Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)
|Participants:||House Speaker Sam Rayburn|
|House Majority Leader John W. McCormack, and|
I called on the Speaker by appointment and he asked Mr. McCormack to sit in. I was accompanied by Mr. Johnston.6
I presented the Department’s point of view which envisaged the four Bills presently pending in the House of Representatives and referred to the Immigration Committee covering different phases of repeal or amendment to the Chinese Exclusion Laws7 and to the meeting of the Committee scheduled for next Tuesday, and stated that the Department was not unsympathetic to any proposal the Congress might make in regard to a change in the prohibition of Chinese immigration and citizenship, but the Department felt very sincerely that it would be unfortunate in the extreme from the point of view of our international relations if a Bill should be reported out by the Committee and an acrimonious debate should occur on the Floor and the Bill failed passage. Even an acrimonious debate would be unpleasant from the international point of view.[Page 771]
Consequently it was suggested that efforts be made by the leadership to determine in advance the attitude of both the House and the Senate on this delicate political question before the hearings were proceeded with.
The Speaker was in entire accord with the suggestion. However, Mr. McCormack developed into an advocate for opening up the whole subject without previous information as to the attitude of the House members. He felt that the Bill providing for the admission of the Chinese wives of American citizens, which he estimated at about four to six thousand, should be brought up and presented for passage. This, he thought, would be the opening wedge and it would serve to estimate the temper of the House. If this Bill should pass then other Bills might be brought on. The others would have wider scope.
I stated to the Speaker and Mr. McCormack that the attitude of the Department of State would probably find itself in support of a movement to permit the immigration and naturalization of persons resident in China and born in China to be admitted under the quota. This would probably admit as many as 100 or 150 a year and make them eligible to citizenship. However, the Department was very definite in its thought that the attitude of the House toward a proposal involving all of the parts of the proposed Bills or any of the general legislation on the subject should be estimated in advance and that the passage of the Bills be not presented unless the House would react favorably.
The conversation continued for more than an hour. Mr. McCormack continued to press his point of view.
The Speaker adopted the Department’s point of view and stated that he would make some inquiry and would telephone me on Monday. It was doubtful in my mind whether he would be able to control the enthusiasm of the Majority Leader.