Warren G. Harding's Presidency

Start Free Trial

What was the foreign policy of Warren G. Harding?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

So much of Harding's administration is characterized by the rampant corruption and inept actions that followed the scandal that we lose sight of the fact that presidents are the sum of their domestic and foreign policy. Harding served for two years before his death in office. In those two years,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

So much of Harding's administration is characterized by the rampant corruption and inept actions that followed the scandal that we lose sight of the fact that presidents are the sum of their domestic and foreign policy. Harding served for two years before his death in office. In those two years, his administration's accomplishments in the area of foreign affairs were the result of the work of three men he chose to conduct foreign policy.

As you might expect, Harding's interest in foreign policy revolved around the various economic and business transactions the United States government could influence in international markets. Harding, for the most part, was a hands-off president; he preferred that his Secretary of State, Commerce Secretary, and Treasury Secretary formulate policy. The main thrust of their work was to convince the international community to move the international banking headquarters from Great Britain to the United States. The idea was to make the United States banks the primary financier of global free trade.

Harding's Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, was known nationally as a well-respected attorney and politician with internationalist views. His Treasury Secretary was Andrew Mellon, a prominent banker and financier. Harding's Secretary of Commerce was Herbert Hoover, a former mining engineer who served in several humanitarian efforts on behest of the American government after World War I. He would later become President of the United States.

This group of men promoted and negotiated for a role for the US oil companies to expand to the Middle East. Through various reciprocity deals and negotiations, the United States gained a foothold in the oil fields and international oil markets. Some historians claim that this was the earliest of forays into the politics of the Middle East by the United States—which foreshadowed future American foreign policies in the region, including our current policies.

After the first World War, Germany and other countries had enormous debts from the reparations owed to the European allies and the Americans. Under Harding's administration, these debts were restructured and reduced by the Dawes Plan, fueling an economic revival in Germany. In other matters of foreign affairs, the Harding administration worked for arms control, reduced American naval forces, and made efforts to restore peaceful relations in Europe.

In office for a short time, Harding was wise to allow the foreign policy to be conducted by Mellon, Hughes, and Hoover. Collectively, they conducted foreign affairs with an interest in securing America's future role in international politics and promoted the United States as a nation capable of brokering conciliatory relationships between rival nations.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team