Lodge And Wilson

Political rivalries define American government. The dual-party system by
nature sets up partisan rivalries between members of all three branches of our
government – rivalries that have at times pushed our government to progress
and at other times slowed it to a grinding halt. The contrasting backgrounds and
resulting political ideologies of Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge created a
modern rivalry that defined American foreign policy in the twentieth century.

Woodrow Wilson’s religious background and academic pursuits shaped his
personality into one characterized by impatience. Born in Virginia in 1856,

Wilson grew up around strict Calvinist doctrine in the Presbyterian church (Lafeber

269-270). This theology served as the foundation for all of Wilson’s
endeavors, as he believed he was "guided by God’s will" (Lafeber 270). The
future President’s first career path was law, but Wilson’s inability to
excel in the field bred in him distaste for the profession. Wilson hastily
abandoned any thoughts of being a lawyer and pursued an academic career in
political science. His refusal to give his law profession time to prosper
represents a larger trend in Wilson’s behavior of acting rashly when faced
with adversity. Despite this impatience, he quickly rose to a high level of
respect as a political scientist while attending Princeton University (Lafeber

269). Wilson’s faith in God, bred from his Calvinist upbringing, further
fueled his impatient personality as he believed that God would eventually guide
him in the right direction if he "made efforts to improve" (Lafeber 270).

This impatience defined most of Wilson’s political philosophies and foreign
policies. Like Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodge’s educational background shaped his
views toward American foreign policy. His family instilled in Lodge conservative
values that melded the Senator as a man "whose nature and upbringing disposed
him to be out of step with his times". His fiery personality that emerged
during Lodge’s tenure as a Senator was most likely a direct result of this
conservative environment during his formative years. He would not budge from
political positions he believed to be morally just, even though those terms
manifested themselves in strictly conservative legislation in foreign policy (Widenor

44-47). Lodge had another concern over his career as a politician besides being
a fierce advocate for conservatism in US foreign policy. While Lodge had to
fight the "silver-spooned boy" stereotype on the Senate floor and on the
campaign trail, he felt immense responsibility to the citizens of Massachusetts
who elected him to his seat (Widenor 49). The rapid increase of
industrialization within the United States, as well as increased immigration"brought new values and interests" to New England, made Lodge’s job of
representing Massachusetts in the Senate a much tougher task (Widenor 45). The
threat of the increasing difficulty in pleasing all of Massachusetts’ many
peoples forced Lodge to be steadfast in his own. If his constituents ever had
complaints with Lodge, he never wanted them to be able to truthfully say he did
not stand up for what he believed was right. Lodge’s background and
uncertainty of future social standing lit a fire within him and led to his fiery
temperament over key Senate issues that was Lodge’s trademark for many years.

The different backgrounds from which Wilson and Lodge arose to attain political
power led them both to support American entry into World War I but pushed them
away from one another in terms of foreign policy after the war’s conclusion.

Wilson’s devout Calvinist beliefs sparked within the President a sense of

Americanism – he believed that God would be on America’s side, and thus

America was innately superior to other nations. In Wilson’s War Message of

1917, Wilson re-assured the American people of this divine guidance: "to such
a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes ... and the peace which she
has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other." (Paterson and Merrill

537) Similarly, Henry Cabot Lodge’s ideas of "duty and sacrifice" that
stemmed from his conservative background pushed him toward Americanism and
toward advocating US intervention in World War I (Widenor 221). After World War

I, however, the two politicians renewed their rivalry as their visions of
post-war Americanism in foreign policy repeatedly conflicted. Wilson’s

Americanism in the aftermath of World War I manifested itself in Wilson’s

"14 Points" as he pushed for America’s superiority to be used to prevent
future war. Wilson’s desire to create a "League of Nations" that would
form "a general association of nations" (Paterson and Merrill 539) arose
from his belief that America could force compliance with such a league.

Wilson’s idealistic visions of a pacifistic society of nation-states existed
only under the implication that America was strong enough to create such a
world. In sharp contrast, Lodge’s Americanism in foreign policy after World

War I was based on revenge. Both men wanted to prevent future war (Widenor 298),
but Lodge wanted United States foreign policy to prevent it by crippling the
nations that caused World War I. Lodge believed that Germany had to remain
demilitarized and should receive ample punishment for its role in the first
world war, and drew his anti-League stance primarily from his opinion that any
league of nations would be unable to restrict Germany sufficiently (Widenor

294). In Lodge’s view, Wilson focused too much on generalized ideas of a
peaceful world that more than likely would never exist (Widenor 298). Lodge’s

Americanized foreign policy after the war had one issue of importance –
keeping Germany at peace – and all other foreign policy issues posed a threat
to the execution of the singular goal. These varying approaches to Americanism
within post-World War I diplomacy created another point of foreign policy
conflict between Lodge and Wilson. Lodge felt neutrality "depended on military
preparedness" and generally perceived America as needing an active role in
maintaining neutrality on a global scale (Widenor 198-199). The Senator’s
belief in "armed neutrality", while perfectly justified in his own mind, did
not gain momentum until after the sinking of the Lusitania in May of 1915 (Widenor

200). Lodge, after failing to gain popular support for armed neutrality, hated

Wilson more as "the issue of preparedness became symbolic of their different
philosophical approaches to foreign policy" (Widenor 202). Wilson’s version
of neutrality focused on a weaponless idealistic peace held together with
economic interdependence and the new "superpower" status of the United

States (Lafeber 314). Lodge grouped Wilson and Jefferson together in their
mutual willingness "to keep peace ... at all hazards" (Widenor 203). While

Lodge may have been correct in his argument that Wilson needed to back up

American neutrality with some use of force, Wilson’s interpretation of

American neutrality leading up to World War I kept America from war as long as
possible without compromising American national interests of trade and security.

The rivalry between the two politicians escalated with Wilson’s introduction
of his 14 Points for Peace after World War I. As Wilson negotiated with other
leaders of the Entente Powers after the war, the President had to contend with
fierce skepticism over the Points at home, particularly from Lodge and his
fellow Republicans (Lafeber 321). Lodge countered the 14 Points with a

Republican challenge, as the Senate leader clearly had more than enough votes to
prevent ratification of the Points. Wilson, realizing he lacked the necessary
support at home to get American approval of the 14 Points, returned to Europe to
find a way to force the Senate to accept his proposals (Lafeber 321-322). When

Wilson resumed talks with Entente leaders in February 1919, he was only able to
get US interests protected – a necessity for Senate approval – through
massive concessions to Britain and Japan (Lafeber 321). For Britain, Wilson had
to concede on Point 2, concerning freedom of the seas, to gain their approval.

Wilson also had to concede to make Germany responsible for war reparations and
to prevent the country from demilitarizing to gain French approval of the

Fourteen Points (Lafeber 321). With his health in rapid decline and frustrated
with the weakened version of his 14 Points, Wilson returned home tired but with
a renewed dedication not to compromise on the Senate floor. While Wilson
attempted to install his foreign policy ideology into other countries by means
of his 14 Points, Lodge tried to rally support for his foreign policies
primarily through gathering opposition to the 14 Points. In Lodge’s mind, the

14 Points would "weaken the Monroe Doctrine, derogate from the Congress’s
constitutional power to declare war, or permit [American] international control
over such matters as immigration." (Widenor 316) Lodge, who was not totally
closed off to the idea of a League but would prevent at all costs infringement
on American power abroad, actually suggested a dual-League system. Such a system
would have a League for the Western Hemisphere – primarily the Americas –
and one for Europe (Widenor 316-317). Wilson, already impatient from his

European ordeals, hastily rejected a "halfway" version of his proposal.

Historian William Widenor, in his book Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for

American Foreign Policy, interjects the idea that Lodge had "no true
feelings" for the 14 Points and the League of Nations. Instead of arguing
against both on the basis of foreign policy issues and their implications for
the United States domestically, the author asserts the possibility that Lodge
could have rejected Wilson’s masterpiece simply because it was Wilson’s (Widenor

324-325). On Lodge, "it has even been suggested that he raised issues like the
fate of Shantung chiefly to make points against Wilson, to show up the flaws in
the armor of the ‘great moralist’ (Widenor 324). If Lodge did act out of
spite against Wilson and his 14 Points, the result of a newly-intensified
personal rivalry was an intentional act made by Lodge to take power away from
the President. A more likely scenario, however, was that Lodge truly believed
that the 14 Points would severely compromise the United States influence
internationally. While Lodge and Wilson conceived an "idealistic" role for

America in the post-war era, Lodge believed America’s "individuality" was
a quality only America should strive to maintain – not something for a

President to try to enforce on other countries. As Widenor supports, "Lodge
believed that America had evolved a special, historical individuality and a
unique system of values which were ... the product of propitious circumstance..
. . Though he was prepared to go to great lengths to defend and preserve that
individuality, he did not, like Wilson, attempt to secure its universal
acceptance. (Widenor 326)" Lodge saw these 14 Points – in particular, the"heart of the Covenant (Lafeber 325)" of Article 10 dealing with resolution
of international conflicts between members of the League of Nations– as a form
of pre-emptive US intervention abroad (Widenor 325, 328-329). Lodge was"thoroughly disgusted" with this concept, and while his foreign policies
were not isolationist (Widenor 318), his foreign policy ideology conflicted with

Wilson’s over the issue whether America should be "policeman of the
world". The fierce political rivalry between Wilson and Lodge established the
precedent for future rivalries between elected political officials within the

United States during the twentieth century. The rivalry addressed for the first
time the role of Americanism in foreign policy and whether the United States has
innately superior qualities that entitle it to its large international influence
as a world superpower. Similarly, the twentieth century has been dominated by
the question of America’s role internationally – as a "police" watchdog
or more concerned strictly with national interests – and Wilson and Lodge’s
rivalry was the first to address the issue in detail in a twentieth-century
context. Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge, with their seriousness toward
achieving their ideological goals within the government, propelled America into
a Golden Age of superpower status and the luxury of being a strong enough nation
to police the globe. While the role their distaste for one another played in
their foreign policies came into question, their mutual hatred made both of them
work harder than they normally would have to achieve political success. That
spirit of competition between rivals pushing for smarter governmental policy
hopefully will continue to be the benchmark of continued American foreign policy


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Company, 1994. Paterson, Thomas G. and Dennis Merrill, eds. Major Problems in

American Foreign Relations – Volume 1: To 1920. 4th ed. Lexington,

Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1995. Widenor, William C. Henry Cabot

Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy. Los Angeles: U of

California P, 1980.