Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Founds and chairs Union for Democratic Action

Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Founds and chairs Union for Democratic Action

Correspondence with Arthur Schlesinger

Union Theological Seminary
Broadway at 120th Street
New York 27, New York

April 15, 1954

Dear Arthur:

Thank you for your letter. I have had an enthusiastic letter from my Mother and sister telling me how much Mother enjoyed her visit with you. Of course I greatly appreciated what you and Jim Loeb did for her.

What is more important to me now is that Ursula showed me your wonderful essay last night. I'm not surprised, but nevertheless amazed that you should have taken time to go through all of my inconsequential writings to get your material. Outside of the fact that you are too generous toward me, the essay is superb. I find the record of my travels, however embarrassing, and if you had not given chapter and verse I would not have believed that it took me so long to draw the conclusions from my presuppositions. I have only one correction. I entered the Socialist Party in 1928 and left it in either '36 or '37. Ursula is checking up on that and will write you. Roughly speaking, I was a Socialist for a decade rather than 15 years. Jim and I founded the U.D.A. in 1940 and I left the party quite a few years before that. I cannot understand why I rejected the main features of Socialism and still hung on to Marxist catastrophism.

My negative attitude toward Roosevelt is really a scandal considering that he elaborated a pragmatic approach which I should have appreciated long before I did. You are right, however, that my appreciation of Roosevelt was prompted by his foreign policy and I did not appreciate the significance of the domestic policy for a long time. In fact, this development is so tardy that it gives me a good indication of the ephemeral character of one's convictions, at least of my convictions, and of my unreliability.

Affectionately yours,
/a/ Reinhold Niebuhr

Professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Harvard University
Widener 95
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Reinhold Niebuhr Papers: Library of Congress, Manuscript Reading Room

Share Episode

Shortened URL


Paul Elie

is senior editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage.

Jean Bethke Elshtain

is an author and Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Robin Lovin

is Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and the author of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Realism.