TRUMAN, Harry S. (1884-1972), President. Autograph letter signed ("Harry S. Truman"), AS PRESIDENT, to Barbara Heggie, Washington D. C., 20 December 1950. 3 pages, 4to, White House stationery. TRUMAN. TLS ("Harry S. Truman") to Barbara Heggie, Washington, 8 Jan. 1951. 1p., 4to, White House stationery.
"STUFFED SHIRT CRITICS AND VICIOUS POLITICAL OPPONENTS...TRY TO TAKE IT OUT ON MARGIE. IT'S HER DAD THEY ARE AFTER..."
STILL SMARTING OVER THE PAUL HUME AFFAIR of two weeks prior, Truman thanks a critic who likes Margaret's singing in this exceedingly rare example of an ALS while in office. He also offers heartfelt reflections on the emotional toll the White House can exact on presidential families. "I have just read your story in the Woman's Home Companion, 'What Makes Margaret Sing?' It's lovely. Thank you from my heart. The vast majority of our people can never understand what a terrible handicap it is to be a lovely girl [and] to have her father the President of the United States. Stuffed shirt critics and vicious political opponents of mine sometimes try to take it out on Margie. It's her dad they are after and Margie understands. You have come more nearly stating the situation in its true light than anyone who has made the attempt."
Truman then makes a survey of the emotional damage inflicted on earlier members of the First Family: "I hope sometime you'll make a study of the families of the Presidents. It is most interesting. Martha Washington and her children and what happened to them; Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, the wife of Andrew Jackson and how she was hounded to her death. Mrs. Lincoln, the most mistreated of all the White House First Ladies except Mrs. Cleveland; the first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and the Wilson daughters; Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Mrs. Coolidge and Herbert Hoover's sons." It was too soon to judge the impact on FDR's children, Truman adds. But he's confident that Heggie has "made a contribution to history that will help some Ph. D. in the future to evaluate all these ladies and gentlemen I've mentioned."
He stresses that this letter, unlike his earlier blast to Paul Hume, is definitely not for public consumption: "Hope you'll regard this communication as one from a fond father and keep it confidential. Only my 'mad' letters are published." That's a clear reference to his vituperative 6 December 1950 letter to Hume promising that if they ever met face to face the critic would "need a new nose, a lot of beef steak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!" (sold Forbes Collection, Christies, 27 March 2002, lot 177, $193,000). In the accompanying 8 January 1951 TLS to Heggie included here, Truman reiterates his desire to keep his words private: "If you publish it," he says, "it would appear that I was merely writing you the letter for the purpose of publication. I just wanted you to understand that Margaret's mother and I appreciated the article you wrote and we wanted to let you know it, so please don't publish the letter." She didn't. Together 2 items. (2)