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Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971

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Summary Article: Acheson, Dean Gooderham from The Columbia Encyclopedia
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Acheson, Dean Gooderham (ăch´ĭsәn), 1893-1971, U.S. secretary of state (1949-52), b. Middletown, Conn., grad. Yale, Harvard Law School. He was (1919-21) private secretary to Louis Brandeis, became a successful lawyer, and served (1933) as undersecretary of the treasury until he resigned in disagreement with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fiscal policy. Having been assistant secretary of state (1941-45) and a key actor in the Bretton Woods Conference, then undersecretary of state (1945-47), he was appointed (Jan., 1949) secretary of state. Beginning in 1946 Acheson became convinced of the necessity of resisting and restraining the Soviet Union. Under his direction the policy of using foreign economic and military aid to contain Communist expansion, as enunciated in the Truman Doctrine, was developed, and the Marshall Plan was implemented. He also played an important role in establishing (1949) the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Acheson's attempts to dissociate the United States from the Nationalist Chinese regime in Taiwan drew relentless attacks from congressmen of his own party as well as Republicans; his support of U.S. military commitments to South Korea also aroused much criticism. Moreover, his unwillingness to condemn Alger Hiss brought personal abuse as well as attacks on his handling of loyalty and security policy at the Dept. of State. Returning to private practice in 1953, Acheson remained a Democratic spokesman on foreign policy and exerted considerable influence on the Kennedy administration. He wrote A Democrat Looks at His Party (1955), A Citizen Looks at Congress (1957), Power and Diplomacy (1958), Fragments of My Fleece (1971), and three autobiographical works, Morning and Noon (1965), Present at the Creation (1969), and Grapes from Thorns (1972).

  • See biographies by G. Smith (1972), D. S. McLellan (1976), D. Brinkley (1992), J. Chace (1998), and R. L. Beisner (2006).
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