The Real Henry Wallace
Oliver Stone is wrong about him.

Henry Agard Wallace


Conrad Black


With mounting incredulity and alarm — like, I am sure, many readers — I have watched the exhumation, by Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick, and other members of a leftist claque of revisionist historians and pseudo-historians, of the putrefied historic corpse of Vice President Henry Agard Wallace. Wallace was the eccentric and impressionable son of the agriculture secretary who served under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and Wallace himself held the same position under Franklin D. Roosevelt for eight years. When FDR broke a tradition as old as the republic by running for a third term in the war emergency of 1940, he astounded and scandalized his party by choosing Wallace as his running mate.


Even with FDR’s endorsement (and his threat to withdraw from the presidential race if Wallace were not chosen by the Democratic convention), Wallace won by only 628 to 459 against (chiefly) Speaker William Bankhead (actress Tallulah Bankhead’s father). Wallace was not allowed to give an acceptance speech. He had been under the influence of a White Russian mystic agronomist, Nicholas Roerich, and the Republicans got hold of correspondence between them that, as Roosevelt biographer Kenneth Davis wrote, “called into question [Wallace’s] mental and emotional stability.” The papers failed to surface only because Roosevelt’s entourage made it clear that it would respond with revelations of Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie’s prolonged dalliance in an extramarital affair (“awful nice gal,” said FDR gallantly, of his opponent’s paramour, Irita Van Doren).


The legendary Democratic-party chairman, James A. Farley, called Wallace “a wild-eyed fellow.” FDR wanted the vice president to be someone who believed more emphatically in what he had been doing for eight years than did the incumbent vice president, former House speaker John Nance Garner of Texas.

Garner was a somewhat conservative Texan who was described by United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis as “a whiskey-drinking, poker-playing, evil old man” when he was in his mid-sixties. (He lived to be almost 99.) It is fair to say that the nomination of Wallace was rivaled only by the appointments of Stalin-bootlicker Joseph Davies as ambassador to Moscow; of fascist sympathizer, appeaser, and defeatist Joseph P. Kennedy to the London embassy; and of anti-Semite Breckinridge Long as under secretary of state for immigration and refugees, as the most disastrous appointment of Roosevelt’s four terms as president.


Roosevelt completely ignored Wallace during his term as vice president. He agreed with the inner group of party bosses he had to dinner on July 11, 1944 — including the new party chairman, Robert Hannegan (immortalized, to a degree, by mention in the film Miracle on 34th Street), former chairman Ed Flynn, postmaster general Frank Walker, chief fundraiser George Allen, Chicago mayor Ed Kelly, and party treasurer Edwin Pauley — that he could not be renominated. J. Edgar Hoover warned Roosevelt that Wallace was friendly with Communists in Hollywood and had inappropriate connections with overseas Communists, including in the Soviet Union. Roosevelt didn’t believe all of it but did not need such controversy. In his usual sadistic manner, Roosevelt gave Wallace all the hints he felt were called for that he wasn’t his or the party’s choice, and selected Missouri senator Harry S. Truman in his place. Wallace never got the hint, assaulted a cameraman as he left his residence in Washington for the convention in Chicago, and was astounded when he was dumped.


Wallace was never informed of anything during his time as vice president, and was sent on lengthy trips to obscure places, including Siberia, where he took camps of the infamous Gulag to be cooperative farms. Having booted him out as vice president, over the unrepresentative protests of the left of the party, including Eleanor, Roosevelt nominated Wallace to be secretary of commerce, a position for which he was completely unqualified, although he was a very successful agribusiness entrepreneur after his political career. (Roosevelt paid no attention to any of the cabinet secretaries, except the secretary of war and the attorney general, and occasionally the labor secretary; he dealt with secondary officials in the departments.)