Cordell Hull - U.S. Senate, Secretary of State

U.S. Senate, Secretary of State

Hull was elected to the Senate in 1930. In 1933, Roosevelt named him Secretary of State and appointed him to lead the American delegation to the London Economic Conference. Hull strove to enlarge foreign trade and lower tariffs. In 1943, Hull served as United States delegate to the Moscow Conference.

In a prescient speech in 1937, Mayor LaGuardia of New York warned of the upcoming dangers posed by the Nazi Government regime. The Nazi government organ, the Angriff, called the Mayor a "Jewish Ruffian" saying he had been bribed by Jewish and Communistic agents and was a criminal disguised an officeholder. Secretary of State Hull apologized to the Nazi government for the Mayor having offended it. Nothing was said to condemn the Nazi comments. (March 5, 1937 N.Y. Times).

In 1938, Hull engaged in a famous dialog with Mexican Foreign Minister Eduardo Hay concerning the failure of Mexico to compensate Americans who lost farmlands during the Agrarian reforms of the late 1920s. He insisted that compensation must be "prompt, adequate and effective". Though the Mexican Constitution guaranteed compensation for expropriation or nationalization, nothing had yet been paid. While Hay admitted Mexico's responsibility, he replied that there is "no rule universally accepted in theory nor carried out in practice which makes obligatory the payment of immediate compensation..." The so-called "Hull formula" has been adopted in many treaties concerning international investment, but is still controversial, especially in Latin American countries, which historically have subscribed to the Calvo Doctrine, which among other things, suggests that compensation is to be decided by the host country and that as long as there is equality between nationals and foreigners and no discrimination, there cannot be any claim in international law. The tension between the Hull formula and the Calvo Doctrine is still of importance today in the law of international investment.

Cordell Hull pursued the "Good Neighbor Policy" with Latin American nations which has been credited with preventing Nazi subterfuge in that region. Hull and Roosevelt also maintained relations with Vichy France which Hull credits with allowing General Maxime Weygand's forces to join allied forces in the North African campaign against Germany.

Hull was responsible for United States foreign relations before and during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He sent the Hull note to Japan prior to the attack, which was formally titled "Outline of proposed Basis for Agreement Between The United States and Japan" but had been part of the United States' attempt to open Chinese markets to U.S. goods against Japanese interests there.

On the day of the attack, not long after it had begun, Hull received the news that it was taking place. The Japanese ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura and Japan's special envoy Saburō Kurusu were waiting to see Hull at that moment. Admiral Edwin T. Layton, at the time chief intelligence officer to the commander of the Pacific Fleet, tells the rest of the story:

"Roosevelt advised him not to tell them about the raid but 'to receive them formally and coolly bow them out'.

"After he had glanced at their copy of the fourteen-part message, Hull's anger burst forth. 'In all my fifty years of public service,' he told the astonished diplomats, 'I have never seen such a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehood and distortion.' Nomura and Kurusu, who had not been told of the attack, bowed themselves out in an embarrassed fluster. A department official overheard Hull muttering under his breath as the door closed, 'Scoundrels and piss-ants.' "

Hull chaired the Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy, created in February 1942.

When the Free French Forces of Charles de Gaulle liberated the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon south of Newfoundland in December 1941, Hull lodged a very strong protest and even went as far as referring to the Gaullist naval forces as "the so-called Free French." His request to have the Vichy governor reinstated was met with strong criticism in the American press. The islands remained under the Free French movement until the end of World War II.

In 1939, Hull advised President Roosevelt to reject the SS St. Louis carrying 936 Jews seeking asylum. Hull's decision sent these people back to Europe on the eve of the Nazi Holocaust. There is some controversy over Hull's role in the affair. These Jews fled Europe to escape from the Nazis and after being denied entry into Cuba and the U.S. were granted refuge in the United Kingdom and in continental European nations. Many of the latter group became victims of the Holocaust after the Nazis invaded Western Europe in the following years.

To wit, there were two conversations on the subject between (Secretary of the Treasury) Morgenthau and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. In the first, 3:17 PM on 5 June 1939, Hull made it clear to Morgenthau that the passengers could not legally be issued U.S. tourist visas as they had no return addresses. Furthermore, Hull made it clear to Morgenthau that the issue at hand was between the Cuban government and the passengers. The U.S., in effect, had no role. In the second conversation at 3:54 PM on June 6, 1939, Morgenthau said they did not know where the ship was and he inquired whether it was “proper to have the Coast Guard look for it.” Hull responded by saying that he didn’t see any reason why it could not. Hull then informed him that he did not think that Morgenthau would want the search for the ship to get into the newspapers. Morgenthau said. “Oh no. No, no. They would just—oh, they might send a plane to do patrol work. There would be nothing in the papers.” Hull responded, “Oh, that would be all right.”

In September 1940, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt maneuvered with another State Department official to bypass Hull's refusal to allow Jewish refugees aboard a Portuguese ship, the Quanza, to receive visas to enter the U.S. Through Mrs. Roosevelt's efforts, the Jewish refugees disembarked on September 11, 1940, in Virginia. In a similar incident, American Jews sought to raise money to prevent the mass murder of Romanian Jews. However, "In wartime, in order to send money out of the United States, two government agencies had to sign a simple release- the Treasury Department under Henry Morgenthau and the State Department under Secretary Cordell Hull. Morgenthau signed immediately. The State Department delayed, delayed, and delayed, as more Jews were dying in the Transnistria camps."

Hull was the underlying force and architect in the creation of the United Nations, as recognized by the 1945 Nobel Prize for Peace, an honor for which Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated him. During World War II, Hull and Roosevelt spent tireless hours working toward the development of a world organization to prevent a third World War. Hull and his staff drafted the "Charter of the United Nations" in mid-1943.

Never one to sit idly by if American interests were (in his view) threatened, Hull would think nothing of dressing down close allies, such as what happened to New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser in early 1944, over U.S. objections to the Canberra Pact (a military treaty of alliance between Australia and New Zealand made in February 1944 without U.S. consultation).

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