Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wilson and propaganda: "entirely in my own hands"

This entry is a work in progress; updated/reviewed 5/22/2016; suggestions welcome -- please email


34. Letter From President Wilson to Acting Secretary of War Crowell1

My dear Mr. Secretary:
Recurring to what I spoke of for a moment yesterday in our little war conference,2 may I not ask for information about [illegible—activities?] I am very jealous about?
I am told that the War Department is, through its intelligence officers, in some way interesting itself in the matter of propaganda abroad, and I would be very much obliged if you would make inquiry and find how far this is true and what is being attempted, because it is my wish to keep the matter of propaganda entirely in my own hands and I had not known that any other agencies than those I had set up were attempting to interest themselves in it. I regard nothing as more delicate or more intimately associated with the policy of the administration than propaganda, and if any agency of the Army is attempting to organize propaganda of any sort or to take a hand in controlling it, I would be very much obliged if you would “call them off”. You will know how to do so kindly and without intimating any criticism on my part, but only my sense of the absolute necessity of my directing that whole matter.
Cordially and sincerely yours,3

1 Source: Library of Congress, Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Series 2: Family and General Correspondence, 1786–1924, Reel 99, 1918 Aug. 20–Sept. 16. No classification marking. Also printed in Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 49, p. 449.
2 Although no other record of Crowell and Wilson’s “little war conference” was found, on September 4 Lansing informed Wilson that Lippmann and Blankenhorn were working on propaganda issues. (Ibid., pp. 433–434)
3 Printed from an unsigned copy.

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