Francis B. Sayre

Francis B. Sayre

Francis B. Sayre

Here are excerpts from the testimony of Francis B. Sayre before the grand jury, December 22, 1948. Sayre, who was President Woodrow Wilson’s son-in-law, was an Assistant Secretary of State from 1933 to 1939, where, at his invitation, Alger Hiss became his assistant in 1936. Sayre was later High Commissioner to the Philippines, escaping from Corregidor by submarine before the Japanese invaded. From 1947 to 1952, he was the U.S. representative on the United Nations Trusteeship Council.

Sayre: Now, those documents were, or consisted of, a memorandum from Mr. Darlington, who was in the Trade Agreements Division, to Mr. Hawkins, and a covering memorandum from Mr. Hawkins to myself, and copies of one or two aide memoires which were handed to the German Ambassador, all of these having to do with the making of a trade agreement with Germany.


Now, with regard to the accessibility of these papers to the various officials in the State Department, I ought to add this: Most of the telegrams coming into the State Department would be mimeographed. Those mimeographed copies would be circulated – one to the Secretary, one to the Under-Secretary, one to each of the Assistant Secretaries, and one to each of the departments concerned.

In a trade matter, for instance, the papers would go to the Assistant Secretaries, for their information. One lot would go to my office, another lot would go to the Division of Trade Agreements, and so forth and so on.

Now, I have seen it suggested in the papers – I think it was suggested by Mr. Mundt of the Un-American Committee – that four people only had official access to these documents. I think I should say that the facts do not bear out that statement; that these telegrams and these papers and these memoranda, which I am describing to you, were circulated, in most instances copies going to the Secretary’s office, to the Under-Secretary’s office, to each of the Assistant Secretaries’ office, and to each Division concerned.

So that the impression which some of the newspapers seem to have gathered from Mr. Mundt’s statement, that only four people had access to these papers, namely Mr. Hiss, Mr. Sayre, and the two secretaries, Miss Lincoln and Miss Newcomb – is not borne out by the facts; and, again, I want to suggest that all papers having to do with trade were readily accessible or available to the assistants in the Division of Trade Agreements – it might be Wadleigh or others – and the accessibility was not confined to these four men mentioned.

Now, these German papers, of which I speak, were trade papers, and I think it is important and significant to distinguish in these Baltimore and Pumpkin documents between documents relating to trade and those not relating to trade.

The first group I mentioned were telegrams, few of which related to trade. I am not sure that any did.

The second group I mentioned are all trade, and these were available in the Division of Trade Agreement to anybody who was working in that subject.



Q. Mr. Sayre, in looking through the so-called Pumpkin Papers – in other words, the enlargements of the microfilm – I believe you told us yesterday, in the office, that you discovered four documents that had gone through your office, and had your office stamp on them, is that right?

A. That’s right.

Q. And you found nothing on any of the other papers which indicated that they had passed through your office?

A. No, in none except these three or four, which you mention – none of them bear the office stamp of “Mr. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State.”


Sayre: It is possible that those particular memoranda [notes in Alger Hiss’s handwriting] which you referred to might have been digested by Mr. Hiss after reading the original, so that he could tell me in a few words what the memorandum contained. Not that he would show me or pass to me those specific memoranda, but possibly that he would digest it for his own purposes, so that in handing me a stack of telegrams he might just glance at his little digest and say, “Well, this telegram is about so-and-so; I don’t think you have to read that,” “This telegram is about so-and-so; perhaps you better get after that,” and so on and so forth.

Now, I have no recollection of those specific papers, but I merely tell you what our practice was for what it may be worth.

Q. I would like to refer to one, specifically, and I will show you the copy of this here. It refers to what I believe to be military information. Now, you were not interested in military information?

A. I was not. That is, those memoranda which you showed me yesterday did not relate to trade matters.

Q. Consequently, is there any explanation as to why Mr. Hiss – and I am speaking to you as his superior – is there any explanation, in the conduct of your office, as to why Mr. Hiss could write this memorandum and I am referring to this one, with reference to the French airplane?

A. Yes. Only such possible explanation as I have already given, that here was this stack of cables, and it is possible that he wrote this memorandum digesting a cable which had come in, which he would feel it unnecessary for me to read in detail, and he would tell me in a few words what it was about, refreshing his mind to do so with this memorandum. I don’t remember this specific memorandum, but I am giving this as a possible explanation.

Q. He would know that you were not interested in military information?

A. And therefore need not go through a long telegram.

Q. But also, would it follow that, knowing that you were not interested in military information, it would not be necessary to make such a long digest – referring to the French airplane matter, and the military point of view in Indo-China?

A. Of course, when you say I was not interested – I had to be interested in everything that pertained to developments going along, because when it came to the matters I was handling – economic and trade matters – you had to know about the military matters in order to make wise decisions; so that although it wasn’t in my immediate field, it was nevertheless information which I ought to know about, so that there is that possible explanation.


THE WITNESS: If I may just complete the statement I was making about these documents which were found. Another set of these Baltimore Documents concerns the trade situation in Manchuoko, again a trade matter. And that would be readily available in – all through the Division of Trade Agreements.

Then there was also a memorandum dated February 18, 1938, signed FBS, a memorandum which I dictated as a result of a conversation between Secretary Hull and Mr. Hurban, the Czechoslovak Minister, and I was present and dictated a memorandum of the conversation. Again, a trade matter, readily available.