Memorandum by the Acting Economic Operations Adviser of the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Gardiner ) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Berry )

Subject: Public Statement on US Land Reform Policy.


E has drafted the outline of a speech which it proposes be made by the Secretary, the Under Secretary, or the Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs at the opening of the University of Wisconsin International Land Tenure Conference in October.1 The Barrett Committee2 will meet this afternoon to determine whether this or any other speech on land reform should be made at this time. It would like to know NEA’s position.


1) General. The President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture have at various times expressed this Government’s interest in land reform. The US has taken a positive position on the subject at the UN General Assembly and at the current ECOSOC session in Geneva.3 The Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform has adopted a statement of policy which was sent to all missions abroad in April.4 The President commented favorably on Japan’s recent progress in land reform measures at San Francisco.5 Mr. McGhee was [Page 1683] questioned on land reform at the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings. There has, however, never been a major address by a high Department official on land reform.

Under Secretary of Agriculture McCormick feels that he and Secretary Brannan have gone as far as they can in speaking on this subject without seeming to be usurping on the functions of the Department of State. I understand that Secretary Brannan is considering personally asking Secretary Acheson to speak at Wisconsin.6 I also understand that on August 24, Mr. Webb agreed with Dr. Bennett7 that the latter might ask the President to speak there.8

2) Specific. E, TCA and EUR favor a speech along the general lines outlined, i.e., a speech which would not imply promises for action which this Government could not fulfill but which would indicate that the US stands ready to provide economic and technical assistance, if requested, for the purpose of assisting land reform measures, that it will continue to support land reform through appropriate international agencies, and that it will continue to improve land ownership and tenant relationships at home.

P is undecided and is weighing imponderables, including the fact that Wisconsin is Senator McCarthy’s territory.

ARA and FE are opposed to any speech on the subject by a Department official on grounds that it is inappropriate and gives land reform an emphasis out of proportion to its importance.

Among the NEA offices, SOA believes that a speech would not be advisable since (1) it would make the US Government seem responsible for anything said at this private conference and since (2) to continue broad generalities, which are all that can be said, might do more harm than good.

AF, GTI and NE believe the draft outline is a careful and good one. They believe the Department should help the conference get off [Page 1684] to a good start on its serious six-week consideration of an important problem. Some think that it would add to US prestige.9

Recommendation: That NEA support the proposal before the Barrett Committee that the Secretary accept the invitation to open the Wisconsin Conference or delegate some other Department official.10

  1. A copy of the draft outline under reference here has not been found; regarding the Conference on World Land Tenure Problems sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the speech made thereto by Assistant Secretary of State Thorp on October 9, see the editorial note, infra.
  2. The reference here is to the Working Group on Public Relations, a Department of State committee under the chairmanship of the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Edward W. Barrett. The files of the committee have not been found in the holdings of the Department.
  3. Regarding the 13th ECOSOC session referred to here, see the editorial note, supra.
  4. See the circular airgram of April 17, p. 1668.
  5. President Truman discussed the progress of land reform in Japan in the course of his address in San Francisco at the opening of the Conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty, September 4; for the text of the address, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1951, pp. 504508.
  6. Secretary Brannan was not alone in suggesting that Secretary Acheson address the Land Reform Conference. On August 23 Labor Adviser Cleon Swayzee called on Senator James E. Murray of Montana and told him of the land reform policy that had been adopted by the Inter-Agency Committee on Land Reform Problems and of the plans then under way for the University of Wisconsin’s international seminar on land reform problems. Swayzee asked Senator Murray for his reaction to the proposal that Secretary Acheson use the occasion of the Wisconsin seminar for a major address on land reform. Senator Murray indicated at some length his entire sympathy for the land reform program, heartily approved the Secretary’s making an address on the subject, and volunteered to speak in the Senate in support of land reform. (Memorandum of conversation by Swayzee, August 23, 1951: 800.16/8–2351)
  7. Dr. Henry G. Bennett, Administrator of the Technical Cooperation Administration.
  8. President Truman did not speak at the seminar, but he did have occasion to address members of the seminar; see the editorial note, infra.
  9. Documentation regarding the views of other Department of State bureaus toward the draft outline of a speech on land reform has not been found in Department of State files.
  10. The source text bears the handwritten notation: “Approved by Mr. McGhee. Sept 11.”