U.S. Isolationism in the Republican Era of "Normalcy" 1921-1933
Warren Harding 1921-23
Calvin Coolidge 1923-29
Herbert Hoover 1929-33
League opened Nov. 15, 1920 -
4-Power Treaty 1921
Definition of Isolationism
involvement without commitment - "advantages without obligations"
no permanent, entanglinq alliances
keep U.S. sovereign, free, at peace
emphasis on legalism, not force
a "law-bound" world of Great Powers keeping order
continue the Open Door concept
U.S. unique with no interests threatened
U.S. superior to a corrupt world
U.S. impregnable to attack
"devil" theory of war
participation but not membership in
committees: opium, slavery, communications, counterfeiting
but not the World Court sought by Borah
Washington Conference of 1921
the "first SALT talks"
C.E. Hughes Nov. 12: "the way to disarm is to disarm"
4-part naval plan of Hughes: 5-5-3-1.67 parity
9 Power Treaty to guarantee Open Door and indep. of China
4 Power Treaty to respect Pacific possessions
but treaties and agreements lack enforcement
was promoted to general in 1918 for his leadership in developing U.S. Army Air Service in WWI
used airplanes to sink battleship
in July 1921 test
wrote 1924 report predicting Japan would bomb Pearl Harbor and Philippines
but 1925 court-martial for insubordination and his criticism of military policy following loss of Navy airship
1926 airships of Admiral William Moffett -
original 5% interest on $10 billion war debt to U.S.
1922 Foreign Debt Commission reduced interest
currency inflation 1923
inflation grew to 1 dollar=4 trillion marks
high U.S. tariff of 1922 prevented Europe debt repayment
Germany unable to pay $32 billion reparations
but Coolidge demanded payments: "They hired the money, didn't they?"
1924 Dawes Plan created payment plan with private U.S. loans
1929 Young Plan reduced reparations to $9 billion payable over 59 years
but Great Depression began 1929, slowed trade, caused world deflation
Congress passed 1930 Hawley-Smoot "tariff wall" and Hoover refused veto despite appeal of 38 nations and 1028 American economists
Rogers Act of 1924
bill by John Jacob Rogers of Mass. merged diplomatic and consular services to create the Foreign Service
exams, merit, rotation, salary increases
but inbred fraternity of elite Ivy-Leaguers continued
of 1898 war
Good Neighborism of 1927
Coolidge and Hoover sought to end military interventions in hemisphere
Marines pulled out of Nicaragua 1925 but sent back 1927
Coolidge sent Henry Stimson to Nicaragua April 1927 for "American-chaperoned elections" by staining fingers with mercurochrome
but Marines stayed in Nicaragua until 1933 due to Sandino -
Juan Trippe pioneered U.S.-Cuba air mail service in 1927
Coolidge in 1927 had made Amherst classmate and Morgan banker Dwight Morrow ambassador to Mexico
Morrow brought Lindbergh to Mexico late 1927 as "Ambassador of the Air"
Morrow-Calles agree to allow pre-1917 subsoil ownership, slow land expropriation and anti-clerical measures
"the first real beginnings of the embryonic Good Neighbor Policy"
but Cardenas reversed agreements in 1930s and Lindbergh became an isolationist
Nelson Rockefeller expanded the
Clark Memo of 1928
State Department's J. Reuben Clark wrote 236-page memo Dec. 17, 1928
repudiated the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary's "police power" interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine
but reserved the right of intervention for defense
Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928
after failure of 1927 Geneva Disarmament Conference - lobbyist W.B. Shearer
Kellogg with Prittwitz, Keip
idea of James T. Shotwell ("statesman without portfolio") and Aristide Briand ("the Locarno prophet")
bilateral pact offer Apr. 6, 1927
"French Security Psychosis" but suppported by peace groups
Kellogg consulted Borah before negotiating with Briand - made multilateral
to outlaw war as an "instrument of national policy" but more an "international kiss" with no means of enforcement
signed Aug. 27, 1928, by 14 nations, eventually by 64 nations including Germany and Japan
Arbitration and Conciliation treaties
Frank B. Kellogg approach similar to Bryan, Root
only exception was any case involving domestic issues (big loophole)
London Naval Conference of 1930
met for 3 months but failed to stop arms race
Japan agreed to 5-5-3.5 capital ship ratio but allowed parity in subs and 10-10-7 ratio for destroyers and cruisers; continued to demand full parity
"escalator clause" that allowed signers to break treaty if security threatened
Stimson Doctrine of 1931
no League sanctions when Japan invaded
U.S. policy of nonrecognition of
High Tide of Isolationism
The Harding picture (NWDNS-115-P-99) and Coolidge picture (NWDNS-115-P-136) and Hoover picture (NWDNS-115-P-134) are from
League of Nations 1920 picture is from
UN Pictorial History
quotations are from Thomas A. Bailey.
A Diplomatic History of the American People.
10th ed. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.
Berg, A. Scott.
New York : G.P. Putnam's, 1998.
Cole, Wayne S.
Roosevelt & the Isolationists, 1932-45.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
Isolationism in America, 1935-1941.
Chicago : Imprint Publications, 1990.
Powaski, Ronald E.
Toward an Entangling Alliance: American Isolationism, Internationalism, and Europe, 1901-1950.
New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
of the Locarno Conference, signed at Locarno, October 6, 1925; deposited with the Secretariat of the League of Nations, December 14, 1925
exhibit from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; other
from Great War page
Nobel Peace Prize of 1929
awarded to Kellogg, from Nobel Foundation
Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation
of "US Strategic Pacific Sites" (ILN 1941/03/01) and
World War II Timeline
Fourth Marines in China 1927-41
by Ron Moss
1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy
1919 First Flight Across the Atlantic
Charles Evans Hughes
Oil and the Mideast
Between the Wars
with Eric Sevareid
revised 2/22/04 |