I have always loved Mr. MacLeish’s poetry—in fact almost everything he did was monumentally impressive. But it still hurts me now, more than fifty years later, to hear or read the castigation that has come Herbert Hoover’s way ever since he left office. It seems amazing to me that a scholar such as Mr. MacLeish (“America Was Promises,” August/September issue) could have forgotten Hoover’s service to Belgium and France, after World War I broke out, in the distribution of food and clothing. Or his service to Eastern Europe after the Armistice in 1918. Or the fact that he and his associates formed a private charitable organization called the European Children’s Fund, which fed and clothed literally millions of orphaned, destitute children. It wasn’t only good intentions, or Lord Bountiful; his magnificent gifts for administration and organization made these programs work.
When the stock market crash came, Hoover sincerely believed that distress was only temporary, but after 1931 he had no support in the House to listen to his recommendations for relief—in spite of which he managed to get the Reconstruction Finance Corporation enacted, at a cost of $2 billion. But there always has to be a scapegoat, and he was it. He didn’t chuckle, twinkle, or sparkle, and he wore funny collars. But he deserved infinitely better of the republic than he received.