U.S. Senate history: Henry Cabot Lodge


Senator; b. Boston, May 12, 1850; Educ. A.B., Harvard, 1871, LL.B., 1875, Ph.D. (history), 1876; (LL.D., Williams, 1893, Yale, 1902, Clark U., 1902, Harvard, 1904, Amherst, 1912, also Union Col., Princeton U., and Dartmouth Coll., and Brown, 1918); Admitted to bar, 1876; editor North American Review, 1873-6, International Review, 1879-81; mem. Mass. Ho. of Rep., 1880, 81; mem. 50th to 53d Congresses (1887-93), 6th Mass. Dist.; U. S. senator, since 1893; mem. Alaskan Boundary Tribunal, 1903; mem. U. S. Immigration Commn., 1907 . .


WHEN Henry Cabot Lodge was elected to Congress thirty-four years ago there were no portents in the heavens, but there was rejoicing in his native city of Boston and in many other places. It was hailed as the dawn of a new era. Young, he was only thirty-seven, well educated, a teacher of history, and with six serious books to his credit, he was a new figure in politics; Providence, moving in its mysterious way, had designed him to redeem politics from its baseness and set a shining example.

Everything was in his favor; he was not only learned, so learned, in fact, that he was promptly dubbed the "scholar in politics," but he was rich, and therefore immune from all sordid temptation; he was a gentleman. Mr. Lodge's forbears had been respectable tradesmen who knew how to make money and to keep it-and the latter trait is strongly developed in their senatorial descendant. From them he inherited a fortune; he had been educated in a select private school and then gone through Harvard, whence he emerged with an LL.B. and a Ph.D. attached to his name. By all the established canons he was a "gentleman" as well as a scholar. In the intervals between teaching and writing he had found time to be admitted to the Boston bar.

With that equipment it could be safely predicted Mr. Lodge would go far. He has. To-day he is the leader of the Republican party in the Senate of the United States.

He early justified the promise. While still a Congressional freshman he drafted and introduced into the House the "Force Bill," which came to a violent death in the Senate. That Bill was not only a prophecy but it is a resume of Mr. Lodge's career. It is partisanship gone mad.

On the pretense that it was intended to secure fair elections in the South, but actually, as described by a member of the House at the time, to prevent elections being held in several districts, it placed the election machinery in the control of the Federal Government, which, through the Chief Supervisor of Elections, to be appointed by the President, and his Praetorian Guard of Deputy Marshals, would have controlled every election and returned an overwhelming Republican majority from the Southern States.

The Bill was typical of Mr. Lodge and the way he plays politics. The Force Bill would probably have ended ingloriously the political career of any other man, but Mr. Lodge had the luck of being a gentleman born in Boston. Boston is slow to forget. A quarter of a century after the Civil War, Boston still remembered that conflict, its heart still bled for the negro deprived of his vote; and a Boston gentleman could do no wrong-to the Democratic Party.

The House amused Mr. Lodge, but it was too promiscuous for a person of his delicate sensibilities who shrank from intimate contact with the uneducated and the socially unwashed. Henry Cabot Lodge always creates the impression that it is a condescension on his part to God to have allowed Him to create a world which is not exclusively possessed by the Cabots and the Lodges and their connections.

All that is only an unfortunate manner. He is really the friend of the people, abominating snobbishness and aristocratic pretensions; in his younger days, when he was campaigning for Congress, he was known to have slapped a constituent on the back and called him familiarly by his first name; even now, although he has long ceased to be a politician and has been canonized as a statesman, the old impulses are strong in him. When the time draws near for his reelection to the Senate, he goes back to Massachusetts, there to take part with the common people in their simple pleasures, and affably to extend a cold and clammy hand to voters, who still venerate him as a scholar in politics and a gentleman. So it will be easily understood why one of Mr. Lodge's temperament should early have cast his covetous eye on the Senate, and at the first opportunity moved over to that more select atmosphere, which he did in 1893.

When Senator Lodge entered, public life the flagrant spoils system was rampant. A little band of earnest men was fighting to reform the civil service so as to make it a permanent establishment with merit and fitness the tests for appointment instead of political influence. It was a cause naturally to appeal to the "best people" of Boston, and Mr. Lodge, being one of them, having inflexible principles and a high code of honor, threw himself eagerly into the reform movement and became its apostle. His principles were so stern and unyielding, he demanded such an exalted standard of private and public morality, that, although he worshipped the Republican Party with a devotion almost as great as the memory of that grandfather who laid the foundation of the family fortunes, with a sorely stricken heart he was compelled to differ with Mr. Blaine and to flirt with those Ruperts of American politics, the Mugwumps.

"The man who sets up as being much better than his age is always to be suspected," says a historian, "and Cato is perhaps the best specimen of the rugged hypocrite that history can produce."

As a summary of the character of Cato, this is admirable, but no one would call Mr. Lodge "rugged."

Mr. Lodge's principles, it has been observed, are inflexible and rest on solid foundation, but like good steel they can bend without breaking. An ardent civil service reformer, a champion of public morality, so long as offices were being awarded to the faithful, he saw no reason why he should be the victim of his own self denying ordinance. Early in his career he became a very successful purveyor of patronage, developing a keen scent for vacant places or a post filled by a Democrat. As a theoretical civil service reformer Mr. Lodge left nothing to be desired; as a practical spoilsman he had few equals. A Senator's usefulness to his friends is much greater than that of a member of the House, and if a Senator works his pull for all that it is worth he can accomplish much. Mr. Lodge was not idle.

With his grandfathers and his fortune Mr. Lodge inherited a violent and bitter dislike of England. Probably no man-not even the most extreme Irish agitator-is more responsible for the feeling existing against England than Mr. Lodge; because the outspoken Irish agitator is known for what he is and treated accordingly; carrying out Mr. Roosevelt's thought, he will be execrated by decent people; but Mr. Lodge, posing as the impartial historian and the patriotic statesman, is applauded.

Just as Mr. Lodge gained a certain fame when he was a member of the House from the Force Bill, which his own party repudiated, so he signalized his admission into the Senate by proposing to force England to adopt free silver. It was an opportunity to strike at England in a vital spot; it was as statesmanlike and patriotic as his attempt to deprive the South of their representatives.

Mr. Cleveland was fighting with splendid courage to save the country from free silver, caring nothing for politics and animated solely by the highest and most disinterested motives, and Mr. Lodge was thinking only of his spite. President Cleveland, said a Boston paper, deserved and had the right to expect Mr. Lodge's support, instead of which "we find our junior Senator introducing a legislative proposition intended to appeal at once to the anti-British prejudices of a good many Americans, and to the desire of the then preponderating sentiment of the country to force a silver currency upon the American people. It was an effort to strike at England."

Mr. Lodge proposed that all imports from Great Britain or her colonies should pay duties double those of the regular rates, and any article on the free list should be made dutiable at thirty-five per cent; these additional and discriminating duties were to remain in force until Great Britain assented to and took part in an international agreement "for the coinage and use of silver."

Mr. Lodge's free silver amendment shared the same tomb with his Force Bill; in the Senate fortunately there were men with broader vision and less passion.

In his biography in the Congressional Directory (written by himself) and in the numerous biographies and sketches which have been published with such frequency (Mr. Lodge has a weakness for seeing himself in print) curiously enough no mention can be found either of the Force Bill or the attempt to coerce England with a silver club. One can only explain this reticence by excessive modesty.

Two years later Mr. Lodge deserted his silver allies and was as enthusiastic in support of the gold standard as he had previously been zealous for the purification of the civil service. A Boston paper said that he "was made to realize, by the influences brought to bear upon him, that he must advocate the gold standard or else provoke the active hostility of the prominent business men of this State." That perhaps is as infamous as anything ever written. That any influences, even those "of the prominent business men of Massachusetts," could cause Mr. Lodge to swerve from his convictions no one will believe. He must have had convictions when he sought to drive England to a silver standard, he must have been convinced that it was for the good of the United States as well as the whole world, he must have satisfied himself, for Mr. Lodge never permits his emotions to control his intelligence, that his action was wise and patriotic. But although Mr. Lodge will not surrender his convictions he has no scruples about consistency.

Mr. Lodge's principles are so stern that he refused to consent to Colombia being paid for the territory seized by President Roosevelt. Mr. Lodge made a report (this was when Mr. Wilson was President, and I mention it merely as an historical fact) in which he denounced Colombia's claim as blackmail, resented it as an insult to the memory of Mr. Roosevelt, and declared in approved copybook fashion (being fond of platitudes), that friendship between nations cannot be bought. Later (this was when Mr. Harding was President, and I mention it merely as an historical fact) as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, he brought in a report urging the ratification of the treaty, and discovered that Mr. Roosevelt had really been in favor of the treaty, expunged the unpleasant word blackmail from his lexicon, and saliently observed, so impossible is it for him not to indulge in platitudes, that sometimes a nation has to pay more for a thing than it is really worth; a reflection that would have done credit to the oracular wisdom of Captain Jack Bunsby.

Mr. Lodge attacked the treaty of peace with Germany while it was still in process of negotiation and severely criticized Mr. Wilson for not having consulted the Senate. That the Senate has no right to ask about the details of a treaty before the President sends it in for ratification is a constitutional axiom which Mr. Lodge, with his customary mental infidelity, caressed at one time and spurned at another.

When the treaty with Spain was before the Senate (that was when Mr. McKinley was President, and I mention it merely as an historical fact) it was attacked by some of the Democrats. To silence these criticisms Mr. Lodge said, "We have no possible right to break suddenly into the middle of a negotiation and demand from the President what instructions he has given to his representatives. That part of treaty making is no concern of ours."

The Democrats attempted to defeat the ratification of the treaty, and if that was done, said Mr. Lodge, "we repudiate the President and his action before the whole world, and the repudiation of the President in such a matter as this is, to my mind, the humiliation of the United States in the eyes of the civilized world." The President could not be sent back to say to Spain "with bated breath" (even in his most solemn moments Mr. Lodge cannot resist the commonplace) "we believe we have been too victorious and that you have yielded us too much and that I am very sorry that I took the Philippines from you."

But that was precisely what Mr. Lodge demanded should and must be done when Mr. Wilson brought back the peace treaty. Inconsistency, as I have before remarked, Mr. Lodge cares nothing about, but his patriotism and partisanship are so inextricably intertwined that it is always difficult to discover whether in his loftiest flights it is the patriot who pleads or the partisan who intrigues.

Thus, in the debate on the Spanish treaty, Mr. Lodge delivered himself of these noble sentiments: "I have ideals and beliefs which pertain to the living present, and a faith in the future of my country. I believe in the American people as they are to-day and in the civilization they have created," and many more beautiful words to the same effect. It was the language of a statesman with aspirations and convictions. It sounded splendidly. Mr. Lodge is a classical scholar, and one wonders whether he remembers his Epictetus: "But you utter your elegant words only from your lips; for this reason they are without strength and dead, and it is nauseous to listen to your exhortations and your miserable virtue; which is talked of everywhere."

It was the late Senator Wolcott, one of the most brilliant orators of his day, who explained why Mr. Lodge's oratory left men cold. Wolcott was commenting on a speech delivered by Lodge a few days earlier and someone said to him that men listened to Lodge with eyes undimmed.

"To bring tears from an audience," said Wolcott, "the speaker must feel tears here (and he pointed to his throat), but Lodge can speak for an hour with nothing but saliva in his throat."

Mr. Lodge's dislike of Mr. Wilson was almost malignant. Rumor ascribes it to professional jealousy. Before Mr. Wilson came into prominence Mr. Lodge was the only scholar in politics, but Mr. Wilson was so far his superior in erudition, especially in Mr. Lodge's chosen profession of history, that he resented being deprived of his monopoly. Perhaps there is another reason. Mr. Lodge has cherished two ambitions, neither of which has been gratified. The Presidency has been the ignis fatuus he has pursued; he was the residuary legatee of Mr. Roosevelt's bankrupt political estate in 1916, it will be recalled; last year, after his fight on the treaty, he considered himself the logical candidate and believed he had the nomination in his grasp. He has longed to be Secretary of State, and it was a bitter disappointment when Mr. Harding did not invite him to enter the Cabinet.

Mr. Lodge is a curious and not uninteresting study in psychology. He has no great talent, but he is not without some ability; in his youth he was an industrious plodder and fond of study. He has read much but absorbed little; he is well educated in the narrow sense of the schoolmaster, but he has no philosophic background; his is the parasitic mind that sucks sustenance from the brains of others and gives nothing in return. He is without the slightest imagination and is devoid of all sense of humor; and without these two, imagination, which is the gift of the poet, and humor, which is the dower of the philosopher, no man can see life whole.

He has genius almost for misunderstanding public sentiment. To him may be applied Junius' characterization of the Duke of Grafton: "It is not that you do wrong by design, but that you should never do right by mistake."

With all these defects, the defects of heritage and environment and temperament, so much was expected from Mr. Lodge, and so much he might have done, that it is a disappointment he has accomplished so little. He has been thirty-four years in Congress, and his career can be summed up in three achievements--the Force Bill, the attempt to wreck England by driving her to silver coinage, and the part he took in defeating the treaty of peace with Germany. The Force Bill and the silver amendment his biographers have charitably forgotten; will the future biographer deal as gently with the closing years of his life? And if so, what material will the biographer have?

Macaulay, reviewing Barere's Memoirs--and allowing for the difference in time and manners and morals there is a strange similarity between the leader of the French Revolution and the leader of the Senate--said, "We now propose to do him, by the blessing of God, full and signal justice."

We think we may say, with proper humility, that, by the blessing of God, we have done Senator Henry Cabot Lodge full and signal justice.

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