HickersonMurphyKey files, lot 58 D 33, “1952 Memoranda—General”

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for united Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Legal Adviser (Fisher)

  • Subject:
  • Senator Bricker’S Proposal for a Constitutional Amendment to Limit the Treaty Power.

The recent announcement of Senator Bricker’s proposal for a Constitutional amendment to prevent the use of treaties and Presidential agreements “to undermine the sovereignty of the United States” emphasizes the urgency and importance of the Department having a fully developed position on the relationship between the Constitution and our international activities with special reference to the treaty-making powers of the President. Senator Bricker’s proposal is obviously related to the draft Covenant on Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.

Criticism of our participation in the United Nations and allegations of our intent to use the treaty power to amend or circumvent the Constitution can no longer be dismissed, as some have urged, as isolated misinterpretations. It is not, of course, only our United Nations activities, especially the draft Covenant on Human Rights and the Genocide Convention, which are involved but the treaty-making powers generally.

I believe that some positive action by the Department is required. This might take the form of a statement by the Secretary, a letter to a Senator, or any other medium appropriate for placing the legal views of the Department before the public. The means of achieving this purpose are secondary. What is important is to make public a forceful legal opinion which would reassure public supporters of our international programs many of whom have unquestionably been confused by Senator Bricker’s proposal.

I have just learned that the Department has been requested to transmit a report on the Bricker Resolution to the Senate Committee, and that action has been assigned to L/UNA. This might serve as an appropriate occasion for making known our position.

John D. Hickerson