- Historic Sites
December 1955 | Volume 7, Issue 1
From time to time AMERICAN HERITAGE will publish letters which seem to have special interest for its readers. The following letter from the U.S. Ambassador at the United Nations deals with the article on the elder Henry Cabot Lodge which appeared in the August issue.
There are three specific points concerning your article about my grandfather, the late Henry Cabot Lodge, by John A. Garraty which I should like to make as a matter of fairness—and one general point which I hope has practical contemporary value.
2. The title of the article is “Spoiled Child of American Politics”—a title which is belied by the very text of the article itself, which shows that throughout his life in “American politics” my grandfather was constantly being opposed, criticized, attacked, resisted, and was anything but “spoiled” in the sense of having his own way.
2. To say that my grandfather believed “that the only good Democrat” was “a politically dead one” is certainly disproved by his vote in 1922 when he carried Democratic wards and precincts, without which he could not have been elected, and which he certainly would not have done had he detested Democrats.
3. Twice in the article the phrase “selfishness and vanity” is used to characterize my grandfather, but nowhere is this characterization sustained by fact. I knew him well and was very intimate with him. I never met a more unselfish man nor a more modest and humble one.
My general point is as follows:
Mr. Garraty’s statement that my grandfather believed that in international affairs a nation should never sign a treaty that “it was not prepared to carry out to the letter” is precisely what we have learned and generally accept today.
Thirty years ago many favored the “hitch your wagon to a star” procedure, whereby legal commitments would be undertaken in the vague hope that this would somehow improve matters, even though it was clear that such commitments would not be lived up to when the test came.
Today, however, it is generally recognized that to seek—and obtain—legal commitments which become a dead letter at the first test is a disservice to the cause of peace, leads to disrespect for law, and is an approach to the problem which is immature.
At the United Nations the legal power which the United Nations possesses was not used even when it could have been used in the case of the Korean aggression. Rather, an attempt was made to mobilize world opinion.
We have learned that it is always futile—and often dangerous-to try to force world opinion into a legalistic strait jacket. We have learned that, instead, the amount of public support for common international action varies from year to year and from issue to issue, and that it is the function of an international organization to mobilize to the maximum the world opinion which actually exists at any given moment.
This is the spirit of the United Nations—and of regional organizations, such as NATO, for instance. They do not pledge any guarantees of territorial integrity (which would certainly not be lived up to) but, instead, they declare that an attack on one is an attack on all and that, when such an attack occurs, the parties will consult. This is a far cry indeed from Article X of the League with its rigid advance requirement of support of specific terrain regardless of military, strategic and political realities.
My grandfather wished to change the League of Nations Covenant, for example, so that (1) the United States would be the sole judge of whether a matter involving its interests was or was not a domestic question; (2) the United States would not have merely equal power with the small nations; and (3) that United States military actions to preserve the territorial integrity of a nation must first be approved by Congress.
These ideas all foreshadowed basic provisions of the United Nations Charter. Events have shown, therefore, that in his grasp of international affairs, he was truly ahead of his time.
Mr. Garraty says that Henry Cabot Lodge was “often wrong, but never evil.” I agree that he was “never evil,” but I suggest also that he was “often right.”