Gilbert Monell Hitchcock (1859-1934), American newspaper publisher and U.S. senator from Nebraska, led the unsuccessful struggle in the Senate for United States membership in the League of Nations.
Gilbert M. Hitchcock was born in Omaha, Nebr., on Sept. 18, 1859. He was educated in the city's public schools and for 2 years attended the gymnasium (high school) in Baden-Baden, Germany. He received a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1881 and was admitted to the Nebraska bar. In 1885 Hitchcock and three associates founded the Omaha Evening World. In 1889 he purchased the Morning Herald, one of the most important Democratic newspapers in Nebraska, and consolidated it with the Evening World as the Omaha World Herald. From this solid financial and political base he launched his public career.
The Hitchcock family was traditionally Republican. But viewing the plight of western agriculture in the 1880s, Hitchcock aligned himself with the Democratic-Populist camp in Nebraska, whose leader was William Jennings Bryan. It was as a "Bryan man" that Hitchcock was elected in 1902 to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until elected senator in 1911.
In the Senate, Hitchcock showed considerable independence from the Woodrow Wilson administration. He opposed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and, in 1914, introduced a bill to embargo all arms to countries at war in Europe, a plan resisted vigorously by President Wilson. Germany's resumption of submarine warfare in 1917, and the publication of the Zimmermann telegram, brought Hitchcock to support of the administration. Reluctantly, he voted to declare war on Germany.
Hitchcock's greatest influence in the Senate began when he assumed chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee in April 1918. He was a reluctant internationalist, and it was only during World War I that he saw the necessity for some international agency to secure the peace. Yet, despite his conversion to advocacy of the League of Nations, Hitchcock's relations with President Wilson remained cool. The President ignored Hitchcock's suggestion that the modifications of the League's collective security provisions proposed by Republican senator Henry Cabot Lodge be incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles to make it more acceptable. Meanwhile, Democratic counterproposals, acceptable to the President, had little general success. Though Hitchcock supported Wilson to the end, the League and the treaty were defeated.
Hitchcock was defeated for reelection in 1922 and in 1930. He served as chairman of the Democratic platform committee in 1932. He died in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 3, 1934.
There is no good biography of Hitchcock. Brief notes are available in the Congressional Directory for the years of his House and Senate careers. For Hitchcock's role in the peace negotiations see Thomas A. Bailey, Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal (1945); John A. Garraty, Henry Cabot Lodge (1953); and Arthur S. Link, Wilson the Diplomatist (1957).