Much to my surprise, I was confronted by my superiors in the middle of the panic in which they were immersed. I was confronted with the question: “Norm, what do we do now?” I was thirty at the time and I had no more right to have an answer to that question than the man in the moon. However, I did manage to say to my superiors: “Gentlemen, you take this experience as proof that there's something you do not know about banking, and you'd better go find out what that something is and act accordingly.” Four days later I was confronted by the same superiors with a statement to the effect that, “Norm, you go find out.” And I really was fool enough to accept that assignment, because it meant that you were going out to search for something, and nobody could tell you what you were looking for, but I felt so strongly on the subject that I consented.
I was relieved of all normal duties inside the bank and two-and-half years later I felt that it was possible to report back to those who had given me this assignment. And so, I rendered such a report; and, as a result of the report I rendered. I was told the following: “Norm, what you're saying is we should return to sound banking,” and I said, “Yes, in essence, that's exactly what I’m saying.” Whereupon I got my first shock, which was a statement from them to this effect: “We will never see sound banking in the United States again.” They cited chapter and verse to support that statement, and what they cited was as follows: “Since the end of world war one we have been responsible for what they call the institutionalizing of conflicting interests, and they are so prevalent inside this country that they can never be resolved.”
This came to me as an extraordinary shock because the men who made this statement were men who were deemed as the most prominent bankers in the country. The bank of which I was a part, which I’ve spoken of, was a Morgan bank and, coming from men of that caliber, a statement of that kind made a tremendous impression on me. The type of impression that it made on me was such that I wondered if I, as an individual and what they call a junior officer of the bank, could with the same enthusiasm foster the progress and policies of the bank. I spent about a year trying to think this out and came to the conclusion that I would have to resign.
I did resign; and, as a consequence of that, had this experience. When my letter of resignation reached the desk of the president of the bank, he sent for me, and I came to visit with him, and he stated to me: “Norm, I have your letter, but I don't believe you understand what's happened in the last 10 days.” And I said, “No, Mr. Cochran, I have no idea what's happened.” “Well,” he said, “the directors have never been able to get your report to them out of their mind; and, as a result, they have decided that you as an individual must begin at once and you must reorganize this bank in keeping with your own ideas.” He then said, “Now, can I tear up your letter?” Inasmuch as what had been said to me was offering me, at the age of by then 33, about as fine an opportunity for service to the country as I could imagine, I said yes. They said they wished me to begin at once, and I did.
Suddenly, in the span of about six weeks, I was not permitted to do another piece of work and, every time I brought the subject up, I was kind of patted on the back and told, “Stop worrying about it, Norm. Pretty soon you'll be a vice president, and you'll have quite a handsome salary and ultimately be able to retire on a very worthwhile pension. In the meantime you can play golf and tennis to your heart's content on weekends.” Well, Mr. Griffin, I found I couldn't do it. I spent a year figuratively with my feet on the desk doing nothing and I couldn't adjust to it so I did resign and, this time, my resignation stuck.
Then I got my second shock, which was the discovery that the doors of every bank in the United States were closed to me, and I never could again get a job, as it were, in the banks. I found myself, for the first time since I graduated from college, out of a job.
From there on I followed various branches of the financial world, ranging from investment counsel to membership of the stock exchange and finally ended as an adviser to a few individuals who had capital funds to look after. In the meantime, my major interest became very specific, which was to endeavor by some means of getting the educational world to actually you might say teach the subject of economics realistically and move it away from the support of various speculative activities that characterize our country. I have had that interest, and you know how, as you generate a specific interest, you find yourself gravitating toward persons with similar interests, and ultimately I found myself in the center of the world of dissatisfaction with the directions that this country was headed. I found myself in contact with many individuals who on their own had done a vast amount of studying and research in areas, which were part of the problem.
Well, parenthetically, Mr. Griffin, I nearly fell off the chair. I, of course didn't, but my response to Mr. Gaither then was: “Well, Mr. Gaither I can now answer your first question. You've forced the Congress of the United States to spend $150,000 to find out what you've just told me.” I said: “Of course, legally, you're entitled to make grants for this purpose, but I don't think you're entitled to withhold that information from the people of the country to whom you're indebted for your tax exemption, so why don't you tell the people of the country what you just told me?” And his answer was, “We would not think of doing any such thing.” So then I said, “Well, Mr. Gaither, obviously you've forced the Congress to spend this money in order to find out what you've just told me.”
On arrival at the office of the endowment I found myself in the presence of Dr. Joseph Johnson, the president – who was the successor to Alger Hiss – two vice presidents, and their own counsel, a partner in the firm of Sullivan and Cromwell. Dr. Johnson said, after again amenities, Mr. Dodd, we have your letter. We can answer all those questions, but it would be a great deal of trouble, and we have a counter suggestion. Our counter suggestion is: If you can spare a member of your staff for two weeks and send that member up to New York, we will give to that member a room in the library and the minute books of this foundation since its inception, and we think that whatever you want to find out or that Congress wants to find out will be obvious from those minutes.
Well, my first reaction was they'd lost their minds. I had a pretty good idea of what those minutes would contain, but I realized that Dr. Johnson had only been in office two years, and the other vice presidents were relatively young men, and counsel seemed to be also a young man, and I guessed that probably they'd never read the minutes themselves. So I said I had somebody; I would accept their offer.
I went back to Washington and I selected a member of my staff who had been a practicing attorney in Washington. She was on my staff to see to it that I didn't break any congressional procedures or rules, in addition to which she was unsympathetic to the purpose of the investigation. She was level-headed and a very reasonably brilliant, capable lady. Her attitude toward the investigation was: What could possibly be wrong with foundations? They do so much good.
Well, in the face of that sincere conviction of Katherine's I went out of my way not to prejudice her in any way, but I did explain to her that she couldn't possibly cover 50 years of written minutes in two weeks, so she would have to do what we call spot reading. I blocked out certain periods of time to concentrate on, and off she went to New York. She came back at the end of two weeks with the following on dictaphone tapes:
So then, in 1909, they raised the second question and discussed it, namely: “How do we involve the United States in a war?”
Well, I doubt at that time if there was any subject more removed from the thinking of most of the people of this country than its involvement in a war. There were intermittent shows in the Balkans, but I doubt very much if many people even knew where the Balkans were. Then, finally, they answered that question as follows: “We must control the State Department.” That very naturally raises the question of how do we do that? And they answer it by saying: “We must take over and control the diplomatic machinery of this country.” And, finally, they resolve to aim at that as an objective.
Then time passes, and we are eventually in a war, which would be World War I. At that time they record on their minutes a shocking report in which they dispatched to President Wilson a telegram, cautioning him to see that the war does not end too quickly.
Finally, of course, the war is over. At that time their interest shifts over to preventing what they call a reversion of life in the United States to what it was prior to 1914 when World War I broke out. At that point they came to the conclusion that, to prevent a reversion, “we must control education in the United States.” They realize that that's a pretty big task. It is too big for them alone, so they approach the Rockefeller Foundation with the suggestion that that portion of education which could be considered domestic be handled by the Rockefeller Foundation and that portion which is international should be handled by the Endowment. They then decide that the key to success of these two operations lay in the alteration of the teaching of American history.
So they approach four of the then-most prominent teachers of American history in the country – people like Charles and Mary Byrd – and their suggestion to them is: will they alter the manner in which they present their subject? And they got turned down flat. So they then decide that it is necessary for them to do as they say, “build our own stable of historians.”
Then they approach the Guggenheim Foundation, which specializes in fellowships, and say: “When we find young men in the process of studying for doctorates in the field of American history and we feel that they are the right caliber, will you grant them fellowships on our say-so?” And the answer is yes. So, under that condition, eventually they assembled assemble twenty, and they take this twenty potential teachers of American history to London, and there they're briefed on what is expected of them when, as, and if they secure appointments in keeping with the doctorates they will have earned. That group of twenty historians ultimately becomes the nucleus of the American Historical Association.
Toward the end of the 1920's, the Endowment grants to the American Historical Association $400,000 for a study of our history in a manner which points to what can this country look forward to in the future. That culminates in a seven-volume study, the last volume of which is, of course, in essence a summary of the contents of the other six. The essence of the last volume is: The future of this country belongs to collectivism administered with characteristic American efficiency. That's the story that ultimately grew out of and, of course, was what could have been presented by the members of this Congressional committee to the congress as a whole for just exactly what it said. They never got to that point.
Subsequently Mr. Hayes sent word to me that he was in Bethesda Hospital with an attack of ulcers, but would I come and see him, which I did. He then said: “Norm, the only reason I’ve asked you to come out here is I just want to hear you say again you will not double-cross me.” I gave him that assurance, and that was the basis of our relationship. Meantime, counsel took the attitude expressed in these words: “Norm, if you want to waste your time with this guy,” as he called him, “you go ahead and do it, but don't ever ask me to say anything to him under any conditions on any subject.” So, in a sense, that created a context for me to operate in relation to Hayes on my own. As time passed, Hayes offered friendship, which I hesitated to accept because of his vulgarity, and I didn't want to get mixed up with him socially under any conditions.
Well, that was our relationship for about three months, and then, eventually, I had occasion to add to my staff a top-flight intelligence officer. Both the Republican National Committee and the White House were resorted to, to stop me from continuing this investigation in the directions Carol Reece had personally asked me to do, which was to utilize this investigation, Mr. Griffin, to uncover the fact that this country had been the victim of a conspiracy. That was Mr. Reece's conviction. I eventually agreed to carry it out. I explained to Mr. Reece that Hayes's own counsel wouldn't go in that direction. He gave me permission to disregard their counsel, and I had then to set up an aspect of the investigation outside of our office, more or less secret. The Republican National Committee got wind of what I was doing and they did everything they could to stop me. They appealed to counsel to stop me, and finally they resorted to the White House.
[END OF INTERVIEW]