No. 839
Editorial Note

During a news conference on February 7, a reporter noted that General Eisenhower had been quoted as saying that he opposed Spain’s admission to NATO, and asked whether the President agreed with those sentiments. President Truman replied that he had “never been fond of Spain.” When the reporter asked if that was an affirmative answer, the President said: “That is my answer. I gave it to you.” At the end of the news conference, a questioner asked if the President meant that he was never very fond of the Franco government when he referred to Spain. The reply was: “That’s right. That’s right.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1952–1953, pages 140–144) Pursuant to these comments, former Ambassador Griffis stated on February 8 that the President’s dislike probably stemmed from the “intolerable delays” by the Spanish Government in carrying out reforms toward religious freedom. (Despatch 846 from Madrid, February 19; 611.52/2–1952)

In addition to an outraged reaction in the Spanish press, these remarks prompted a letter, dated March 17, from Generalissimo Franco to President Truman, the full text of which has not been found in Department of State files. The essential excerpts of this letter, transmitted from Madrid in telegram 955, May 7, are as follows: “I hope that negots which are about to start shall attain happy ending and will draw our two peoples nearer each other … I do not believe there is any essential matter between our nations which can estrange us since friendship and understanding between countries have always been above peculiarities of each people.

[Page 1800]

“Those differences of a religious nature which enemies of our understanding seek to exaggerate merely respond to a natural difference in feelings and traditions of a country fully united in its Catholicism and where dissident confessions do not amount to one per thousand of its population, and of those other countries which, due to their diverse and numerically important confessions, are compelled to live under a system of mutual concessions and balance.… Our system does not interfere with the private practice of other cults, which is guaranteed in our nation by its basic laws.” (611.52/5–752)

See Document 845 for further Spanish reactions to the above remarks and Document 862 for a reply to Generalissimo Franco’s letter.