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The Nixon Years, 1969-1974

Introduction

The Nixon Years provides complete FCO 7 and FCO 82 files from The National Archives, Kew, for the entire period of Richard Nixon's presidency. It offers a different perspective and context from across the Atlantic, providing both an important counterpoint and valuable complement to records in the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California, a member of the National Archives and Records Administration's system of presidential libraries. These files allow scholars and researchers the opportunity to assess, from a British, European and Commonwealth perspective, Nixon’s handling of numerous Cold War crises, his administration’s notable achievements, and his increasingly controversial activities and unorthodox use of executive powers, which culminated in Watergate and resignation.

For a downloadable list of all documents in the resource, please click here.

 

Nature and Scope


Many files focus on issues of foreign policy:

  • The Vietnam War and Paris peace talks. There are scores of files on these topics, but some of the more interesting exchanges are not necessarily Anglo-American. A letter from prime minister Edward Heath to his Canadian counterpart, Pierre Trudeau, comments on Heath’s recent discussions in Washington DC:  “It was an interesting, and I think (as it turned out) especially useful, time to be there. President Nixon and his closest advisers have been preoccupied since the presidential election with the pursuit of an agreement on Vietnam. They were still much concerned with the detailed implementation of the agreement.  But they were beginning to turn their minds to other matters, and notably to the second phase of the talks on strategic arms limitation, the forthcoming European Security Conference and related questions of European defence, the next round of multilateral trade negotiations, and questions of international monetary reform. On Vietnam, I do not think that the President had then formed a clear view of the outcome for which he looks from the international conference to be held in Paris. He was under no illusion that the North Vietnamese had modified their long term aims of a united Vietnam. But he thought that there was a reasonable prospect that the combination of the losses which they had suffered and the need for time to recoup them, the strength of the South Vietnamese forces and the knowledge of a continued U.S. military presence near the area, together with the bait of substantial economic aid to both sides, should enable the settlement to hold for perhaps two years. He did not accept criticism of his decision to resume bombing raids on North Vietnam: he was in no doubt at all that Hanoi’s eventual willingness to conclude a settlement, on terms which he clearly regarded as not merely acceptable but positively satisfactory, was directly attributable to that one decision.”
  • The regularisation of relations with the Soviet Union, including the setting up of annual summits.
  • China. Nixon's 1972 visit ended 25 years of isolation between the US and the People's Republic of China and resulted in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1979. Nixon’s meetings in Moscow and Beijing are covered, along with British assessments of the aims of US foreign policy with regard to East-West relations and East Asia generally. A report of 21 January 1970 from Christopher Wilcock, a member of the UK delegation to NATO, looks at “constants” and “changes” in US policy. Under “changes” he notes: “The US Government’s capacity  to assist in Asia will depend on the extent to which countries of the area maximize self-help measures in cooperation with their neighbours. The changing mood of the American people is of course intensified by reactions to the war in Vietnam. The Chinese threat is seen increasingly in terms of exporting revolution and not what was envisaged when SEATO was created. A widening Sino-Soviet conflict could bring further changes. Moscow is re-evaluating its basic position in Asia, even though it is too early to see what course of action the Soviet Union will take. There has been striking progress over the past two decades in improving economic conditions in free Asian countries – Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are examples. There are also encouraging developments in Indonesia, which accounts for almost half of South East Asia’s area and population.”
  • The Middle East. There is coverage of massive US aid for Israel, reorientation of US policy, developing relations with moderate Arab regimes, culminating in Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s expulsion of Soviet advisors in 1972, and Nixon’s Middle East tour of 1974.
  • Anti-Ballistic Missile and Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties.
  • The return of Okinowa to Japanese sovereignty.
  • Relations with specific countries in Latin America, US aid to Latin America, British trade and investment in the region, conversations with Andean Group countries, meetings with the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and developments under the auspices of the River Plate Basin Treaty.
  • Nixon’s visit to Chequers.
  • Files on Kissinger’s visit to the UK in September 1972 contain lots of feedback on his meetings in China and the Soviet Union, SALT negotiations, the Middle East and the Paris peace talks on Vietnam.

 

There is also significant coverage of Nixon’s domestic policy initiatives and other domestic factors, such as:

  • The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the increasing willingness to consider the natural environment in policy decisions.
  • The extension of the Voting Rights Act and liberal action on civil rights. On the question of race, reports of tours of major cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Knoxville, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Raleigh by staff from the British Embassy in Washington DC provide some interesting information. These reports cover education, racial issues, law and order, local government, public opinion and general impressions of urban society in 1969. There are British assessments on the findings of the US census of 1970, with comments on the deterioration of the housing situation, inner-city problems, the rate of population growth and a racial breakdown of population statistics. British observers note the significant increase in the proportion of African-Americans, the political redrawing of Congressional districts to the advantage of the Republican Party, and the fact that the greatest population increases are in the suburbs and in the West and South.
  • The reorientation of federal Native American policy.
  • The war on cancer and Nixon’s decision to launch and fund a dedicated cancer-research campaign.
  • 'New Federalism', aid for small businesses and welfare reform, including substantial new measures announced by Nixon in the build-up to the 1972 presidential election campaign.
  • The 'Washington Lobby', highlighted in a special publication which covers case studies on drugs, education, shipbuilding, foreign trade, sugar, tax-exempt interests, the environment, farms, agriculture and supersonic transport. It also includes detailed sections on the US political system, especially lobbying and the law, lobbying and elections, lobby coalitions and the presidential lobby.

 

Finally, there are important files compiled by British Embassy and consular staff, including:

  • John Freeman’s farewell despatch as British ambassador in Washington DC, 8 January 1971, provides a summary of his views on Nixon’s performance during the previous year. Freeman reflects on the president’s troublesome relations with Congress, the ailing economy, and Vietnam and other foreign-policy preoccupations. Later files deal with Nixon’s fight to recapture the political initiative ahead of the 1972 presidential election.
  • The 'first impressions' despatch of the new British ambassador, Lord Cromer, entitled 'No Longer God’s Own Country', in addition to various comments upon it. Cromer talks of a “crisis of confidence” in the US and “an unhappy and fragmented country”. He focuses on Vietnam, social demoralisation and a need for a reorientation of priorities. Other subjects covered in this substantial file on the internal political situation in the US in 1971 include Mayor Richard Daley’s victory in Chicago and his strong position of influence within the Democratic Party, Nixon’s State of the Union message, welfare reform, proposed increases in federal aid, the US economy, Nixon’s domestic policies and budget proposals, the environment, healthcare, the launching of an intensive cancer-research campaign, revenue-sharing proposals for the strengthening of state and local governments, restructuring of the Nixon administration, and relations with Congress. There is also further analysis by British officials of Nixon’s proposals.
  • Analysis of the anti-war movement and student demonstrations.
  • Material on the debate on the likely impact of EEC enlargement and British entry into the Common Market upon international trade, American commercial interests and the balance-of-payments situation.
  • Fortnightly newsletters from the British ambassador in Washington DC on topics such as the Democratic candidates for the 1972 presidential race, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Gallup opinion polls, health measures and Medicare, welfare reform, the economy, and the environment and pollution.
  • The valedictory despatch by J. I. McGhie, British consul-general in Seattle.
  • Material on British debates on perceived trends towards "neo-isolationism” in the United States.
  • Perspectives on the Nixon administration from countries within Europe or the Commonwealth. This is often in the form of observations drawn from newspaper articles and meetings with officials, businessmen and foreign-policy experts.


 

The Nixon Cabinet

President
Richard Nixon 1969-1974

Vice-President
Spiro Agnew 1969-1973
Gerald Ford 1973-1974

Secretary of State
William P. Rogers 1969-1973
Henry Kissinger 1973-1974

Attorney-General
John N. Mitchell 1969-1972
Richard Kleindienst 1972-1973
Elliot Richardson 1973
William B. Saxbe 1974

Secretary of the Treasury
David M. Kennedy 1969-1971
John Connally 1971-1972
George Shultz 1972-1974
William Simon 1974

Secretary of Defense
Melvin R. Laird 1969-1973
Elliot Richardson 1973
James Schlesinger 1973-1974

Secretary of the Interior
Walter Joseph Hickel 1969-1971
Rogers Morton 1971-1974

Postmaster-General
Winton M. Blount 1969-1971

Secretary of Agriculture
Clifford M. Hardin 1969-1971
Earl Butz 1971-1974

Secretary of Commerce
Maurice Stans 1969-1972
Peter Peterson 1972-1973
Frederick B. Dent 1973-1974

Secretary of Labor
George Shultz 1969-1970
James D. Hodgson 1970-1973
Peter J. Brennan 1973-1974

Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Robert Finch 1969-1970
Elliot Richardson 1970-1973
Caspar Weinberger 1973-1974

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
George W. Romney 1969-1973
James Thomas Lynn 1973-1974

Secretary of Transportation
John A. Volpe 1969-1973
Claude Brinegar 1973-1974