Typed letter signed (TLS) “Lyndon B. Johnson” AS PRESIDENT, July 3, 1968, White House letterhead, Washington, to Senator Frank Church, in full:
On Monday it was the proud privilege of this government to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We will begin talks with the Soviet Union on further steps to peace soon.
Because of the great importance of these events to all the people of the world, I’m sending you a personal copy of the remarks I made on Monday.
I hope that you’ll give this matter you’re full and urgent attention.
I trust we may move forward as a united people toward bringing a measure of order into the affairs of our troubled planet.
Accompanied by original White House envelope, noted as delivered “By Messenger”.
Top edge with some wear, else fine.
The year 1968 stands out as one of the most tense and violence-filled years since the end of the Second World War. The Vietnam War was raging at its height, and the major powers were at each other’s throats. North Vietnamese and Vietcong were being supported by the Soviet Union and China, and their clients launched a Tet Offensive that made it clear the U.S. was not winning that war. President Johnson was forced to declare he would not be a candidate for reelection, as antiwar demonstrations erupted all around the U.S. and indeed the world.
Yet just then, when prospects seemed bleakest (perhaps their very bleakness scared the parties), the U.S. and the Soviets agreed joined with other signatory nations in agreeing to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. On July 1, 1968, they signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark treaty whose objective was not merely to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, but to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states.
Johnson saw it as a major accomplishment, and spoke at its signing, saying: “After nearly a quarter century of danger and fear—reason and sanity have prevailed to reduce the danger and to greatly lessen the fear. Thus, all mankind is reassured. As the moment is reassuring, so it is, even more, hopeful and heartening. For this treaty is evidence that amid the tensions, the strife, the struggle, and the sorrow of these years, men of many nations have not lost the way—or have not lost the will—toward peace. The conclusion of this treaty encourages the hope that other steps may be taken toward a peaceful world. It is for these reasons—and in this perspective—that I have described this treaty as the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.”
The Treaty would need to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, and Johnson expected plenty of opposition from those who were against any limitation on American arms. So he followed up by contacting Senate leaders to build support for ratification, with letters such as the one offered here.
Johnson’s outreach was a successful start, but it was not until Richard Nixon was in office and joined in urging ratification that the Senate gave its consent.