book on the subject. But it is the best within a genre that has become severely limited."
"[Schlesinger's] collection edits, updates and synthesizes 25 years' worth of his more notable historical and political essays . . . Mr. Schlesinger both describes and, as an intellectual engagé, embodies liberalism's powerful virtues . . . And, without quite meaning to, he exemplifies some of the defects that have contributed to its recent decline . . ."
"Schlesinger has a kind of proprietary right to this subject. . . . One comes to respect Mr. Schlesinger's confidence that Robert Kennedy does not need special pleading. . . . The one place where Mr. Schlesinger seems to hedge a bit on the evidence in his treatment of the missile crisis."
"Mr. Schlesinger is unusually severe on what he regards as tendentious pseudo-learning, such as Afrocentric history. . . . In the present climate he will make few converts, and his rare bursts of indignation may prove inflammatory . . . Mr. Schlesinger's position and his tone, more urbane than the tones of the dissenters, are shared by many moderates."
ARTICLES ABOUT ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER JR.:
Schlesinger defended his historical objectivity during a wide-ranging interview, telling a reporter, "'The Age of Jackson' was decried by Time magazine as an apologia for the New Deal. It wasn't. And the new book will be no party work."
Schlesinger's "The Age of Jackson" won the Pulitzer Prize for history.
"We must confront today, indeed, the imminent possibility that the writing of history is near its end in the world," Schlesinger told forty historians at the closing session of a two-day meeting sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
In an interview after the publication of "The Vital Center," Schlesinger explained, "I felt more and more that a book should be written setting forth the new phase that liberalism was entering, and when I saw no one else doing it, I decided to write it myself."
In a letter to Senator Mike Mansfield, Democrat of Montana, Schlesinger defended his assertion that the "welfare state" was the best bar to communism.
Schlesinger was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
White House sources said Schlesinger had chosen to remain as a Presidential adviser and would resign his lifetime tenure as a professor of history at Harvard University.
Representative Leslie C. Arends, the House Republican whip, offered Schlesinger advice at a time when he was trying to decide whether to remain in the Kennedy Administration or return to the Harvard University faculty.
Schlesinger had indicated he wanted to leave the Government to devote himself completely to writing, but President Johnson was believed to have persuaded him to remain two or three more months.
Eric Goldman, a Princeton historian, refused comment on reports that he would soon succeed Schlesinger as a special assistant to the President.
After becoming the second close advisor to President Kennedy to leave President Johnson, Schlesinger said that he had resolved before President Kennedy's assassination that "the time had come for me to return to scholarly work."
The obituary of Schlesinger's father called Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. "one of the nation's outstanding historians."
The Times reported on excerpts from Schlesinger's book, "A Thousand Days," which appeared in Life magazine. The excerpt included Schlesinger's account of John F. Kennedy's musings about the criteria for presidential greatness.
In interview about his assessment of Vietnam policy in "A Thousand Days," Schlesinger told a reporter that John F. Kennedy "had always believed there was a point at which our intervention might turn Vietnamese nationalism against us."
Schlesinger won his second Pulitzer Prize, this time in biography, for "A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House."
Schlesinger approved William Manchester's taped interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, which were used in Manchester's book, "The Death of a President." Mrs. Kennedy filed a complaint in State Supreme Court asserting that they were too personal to be disclosed.
In a speech before a political action group, Schlesinger criticized the belief that the Vietcong were "the spearhead of a coordinated and disciplined Chinese system of expansion."
In "The Death of a President," William Manchester wrote that Schlesinger began conferring about the replacement of President Johnson as the 1964 Democratic candidate within 24 hours after the Kennedy assassination. Schlesinger replied that the account was a "melodramatic distortion of a wholly academic conversation."
Speaking at a news conference, Schlesinger criticized the Johnson administration's Vietnam policy, saying that "the time has come to break the hopeless logic which can never find the right moment for negotiation."
The National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded Schlesinger a gold medal in recognition of literary achievement.
Assessing McGovern's chances in 1968, Schlesinger wrote, "The center itself is moving, as it has so many times in the past; and McGovern has succeeded because he has understood this more clearly than any of his opponents."
In a commencement speech written after Robert Kennedy's assassination, Schlesinger said that the United States was a land of "violent people with a violent history, and the instinct for violence has seeped into the bloodstream if our national life."
Schlesinger married Alexandra Emmet Allan, a daughter of Alston Boyd, better known as Lily Cushing, the painter, and a granddaughter of Howard G. Cushing, the artist, of Newport, R.I., and a descendant of Thomas Addis Emmet, the Irish-American lawyer and brother of Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot.
Schlesinger's "Robert Kennedy and His Times" won the National Book Award for best biography-autobiography of the year.
Schlesinger was elected president of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Saying that Mayor Koch had "tried to convert the Democratic Party nationally to a set of Republican principles," Schlesinger's announced that he would be chairman of an independent citizens' committee for City Councilwoman Mary Codd, the Liberal Party candidate for Mayor.
Reflecting on the state of Washington politics before a mid-term election, Schlesinger told a reporter, "Ronald Reagan is like Dwight Eisenhower . . . People like him, but that won't stop them from voting against his Administration."
In a commencement address that also served as his farewell to the City University of New York Graduate School, the Schlesinger condemned campus speech codes and "the agitation for censorship" in the name of multiculturalism.
A series of events were held to honor Schlesinger in the months leading to his 80th birthday.
Members of Congress quoted Schlesinger's writings to argue for Mr. Clinton's removal, despite the fact that Schlesinger had told the House Judiciary Committee that, though he had favored the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon, delivering the same punishment to Mr. Clinton "would permanently weaken the Presidency."
ARTICLES BY ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER JR.:
In an essay for The Times, Schlesinger writes that "the disciples of the Un-American Activities Committee and the leadership of the American Legion must be reminded that Americanism means something far richer and deeper than submission to their own collection of petty prejudices."
In an analysis of the political spectrum and the "non-Communist Left," Schlesinger writes that "the problem of United States policy is to make sure that the Center does hold."
Schlesinger wrote in an essay for The Times that "a responsible liberal . . . would rather have a healthy and intelligent conservative party which might even win an election now and then, than a dull and hopeless conservative party, threatening at any moment to break into pieces and leave its members prey for fascist-minded demagogues."
In an exchange with Russell Kirk, Schlesinger defends as defines liberalism as the belief "that society can and should be improved and that the way to improve it is to apply the human intelligence to social and economic problems."
Schlesinger writes that "in spite of the revolutionary stimulus recently provided by President Nixon . . . the New Left has revolutionary dreams, not revolutionary plans. It has no program for overthrowing the system and no program for imposing or constructing a new system."
In a lengthy analysis of the public reception to Spiro T. Agnew, Schlesinger attempts to answer the question, "What does the Agnew phenomenon mean?"
Schlesinger defended "our present crazy-quilt system" of presidential primaries, arguing that, "with all its illogicality it may even provide a certain rough justice."
In an exchange with Herbert G. Klein about government secrecy and the freedom of the press, Schlesinger writes that Nixon "has brought about what nearly all Washington reporters would agree is the most closed government within memory."
Responding to an op-ed by Charles L. Black Jr. that supported Nixon's decisions to withhold access to the Oval Office tapes, Schlesinger cited Andrew Jackson, who, "much as he relished and enlarged the Presidential prerogative, never supposed he could extend it beyond the performance of official duties."
Schlesinger discusses constitutional issues about the process for filling a vice presidential vacancy, as Nixon considered a replacement for Agnew.
Considering arguments about how to broaden and improve the choices for president, Schlesinger writes that "the appeal for a more imaginative canvass of talent within the political community is absolutely right. Let a wider net be cast. In other words, let the newspapers begin to do a better job."
Writing that "unsuccessful revolutions may have their impact too," Schlesinger re-evaluates the effects of McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign.
Arguing against a proposal that the City University of New York abolish its graduate school, Schlesinger writes that "graduate schools arose in this country when it began to be understood that the task of the university was not just to indoctrinate the young but to extend the frontiers of knowledge."
"[Carter is] a strange mixture of elements -- the fundamentalist and the technocrat, the moralist and the demagogue, the man of warm heart and cold blood -- and it will be fascinating to see how it all fares in the crucible of the Presidency."
". . . examines the ravages of the great fear of a quarter of a century ago in the United States. . . . It is a shameful story. I trust it will remind us in bad times to come that the Constitution remains a sounder guide than patriotic paranoia."
Writing in defense of classic children's literature, Schlesinger says that "the classics sustain against the shallow optimism of so much contemporary writing for children."
Schlesinger editorialized against the attempt to prohibit discussion of President Carter's Iran policy. "It is a time of crisis, the prohibitionists cry. But surely a time of crisis is precisely when debate is most necessary."
In an op-ed after the 1980 election, Schlesinger says that "Jimmy Carter's Presidency was a manifest failure" but that "the question remains whether Ronald Reagan deserves this victory."
Fifty years later, Schlesinger recalled Roosevelt's first hundred days in office.
Schlesinger writes that the Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America is "seriously deficient in its sense of political reality."
Writing on the 20th anniversary of the National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act, Schlesinger says that the "idea that the state of the arts is a matter of national concern [is] under increasing challenge -- ironically not from Congress but from renegade parts of the intellectual community itself."
In an op-ed, Schlesinger says that a one-term presidency is "a terrible idea for a number of reasons, among them that it is at war with the philosophy of democracy."
In an op-ed, Schlesinger writes, "Even if Reaganite ideology were as popular as the me-too Democrats think, me-tooism would not be the answer to the Democratic dilemma. For if American voters are in a conservative mood, they will surely choose the real thing and not a Democratic imitation."
During the Iran-Contra affair, Schlesinger wrote, "The Presidency is plainly in trouble. But it is not in trouble because of what Congress and the press have done to the executive. It is in trouble because of what the President and his men have done to themselves."
Schlesinger wrote that Reagan's pledge to "protect the free world's oil flow" was "the latest manifestation of fallacious thinking to which all superpowers succumb -- the notion that we know the interests of other countries better than they know their own interests."
"He named names. . . . It remains hard for those who never faced the dilemma to pass judgment. . . . an indispensable account of American theater and film in our time and the impassioned testament of an artist who has done his valiant best to tell the truth about himself."
Warning about new categories of "civil blasphemy" like flag-burning, Schlesinger writes "It is this belief in absolutes, I would hazard, that is the great enemy today of the life of the mind."
With Haiti sinking into chaos, Schlesinger wrote, "Our capacity to shed tears for oppression and misery in the Communist world appears unlimited. But we remain marvelously oblivious to the tragedy overtaking a forlorn country well within our own sphere of influence."
Urging restraint during the Persian Gulf crisis, Schlesinger asked in an op-ed, "Do we really know enough about the Mideast to act with confidence?"
"His book's thesis is that Kennedy 'would never have placed American combat troops in Vietnam' . . . Mr. Newman is, I think, essentially right about Kennedy."
In an assessment of Clinton's first one hundred days in office, Schlesinger wrote that "Clinton has quickly established himself as an articulate, ebullient, untiring and, thus far, rather endearing occupant of the White House. "
In an op-ed, Schlesinger warns, "The isolationist impulse has risen from the grave, and it has taken the new form of unilateralism."
Responding to a movement to define national goals in history, Schlesinger wrote, "It is important to defend the revised standards against all those who see history not as an intellectual discipline but as social and political therapy."
"[Kammen] offers a shrewd assessment of Seldes's qualities . . . a rich and stimulating work and a long overdue account of the intelligent and energetic man who almost single-handedly changed American attitudes toward the popular arts."
Lamenting the effects of made-for-TV political conventions, Schlesinger recalls a time when "ringing convention speeches thrilled the country."
"[Tanenhaus] has done a careful and exhaustive job of research. . . . His book will not please all readers, but even remaining defenders of Alger Hiss must acknowledge it, I believe, as a serious and absorbing work."
Tracing the rise and fall of presidential accountability, Schlesinger writes that "Today we see a Presidency harried and enfeebled by an obsessed special prosecutor."
Reacting to protests against Elia Kazan's honorary Oscar, Schlesinger writes that "Mr. Kazan searched his conscience and went one way. Others searched their consciences and went another way."
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