Lyndon B. Johnson to Eleanor Roosevelt, August 22, 1957

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

    I am not seeking to prolong an argument and I recognize that honorable people can always draw different conclusions form the same set of facts. But I am afraid that someone has misled you on one of the basic factors involved in the bill.

    No one touched upon the point that voters will have to qualify under the laws of the individual States simply because that could be effected only by changing the Constitution itself and the facts are that no Constitutional amendment on that question could be attempted at this time. It would encounter strong opposition—not just from the South but from all sections of the country.

    However it has been pretty well agreed that it is not the State laws which prevent people from voting but the administration of the State laws. The bill definitely gives the Federal government power to intervene whenever the laws are being maladministered to deprive people of the right to vote. It would definitely cover the cases that were presented to the House Committee by the Justice Department during the course of the hearings.

    Of course, the bill will not help anyone vote if it is not passed. At the present time, those who seek an issue rather than a bill are grabbing all possible sources of ammunition to prevent passage.

    I am hoping that the Senate will restore a considerable part of the mutual security money that was cut by the House. However, it will be extremely difficult simply because the case of the money has not been presented properly by the Administration. The officials of the government who are explaining the measure to the Appropriations Committee seem to think that Madison Avenue slogans are a substitute for cold, hard facts and they are not very helpful to those of us who do not want to see America's foreign policy go down the drain.

    I wish that the program had been handled more forthrightly all along. We would not be facing some of our difficulties if there had been more candor as to the real problems of the last few years.