Charles A. Beard, an Intellectual Biography

By Ellen Nore | Go to book overview

15

Lessons of Pearl Harbor

During late winter and early spring of 1945 Beard was close to death from pneumonia in a hospital in New York City. Writing to a friend, he described his desire to get out of the city, to return to the country, there to touch again the sources of optimism and hope. Lying in bed, he reflected impatiently on the state of the world, on his life, and on what was left to be done:

Now after 70 years of it the big world, the big people, and the big clatter (soon to be covered by oblivion) seem dull & common place, if not worse. Only a few dear personal friends seem precious. As Henry Adams feared in 1894 the pessimism of Petersburg, Berlin, Paris and London has conquered the U. S. (Look at Dumbarton and Yalta!) and I seem to be about the only fragment of an optimist left. 1

From a room at the Hotel Commodore, where he had to stay during most of March 1945, Beard eagerly followed the public discussion about Yalta and Dumbarton Oaks and fumed over the fact that Franklin Roosevelt had underwritten unilateral arrangements in Eastern Europe while speaking to the American people of putting an end to unilateral action. 2 As for the United Nations, Beard suggested that it was a "bauble" not worth opposing. The American people would never be satisfied until they had joined some sort of world organization. "It [the proposed United Nations] gives Russia, Britain, and the United States a veto on everything they do not like," he told Edwin Borchard. "How people with any knowledge and intelligence can be taken in by it passes my understanding." 3

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