Paul D. Cravath, the First World War, and the Anglophile Internationalist Tradition

By Roberts, Priscilla | The Australian Journal of Politics and History, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Paul D. Cravath, the First World War, and the Anglophile Internationalist Tradition


Roberts, Priscilla, The Australian Journal of Politics and History


In most respects the First World War had far less profound an impact on the United States than upon the nations of Europe. The experience of war was, however, central to the emergence of an internationalist American foreign policy elite, committed to a worldview which included a de facto alliance with the British Empire, United States intervention on the British side in any major international conflict, and economic assistance in post-war European reconstruction. From the 1960s onward, assorted journalists, historians, and political scientists, among them Richard J. Barnet, Kai Bird, Joseph Kraft, John C. Donovan, David M. Halberstam, Godfrey Hodgson, Max Holland, Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, Ernest R. May, Richard H. Rovere, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., drew attention to the manner in which, from around 1940 until the mid-1970s, a close-knit elite drawn from the leading financial and business institutions, law firms, Ivy League universities, major philanthropic foundations, and communications media of the American East Coast, dominated the formulation and direction of United States foreign policy. (1) According to Hodgson, whose opinion other commentators echoed: "The core of the bipartisan Establishment's policy [Hodgson's italics] was simple: to oppose isolationism." Its "aspiration [Hodgson's italics] was quite simply to the moral and political leadership of the world [...] Specifically, the Establishment wanted the United States to succeed Britain as the military and economic guarantor and moral leader of an enlightened, liberal, democratic and capitalist world order." (2)

Although most writers on the Establishment concentrated on the post-1940 period, they often indicated that its roots could be traced further back, the line of descent running from President Theodore Roosevelt and his Secretary of State Elihu Root, through Second World War Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and his assistants John J. McCloy and Robert A. Lovett, to the brothers William P. and McGeorge Bundy during the 1960s. (3) In the mid-1990s David Fromkin suggested that the First World War marked the beginning of an internationalist tradition among the American leadership elite. (4) Almost thirty years earlier, Robert A. Divine drew attention to the existence from around 1920 onwards of a body of committed "internationalists" who, he contended, constituted an extremely homogeneous group. Predominantly "old-stock Protestant Americans" and well-to-do Anglophiles, the great majority of them came from the East Coast. They were primarily interested in Europe,

   believed that the United States had inherited England's role as
   arbiter of world affairs, [and] showed little sympathy for the
   plight of colonial peoples [...] Bankers, lawyers, editors,
   professors and ministers predominated; there were few salesmen
   or clerks and no workmen in their ranks. The business community
   was represented by men who dealt in the world markets [...] Small
   manufacturers, real-estate brokers and insurance executives were
   conspicuously absent.

The most prominent of the organizations through which these individuals expressed their foreign policy views were, in Divine's opinion, the League of Nations Association, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Foreign Policy Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. These "internationalists", Divine suggested, were insulated from the "man on the street", and showed a marked inability to recognize prevailing American public sentiment on foreign policy issues. (5)

Before the First World War, support for a larger United States international role was largely restricted to a small albeit influential group of Americans, prominent among whom were President Theodore Roosevelt, his two secretaries of state, John Hay and Elihu Root, the Republican Senator for Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the naval strategist and writer Alfred Thayer Mahan. …

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