Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy

by William C. Widenor

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How did Senator Henry Cabot Lodge plan to imperialize countries in the early 1900s?

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Henry Cabot Lodge was a staunch supporter of US participation in World War 1. He believed it was necessary to militarily and economically punish Germany to ensure future stability of Europe. Lodge displayed his imperialist reservations when he opposed terms included in the Treaty of Versailles especially those with regard to League peacekeeping missions. He was not comfortable with the idea of international commitments that would infringe on American political freedoms. Cabot saw the League of Nations as a source of complexities that would interfere with the American imperialist agenda because some of the terms would not allow arbitrary interference of other nations’ affairs. He supported the expansion of U.S. sovereignty over the Philippines. Lodge as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Philippines had avoided investigating allegations of war crimes in the Philippine-American War in support of the expansion agenda. On international entanglement Cabot asserts,

The United States is the world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her powerful good, and endanger her very existence.

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Henry Cabot Lodge advocated imperialism throughout his career in the Senate. Convinced that the United States had to obtain territories overseas to earn a place among the world's powers, he supported the expansion of the Navy, the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, and armed intervention in Venezuela in 1893. He also advocated for the Spanish-American War, and supported the annexation of the Philippines. Later, he was a strong supporter of the aggressive foreign policy of Theodore Roosevelt, who sought to expand American influence in Latin America through what has become known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. When World War I broke out, he pushed for "preparedness" and hoped for an Allied victory instead of the strict neutrality advocated by Woodrow Wilson. He was opposed, however, to the Fourteen Points, and as Senate Majority Leader played a major role in scuttling Senate approval of the Treaty of Versailles. This demonstrated that his point of view was not internationalist in outlook, as did his support of stringent restrictions on immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. 

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