PRESIDENT WILLIAM MCKINLEY IN 1898:
THE UNITED NATIONS
Remarks by Patrick Killough
to the Torch Club of Asheville-Blue Ridge
Thursday May 07, 2009
Let me serve you one tiny morsel from the great banquet (1) of the pre-history of how America became a founding member of the United Nations. A seldom noticed diplomatic technique employed by President William McKinley in 1898 would be tried again decades later for negotiating the UN Charter treaty and persuading the Senate to ratify it.
Forty-two years after McKinley’s treaty had ended a war with Spain over Cuba, Secretary of State Cordell Hull judged McKinley’s innovative technique ready-made for his purposes. Hull remembered and improved upon what the 5’6” President had bequeathed him. In so doing, Cordell Hull reached new heights of cooperative treaty-making, hitching together the State Department, both Houses of Congress and the American people organized into private voluntary associations.
WILLIAM MCKINLEY’S 1898 PEACE WITH SPAIN
During four months in 1898 the USA won the briefest declared war that it has ever fought. The war was with Spain about independence for Cuba. Through the Paris treaty of peace Spain indeed lost Cuba while America acquired Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
Before and during the naval and land engagements with Spain, American opinion was passionately divided on whether to expand the current boundaries of the nation, either peaceably or through conquest -- with no intention of offering citizenship to Asiatics so acquired. President William McKinley decided that moving any territorially expansionist treaty through the Senate would require entirely new techniques of persuasion.
With his eye, therefore, on Senate ratification by the constitutionally mandated 2/3 majority, McKinley shaped and sent an unprecedentedly "democratic" delegation to Paris to make peace with the Queen Regent of Spain.
The U.S. Constitution puts the President in exclusive charge of making treaties. He can therefore place anyone he chooses on a treaty-writing delegation. Our 25th President, William McKinley, was, to my knowledge, the first chief executive to place senators on a negotiating team.
McKinley sensed a tough ratification fight in the Senate -- especially if the US retained any Spanish territory it had conquered. So he sent to Paris in September 1898 a carefully crafted negotiating team. It consisted of five peace commissioners and a secretary/legal counsel. For the first time, a treaty-writing delegation included three senators from both political parties and one private citizen, a wealthy newspaper magnate. While not yet committed to details of the ultimate settlement with Spain, the President said that he would appoint to the commission no one opposed in principle to the very idea of further U.S. territorial expansion.
THE SIX LEADING MEMBERS
OF McKINLEY’S PEACE COMMISSION
-- (1) President McKinley's first decision was that his Secretary of State, Wiliam Rufus Day, would head the peace negotiators. Day resigned his cabinet position to accept this assignment. Initially, he believed that Spain should give up only Cuba, retaining all its other Caribbean and Pacific possessions. But in Paris Chairman Day negotiated peace with Spain on McKinley's ever harsher terms.
McKinley then asked two Democratic party members of the Supreme Court to serve. Neither accepted. Later they would have had to recuse themselves from hearing any case on the treaty that reached the court.
During his decades in politics President McKinley had seen the Senate reject more than one treaty. In July 1898, during the war with Cuba, Hawaii entered the Union as a territory not through Senate ratification of an already negotiated treaty (the votes were not there) but rather through simple majority voting in a joint House-Senate resolution. Hence McKinley now sought for his peace commission senators from both parties.
McKinley’s three senator negotiators all voted later to ratify their treaty. Their example had positive impact on Senate colleagues.
Other senators declined McKinley’s invitation. William Chandler, Republican of New Hampshire, told McKinley that it would be unconstitutional for a senator to co-create a treaty on which the Senate would later vote. George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts turned down becoming ambassador to Britain to stay in the Senate and vote against annexation of the Philippines.
In the end McKinley persuaded two Republican senators and one Democrat to serve on his peace commission:
-- (2) Senator Cushman Kellogg Davis, Republican of Minnesota, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His job it would later be to steer the treaty through the Senate. In Paris Davis vetoed language in the draft text that might later complicate his floor management.
-- (3) Senator William Pierce Frye, Republican of Maine, member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Frye’s opinions generally tracked with Senator Davis’s. Frye tried to beg off Paris. But McKinley refused to accept his excuse that he would rather stay home and go fishing and hunting. And Mrs Frye also insisted they go.
-- (4) Senator George Gray, Democrat of Delaware, later a judge at The Hague. Gray was the most determined anti-expansionist, anti-imperialist member of the peace commission. A righteous Presbyterian, Gray had no notable Senate following beyond certain other Democrats. In March 1899 the new Democratic party majority of the Delaware legislature would decline to reappoint him to the Senate.
--(5) Whitelaw Reid. Reid had made his reputation as a young journalist in the Civil War with eye-witness reporting on the battles of Shiloh and Gettysburg. Later he took over Horace Greeley’s New York TRIBUNE. President Benjamin Harrison named him Minister to France in 1889. Whitelaw Reid was also Harrison’s unenergetic Vice Presidential running mate in the losing GOP Presidential campaign of 1892. In Paris in 1898 official dealings of the American and Spanish Commissions were through interpreters. The French which Reid had learned in college and later taught for a few years made him particularly sought out by one or two francophone Spanish delegates and Spain's Ambassador to France.
-- (6) John Bassett Moore. An international lawyer and Columbia University Professor, Moore had been in and out of the State Department on both junior and mid career assignments, including service as secretary of commissions. In early 1898 Moore was second ranking officer at State and then briefly its Acting Secretary. He served the U.S. Peace Commission as both its official Secretary and Legal Counsel.
It did not hurt McKinley's standing with the Senate that the 1898 Congressional elections brought Republican majorities. The President's unprecedented addition of senators and a private American newspaper magnate to a treaty-writing commission then proved its worth. For the Senate did consent February 7, 1899 to the hotly disputed 1898 peace treaty with Spain, but only by 57 - 27, a two vote margin.
Both Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley had seen fit to turn to academia as a source of talent for filling important policy-influencing positions in government. John Bassett Moore is a striking example of this new attitude toward talent pioneered during the Progressive Era.
My thesis this evening is that 47 years later McKinley’s diplomatic innovation was dusted off to assure U. S. membership in the United Nations.
The road from William McKinley’s 1898 negotiating technique with Spain to 1945 American membership in the the United Nations leads through Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.
WOODROW WILSON’S 1919-20 FAILURE TO SECURE
SENATE APPROVAL OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Woodrow Wilson would have been well advised to copy McKinley’s approach to the Senate. But Wilson did not.
The multilateral Treaty of Versailles, of which the League Covenant was Article One, was created by the victors of the First World War without consulting the vanquished Germans.
Throughout that war Woodrow Wilson dazzled the world with soaring ideas about the purpose and shape of a future international organization to enforce peace. Wilson and associates, primarily his “executive agent,” Colonel Edward House of Texas, directly shaped the substance of the League and also, indirectly, the League's more enduring successor, the UN. But Wilson-House were not models of how to win over a hostile Senate.
To their credit, In 1917 - 1918 Wilson and House had created systematic, post-war planning by professionals. They did not, however, locate this planning inside the Department of State, but in an ad hoc secret, quasi non-governmental organization, “The Inquiry.” Post-war planning that begins long before a war ends is indisputably something that Wilson and House pioneered and is to their credit. Wilson’s errors begin not with texts and ideas but with the manner he negotiated the Treaty of Versailles.
Having lost in the 1918 elections his Democratic majority in the Senate, Wilson soon paid the price for having needlessly antagonized predominent Republican internationalists. In 1910, Nobel Peace Prize winner Theodore Roosevelt had proposed creating “a league to enforce peace.” After the guns of August 1914 roared in Europe, leading Republican internationalists like former President William Howard Taft contributed mightily to fleshing out and winning public understanding and support for Theodore Roosevelt’s concept of an energetic world organization for peace. On May 27, 1916, however, at a public meeting in Washington, Woodrow Wilson, abruptly co-opted Roosevelt’s and the Republicans’ concept as if he had invented it. Nor did he bring Republican leaders into consultation with him on this issue.
Wilson’s most personally offended and successful foe was Republican Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1919 he became both Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Majority Leader. Lodge and a tiny hard core of Senate “Irreconcilables” steadily outmaneuvered a President they despised and kept America out of the League. This they did in the teeth of overwhelming American popular support for U.S. membership. Even without America as a member, the League of Nations enjoyed a productive first decade and clung to existence for 26 years from January 10, 1920 until April 19, 1946.
American women did not have the vote in 1919, any more than in 1898. Thus neither McKinley nor Wilson can be faulted for having no women peace negotiators. But McKinley stayed home in Washington, directing his peace commissioners quietly but effectively via Atlantic undersea cable. Wilson, by contrast, led his peace delegation in person.
McKinley’s outgoing Secretary of State firmly led McKinley’s delegation in 1898. In 1919 only Woodrow Wilson and Colonel Edward House of Texas counted among the American delegates in Paris. Future Nobel Peace Prize winner, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg was a cypher.
McKinley’s negotiators included senators from both parties. Wilson’s team had no members of Congress. Its only Republican, Henry White, was a career diplomat, not an elected politician.
Wilson had failed to learn from McKinley that putting senators on a negotiating team greatly improves chances for treaty ratification. McKinley achieved peace with Spain by two votes. Wilson lost U.S. membership in the League of Nations by seven votes.
From 1940 into 1945
Franklin Roosevelt and Cordell Hull
Prepared America for a United Nations Organization
Not many months after Senate rejection of the League, Franklin Roosevelt was the losing Democratic Party candidate for Vice President. Roosevelt liked to remind friends that in 1920 he had “given 900 speeches” in favor of the League.
In 1920 Roosevelt’s future Secretary of State Cordell Hull was swept from office as Representative from Tennessee. Both Roosevelt and Hull well understood what McKinley had done right and what Wilson had done wrong in seeking Senate support for a treaty. When their turn came, Roosevelt and Hull would not repeat Wilson’s mistakes. They would out-McKinley McKinley.
Improving on President Wilson and Colonel House as pioneer planners, well over a year before American entered the Second World War, Secretary of State Hull commenced planning the post-war world -- whether America went to war with der Fuehrer and the Mikado or not. And Hull allowed no latter-day Colonel House to challenge his State Department’s primacy in post-war planning.
Cordell Hull, himself a former Senator, added both Senators and Representatives first to his US post-war planning team and later to the treaty-writing Delegation approved for San Francisco by President Roosevelt and sent there in April 1945 by President Truman.
Hull also posted to his planning groups private American academicians and internationalists. One result of Hull’s innovations was the joint government/private team of seven American treaty negotiators present on the ground at San Francisco April - June 1945.
This evening we need not debate the merits or evils of the United Nations. It is enough to focus on McKinley’s innovations in 1898, created with an eye to Senate ratification, and Hull’s adaptations and improvements on McKinley in 1945.
It may, however, be helpful to our coming discussion to review some salient background facts:
-- Fact One is that the UN Charter is a remarkably good, clearly written piece of diplomacy. Some even see its texts as political poetry or as constitutional milestones.
-- Fact Two is that in August 1945 the Senate far exceeded the 2/3 majority needed to make the USA a member of the UN. The vote was 89 to 2 -- 30 votes more than needed.
-- Fact Three is that the UN Charter is made up of ideas that were not original in 1945. Decades earlier, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Colonel Edward House and House’s associates in The Inquiry had done the conceptual heavy lifting. The Wilson-House team, along with foreign negotiators at Paris, had far outdone Roosevelt-Hull in originality by forging a predecessor international organization (IO) for peace 80% and more identical to the later UN.
-- Fact Four: scores of nations joined both IOs for peace. American negotiators with utmost confidence had promised other foreign signatories that the United States would soon be among them: first in the League of Nations and 25 years later in the United Nations. But President Wilson could not keep his promise.
President Roosevelt’s team did well at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944 in persuading the USSR, China and Britain to co-create and negotiate a text creating in 1945 a successor to the League. Equally importantly the White House then persuaded the Senate in 1945 to bring the USA into the UN as a charter member
Here are some more things to remember about League and UN.
How the UN Resembles the League of Nations
There are at least eight major similarities between the two IOs -- as the two organizations for peace might be reconstructed 300 years from now by an unbiased political scientist from another planet.
-- (1) Both League and UN were international organizations (IOs) for preserving and deepening peace among Earth’s sovereign nation-states.
-- (2) Both had many independent nation-states as members.
-- (3) Both had fixed permanent headquarters: the League in Geneva, the United Nations in New York.
-- (4) Both IOs were staffed by a body of international civil servants headed by a Secretary General.
-- (5) Both IOs had large unwieldy Assemblies which met from time to time and in which all member states participated on the basis of one state, one vote. These larger, lumbering deliberative Assemblies dealt with long-term underlying causes of the planet's peacelessness. Related or subordinated to the Assemblies were more specialized bodies focused on problems such as refugees, labor, poverty and health.
-- (6) Both League and UN had much smaller action-oriented Councils dominated by Great Powers. The two Councils addressed short-term and emergency challenges to international peace. Whenever the greatest of the Great Powers failed to agree, no united action ensued.
-- (7) Both League and UN had associated Courts of Law designed to decide cases between nations impartially.
-- (8) Underpinning each IO lay a constitutional document: the League of Nations Covenant and The United Nations Charter.
How the UN Differs from the League of Nations
There are at least three notable differences between the two IOs for peace:
-- (1) The USA never joined the League of Nations, because the Senate rejected U.S. membership.
-- (2) The League of Nations failed to prevent World War Two.
-- (3) So far, the United Nations can claim to have prevented World War III.
This concludes my general review of Woodrow Wilson’s mismanaging the Senate that kept the USA out of the League of Nations. I have also reviewed similarities and differences between the two bodies.
History demonstrates nothing radically unattractive in the concept, the unadorned idea, of a world organization made up of independent nations to enforce peace, punish aggressors and probe the underlying causes impelling mankind to war. It was Wilson’s relationship with the Senate that needed improvement.
Did the League of Nations have to disappear? As a practical matter, yes. For the USSR, freshly victorious in the Second World War, had been the only member ever expelled from the Geneva-based League -- over its invasion of Finland. The USSR therefore hated the League and its headquarters in Geneva. For the UN to live, the League must die.
The real originality, the heavy lifting, of the administrations of Roosevelt and Truman was not inventing totally new ideas and creating the United Nations on paper. It was simply rediscovering McKinley’s technique, improving it and using it to persuade the Senate to ratify U. S. membership by a 30 vote margin.
Roosevelt and Hull Out-McKinley McKinley in Treaty Making
To achieve this, President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull dusted off McKinley’s approach to the Senate and added four striking improvements:
-- (1) they included in the U.S. Delegation at San Francisco both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. The House would have to initiate funding of the UN, so the House should have a hand in negotiations;
-- (2) they associated, not as members of the Delegation but as official Consultants, freely named representatives of 42 private American voluntary groups like Rotary and the NAACP;
-- (3) they provided easy daily access to Delegates and to Consultants for representatives of an additional 96 private American groups like the DAR and CHURCH WOMEN UNITED. These private Americans made up a looser, less official grouping called Observers. All those private American groups powerfully mobilized their members to lobby for Senate ratification;
-- (4) They posted the first American woman to a high-level international delegation. Once she was named, other nations did likewise. That distinguished woman was Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College. Gildersleeve was a co-founder of the WAVES ("Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service"). Those 80,000 Naval women enthusiastically provided Dean Gildersleeve a secretarial staff in San Francisco. And in 1945, unlike 1898 and 1919, American women had the vote.
In a word, President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull not only embraced McKinley’s approach but they also made it more consultative, democratic and bi-partisan. This they did for one reason: to assure unstoppable American public support for -- and subsequent US Senate advice and consent to -- the United Nations Charter.
Allow me to close by explaining the title of my remarks:
PRESIDENT WILLIAM MCKINLEY IN 1898:
GREAT-GRANDFATHERING THE UNITED NATIONS.
President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed Secretary of State Cordell Hull of Tennessee, not long before the latter won the Nobel Peace Prize, to be "Father of the United Nations." If Cordell Hull was the American father of the UN, both for its written substance and for getting Senate ratification, then Woodrow Wilson had to be its American grandfather on the substance side and William McKinley the American great-grandfather of the United Nations on the side of method needed to clear the Senate.
Q. E. D.
To this day the McKinley-Hull approach rests peacefully on a shelf somewhere at the State Department ready for any President who chooses to use it.
(1) According to early Christian Era literary historian Athaeneus, the Greek dramatist Aeschylus used to describe his famous tragedies as mere “slices from the great banquet of Homer.”
William McKinley, Whitelaw Reid and the 1898 Peace Treaty
-- Bingham DUNCAN. WHITELAW REID: JOURNALIST, POLITICIAN, DIPLOMAT. Athens. University of Georgia Press. 1975. 365 pp.
ISBN: 0-8203-0353-4. See especially Chapter 13, “War with Spain and the Peace Commission,” 177-196.
-- Lewis L. GOULD. THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR AND PRESIDENT MCKINLEY. Lawrence. The University Press of Kansas. 1980. 1982. Sixth printing (paper). 1999. x. 166 pp. ISBN 0-7006-0227-5. See especially Chapter 4, “Duty Determines Destiny,” 91 - 120.
-- H. Wayne MORGAN, editor. MAKING PEACE WITH SPAIN: THE DIARY OF WHITELAW REID, SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER, 1898. Austin. University of Texas Press. 1965. 276 pp.
-- Kevin PHILLIPS. WILLIAM MCKINLEY. New York. Henry Holt & Company. 2003. xviii. 188 pp. ISBN 0-8050-6953-4.
-- Richard E. WELCH, Jr.: GEORGE FRISBIE HOAR AND THE HALF-BREED REPUBLICANS. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1971. 364 pp.
SBN: 674-34876-1. See especially Chapter 7, "Party Unity and a War for Humanity," 199- 220 and Chapter 8, "The Start of the Last Crusade: The Treaty of Paris in the Senate," 221 - 250.
The League of Nations
-- Ruhl Jacob BARTLETT. THE LEAGUE TO ENFORCE PEACE. Chapel Hill. University of North Carolina Press. 1944.
-- Lawrence Emerson GELFAND. THE INQUIRY: AMERICAN PREPARATIONS FOR PEACE, 1917 - 1919. New Haven and London. Yale University Press. 1963.
-- Alexander L. GEORGE and Juliette L. GEORGE. WOODROW WILSON AND COLONEL HOUSE: A PERSONALITY STUDY. New York. The John Day Company. 1956.
The United Nations
-- Bernard C. COHEN. THE INFLUENCE OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL GROUPS ON FOREIGN POLICY MAKING. Boston. World Peace Foundation. 1959.
-- John S. DICKEY. "The Secretary and the American Public," pp. 139 - 165 in Don K. PRICE (ed.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice-Hall. 1960.
-- Clark Mell EICHELBERGER:
--- PROPOSALS FOR THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER: WHAT WAS DONE AT DUMBARTON OAKS. New York. CSOP. 1944.
---- ORGANIZING FOR PEACE: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE UNITED NATIONS. New York. Harper and Row. 1977.
-- Virginia C. GILDERSLEEVE. MANY A GOOD CRUSADE. New York. Macmillan Co. 1954.
-- Robert C. HILDERBRAND. DUMBARTON OAKS: THE ORIGINS OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND ITS SEARCH FOR POSTWAR SECURITY. Chapel Hill. University of North Carolina Press. 1990.
-- Harley A. NOTTER. POSTWAR FOREIGN POLICY PREPARATION, 1939 - 1945. Washington, D.C. U.S. Departmen of State. Publication 3580. Released February 1950.
-- Dorothy B. ROBINS. EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY: THE STORY OF U.S. CITIZEN ORGANIZATIONS IN FORGING THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS. New York. Parkside Press. 1971.
-- Ruth B. RUSSELL:
---- A HISTORY OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER: THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES 1940 - 1945. Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution. 1958.
---- THE UNITED NATIONS AND UNITED STATES SECURITY POLICY. Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution. 1968.
F. P. A. WALTERS. A HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS. London and New York. Oxford University Press. 1952.
Black Mountain, North Carolina