Bitter Rivals Henry Cabot Lodge and Woodrow Wilson




Bitter Rivals: Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge

Political rivalries define American government. The dual-party system by nature sets up partisan rivalries between members of all three branches of our government – rivalries that have at times pushed our government to progress and at other times slowed it to a grinding halt. The contrasting backgrounds and resulting political ideologies of Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge created a modern rivalry that defined American foreign policy in the twentieth century.
Woodrow Wilson’s religious background and academic pursuits shaped his personality into one characterized by impatience. Born in Virginia in 1856, Wilson grew up around strict Calvinist doctrine in the Presbyterian church (Lafeber 269-270). This theology served as the foundation for all of Wilson’s endeavors, as he believed he was “guided by God’s will” (Lafeber 270). The future President’s first career path was law, but Wilson’s inability to excel in the field bred in him distaste for the profession. Wilson hastily abandoned any thoughts of being a lawyer and pursued an academic career in political science. His refusal to give his law profession time to prosper represents a larger trend in Wilson’s behavior of acting rashly when faced with adversity. Despite this impatience, he quickly rose to a high level of respect as a political scientist while attending Princeton University (Lafeber 269). Wilson’s faith in God, bred from his Calvinist upbringing, further fueled his impatient personality as he believed that God would eventually guide him in the right direction if he “made efforts to improve” (Lafeber 270). This impatience defined most of Wilson’s political philosophies and foreign policies.
Like Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodge’s educational background shaped his views toward American foreign policy. His family instilled in Lodge conservative values that melded the Senator as a man “whose nature and upbringing disposed him to be out of step with his times”. His fiery personality that emerged during Lodge’s tenure as a Senator was most likely a direct result of this conservative environment during his formative years. He would not budge from political positions he believed to be morally just, even though those terms manifested themselves in strictly conservative legislation in foreign policy (Widenor 44-47).
Lodge had another concern over his career as a politician besides being a fierce advocate for conservatism in US foreign policy. While Lodge had to fight the “silver-spooned boy” stereotype on the Senate floor and on the campaign trail, he felt immense responsibility to the citizens of Massachusetts who elected him to his seat (Widenor 49). The rapid increase of industrialization within the United States, as well as increased immigration “brought new values and interests” to New England, made Lodge’s job of representing Massachusetts in the Senate a much tougher task (Widenor 45). The threat of the increasing difficulty in pleasing all of Massachusetts’ many peoples forced Lodge to be steadfast in his own. If his constituents ever had complaints with Lodge, he never wanted them to be able to truthfully say he did not stand up for what he believed was right. Lodge’s background and uncertainty of future social standing lit a fire within him and led to his fiery temperament over key Senate issues that was Lodge’s trademark for many years.
The different backgrounds from which Wilson and Lodge arose to attain political power led them both to support American entry into World War I but pushed them away from one another in terms of foreign policy after the war’s conclusion. Wilson’s devout Calvinist beliefs sparked within the President a sense of Americanism – he believed that God would be on America’s side, and thus America was innately superior to other nations. In Wilson’s War Message of 1917, Wilson re-assured the American people of this divine guidance: “to such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes … and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.” (Paterson and Merrill 537) Similarly, Henry Cabot Lodge’s ideas of “duty and sacrifice” that stemmed from his conservative background pushed him toward Americanism and toward advocating US intervention in World War I (Widenor 221).
After World War I, however, the two politicians renewed their rivalry as their visions of post-war Americanism in foreign policy repeatedly conflicted. Wilson’s Americanism in the aftermath of