Bitter Rivals: Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge 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 Wilsons 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 Wilsons endeavors, as he believed he was guided by Gods will (Lafeber 270).
The future Presidents first career path was law, but Wilsons 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 Wilsons 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). Wilsons 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 Wilsons political philosophies and foreign policies.
Like Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodges educational background shaped his views toward American foreign policy. His family instilled in Lodge conservative values that melded the Senate as a man whose nature and upbringing disposed him to be out of step with his times. His fiery personality that emerged during Lodges 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 Lodges 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. Lodges background and uncertainty of future social standing lit a fire within him and led to his fiery temperament over key Senate issues that was Lodges 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 wars conclusion. Wilsons devout Calvinist beliefs sparked within the President a sense of Americanism he believed that God would be on Americas side, and thus America was innately superior to other nations.
In Wilsons 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 Lodges 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. Wilsons Americanism in the aftermath of World War I manifested itself in Wilsons 14 Points as he pushed for Americas superiority to be used to prevent future war. Wilsons 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.
Wilsons 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, Lodges 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 Lodges view, Wilson focused too much on generalized ideas of a peaceful world that more than likely would never exist (Widenor 298). Lodges 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 Senators 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).
Wilsons 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, Wilsons 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 Wilsons 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 Lodges mind, the 14 Points would weaken the Monroe Doctrine, derogate from the Congress 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 Wilsons masterpiece simply because it was Wilsons (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 Americas 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 Wilsons 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 Americas role internationally as a police watchdog or more concerned strictly with national interests and Wilson and Lodges 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 success.
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