Cautious Visionary: Cordell Hull and Trade Reform, 1933-1937

Cautious Visionary: Cordell Hull and Trade Reform, 1933-1937

Cautious Visionary: Cordell Hull and Trade Reform, 1933-1937

Cautious Visionary: Cordell Hull and Trade Reform, 1933-1937

Synopsis

Cordell Hull's persistence and legislative experience were determining factors at every stage in the development of the Trade Agreements Act of 1934. Rarely has such important legislation owed itself to a single man.

The Trade Agreements Act resolved the long-running debate between high and low-tariff proponents, made the United States a truly international economy, and served as the first step in the creation of the political and commercial order founded at Breton Woods. The political struggles surrounding the passage and the implementation of the Act had an important, and largely underestimated, impact on the politics of the first Roosevelt administration. A number of politically influential economic nationalists, most notably Raymond Moley and George N. Peek, were forced out of the administration after losing confrontations with Hull. Yet, while Hull won the political and bureaucratic battles, his opponents had far greater influence on journalists and historians of the period.

To the degree that the nation had a coherent diplomacy during the first Roosevelt administration, it was based on Hull's vision of a liberal international economic order. By outlining Hull's crucial role in the passage and implementation of the Trade Agreements Act, Cautious Visionary will restore Hull's reputation as one of the major political and diplomatic figures of the first half of our century.

Excerpt

On 12 June 1934, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history. the Trade Agreements Act of 1934 made the United States a truly international economy. It was the first step in the creation of the postwar political and commercial order founded at Breton Woods. It forever changed American domestic politics, resolving the long-running debate between high- and low-tariff proponents, while vastly limiting the corruption and lobbying that had traditionally accompanied tariff politics in the U.S. Congress. Although passage of the Trade Agreements Act was vehemently opposed by many of the reformers who surrounded Roosevelt, it, like most of the New Deal's legislation, vastly expanded the power of the executive branch of the federal government.

Rarely has such important legislation owed itself to a single man, in this case a crusty veteran Tennessee politician who had been a lonely voice espousing free trade for four decades. Cordell Hull's determination, persistence, and legislative experience were determining factors at every stage of the conception, passage, and implementation of the Trade Agreements Act. He maneuvered capably to convince a skeptical Roosevelt to introduce the legislation against the hostility of much of the White House inner circle. He then lobbied the legislation through Congress. Following passage of the act, he ably resisted the efforts of competitors within the administration to shape the act to their own very different goals. He defended the trade agreements program effectively throughout . . .

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