action. I doubt, for example, that three months before the leadership began to talk about
what came to be the Marshall Plan, any public opinion expert would have said that the
country would have accepted such proposals.
Democratic government can only function successfully if there is a reciprocal
faith between leaders and followers. The historian Ernest R. May believes that
the chief reason for the influence of public opinion on foreign policy is our
knowledge that "American statesmen have traditionally thought themselves responsible to, and supported or constrained by, some sort of general will."
President Harry S. Truman fit this mold and, particularly with respect to foreign
policy, demonstrated his faith in democracy by taking the people into his
Theodore C. Sorensen, Decision-Making in the White House ( New York, 1963),
Harry S. Truman, Mr. Citizen ( New York, 1953), p. 261.
S. J. Woolf, "President Truman: A Portrait and Interview," The New Times
Magazine, October 14, 1945, p. 47. Through the years the consistency of the President's
statements on the relationship between leadership and public opinion is striking. The
President's views must have been well-formulated at the time he took his oath of office,
for the views expressed in the interview published on October 14, 1945, are identical to
views expressed in an interview that he granted this writer sixteen years later in Independence, Missouri.
Clinton L. Rossiter, "The American President," Yale Review 37 ( June, 1948),
Truman, Mr. Citizen, p. 264.
Seymour H. Fersh, The View from the White House ( Washington, 1961). p. 111.
Address of the President delivered at the Imperial Council Session of the Shrine
of North America, at Soldier Field, Chicago, July 19, 1949. Truman Library.
Address delivered at the commencement exercises at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, June 9, 1950, OR 1, Truman Library.
We have noted the close similarity of views between Presidents Truman and Wilson
on this subject. Wilson also wrote that the President is the "spokesman for the real
sentiment and purpose of the country, by giving direction to opinion, by giving the
country at once the information and the statements of policy which will enable it to form
its own judgments alike of parties and of men. Moreover, the President's is "the
only national voice in affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the
country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily
overpower him. His position takes the imagination of the country. He is representative