BENJAMIN SUMNER WELLES (October 14, 1892 – September 24, 1961) was an American government official and diplomat in the Foreign Service . He was a major foreign policy adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served as Under Secretary of State from 1936 to 1943, during FDR's presidency.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Diplomatic career
* 3 Later years
* 4 Personal life
* 4.1 Legacy
* 5 Works * 6 References
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links
The Welles family was also connected to the Roosevelts. A cousin of
After graduating from Harvard, Welles followed the advice of Franklin
Delano Roosevelt and entered into the Foreign Service . A New York
Times profile described him at the time he joined the foreign service:
"Tall, slender, blond, and always correctly tailored, he concealed a
natural shyness under an appearance of dignified firmness. Although
intolerant of inefficiency, he brought to bear unusual tact and a
self-imposed patience." He secured an assignment to
Welles soon became a specialist in Latin American affairs. He served
In March 1922, Welles briefly resigned from the State Department. He was unsympathetic to the view held by American diplomacy that military might was meant to protect the overseas interests of American business. Hughes brought him back the next year as a special commissioner to the Dominican Republic . His particular assignment was to oversee the withdrawal of American forces and to negotiate protection for overseas investors in the Dominican Republic's debt. Welles remained in that post for three years and his work was accomplished after his departure in a 1924 treaty.
In 1924, President Coolidge sent Welles to act as mediator between disputing parties in Honduras. The country had lacked a legitimate government since the election of 1923 failed to produce a majority for any candidate and the legislature had failed to exercise its power to appoint a new president. Negotiations managed by Welles from April 23 to 28 produced an interim government under General Vicente Tosta , who promised to appoint a cabinet representing all factions and to schedule a presidential election as soon as possible in which he would not be a candidate. Negotiations ended with the signing of an agreement aboard the USS Milwaukee in the port of Amapala .
YEARS OUT OF GOVERNMENT SERVICE
Miss Mathilde Townsend,
John Singer Sargent
Coolidge, however, disapproved of Welles' 1925 marriage to Mathilde Scott Townsend, who had only recently divorced the President's friend, Senator Peter Gerry of Rhode Island. He promptly ended Welles' diplomatic career.
Welles then retired to his estate at Oxon Hill, Maryland. He devoted himself to writing and his two-volume history of the Dominican Republic, Naboth's Vineyard: The Dominican Republic, 1844-1924 appeared in 1928. Time described the work as "a ponderous, lifeless, two-volume work which was technically a history of Santo Domingo, actually a careful indictment of U.S. foreign policy in the Hemisphere". James Reston summarized its thesis: "we should keep in our own back yard and stop claiming rights for ourselves that we denied to other sovereign States".
He served as an unofficial adviser to Dominican President Horacio Vásquez .
During the presidential election of 1932 , Welles provided foreign policy expertise to the Roosevelt campaign. He was a major contributor to the campaign as well.
Welles, holding hat at left, greeting Cuba's Fulgencio Batista at Union Station, Washington, D.C. November 10, 1938
In April 1933, FDR appointed Welles Assistant Secretary of State for
Latin American Affairs, but when a revolution in
His instructions were to mediate "in any form most suitable" an end to the Cuban situation. Welles promised Machado a new commercial treaty to relieve economic distress if Machado reached a political settlement with his opponents. Machado believed the U.S. would help him survive politically. Welles promised the opponents of Machado's government a change of government and participation in the subsequent administration, if they joined the mediation process and supported an orderly transfer of power. One crucial step was persuading Machado to issue an amnesty for political prisoners so that the opposition leaders could appear in public. Machado soon lost faith in Welles and denounced American interference as a colonialist adventure. Welles' mediation process conferred political legitimacy on sectors of the opposition that participated and allowed the U.S. to assess their viability as long-term political allies. Unable to influence Machado, Welles met with Rafael Guas Inclan, president of the Chamber of Representatives, at the home of newspaper publisher Alfredo Hornedo, and requested that he initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. When Guas harshly refuted him, Wells then negotiated an end to his presidency, with support from General Alberto Herrera, Colonels Julio Sanguily, Rafael del Castillo and Erasmo Delgado after threatening U.S. intervention under the Platt Amendment and the restructuring of the Cuban army high command.
In 1937, FDR promoted Welles to Under Secretary, and the Senate
promptly confirmed the appointment. Indicative of ongoing rivalries
within the State Department, Robert Walton Moore, an ally of Secretary
of State Hull was appointed the department's Counselor at the same
time, a position equal in rank to that of Under Secretary. 1939
hand signed issued passport by under Secretary of State
WORLD WAR II
In the week following
I reminded the Ambassador that the President stated there was no intention on the part of his government to increase the quota for German nationals. I added that it was my strong impression that the responsible leaders among American Jews would be the first to urge that no change in the present quota for German Jews be made...The influential Sam Rosenman , one of the "responsible" Jewish leaders sent Roosevelt a memorandum telling him that an "increase of quotas is wholly inadvisable. It will merely produce a 'Jewish problem' in the countries increasing the quota."
Welles headed the American delegation to the 21-nation Pan American conference that met in Panama in September 1939. He said the conference had been planned in earlier hemispheric meetings in Buenos Aires and Lima and he emphasized the need for consultation on economic issues to "cushion the shock of the dislocation of inter-American commerce arising from the war" in Europe.
In February and March 1940 Welles visited Italy, Germany, France (he visited President Albert Lebrun on March 7) and England to discuss peacemaking proposals. Hitler feared that the purpose of his visits was to drive a wedge between Germany and Italy.
SOVIET OCCUPATION OF THE BALTICS
On July 23, 1940, following the principles of the
Stimson Doctrine ,
Welles issued a statement that became known as the Welles Declaration
. In the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939, Germany agreed to
The Declaration was a source of contention during the subsequent alliance between the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, but Welles persistently defended it. In a discussion with the media he asserted that the USSR had maneuvered to give "an odor of legality to acts of aggression for purposes of the record".
In a 1942 memorandum describing his conversations with British Ambassador Lord Halifax , Welles stated that he would have preferred to characterize the plebiscites supporting the annexations as "faked". In April 1942 he wrote that the annexation was "not only indefensible from every moral standpoint, but likewise extraordinarily stupid". He believed any concession on the Baltic issue would set a precedent that would lead to additional border struggles in eastern Poland and elsewhere.
Cordell Hull Secretary of State, 1933-1944
A New York Times profile described Welles in 1941: "Tall and erect, never without his cane,... he has enough dignity to be Viceroy of India and... enough influence in this critical era to make his ideas, principles, and dreams count."
He appeared on the cover of Time on August 11, 1941, and in that issue Time assessed Welles' role within Hull's Department of State:
Roosevelt was always close to Welles and made him the central figure in the State Department , much to the chagrin of secretary Cordell Hull , who could not be removed because he had a powerful political base.
A later report, after they were no longer working together at the State Department, regretted the fact that two men who shared "aims and goals" were at odds because of a "clash of temperament and ambitions".
The clash became more public in mid-1943, when Time reported "a flare-up of long-smoldering hates and jealousies in the State Department".
In September 1940, Welles accompanied Roosevelt to the funeral of
former Speaker of the House
William B. Bankhead in Huntsville, Alabama
. While returning to Washington by train, Welles solicited sex from
two African-American Pullman car porters.
In August 1943, reports that Welles had resigned as Under-Secretary
of State circulated for more than a week. The press reported it as
fact on August 24 despite the lack of an official announcement.
Writing in The New York Times,
Arthur Krock said that opinion in
Washington saw Welles' departure as an attempt to end factionalism in
the State Department: "The long-existing struggle disorganized the
department, bred Hull and Welles factions among its officials,
confused those having business with the department and finally
produced pressure on the President to eliminate the causes." Despite
the "personal fondness" of the President and his wife for Welles, he
continued, the President sided with Hull because supporting a
subordinate would promote revolts in other government agencies, Hull
was politically connected and popular with Congress, and the Senate,
he was told, would not support Welles for Secretary of State or any
other office. Krock added a cryptic explanation: "Other incidents
arising made the disagreements between the two men even more personal.
It was those which aroused the Senate to opposition to Mr. Welles that
was reported to the President." "The U.S. still awaits a
clarification of its foreign policy and the forced resignation of
While Welles vacationed in
Bar Harbor, Maine , "where he held to
diplomatically correct silence", speculation continued for another
month without official word from the White House or the State
Department. Observers continued to focus on the Hull-Welles
relationship and believed that Hull forced the President to choose
between them to end "departmental cleavage". Others read the
situation politically and blamed FDR's "appeasement of Southern
Democrats ". Without confirming his resignation or speaking on the
record, Welles indicated he would accept any new assignment the
President proposed. Finally on September 26, 1943, the President
announced the resignation of Welles and the appointment of Edward R.
Stettinius as the new Under-Secretary of State. He accepted Welles'
resignation with regret and explained that Welles was prompted to
leave government service because of "his wife's poor health." Welles'
letter of resignation was not made public as was customary and, one
report concluded, "The facts of this situation remained obscure
tonight." Time summarized the reaction of the press: "Its endorsement
Welles made his first public appearance following his resignation in October 1943. Speaking to the Foreign Policy Association , he sketched his views of the post-war world, including American participation in a world organization with military capability. He also proposed the creation of regional organizations. He also called on the President to express his opinions and help shape public opinion, praising the President at length-"rightly regarded throughout the world as the paladin of the forces of liberal democracy"-without once mentioning Secretary of State Hull. Continuing his career-long focus on Latin America, he said that "if we are to achieve our own security every nation of the Western Hemisphere must also obtain the same ample measure of assurance as ourselves in the world of the future". He also foresaw the end to colonialism as a guiding principle of the new world order:
Can the peaceful, the stable, and the free world for which we hope be created if it is envisioned from the outset as half slave and half free?-if hundreds of millions of human beings are told that they are destined to remain indefinitely under alien subjection? New and powerful nationalistic forces are breaking into life throughout the earth, and in particular in the vast regions of Africa, of the Near East, and of the Far East. Must not these forces, unless they are to be permitted to start new and devastating inundations, be canalized through the channels of liberty into the great stream of constructive and cooperative human endeavor?
In 1944, Welles lent his name to a fund-raising campaign by the United Jewish Appeal to bring Jewish refugees from the Balkans to Palestine. Confidential expose March 3, 1956
That same year he authored The Time for Decision. His proposals for
the war's end included modifications in Germany's borders to transfer
Welles became a prominent commentator and author on foreign affairs.
In 1945, he joined the
American Broadcasting Company to guide the
organization of the "
In 1948, Welles authored We Need Not Fail, a short book that first
presented a history and evaluated the competing claims to Palestine .
He argued that American policy should insist on the fulfillment of the
1947 promise of the
Later that year, the American Jewish Congress presented Welles with a citation that praised his "courageous championing of the cause of Israel among the nations of the world".
In early December 1948, Welles appeared before
HUAC as part of its
investigation into allegations between
In April 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy repeatedly charged that the Institute of Pacific Relations or IPR, an organization that fostered the study of the Far East and the Pacific, was a Communist front. Welles was a member of IPR's American branch.
He remained always in the public eye. For example, his departure on the Île de France for Europe was noted even as he declined to comment on charges made by Senator Joseph McCarthy about Communists in the State Department.
He sold his estate outside Washington in 1952, and Oxon Hill Manor then became the home of a "huge collection of Americana".
In 1956, Confidential , a scandal magazine, published a report of the 1940 Pullman incident and linked it to his resignation from the State Department, along with additional instances of inappropriate sexual behavior or drunkenness. Welles explained the 1940 incident to his family as nothing more than drunken conversation with the train staff. His son Benjamin Welles, devoted to his father, wrote of the incident in his father's biography as drunken advances to several porters at about 4 a.m. that were rejected and subsequently reported to government and railway officials.
Welles home, the Townsend Mansion , taken in 2010
On April 14, 1915,
* Benjamin Welles (1916–2002), a foreign correspondent for The New York Times , later his father's biographer, * Arnold Welles (1918–2002)
In 1923, Slater obtained a divorce from Welles in
Welles occasionally gained public notice for his art dealings. In
1925, for example, he sold a collection of Japanese screens that had
been on exhibit at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
On June 27, 1925, Welles married Mathilde Scott Townsend
(1885–1949), "a noted international beauty" whose portrait had been
John Singer Sargent
Welles spent the bulk of his time a few miles outside of Washington in the Maryland countryside at a 49-room "country cottage" known as Oxon Hill Manor designed for him by Jules Henri de Sibour and built on a 245-acre property in 1929. He entertained foreign dignitaries and diplomats there and hosted informal meetings of senior officials. FDR used the site as an occasional escape from the city as well.
On January 8, 1952, Welles married Harriette Appleton Post, a
childhood friend, in
New York City
Although the two men were occasionally mistaken for cousins, Welles was no relation to director Orson Welles .
Welles' papers are held by the National Archives at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York .
* The Time for Decision (Harper -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em; list-style-type: decimal;">
* ^ Welles' father studied at the
* Michael J. Devine, "Welles, Sumner" in American National Biography
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), v. 23 available online
* Gellman, Irwin F., Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell
* Kapcia, A., "The Siege of the Hotel Nacional, Cuba, 1933: A
Reassessment" in Journal of Latin American Studies v. 34 (2002),
* Lazo, Mario, Dagger in the Heart: American Policy Failures in Cuba
(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968)
* Phillips, R. Hart, Cuban Side Show, 2nd ed. (Havana: Cuban Press,
* Phillips, R. Hart, Cuba, Island of Paradox (New York: McDowell,
* Thomas, Hugh,
Preceded by William Phillips UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE 1936–1943 Succeeded by Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.
* v * t * e
Norman H. Davis
Henry P. Fletcher
* William Phillips
* v * t * e
GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
Brothers to the Rescue
* Commission for Assistance to a Free
MILITARY AND ACTIVITIES