Henry Cabot Lodge

Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924), American political leader, was one of the important Senate foes of the League of Nations.

Henry Cabot Lodge was born in Boston of parents from distinguished families. He received a bachelor's degree at Harvard, where he also earned a law degree and a doctorate in philosophy. From 1873 to 1876 he was assistant editor of the North American Review, which published his doctoral thesis, "The Anglo-Saxon Land Law." Subsequently he wrote several readable, but decidedly partisan, histories and biographies. Meanwhile he served two terms in the Massachusetts Legislature and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1886.

As a congressman for 6 years and a senator for 30, Lodge was a curious mixture of reformer and conservative. He was intelligent, informed, and agile, but he lacked warmth and spontaneity. His letters reveal a man as calculating in the small things as in the large and predisposed to read the meanest motives into others. Yet he had an overview, and though he assiduously cultivated his constituents' interests, he also fostered the national interest as he understood it.

Lodge was a strong and consistent supporter of civil service reform, the protective tariff, and "sound" currency. Partly because he hoped to build up the Republican party in the South, he tried to protect the African American man's right to vote through the so-called Force Bill of the 1890s. Though always solicitous of legitimate business interests, he helped draft the momentous Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. He supported most of the other regulatory measures of the Progressive era, including the Pure Food and Drug Act. In 1906 he drafted the "pipe line amendment" to the Hepburn Act, which put private oil lines under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In common with other imperialists, Lodge believed that American expansion was necessary for economic progress. "Commerce follows the flag, " he exclaimed. "The great nations are rapidly absorbing …all the waste places of the earth.… The United States must not fall out of the line of march." Accordingly, he gave vigorous support to a strong navy, territorial acquisition, and power politics. He endorsed President Grover Cleveland's hard line against Great Britain in the Venezuela crisis of 1895, trumpeted for the annexation of Hawaii, became a leading advocate of war in 1898, and urged annexation of the Philippines at the end of the Spanish-American War. Thereafter he consistently supported the assertive Caribbean policy of his friend Theodore Roosevelt. When he served as one of the American representatives on the Alaskan Boundary Commission of 1903, his partisanship was especially rank.

Though Lodge had considerable knowledge of international law and tended to cloak his words in moralistic phraseology, he was governed by an absolute and often shortsighted commitment to American material interests. He first broke with President Woodrow Wilson over Wilson's refusal to be sufficiently aggressive (by Lodge's standards) toward Mexico. Then, from 1915 to 1917, he chafed over Wilson's neutrality policies and reluctance to arm the nation for war against Germany. Lodge believed that Germany, if victorious, would compromise American commercial interests in Latin America and elsewhere and would supplant Anglo-American culture throughout the world.

Lodge's successful fight against the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations Covenant in 1919 and 1920 was doubtless intensified by his personal disdain for Wilson and his fierce partisanship. But basically Lodge was moved by his fear that the League would compromise American sovereignty. Thus in 1922 he opposed American membership in the World Court even though it was urged by the Republican president, Warren G. Harding. Lodge died in 1924 at the age of 74, survived by a son and daughter.


Further Reading on Henry Cabot Lodge

Useful for Lodge's early years is his own Early Memories (1913). There is much rich material in Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, Selections from the Correspondence, 1884-1918 (2 vols., 1925). Since Lodge changed many of the letters for publication, however, the book is best used in consultation with the standard biography by John A. Garraty, Henry Cabot Lodge (1953). Other studies are William Lawrence, Henry Cabot Lodge: A Biographical Sketch (1925), and Karl Schriftgiesser, The Gentleman from Massachusetts: Henry Cabot Lodge (1944).

Additional Biography Sources

Lodge, Henry Cabot, Early memories, New York: Arno Press, 1975, 1913.