Biography and History

The Fund for the Republic was officially incorporated in the state of New York on December 9, 1952 as a nonprofit membership corporation. However, its raison d'etre can be traced back to 1950 when the Ford Foundation recognized that pressures from the political and cultural right threatened to restrict basic freedoms. In an effort to “support activities directed toward the elimination of restrictions on freedom of thought, inquiry and expression in the United States, and the development of policies and procedures best adapted to protect these rights,” the Ford Foundation created the Fund for the Republic. The Foundation concluded that the importance of defending and advancing the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights required the undivided attention of a wholly separate organization. Although the Fund's stated objectives were to “help promote within the United States security based on freedom and justice,” the Foundation trustees were made aware that the Fund's agenda would include controversial issues such as religious and racial discrimination. Despite the controversial agenda, the Foundation trustees agreed that the Fund would not be subjected to annual reviews by the Foundation nor would it manage any of the Fund's affairs.

The Ford Foundation trustees authorized the officers of the Foundation to establish the Fund for the Republic on October 4, 1951 and made an initial allocation of $1,000,000, enabling its staff to secure a board of directors, and hire attorneys to establish a legal corporation and acquire tax exemption. The search for suitable board candidates was begun by Foundation president Paul Hoffman and associate director Robert Hutchins. Their challenge was to find candidates beyond reproach but more importantly, individuals who were willing to become embattled in the Fund's controversial agenda. Each member also needed to be unanimously approved of by the Ford Foundation trustees.

The Fund's Board of Directors met for the first time on December 10-11, 1952, in New York City, with nine of the fifteen directors and staff members of the Ford Foundation in attendance. The board discussed the Fund's purpose, limitations and relationship to the Ford Foundation. A Planning Committee was formed to comprise a tentative program that would be submitted to the Ford Foundation in an effort to receive a large sustaining grant. Other orders of business included the election of David Freeman, on loan from the Ford Foundation, as temporary president and secretary of the Fund, and the approval of $50,000 granted to the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Individual Rights as Affected by National Security. This Special Committee had originally submitted its grant request to the Ford Foundation but it was deemed more appropriate for the Fund. This Committee was also well equipped to study the legal and procedural aspects of the government's loyalty program and the legal aspects of visa and passport issuance under the McCarran-Walter Act.

The Planning Committee met after the Board meeting on December 10, and opened the meeting with a discussion of what the Fund should be expected to do in its field that other active organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, were not already doing. It was the general feeling that whereas many of the objectives of the Fund were similar to those of the ACLU, the approach should be much broader and the Fund should endeavor to avoid being tagged as a defender of Communists. Throughout the course of several meetings, the Planning Committee concluded that the Fund's primary method of operation would be projects directly sponsored by the Fund and carried out under contractual arrangements and that grants would be made to other organizations, groups and individuals for particular purposes. After completion of the various projects, the Fund would then decide whether or not to implement its educational role through the distribution, via various forms of mass media, of the project results. The Planning Committee also believed that in order to be truly beneficial to the public, a non- academic approach to the projects was required. The Committee outlined three tentative areas as being of special interest to the Fund. These included:

By the time the Fund submitted its tentative program to the Ford Foundation trustees in February 1953, the Fund's board had met three times and elected Paul Hoffman as its chairman. Hoffman had resigned the Ford Foundation's presidency in January. In its statement, the Fund proposed two immediate projects: the American Legacy of Liberty Project, which would provide a clear contemporary statement on the legacy of American liberty; and research into the extent and nature of the internal Communist menace and its effect on our community and institutions. The Planning Committee hoped that the American Legacy of Liberty project would highlight areas where basic freedoms were endangered and in turn lead the Fund to lend its support to the following five areas of immediate interest:

The Foundation trustees, on a motion by Henry Ford II, authorized on February 23, 1953, an additional sum of $14,000,000 to supplement the $1,000,000 granted from the appropriation of 1951. There were two conditions on which payments would be suspended if not met: loss of its tax exempt status or failure to conform to the purpose of the Fund. The Fund had no need to fear the first, for on March 27, 1953 the Fund received a temporary certificate of tax-exemption entitling it to receive a $2,800,000 installment on its total allocation. An unqualified ruling of tax exemption was handed down by the Treasury Department on January 22, 1954.

Clifford Case, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey, was approached by David Freeman on April 22, 1953 to ascertain his interest in becoming president of the Fund. Case agreed but stated he would not be able to assume his duties as President until September. The Board officially appointed Case President of the Fund on May 18, 1953 and a week later he formally accepted. The last piece of the administrative puzzle was in place. The Fund could finally get down to the everyday business of advancing the understanding of civil rights and civil liberties.

The Fund had not even completed its first year of existence when it came under the scrutiny of Congress. Representative B. Carroll Reece cited the newly established Fund as one reason the House needed to reinvestigate the tax-exempt status of foundations. The new House Committee would determine which foundations were using their resources to fund “un-American and subversive activities, for political purposes, or influencing legislation.” With its $15,000,000 endowment and its vague description of promoting civil liberties, the Ford Foundation laid the Fund open to misconceptions. Some thought the Foundation was using its financial resources to question the investigative powers of Congress, and the Reece Committee dogged the Fund for over two years. The Fund was constantly being inundated with requests from René Wormser, counsel to the Committee, who asked for the “obstetrical and gynecological facts about the birth of the Fund,” its method of operation, and any information that would counter the accusations being made against it. The Fund complied with the requests and though the Reece Committee ultimately could prove no wrongdoing, it accused all large foundations of being involved in a diabolical conspiracy to allow Marxists and internationalists to dominate U.S. policy. This would not be the only time the Fund would be investigated due to its ideology. The Fund's agenda, already deemed somewhat controversial, was about to become even more contentious.

A review of the Fund's first year revealed a long arduous process of determining the minute, but essential administrative details. However, the first year had not been without accomplishments. The Fund had reviewed and turned down forty-six grant applications while approving four grants totaling $174,500 to the American Bar Association, American Friends Service Committee, Columbia University and the Boston chapter of the Voluntary Defenders Committee, Inc. The Fund had also sanctioned several projects under its Study of the Internal Communist Menace project, which were now underway. The new President was settling in and had hired four consultants to advise him on possible projects. Regrettably, Case had only been active as President for six months when he resigned under enormous pressure from President Eisenhower to seek the Republican candidacy for the open Senate seat in New Jersey. The Executive Committee of the board formally accepted Case's resignation on March 16, 1954 but retained him as a consultant, at his regular salary through April 1, until the full board met. Board members George Shuster, Elmo Roper, Erwin Griswold and John Lord O'Brian were charged with finding a new president.

As the main target of a Congressional investigation, it would seem prudent for the board search committee to pick a highly respectable, noncontroversial candidate to fill the vacancy. Instead, they approached one of most controversial figures at that time, Robert M. Hutchins. Hutchins had remained at the Ford Foundation after his friend Hoffman resigned as President and continued to administer his pet projects, such as the Fund for the Advancement of Education, where he had been a target of the political right. Undeterred by the threat of attacks, the board offered Hutchins the position of president of the Fund. He accepted and succeeded Case on June 1, 1954.

Hutchins's effect on the policies and procedures of the Fund was immediate although he remained headquartered in Pasadena. He added additional administrative staff to the New York office, including W. H. Ferry who had conceived the idea of the Fund with Hutchins, hired eleven new consultants, encouraged the board to elect seven new members, and proposed studies on blacklisting, fears of educators, minority housing problems and the mass media, which stretched well beyond the board's internal communist menace agenda. Hutchins streamlined the often cumbersome administrative tasks of the board as well. At the June 30, 1954 meeting, he informed the board he planned to decrease the monthly meetings to quarterly ones and each board member would receive extensive documentation of all proposals and grant recommendations prior to each meeting. Hutchins also received background briefings from his consultants prior to all board meetings, enabling him to answer any and all questions raised on various projects. Hutchins strongly believed preparation would positively affect the board's attitude towards the officers of the Fund and they in turn would look more favorably upon their recommendations. By the end of Hutchins's first year, the Fund's grants and appropriations totaled over $1,600,000. However, Hutchins's daring ideas worried some board members that he was crossing the educational line into propaganda, which could legally jeopardize the Fund's existence.

Hutchins was a brilliant, fearless man with a formidable ego, who was often quite shortsighted when expressing his views. It was Hutchins's opinion that the American people had not received the liberal education needed to ensure the survival of democracy. In fact, this lack of education allowed demagogues like McCarthy to exploit the public. Also, his brusque manner alienated and incited the fury of many. Many of Hutchins's attackers had a difficult time discerning between the approval of Communism and his belief that every American, including Communists and nonconformists, was entitled to equal protection under the Constitution. In 1955, Hutchins and Ferry provoked further criticisms and caused dissension among the Fund's board members when they stated they would not hesitate to hire former Communists or people who had invoked the Fifth Amendment. Days later, the Internal Revenue Service, the Committee on House Un- American Activities, and Senate Internal Security Subcommittee began to investigate the Fund. Although Hutchins was re-elected president at the annual board meeting, his presidency was in jeopardy.

Henry Ford II was barraged with mail and confided to Paul Hoffman that he had been affected by the great many letters expressing disapproval of the Fund. Publicly, Ford questioned the manner in which the Fund had attempted to achieve its stated objections and accused Hutchins and Ferry of poor judgment. Ford also met with Fund board member Erwin Griswold and encouraged him to lead a movement within the board to remove Hutchins and Ferry. Griswold

was deeply troubled by Hutchins and Ferry's statements and believed they irreversibly damaged the Fund's reputation. On December 19, 1955, Griswold wrote to the board and declared it was necessary to remove Hutchins, citing two main reasons: Hutchins's inflexibility in his approach toward civil liberties and his ineffectiveness as a Fund spokesman.

The board met on January 7, 1956 with two major items on the agenda: the fate of Robert M. Hutchins's presidency and a Hutchins memorandum detailing plans for an administrative reorganization of the Fund. Hutchins would move his office from Pasadena to New York, David Freeman would take over Ferry's position of running the New York office, while Ferry would handle specific responsibilities for programs and planning. Hutchins also proposed that a public relations officer be hired and all the officers would report to him. The board approved his memorandum on a trial basis. After thirteen hours of debate, Robert Hutchins was reaffirmed as president but not without ramifications. The board took action to ensure that it, not Robert Hutchins, determined the Fund's policies. All staff recommendations would now have to receive prior approval by legal counsel before being presented to the board, no awards could be allocated without unanimous consent of the board, and a resolution was passed saying no former or active Communist or person who had invoked the Fifth Amendment would ever be employed by the Fund.

The restrictions may have bothered Hutchins in principle but in practice he was already formulating a shift in the Fund's policy. By the spring of 1956, Hutchins had become disenchanted with administering a grant-making institution, and spending large amounts of time and money defending the Fund. He thought the Fund's studies lacked cohesiveness and were simply reactionary measures to an already existing problem. The studies also were based on the false assumption that people understood the underlying ideas of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Thus, a clarification of these “basic issues,” the moral and political principles underlying civil liberties and civil rights, was needed as Hutchins stated, “to aid in developing a basis of common conviction in the West and throughout the world, to help to show a pluralistic society how it can reach unanimous devotion to freedom and justice.”

Hutchins sent a memorandum to the board on May 4, 1956 recommending that the Board authorize an advisory committee to examine the feasibility and desirability of establishing an institute or council for the study of the theory and practice of freedom. The institute or council would be comprised of men and women, who through group discourse would arrive at common convictions in spite of profound philosophical differences. The institute or council would allow the men and women to gather in a common place, free from all administrative burdens and hold conferences, seminars, debates and discussions. Studies and reports would be made as they were needed in order to promote an understanding of some important problem. Most importantly, the object of the institute would be to promote coherence and intelligibility in the program of the Fund. While Hutchins's recommendations required a transfer of the planning functions of the Fund from the board to a group of thinkers, he presented the proposal in words designed to reassure the directors that their ideas would always be considered and their decision making powers would remain intact.

The board considered Hutchins's proposal at its May 15 meeting. While there was some reluctance, it was hard for the board to refuse Hutchins's request for an advisory committee to explore the idea. Thus an advisory committee of three board members, George Shuster, Meyer Kestnbaum and J. Howard Marshall, and five scholars, Eric Goldman, Robert Redfield, Richard McKeon, Clinton Rossiter, and John Courtney Murray was established. The advisory committee, chaired by Hutchins, met three times during the summer of 1956 and presented a report, signed by the five scholars, to the board on September 6, 1956. The report not only validated Hutchins's earlier memorandum, but argued that the Fund focus on examining the state of the free man within society. Hutchins asked the board at its September 12 meeting for the authority to prepare a plan for implementing the proposal so that at its November meeting the board could determine its practicability and effect on the Fund's activities. His request was granted.

Prior to the November 15 annual meeting of the board, Hutchins mailed each director a forty- four page memorandum endorsing the recommendations of the scholars. His ideas for implementation were laid out in generalities, but it was clear that he was proposing a permanent, self-sustaining center run by a core group of individuals. Hutchins's recommendations were met with dissension from two Fund staff members. David Freeman and Adam Yarmolinsky submitted their own memorandum to the board encouraging it to continue with the Fund's original mandate. Although they agreed with Hutchins in principle, they disagreed with the methods proposed. The memorandum argued that the best way to find a common sense solution was from various approaches employed by different groups not from an individual or a single group of individuals. The Freeman/Yarmolinsky memorandum was not formally considered by the board and both men eventually resigned due to basic policy disagreements. Hutchins was permitted, with the advice of the Advisory Committee and temporary consultants, to reexamine the area of the Fund's concern. The board expected a proposal for studies of one or more of the basic issues at its next meeting.

The board was inching cautiously towards Hutchins idea of a permanent, self-sustaining center but they were unwilling to devote all of the Fund's remaining resources to it. Hutchins was unhappy with the slow progress of the board but realized that such a drastic shift in policy would take time. He presented his proposal in February 1957 to retain full-time consultants to study The Corporation and the Freedom of the Individual, The Common Defense and Individual Freedom, and The Church in a Democratic Society. Also added on the advice of the board was The Labor Union and the Freedom of the Individual. Each of the projects would have advisors and two or more board members as liaison directors. The board allotted $100,000 for Hutchins's proposal, which enabled him to hire ten Consultants. He continued to push the board for approval of his proposal in its entirety but still met with resistance. At its May 1957 meeting, the board passed a resolution stating that the Fund would concentrate on the basic issues for one year. If the studies on the basic issues did not produce significant results, the board was prepared to explore these problems through other methods.

Hutchins was again disappointed and feared the Consultants would be unable to produce the desired results within a year. He pushed forward, meeting with the Consultants seven times throughout the year. Their meetings resulted in the gradual clarification of some basic issues and the publication of four pamphlets. The most surprising result was the overwhelming public interest in the studies. The Fund received numerous demands for information on and about participation in the Basic Issues program. The largest obstacle preventing the establishment of a permanent Center was now removed. The board could no longer claim the studies of the Consultants might be too esoteric. Thus on May 22, 1958, the board appropriated $4 million for a three-year extension of its Basic Issues program. On June 4, 1959, Hutchins announced that the board had voted its remaining resources to establishing the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California.

Hutchins's dream had finally been realized. He and other great minds of the period were now free to devote their time to interdisciplinary discourse on the important issues affecting man and the free society. Although the Center might not be able to solve the problems confronting Western civilization, it hoped to identify the problems and offer possible approaches to their solution. The clarification of such complicated issues would be a long and arduous task that would continue, as Hutchins hoped, indefinitely. However, the Center depended too much upon the guidance of Robert M. Hutchins. The Center had never been financially secure but remained solvent because of Hutchins and his reputation. When Hutchins died in 1977, the Center was unable to function independently and was absorbed by the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1979.

Source: From the finding aid for MC059

  • Fund for the Republic Records. 1928-1964 (inclusive), 1952-1961 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC059

    The Records of the Fund for the Republic document the activities of the Fund for the Republic, Inc. and its defense of civil rights and civil liberties from 1952 through 1961. The records provide an invaluable look at the Fund's struggle to uphold the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights during the years of McCarthyism and its aftermath.