Foreign Assistance Act of 1948

Marshall plan signing

April 3, 1948, US President Harry Truman signed into law the Foreign Assistance Act, commonly known as the Marshall Plan

The Act, also cited as the “Economic Cooperation Act of 1948,” (April 3, 1948) was passed by the 80th Congress, 2D Session. The act was “to promote world peace and the general welfare, national interest, and foreign policy of the United States through economic, financial, and other measures necessary to the maintenance of conditions abroad in which free institutions may survive and consistent with the maintenance of the strength and stability of the United States.” The Senate voted for passage of the Act 69 to 17 and the House 329 to 74. (Survey of United States Foreign Economic Cooperation since 1945 by David Cushman Coyle; New York: The Church Peace Union, 1957, 12).

Support for the Passage of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 (The Marshall Plan)

Special Message to the Congress on the Marshall Plan – Message to Congress by President Harry S. Truman; delivered December 19, 1947. (Truman Library) I recommend this program of the United States support for European recovery to the Congress in full confidence of its wisdom and necessity as a major step in our nation’s quest for a just and lasting peace.

Economic Recovery Program, Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, February 26, 1948, (80th Congress).  “The committee believes that the program proposed is a sound one, that it will impose no dangerous strain upon the economy of the United States, and that it will be adequate to provide the margin for success in an effort which must be essentially and primarily European.”

Speeches & Broadcasts
The Battle for World Peace and Stability – Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, Chairman U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 1, 1948 speech recommending passage of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948. In the speech he states, “In the name of peace, stability, and freedom it deserves prompt passage.” (Congressional Record transcript)

Leonard Miall’s BBC report after hearing the Marshall Plan speech on June 5, 1947. In this audio he described the Marshall Plan as a “totally new continental approach to the problem of Europe’s economic crisis.”


  • Statement of the Secretary of State before the Joint Session of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, November 10, 1947.  (Marshall Papers, VIII, Secretary of State, Speeches and Statements, Box 157, Folder 65)  The President will lay before the Congress the program of his administration for aid to Europe. My duty as Secretary of State is to present the reasons for this program; the reasons why I profoundly believe that the vital interest of the United States is directly involved.”
  • Statement by Herbert Hoover to Speaker Joseph W. Martin, on March 24, 1948.  “I realize that many approach this gigantic experiment with great apprehension and a realization of the sacrifices it will mean to our people. However, if it should produce economic, political and self-defense unity in Western Europe, and thus a major dam against Russian aggression, it would stem the tide now running so strongly against civilization and peace. The plan, if well devised and under a capable Administrator, stands a good chance of success. I believe it is worth taking the chance.” (Compare with January 18, 1948 letter in opposition to Senator Vandenberg.)


Opposition to the Passage of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 (The Marshall Plan)

Letter from Herbert Hoover to Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, January 18, 1948  Whether the American Economy can stand a burden of 9 billions of relief in this 15 months must arouse great anxiety.”

U.S. William E. Jenner, Indiana, Republican, February 3, 1948 (Congressional Record, 80th Congress, Second Session, Vol 94 Part 1, January 6, 1948 to February 19, 1948, pp 963-966)
I would resolutely oppose the doctrine of the welfare state both at home and abroad and would therefore extend loans or grants only on terms and under conditions that make the solvency of the borrower certain and the repayment of a fair and equitable consideration to the United States an equal


How the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 (The Marshall Plan) Worked


How the Economic Cooperation Administration Administered the Act

  • The Economic Cooperation Administration” (1948) – Organization and Activities (United States Government Manual -1948, 68-72)
  • ECA Organization Chart (1950-1951) – (United States Government Organization Manual-1950-1951, 511)
  • “The Economic Cooperation Administration” (1950-1951)– (United States Government Organization Manual-1950-1951, 299-303). Sections on Functions, Public Advisory Board, and U.S. Special Representative in Europe. Note changes to and additions to staff since 1948.
  • ECA Organization Chart (1951-1952) – (United States Government Organization Manual-1951-1952, 565). Note changes since 1951 including the addition of the Assistant for International Security Affairs who reported directly to the Administrator.
  • “The Economic Cooperation Administration” (1951-1952) – (United States Government Organization Manual-1951-1952, 323-326). NOTE: On October 10, 1951 the Mutual Security Act of 1951 was adopted. The new legislation abolished the ECA and established in its place the Mutual Security Agency.
  • Mutual Security Agency Organization Chart – (United States Government Organization Manual-1952-1953, 592).
  • “The Mutual Security Agency” (1952-1953) – (United States Government Organization Manual-1952-1953, 437-439). The Mutual Security Agency had “primary responsibility for the development and administration of defense support and economic assistance.” In Europe the main emphasis was on “working with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” (See Creation and Authority, p 438)


Information Booklets about the Marshall Plan