Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order

Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order

Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order

Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order

Synopsis

"Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965) remains one of the most puzzling figures of twentieth-century American politics. While serving as secretary of agriculture during the Great Depression, vice president from 1941 to 1945, and an advocate for accommodation with the Soviet Union as the Progressive Party's candidate for president in 1948, Wallace continued a spiritual odyssey that shaped his quest for world peace. In this interpretive biography, Graham White and John Maze explore Wallace's political career, his enigmatic personality, and the origins and development of his social, political, and religious thought, including his mystical beliefs. According to White and Maze, an eclectic spiritualism and its attendant social attitudes were central to Wallace's political goals and the course of his public life. In particular, the authors explore the central conflict between Wallace's empirical scientific thought, invaluable especially in his administration of the Department of Agriculture, and his fascination with mystical beliefs and theosophical doctrines concerning reincarnation and the perfectibility of human-kind through the workings of unseen spiritual forces. These contradictory world views influenced Wallace's political agenda as he worked for the elimination of inequity and greed through free trade, shared technological development, and international economic cooperation. Drawing extensively on Wallace's personal papers, his political diary, and his 5,000-page memoir, this study sheds new light not only on Wallace himself, but also on the Roosevelt administration in which he served and on the course of the cold war." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Despite Henry Wallace's sober, reserved manner and his reluctance to engage in self-seeking politicking, his public career crystallized some of the most portentous choices in modern American and even world history. in domestic economics he stood for realistic altruism against aggressive self-interest, in international affairs for free trade and cooperation against isolationism. If he, rather than Harry Truman, had become president on Franklin Roosevelt's death, his policy of accommodation with the Soviet Union as against the Truman Doctrine of containment might have spared the world some forty years of cold war. Yet these worldly conflicts of attitude were in a way mirrored in his own personality. He was determined and steadfast in whatever he undertook but was certainly not a simple, single-minded person. Prominent among his internal conflicts was the contrast between his practical, empirical scientific thought, invaluable especially in his administration of the Department of Agriculture, and his fascination with mystical, theosophical conceptions of the perfectibility of humankind, which gave rise not only to his internationalism but also to quixotic adventurism and indiscretions that repeatedly threatened his public career.

Wallace's contemporaries sensed these contradictions. Whether they criticized his supposed failings or stressed, as many did, his achievements in scientific experimentation, his indestructible liberalism, and his originality of mind, they found him difficult to comprehend. "I understood him less than anyone I was associated with," former Farm Security Administration head Will Alexander said of Wallace, in an interview recorded in the early 1950s. Speaking of a tour of the South that he and Wallace made in 1936 to inspect the work being done to help the rural poor, Alexander recalled that the experience seemed to make no impression on Wallace whatsoever. "I never met his mind," he said, recalling their conversations. "I think he's better than what I saw in him," Alexander added apologetically. "I always knew I wasn't seeing the real fella." Samuel Bledsoe, an employee in Wallace's Department of Agriculture in the 1930s and his assistant for six weeks after Wallace became vice president in 1941, made similar observations. Henry Wallace possessed "a very good mind," and "had the makings of one of the great figures of American history," but "there [was] always something . . .

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