Inquiry files

Mr. Walter Lippmann to Colonel E. M. House

My Dear Colonel House: I beg to submit the following memorandum upon reconstruction:

The longer the war lasts and the more deeply the United States becomes involved the more complex will our internal political, economic and social problems be at the conclusion of peace.
Here is a partial list of issues that will have to be met:
  • The return of our army from France.
  • The demobilization of the expeditionary and home forces.
  • The reabsorption of these men into industry.
  • The transformation of many industries from the making of war materials to normal trade uses.
  • The financing of the war debt.
  • The revision of tariffs.
  • The administration of a vast government owned merchant marine.
  • The working out of a military and naval policy adapted to the international liberation at the close of the war.
  • The study of what war-created agencies like the Food Administration, the War Trade Board, etc., should be maintained, or how they should be modified.
  • The study of methods for meeting and regulating the foreign trade competition which will follow the end of the war.
  • The planning of a comprehensive immigration policy.
  • The development of the country’s education, especially along the lines of industrial technique and scientific agriculture.
In France, England, and Germany organs exist for working out after-the-war problems based on a realization that the return to peace will be accompanied by grave disorder unless it is skilfully and courageously planned. Once the war-motives are relaxed, governments will not be able to count so heavily on the patriotism and self-sacrifice of interested groups.
What appears to be needed is a disinterested analysis and forecast of these issues, together with the preparation of a number of alternative programs which can be put at the disposal of the President.
There are a number of ways in which this might be done. We might follow the English model and establish a Reconstruction Bureau in Washington. The objections to this are obvious. It would create an immense amount of gossip and speculation and would be besieged by dogmatists and special interests. A better way, it seems to me, would be to do it quietly, along the lines we are pursuing in collecting reference data for the peace conference. The method would have this advantage, that it would enable us to consider internal problems in their relation to international conditions.
In working out the organization of the Inquiry, we are canvassing the expert resources of the country as they relate to social problems. It would be entirely feasible, I believe, for the Inquiry to expand into this other field without straining it. The method of assembling data would be much the same, the machinery for editing and digesting would require no essential change. We should need a somewhat larger central office force, six or eight more men to direct the research, and from twenty-five to fifty thousand dollars to cover payments to specialists, their clerical assistants, and expenses.
If this method were adopted, the procedure would be about as follows:
  • To plot out the main issues tentatively.
  • To select scholars of an administrative type and divide the field among them.
  • To have each of them secure a small staff, say of four or five men, who would give full time, and associated with them a larger number of collaborators working voluntarily or for bare expenses.
  • To pick out key men in important trade, engineering, scientific, agricultural, and labor organizations, and stimulate them quietly to form committees in their organizations which would report needs, problems, and solutions.
  • To have the reports and researches collated and edited by the directors of the research.
  • The results could then be laid before the heads of departments at Washington for criticism and for preparation in the form of legislation.

[The remaining portion of this letter, if any, is missing from the Department files.]

[Filed copy not signed]