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A Glimpse at U.S. Diplomats

Ambassador Dodd Painted a Devastating Portrait of These Parasites

(22 March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 12, 22 March 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The diplomatic world that William E. Dodd entered he was appointed United States Ambassador to Germany in June 1933 is pictured in his daily personal journal, published recently by his son and daughter under the title Ambassador Dodd’s Diary 1933–1938.

Dodd’s description of a dinner at the French embassy in Berlin is a good introduction to that world:

“There Was a great room for the accommodation of men’s and women’s wraps, with two servants, in livery, to receive them – expecting tips. Up the magnificent stairway there were pages dressed in the gay liveries of Louis XIV’s. time. At the entrance to the reception hall, there were two other servants to hand out cards indicating dinner companions. In the reception room there was a marvelous rug with a huge letter N in the middle to remind one, especially Germans, of the conquests of Napoleon, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht and Count von Bassewitz were compelled to walk over or around the famous initial ...

“The walls were covered with beautiful Gobelin tapestries. The chairs were of Louis XIV style ... I noticed ... also portraits of French generals of the Louis XIV period ... and a lavish table with decorations in the best of form and taste. There were eight or ten servants, in liveries, as pages, all standing at attention. It surpassed the Belgian’s dining hall outfit.

“We ate for an hour. Nothing worth while was said ... After we were through, all marched correctly to the reception room where everyone stood gossiping in little groups until 11:45 when the musicians came to open a concert ... There was nothing else to do, so we went out as the great party moved into the music hall. Such was the show of democratic France to autocratic Germany.” (our emphasis)

A Typical Example of Bourgeois Hypocrisy

In one passage, Dodd sums up the hypocritical character of capitalist statesmen and diplomacy:

“I went to the Catholic Cathedral near the old Kaiser’s palace to attend the service in honor of Pilsudski, who was being buried in Cracow, Poland, at the same time ... Hitler took the seat of honor on the right of the altar ...

“To me it was all half-absurd. I do not know much about Pilsudski, except that he was a dictator who put people to death when they opposed him. Why so much religious ceremony when no one could have imagined him to be a Christian? But there was probably not one follower of Jesus in the whole congregation. I wondered how German Lutherans and Catholics would honor Hitler, a professed Catholic, if he should die. He has murdered or caused to be murdered hundreds of innocent people. Yet all of us diplomats would be called into the churches to pay tribute to him as a Christian in case of his death.”

The American State Department took no second place in pretentious display. Its emissaries and officials were, and are, the spokesmen of huge wealth and private gain, ignorant, mercenary and ruling-class consciois to the core. Dodd so describes them:

“... The further I go in my study of State Department policies, the more evidence there is that a clique of kinspeople connected with certain rich families are bent upon exploiting the Foreign Service for their set, many of them Harvard graduates who are not even well informed. Snobbery and personal gratification are the main objects with then.”

Dodd’s Descriptions if American Diplomats

Here are some individual portraits :

“The American Minister in Vienna, George Earle, called at 11 o’clock. He is one of the rich men appointed to foreign posts who know little history of their own or any other country ... He is intelligent, but he has a rich man’s estimate of social values. For instance, servants, valets, butlers were to him a mark of distinction. He thought it terrible that less than 300 families in Vienna have as many as three servants each ...”

“Earle thinks Dollfuss was right in his ruthless handling of the Socialist rebellion in Austria during the second half of February.”

Earle is now U.S. Minister to Bulgaria.

“When I accepted this post, I stipulated that there was to be no complaint if I lived within my official income ... However, I had not been in Berlin long before I received notice that the then Counselor, George Gordon, was to be recalled and J.C. White was to succeed him ... I did not realize the purpose of this appointment until some months later when I learned that White was one of the richest men in the service.

“At the same time, I learned that Orme Wilson was to come with the Whites, and he was reported also to be a very wealthy man. This was clearly to supplement my want of millions of dollars. Furthermore, I saw that Jay Pierrepont Moffat, brother-in-law of White and Phillips, uncle of Wilson, both in high position in the State Department, intended to have White and Wilson manage the Embassy.”

Dodd’s Picture of the State Department

In March 1934, Dodd returned for a visit to the United States. One journal entry during this period is particularly devastating in its depiction of the character of the State Department personnel.

“In the afternoon I attended a conference of personnel officers in the State Department: Moore, (now Counselor of the State Department) Carr, Sumner Welles (of doubtful Cuban fame), Hugh Wilson and others were present. I reported that American diplomacy had a new role to play. The Louis XIV and Victoria style and times had passed. The nations of the world were bankrupt, including our own. It was time to cease grand style performances. I described Belgian, Italian and French dinners of state in Berlin. There was some amusement.

“I then talked of American staff officials who shipped furniture enough for twenty-room houses with only two persons in the family! An assistant to me in Berlin had a chauffeur, a porter, a butler, a valet, two cooks and two maids. All for two persons! ... I urged that men should not be allowed to spend more than their salaries: $4,000 to $17,000 a year. Besides I urged the necessity of having ambassadors and assistants who knew the history and traditions of the countries to which they were sent, men who think of their own country’s interests, not so much about a different suit of clothes each day or sitting up at gay but silly dinners and shows very night ... Sumner Welles winced a little: the owner of a mansion in Washington which outshines the White House in some respects and is about as large.

“There was much talk and some embarrassment, but general agreement that the time had come for a new kind of service. I was not fooled, however, after two hours of pretended agreement.” (our emphasis)

On June 30, 1937, Dodd records:

“I heard from a friend today distressing news about the new Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Welles. According to the story as I heard it, six Senators secured his appointment by threatening quietly to vote against Roosevelt’s Supreme Court reform if he did not name Welles to the post. He was Ambassador to Cuba early in the Roosevelt regime. His conduct here was most embarrassing, I have heard.

“He has one of the greatest houses in Washington, with fifteen servants, and another house for summer use in Maryland. He prides himself on spending twice as much as Secretary Hull and gives parties hardly matched by any of the Ambassadors in Washington. I was a little surprised to read a day or two ago in the press that Roosevelt had spent a Sunday with Welles at his Maryland mansion. Politics is a strange game, even with a real man like Roosevelt.”

Strange only to a petty-bourgeois history professor like Dodd whom chance placed as a useful tool in the hands of American imperialist diplomacy. As an honest and befuddled Jeffersonian democrat, Dodd gave a liberal front to the machinations of the State Department in Nazi Germany. And when he had played his part, he was summarily withdrawn by Roosevelt in December 1937. He died shortly thereafter.

But Welles, as Under-Secretary of State, now has the special task of convincing the semi-totalitarian and totalitarian governments of Latin America that their job is to defend “democracy” under the direction of American imperialism.

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