DECEMBER 28, 1946
HYDE PARK, Friday—I read in the newspapers this morning that the three Democratic majority members of the Senate campaign investigating committee are said to be endeavoring to clear Senator Bilbo of any wrongdoing in last summer's Mississippi primary. It is said that the two Republican members may both sign a strong minority report against the Senator.
I have no personal feeling against Senator Bilbo as an individual, but I have a great feeling that as a public servant he does little to add luster to the dignity and the weight of the Senate as a great nation's top legislative body. I do not know whether technically he has done anything actually wrong, and I know very often that public men may be accused of wrongdoing in which they have had no hand. Their friends are often their worst enemies.
Therefore, in weighing Senator Bilbo as a public servant (and I am totally uninterested in him as a private citizen), I think one must take into account only what he himself has said.
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There is one great question today that great nations like ourselves, made up largely of minority groups, must face. New standards have come to be accepted by great numbers of people throughout the world who believe that democracy cannot really exist unless all people, regardless of race or religion, are accepted as equal citizens and are assured of the rights inherent in their citizenship. Senator Bilbo, himself, has stated his lack of belief that these human and legal rights can be applied to all citizens equally. In doing so he marked himself, I believe, as unfit for service in a great legislative body in a great democratic country.
Of the other things, I am no judge. I would have had to hear the witnesses, and I would have had to talk to the man, not the Senator. So there one must rely, as a citizen, entirely on the reports of the investigating body.
In this other matter, however, as a citizen, each one of us has a right to make up his mind, since to say what we feel is essential to the progress of democracy. It well may be said that a Senator from Mississippi is elected by his own people and in that state it is still a very small portion of his own people who elect him. But even though he is elected by that group of American citizens, he represents before the world an opinion that he expresses in a great legislative body that represents the opinion of the whole United States.
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I am extremely jealous of our standing in the world. I have great faith in democracy when the majority rule really operates. I believe in the slow processes of democracy and in the fact that people may make mistakes and work through to proper solutions in the long run, given the time to do it.
Just at present, however, our time is short and we who believe that democracy is the form of government and the way of life that will give the greatest number of people the greatest opportunity to be free from fear and want and to build peace in the world, must try to see that those who represent not one state, as they may think, but the nation as a whole, truly represent what we think is essential to future peace and world fellowship.