Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 1. The formative years, 1874-1...
 2. Years of academic achievement...
 3. The war years, 1914-1919
 4. The peace settlement to the...
 5. Formulating a philosophy of...
 6. Waging the cause of neutrality,...
 7. Beard during World War...
 8. The efforts to confirm a thesis,...
 9. Epilogue
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 Material Information
Title: Charles A. Beard and American foreign policy /
Physical Description: xi, 199 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kennedy, Thomas C., 1932-
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Subjects / Keywords: Foreign relations -- Historiography -- United States -- 20th century   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
individual biography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 175-191.
Statement of Responsibility: Thomas C. Kennedy.
General Note: "A University of Florida book."
General Note: Includes index.
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01175346
lccn - 77186324
isbn - 0813003547 :
Classification: lcc - E175.5 .B385
ddc - 327.73
bcl - 15.85
System ID: UF00100446:00001

Table of Contents
    Half Title
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    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
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    Table of Contents
        Page xi
        Page xii
    1. The formative years, 1874-1904
        Page 1
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    2. Years of academic achievement and controversy, 1904-1914
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    3. The war years, 1914-1919
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    4. The peace settlement to the Great Depression, 1919-1930
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    5. Formulating a philosophy of isolationism, 1931-1935
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    6. Waging the cause of neutrality, 1935-1941
        Page 78
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    7. Beard during World War II, 1941-1945
        Page 105
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    8. The efforts to confirm a thesis, 1945-1948
        Page 128
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    9. Epilogue
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Full Text

Charles A. Beard
American Foreign Policy


Charles A. Beard


American Foreign


Thomas C. Kennedy

A University of Florida Book
The University Presses of Florida
Gainesville 1975

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Kennedy, Thomas C. 1932-
Charles A. Beard and American foreign policy.

"A University of Florida book."
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. Beard, Charles Austin, 1874-1948. 2. United
States-Foreign relations-20th century-Historiography.
I. Title.
E175.5.B385 327.73 77-186324
ISBN 0-8130-0354-7


All rights reserved



T HERE is no substantial collection of "Charles A. Beard Papers"
in the accepted sense of the term. Consequently, this study is based
principally on Beard's prodigious printed record, including mono-
graphs, textbooks, pamphlets, essays, articles, book reviews, letters
to editors, printed lectures, speeches, and testimony before con-
gressional committees, not to mention numerous forewords, pref-
aces, and introductions to the works of other scholars. Nonetheless,
I have been privileged to see and to utilize unpublished corre-
spondence to a greater degree than the author of any previous
published work on Beard. It is necessary to extend recognition to
the many persons and institutions which made this possible.
Especially I wish to acknowledge the prompt and courteous
responses to my inquiries by William Beard, Miriam Beard Vagts,
and Alfred Vagts. Mr. and Mrs. Vagts were very gracious in recom-
mending corrections and new insights for parts of the manuscript
which they read. William Beard and Miriam Beard Vagts also
granted me permission to quote from many of their father's unpub-
lished letters and from the following published works covered by
the copyrights listed below: The American Party Battle (1928),
copyright renewed 1955 by William Beard and Mrs. Miriam B.
Vagts; Contemporary American History (1914), copyright renewed
1942 and transferred by bequest to William Beard and Mrs. Mir-


iam B. Vagts; The Idea of National Interest (1934), transferred by
bequest to William Beard and Mrs. Miriam B. Vagts; The Open
Door at Home (1934), transferred by bequest to William Beard and
Mrs. Miriam B. Vagts; Cross Currents in Europe Today (1922),
copyright renewed 1950 by Mrs. Miriam B. Vagts.
Publishers who granted permission to quote from works by or
about Charles A. Beard are as follows: Doubleday, Doran and
Company, A Basic History of the United States (1944) by Charles
and Mary Beard; Ginn and Company, The Development of Mod-
ern Europe (1907-8 and 1930) by Charles Beard and James Harvey
Robinson; Harper and Brothers, The Navy: Defense or Portent?
(1932); Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., A Foreign Policy for America (1940),
The Economic Basis of Politics (1945), and Charles A. Beard: The
Economic Basis of Politics and Related Writings (1957), compiled
by William Beard; The Macmillan Company, American Govern-
ment and Politics (1910), The Rise of American Civilization (1927)
by Charles and Mary Beard, America in Midpassage (1939) by
Charles and Mary Beard, The American Spirit (1942) by Charles
and Mary Beard; University of Kentucky Press, Charles A. Beard:
An Appraisal, edited by Howard K. Beale; Vanguard Press, The
Devil Theory of War (1936); and Yale University Press, American
Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940 (1946), President Roose-
velt and the Coming of the War, 1941 (1948), The Pragmatic Re-
volt in American History: Carl Becker and Charles Beard (1958)
by Cushing Strout.
I have received permission to quote from the writings of Charles
A. Beard, and of those who wrote about Beard, from these periodi-
cals: American Historical Review, Harper's, Nation, and New Re-
public. The publishers of the Historian, Mid-America, and Military
Affairs have kindly consented to let me incorporate passages from
articles I wrote for their journals.
I am particularly grateful for the assistance and authorizations
I have received from the librarians or directors of institutions con-
taining Beard materials or correspondence by and to Charles A.
Beard. These include the DePauw University Archives; Western
History Research Center, University of Wyoming; Yale University;
State Historical Society of Wisconsin; Franklin D. Roosevelt Li-
brary; and Harry S Truman Library. Quotations from Charles A.
Beard's letters to Oswald Garrison Villard are by permission of the
Houghton Library, Harvard University.


Acknowledgments vii
In the course of my research, I have corresponded with numer-
ous individuals who have supplied valuable leads and information.
I want to single out for special thanks Professors Merle Curti and
William L. Langer, and Dr. E. Bernard Noble, director of the
Historical Office of the Department of State. Finally, I would like
to express my gratitude to my mentor, Professor Thomas A. Bailey
of Stanford University, for recommending such a challenging topic
and for his warm encouragement and judicious advice.


FOLLOWING the death of Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948), nu-
merous tributes testified to his formidable influence upon American
thought and institutions as a result of his multifaceted career as a
historian, political scientist, teacher, educator, and champion of
progressive-liberal causes. But Beard's death also occasioned pointed
allusions to what had been, in the opinion of some friends as well
as hostile critics, a decline in Beard's reputation as "the dean of
American historians." As one historian suggested in 1954, "It is
indisputable that his prestige was higher ten or twelve years before
his death than it has been since."'
The fundamental reason for this development may be found in
the extent of unfavorable response to Beard's last two volumes on
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's conduct of American diplomacy
prior to World War II.2 But his waning prestige also coincided

1. Robert E. Burke, review of Howard K. Beale, ed., Charles A. Beard: An
Appraisal, hereafter cited as Beard Appraisal, in American Historical Review 60
(October 1954):116. Full citations of references appear in the Bibliography,
which is divided into three main parts. The first is made up of references to
Beard's works, subdivided into (1) books, pamphlets, and edited works, and
(2) articles, essays, and book reviews. The second contains works referring to or
about Beard. The third has general works, including manuscript collections.
2. Charles A. Beard, American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940: A
Study in Responsibilities, hereafter cited as Foreign Policy in the Making;
Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Ap-
pearances and Realities, hereafter cited as Roosevelt and the War.

x Preface

with the period (roughly from 1934 to 1948) when Beard's writings
on foreign policy reflected an almost doctrinaire isolationist point
of view, or "continentalism," as he preferred to call it.
Most scholars have tended to identify Beard's isolationism only
with this period and have further suggested that this was something
of an aberration on the part of Beard. That is, during this period,
he presumably departed radically from his liberal internationalist
outlook of the first three decades of the twentieth century. The
generalization has some merit in terms of the volume of Beard's
isolationist writings during the last decade and a half of his career.
My research, however, uncovered a number of pre-1930s roots and
expressions of what became Beard's fully matured isolationism.
This was especially evident during the 1920s. But Beard held some
beliefs and assumptions prior to World War I that would reappear
in, and were consistent with, his isolationist works of the 1930s
and after.
This study, then, is an examination of Beard's views on American
foreign policy throughout his adult life, including considerations
of those persons, ideas, events, and personal experiences that might
have shaped his thinking and writing about foreign affairs. But the
essential focus is on the last phase of his life, in which I have
sought answers to the question of why Beard formulated his thesis
of "continentalism," and why he embraced a revisionist interpreta-
tion of America's intervention in World War II.


1. The Formative Years, 1874-1904 / 1
2. Years of Academic Achievement and Controversy, 1904-1914 / 15
3. The War Years, 1914-1919 / 28
4. The Peace Settlement to the Great Depression, 1919-1930 / 40
5. Formulating a Philosophy of Isolationism, 1931-1935 / 58
6. Waging the Cause of Neutrality, 1935-1941 / 78
7. Beard during World War II, 1941-1945 / 105
8. The Efforts to Confirm a Thesis, 1945-1948 / 128
9. Epilogue / 154
Appendix / 169
Bibliography / 175
Index / 193


and the children

The Formative Years, 1874-1904

CHARLES AUSTIN BEARD, the youngest of the two sons of Mary
Payne and William Henry Harrison Beard, was born on Novem-
ber 27, 1874. The birth site was a modest family farm north of
Knightstown, Indiana, approximately forty miles east of Indianap-
olis. His forebears came from a long line of English and Scotch-
Irish colonists and included two Pilgrims. By the eighteenth
century, some Beards from Nantucket, Massachusetts, had settled
in North Carolina, with some of their descendants making their
way to Indiana during the nineteenth century.'
One of the relatives who might have influenced the development
of Charles Beard's character was his grandfather, Nathan Beard,
who often displayed an independence of mind and action that was
a hallmark of his grandson's career as a scholar, educator, publicist,
and reformer. Though reared in the Quaker faith, for example,
Beard's grandfather rejected a doctrinaire approach to religious
questions, an attitude boldly expressed in his decision to marry a
Methodist. Nathan Beard, who participated in the "underground
railway" of North Carolina which aided runaway slaves in their

1. Peter A. Soderbergh, "Charles A. Beard, the Quaker Spirit, and North
Carolina," p. 19; Paul L. Schmunk, "Charles Austin Beard: A Free Spirit, 1874-
1919," p. 7.

2 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

flights to freedom,2 was also a man of courage and humanitarian-
ism, and these traits were conspicuously manifest in Charles Beard's
private and public life.
Beard's father also contributed to what would become a lifelong
concern about encroachments on civil liberties and civil rights.
When a visiting Negro bishop was denied lodging in the local hotel
near Beard's home in Indiana, the elder Beard risked public cen-
sure by taking him in as his guest.3
Charles Beard's maternal grandmother, Sarah Wilson Payne, died
when he was eight years old. But this formidable frontierswoman
left an indelible imprint on the impressionable youngster. Many
years after her death, Beard nostalgically remembered her as "an
unforgettable apparition" who "knew just what to bring, to do,
and to say in enhancing her mystic powers over my imagination."4
The family's antislavery convictions, plus a reluctance to swear
allegiance to the Confederacy, prompted William Henry Harrison
Beard to move from North Carolina to Indiana in 1861. For a time
he worked at a number of odd jobs, including carpentry and teach-
ing in a country school. Three years after his marriage in 1863,
William Beard purchased the farm near Knightstown where the
Beards resided until 1880, when the family moved a short distance
to a sixty-acre farm in the vicinity of a Quaker community in
Spiceland, Indiana. The move was prompted, in part, by the
father's desire to have his children educated at the highly regarded
Spiceland Academy. Simultaneously, he branched out into real
estate speculation and other economic ventures, including manage-
ment of the Knightstown Bank and a successful building and con-
tracting firm. The senior Beard's success in the marketplace brought
him sufficient wealth to permit "a life of the most pleasing luxury
and ease."'

2. Mary R. Beard, The Making of Charles A. Beard: An Interpretation, p. 9;
Bernard C. Borning, The Political and Social Thought of Charles A. Beard,
pp. xvi-xvii.
3. Eric F. Goldman, Rendezvous with Destiny: A History of Modern Ameri-
can Reform, p. 149, hereafter cited as Rendezvous with Destiny.
4. C. A. Beard, "An Unforgettable Woman," pp. 8-9, ms., n.d. (probably
1942), in "A Collection of Materials on Charles A. and Mary R. Beard," Micro-
film No. 139, DePauw University Archives, hereafter cited as "The Charles A.
Beard File."
5. Soderbergh, "Beard, the Quaker Spirit," p. 21; Schmunk, "Beard: A Free
Spirit," p. 11; M. Beard, Making of Charles A. Beard, pp. 10-11.


In his youth, Charles Beard was also able to take advantage of
his father's rather good private library. But it was the exposure to
his father's gospel of property-conscious conservatism which had
the greatest impact on his later scholarly interest in the juxtaposi-
tion of economic motives and political behavior as they might affect
a nation's domestic and foreign policies. "People ask me," Beard
once remarked, "why I emphasize economic questions so much.
They should have been present in the family parlor, when my
father and his friends gathered to discuss public affairs."6
Until his early manhood, Beard's political and social thought
-by his own admission-was influenced by a Federalist-Whig-
Republican outlook.7 During his adult life, Beard was variously
labeled a Populist, Progressive, Socialist, and Democrat. But while
he was in the mainstream of the progressive-liberal tradition of
the twentieth century, he was not a partisan in the usual sense. His
wife, Mary Ritter Beard, claimed that Charles was not a "party
Republican" after their marriage and that they were both "inde-
pendent politically."8 This would confirm Beard's penchant for
playing the role of a maverick, meting out praise or criticism of
any particular political leader, party, or program in keeping with
his convictions about those public issues or programs he deemed
necessary and desirable to fulfill his vision of America's destiny.
The notion of political partisanship, therefore, had no discernable
effect upon his analyses of American foreign policy.
Richard Hofstadter observed that Beard's "social criticism is that
of a man who belongs, both morally and materially, to the pos-
sessing classes" of the United States.9 Like his father, Beard had a
modest stake in the American economy, which included the owner-
ship and management of dairy farms in Connecticut.10 Thus, as he

6. Quoted in Eric F. Goldman, "Charles A. Beard: An Impression," in Beale,
Beard Appraisal, p. 2.
7. See, for example, his review of Andrew C. McLaughlin's Constitutional
History of the United States in New Republic, September 15, 1937, p. 163; and
C. A. Beard, The Republic: Conversations on Fundamentals, pp. 287-88, here-
after cited as The Republic. Beard's father was born in 1840, the same year
his namesake was elected president on the Whig ticket.
8. M. R. Beard to Merle Curti, March 2, 1952, Curti Papers, Box 5, Folder
3, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
9. The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington, p. 168, hereafter
cited as Progressive Historians.
10. William Beard, comp., Charles A. Beard: The Economic Basis of Politics
and Related Writings, p. xi.

4 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

became increasingly critical of America's foreign economic involve-
ments by the 1930s, it was not surprising that he would be con-
cerned about the nature of "the American stake abroad."'1
The nearly two decades Beard spent in a rural environment have
been the source of speculation concerning his possible Jeffersonian-
agrarian outlook. There is the temptation to read into Beard's
thoughts on foreign policy during the 1930s a reversion of sorts to
some of the attitudes that have been ascribed to Middle Western
isolationism. Matthew Josephson, a Connecticut neighbor and fre-
quent guest of the Beards during the 1920s and 1930s, contended
that Beard "came to believe with Jefferson that a life spent close
to the land, producing food, was the better way and gave deeper
satisfaction than urban existence." In 1938, while reminiscing
about his childhood in Indiana, Beard conceded that it was a hard
life, but that it was one that "seems beautiful against the back-
ground of wars, hatred, and intolerance of this age; and the best
of the old days I should like to recover for America and for the
Beard undoubtedly had a certain fondness for the rural life which
had nurtured him in his youth. Yet, there is sufficient evidence to
contradict the notion that he had a deep-seated antipathy toward
urban civilization or that he was a constant champion of Thomas
Jefferson's yeoman-farmer ideal. Much of Beard's life was spent in
or near metropolitan centers, and he traveled widely in Europe
and the Orient before the 1930s. He once attributed his cosmo-
politan outlook to these travels, adding, "I feel as much at home
among the headhunters of Formosa and the paving pounders of
Berlin as in the villages of the Middle West.''3 His writings and
activities in municipal administration and reform also suggest that

11. C. A. Beard and George H. E. Smith, The Idea of National Interest: An
Analytical Study in American Foreign Policy, pp. 196-310, hereafter cited as
The Idea of National Interest.
12. "Charles A. Beard: A Memoir," p. 590; quoted in Clifton J. Phillips, ed.,
"Charles A. Beard's Recollections of Henry County, Indiana," p. 17. See also
Ray A. Billington, "The Origins of Middle Western Isolationism."
13. Quoted in Fred B. Millett, Contemporary American Authors, p. 237.
Charles Beard's daughter, Mrs. Miriam Beard Vagts, informed the author that
her father "bought into a studio cooperative building . in New York City
BEFORE we got the farm. He kept this [apartment] until the 1930s. . Father
certainly did love that farm [in Sherman, Conn.] (which I now have) and was
enthusiastic about agriculture, but it was not his whole life": Miriam Beard
Vagts to author, February 16, 1971.

1874-1904 5

he entered enthusiastically into the cultural mainstream of urban
civilization. There were instances during his life when he was criti-
cal of some of the Populist attacks on the American business sys-
tem. Beard viewed Jefferson's goal of an agrarian democracy as
unrealistic, and took sharp exception to his view of the city as an
inherent menace to civilization. "On the contrary," Beard said in
the late 1920s, "it is from the urban centers that the national
economy of the future will be controlled . and it is the culture
of urbanism that promises to dominate the future."14 Summarily,
it would be misleading to associate Beard's writings on foreign
policy during the last two decades of his life with an ingrained
rural provincialism or to label them a reflection of Middle Western
Following Beard's graduation from Knightstown Academy in
1892, his father purchased the Knightstown Banner for him and
his older brother, Clarence, to run. For nearly three years, they
cooperated in the management of the newspaper and turned it into
a profit-making enterprise. In the spring of 1895, shortly before
his twenty-first birthday, Beard enrolled at DePauw University in
Greencastle, Indiana, a Methodist-affiliated school. For a time Beard
might have contemplated entering the ministry, a possibility sug-
gested by occasional requests for him to speak at local churches
on such topics as temperance.15
But Beard's attention and conscience were diverted into more
secular channels by the domestic and foreign crises through which
the nation was moving and by the influence of outstanding teachers
at DePauw. During his undergraduate years, Beard's Republican
orthodoxy was challenged by the farmer-labor discontent of the
1890s, which he was able to observe directly in the course of a field
trip to Chicago in the summer of 1896. On this occasion, he was
shocked by the problems stemming from the rapid industrialization
and urbanization of the country during the "Gilded Age," prob-
lems such as political corruption, low wages, the unsanitary living
and working conditions of laborers, and the indifference of many
respectable members of the community to the plight of the poor.

14. Quoted in New York Times, October 16, 1928, p. 14. See also C. A.
Beard, "Jefferson and the New Freedom"; Luther Gulick, "Beard and Munici-
pal Reform," in Beard Appraisal, pp. 47-60.
15. W. Beard, Charles A. Beard, p. xii; Schmunk, "Beard: A Free Spirit,"
p. 35; C. J. Phillips, "The Indiana Education of Charles A. Beard," p. 5.

6 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

In Chicago, the first stirring of Beard's reform impulse were gen-
erated by visits to Jane Addams' Hull House, where he could hear
prominent spokesmen for various programs aimed at adjusting
American society to the new industrial order, and where he could
participate in heated discussions between Populists and Socialists.16
Beard's undergraduate years were also bracketed by the war crises
-one with Great Britain in 1895 over her boundary dispute with
Venezuela, and another, the Spanish-American War in 1898. Op-
portunities for publicly expressing his opinions on both foreign
and domestic affairs were afforded by his editorship in 1897-98 of
the college paper, the DePauw Palladium. A few months before
the Cuban crisis ended in war between the United States and
Spain, Beard justified American meddling in foreign affairs by
stressing the importance of our vital commercial relations with
Europe, regardless of the noninterventionist principle embodied in
what he called the "antiquated" Monroe Doctrine. Similarly, he
did not object to American diplomatic pressures against Spain in
the spring of 1898. As was true of many Americans, he was im-
pelled by idealism to sympathize with the Cuban people. After
war was declared, however, Beard wondered aloud, "How an intelli-
gent rational man can be for war with all its dire consequences
is beyond comprehension ... it is a gory path to glory." Two weeks
later, he noted with apparent satisfaction that the earlier campus
enthusiasm for the war had subsided. He added that only if the
war began to go badly for the United States should students con-
template fighting for the country. Indeed, shortly after his grad-
uation that spring, he and a DePauw classmate volunteered for
military service, only to be turned away because of a surfeit of men
in the army.'7
In view of Beard's well-known criticisms of war and imperialism
after he became an established scholar, this minor episode in his
life has inspired a number of generalizations about the impact it
had upon him. Samuel Eliot Morison ventured the opinion that
Beard's aversion to war, his tendency to minimize its results, and
his ridiculing of military men were mainly a result of this experi-

16. Goldman, Rendezvous with Destiny, p. 150; Hofstadter, Progressive His-
torians, pp. 170-71; Schmunk, "Beard: A Free Spirit," p. 59; Phillips, "Indiana
Education," p. 2.
17. Schmunk, "Beard: A Free Spirit," pp. 54-55; Phillips, "Indiana Educa-
tion," pp. 13-14; Hofstadter, Progressive Historians, p. 171.

1874-1904 7

ence. Mary Beard suggested that it was about this time that "[Wil-
liam Jennings] Bryan's anti-imperialism took root in Beard's soul."
Beard himself, in an allusion to the meat-poisoning scandals in the
Quartermaster Corps during the Spanish-American War, once
quipped, "They wouldn't take us. They had more men than they
had embalmed beef." Two years before his death in 1948, Beard
told Arthur M. Schlesinger that he "left the G.O.P. on imperialism
in 1900 and . found no home anywhere since that year."18
But is it possible that, many years after the events, Beard and
others may have magnified and overly dramatized the immediate
effect upon him of the Spanish-American War and America's acqui-
sition of an overseas empire? However critical he might have been
of militarism and the involvement of the United States in particu-
lar wars, Beard was not a pacifist in a philosophical or religious
sense.19 As will be noted shortly, more than two years after the
annexation of the Philippines, Beard was not unalterably opposed
to the idea of imperialism.
Unquestionably, Beard's personal observations of, and direct in-
volvement in, some of the nation's domestic and foreign issues
from 1895 to 1898 were made more meaningful through his contact
with DePauw professor of political science James Riley Weaver,
who served as a catalyst to Beard's mind and a gadfly to his con-
science. It was Weaver who introduced Beard to The Federalist
and the works of John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and John Ruskin.
In the study of economics, politics, and diplomacy, Weaver could
also draw upon his experiences from 1869 to 1895 as an American
consul at Brindisi, Italy, Antwerp, and Vienna. In light of Beard's
subsequent preoccupation with the subjective factors that enter
into the historian's writing of history, it is of more than passing
interest that Weaver's instruction stressed the presence of class,
religious, political, and economic biases in public affairs.20

18. Samuel Eliot Morison, "Did Roosevelt Start the War? History Through
a Beard," p. 91; M. Beard, Making of Charles A. Beard, p. 15; quoted in Hubert
Herring, "Charles A. Beard: Freelance among the Historians," p. 642; quoted
in Hofstadter, Progressive Historians, p. 171n3.
19. More than four months before his death on September 1, 1948, Beard
expressed annoyance over a remark in Newsweek magazine that "sets me down
as an old-time 'pacifist.' I have been many things," he added, "but never a
pacifist or any other kind of absolutist"; Beard to George Morgenstern, April
11, 1948, Morgenstern Papers, Western History Research Center, University of
Wyoming Library.
20. Merle Curti, "A Great Teacher's Teacher," pp. 264-66.

8 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

After earning his Ph.B. from DePauw University in June 1898,
Beard received financial aid and encouragement from his father to
undertake the study of English history at Oxford University. In
close association with Frederick York Powell, Regius Professor of
Medieval and Modern History, Beard was thoroughly grounded
in the theory of the Teutonic origins of Anglo-American constitu-
tional government. He was also exposed to the German seminar
methods inspired by Leopold von Ranke and exemplified in the
writings of the British constitutional historian William Stubbs.
In addition, he read widely in the works of most of the major
English historians, such as Carlyle, Macaulay, Maitland, Freeman,
and Buckle.21
Of more immediate significance than the formal aspects of
Beard's graduate study in England was his intimate contact with
the leaders and reform activities of the British trade union move-
ment, cooperative societies, temperance organizations, and the Fa-
bian Society. His most notable achievement during this period of
his life was his establishment, with the help of Kansas socialist
Walter Vrooman, of Ruskin Hall, a college for the laboring class
at Oxford University. Beard suggested that the college be named
after John Ruskin, a famous English art critic. This was a result
of the fact that, after 1860, Ruskin trenchantly attacked the pre-
vailing doctrines of laissez-faire economics, acquisitive values, and
social abuses of industrialism in Great Britain. Ruskin's humanistic
credo was set forth persuasively in Unto This Last: Four Essays on
the First Principles of Political Economy (1862), a slender volume
which Beard is said to have carried around with him for many
years as an inspiration. Beard served as director of the Ruskin Hall
Extension Service, contributed articles to the Ruskin Hall periodi-
cal, Young Oxford, and lectured extensively in such industrial cen-
ters as London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham.22
Most of Beard's lectures and published writings in connection
with his Ruskin Hall activities were directed largely to the prob-

21. Burleigh T. Wilkins, "Frederick York Powell and Charles A. Beard: A
Study in Anglo-American Historiography and Social Thought"; Max Lerner,
"Charles Beard's Political Theory," in Beard Appraisal, pp. 26-27.
22. Harlan B. Phillips, "Charles Beard, Walter Vrooman, and the Founding
of Ruskin Hall," hereafter cited as "Beard and Vrooman"; B. T. Wilkins, ed.,
"Charles A. Beard on the Founding of Ruskin Hall"; Roger Stein, John Ruskin
and Aesthetic Thought in America, 1840-1900, pp. 259-60; H. B. Phillips,
"Charles Beard: The English Lectures, 1899-1901."

1874-1904 9

lem of ameliorating the lot of the working man in England. Yet,
some of his analyses and recommendations were soon to be appli-
cable to society in the United States. As was true of many contem-
porary American reformers, Beard "assumed that an international
industrial revolution had made both America and England similar
so that diagnosis and therapy for one patient applied as a matter
of course to the other."23
Beard also began to formulate at this time a few principles of
international relations which would be incorporated into some of
his writings before he adopted an isolationist viewpoint during the
1930s. He was impressed, for example, with the way in which inter-
national trade and finance seemed to promote the economic and
political interdependence of the world, accompanied by the pros-
pect of a downgrading of nationalism. In a revised edition of The
Industrial Revolution, Beard maintained that "the ties of patriot-
ism, racial and national, are being snapped asunder in the stress
of profit-making."24
Residing in a country which possessed an extensive colonial
empire, Beard understandably reflected upon the nature of im-
perialism. His interest in the subject probably was enhanced by
the recent territorial acquisitions of the United States in the Pacific
and Caribbean. With the passage of time, he would refer to this
episode as part of an "imperialist racket." In 1901, however, he
suggested that imperialism might have benign aspects. "In the
broader and truer sense," he observed, "Imperialism is the world-
creating process." If it was wrong, "then history since the begin-
ning of time, and especially since the beginning of the seventeenth
century, has been wrong, a mistake to be deplored." Pointing to
the founding of the United States as one consequence of this im-
perialism, he asked, "Is their existence to be regretted?" He an-
swered, "The average, rational, healthy man who does not suffer
from Imperial word-phobia will agree that the imperialism which
produced the United States and the colonies is good."25
Beard did concede that there were some individuals engaged in
international commerce and finance who, for their own "self-ag-
grandizement and self-enrichment," had corrupted the more con-

23. Arthur Mann, "British Social Thought and American Reformers of the
Progressive Era," pp. 689-90, 691.
24. Pages 52, 88-89.
25. C. A. Beard, "A Living Empire. I," p. 24.

10 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy
structive aspects of imperialism. In particular, he lamented the fact
that imperialism was not being undertaken in such a way as to re-
dound to the ethical credit of the colonizing nations. Clearly
anticipating his lifelong concern about the close connection be-
tween domestic and foreign policies, he believed that unenlightened
imperialism flowed from the failure of imperial nations to resolve
many of their domestic social and economic problems.26
One of Beard's more fascinating proposals for imperial nations
engaged in "world-creating activities" proceeded from the assump-
tion of Anglo-Saxon superiority. Members of the white race, he
suggested, should guard against a drastically declining birth rate at
home. As a corollary, he would not sanction miscegenation and
integration in the colonial system he envisioned. Nevertheless, and
possibly with the American suppression of the Filipino rebellion
in mind, he would tolerate "no murder, no brutality, no outrages"
against subject peoples "which degrade the survivors and hurl the
world downward toward brutedom." In a more positive vein, he
argued that, if the imperial nations could establish proper pri-
orities in solving their own economic, social, political, and educa-
tional problems, then "vast settlements from various white coun-
tries would be transplanted, not as individuals, but as communities,
over the rich plains of northern and central Asia and southern
South America, while the United States and England would use
the same methods in distributing needed population over the great
western plains of America and of South Australia and South
Beard interrupted his sojourn in England for about one year,
from 1899 to 1900, during which time he enrolled in a semester of
graduate study under Moses Coit Tyler at Cornell University. In
March 1900, Beard married a former classmate at DePauw, Mary
Ritter of Indianapolis. That summer, during their honeymoon in
Europe, the newlyweds took walks through the German country-
side. By the time Beard was prepared to resume his Ruskin Hall
activities in England, he was, according to Eric F. Goldman,
"amused at the pretensions of German professors and fuming at
Prussian soldiers who forced him into the gutter rather than share

26. Ibid., p. 25; C. A. Beard, "A Living Empire. II," p. 39.
27. "A Living Empire. II," pp. 39-43.

the sidewalk.'28 These experiences may well have colored Beard's
vigorous denunciations of Prussian militarism during World War I.
In the course of his second stint in England, Beard wrote his
first book, The Industrial Revolution, originally published in
1901, with a corrected edition in 1902. A tone of righteous indig-
nation permeates the volume, as Beard protested throughout against
the inefficiency and human costs in the economic affairs of an in-
dustrialized society. Offsetting the severe moral indictments was a
note of optimism. This optimism, wedded to the idea of progress,
was characteristic of Beard's temperament throughout his life.
However great his sense of outrage over particular domestic or
foreign policies, however severe his censure of certain groups or
individuals, he was unwilling to resign himself for any length of
time to total pessimism or despair. With very few exceptions, he
consistently believed that rational, humane men and women could
shape the vast potential of machine technology to bring about a
beneficent material and spiritual transformation in which each
individual, "in seeking the fullest satisfaction of his own nature
will harmoniously perform his function as a member of a
corporate society" (pp. 104-5).
The nature of Beard's activities in England seemed to establish,
or at least foreshadow, a pattern that was evident in much of his
later career. This pattern, or life style, was one in which the poten-
tial tensions and contradictions between the life of the activist
reformer and the life of the contemplative scholar were never fully
resolved. "Even in his Oxford days," Richard Hofstadter has pene-
tratingly observed, "we can see in him an uncomfortable duality
that was always to haunt him-a duality between the aseptic ideal
of scientific inquiry and his social passions."29
In pursuing his studies, Beard aspired to that quality of emo-
tional detachment which Professor Frederick York Powell deemed
vital to scholarship. At the same time, he was keenly aware of the
more than fine distinction between the historian and the pam-
phleteer or publicist. In an article for the Young Oxford evaluating
William Cobbett's contribution to the cooperative movement in
England, Beard admitted that he did not "intend to pose as an

28. M. Beard, Making of Charles A. Beard, p. 20; Goldman, Rendezvous with
Destiny, p. 150.
29. Progressive Historians, p. 178.



12 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

historian; for it is his duty to leave ethics alone . I am not," he
added, "going to attempt the obviously impossible task of making
an impartial and dispassionate judgment of [Cobbett's] character."
In a passage which might be viewed as an unintentional fore-
runner of his writings of the 1930s on historical relativism, in
which he argued that the historian selected those facts which were
in keeping with the particular social purpose he had in mind,
Beard wrote, "I will take from his life and works such examples
as will serve to guide us in shaping our own personalities in such
a way as to contribute to the moral and social power of the
Beard might have been able to resolve the sort of duality Hof-
stadter detected had he chosen to remain in England. This was a
prospect which Beard and his wife considered, briefly, but seriously,
owing in part to their affection for the country and people. But the
possibility of becoming an expatriate might have been encouraged
because of the favorable impression he made upon some prominent
labor leaders. Ramsay MacDonald, for example, is reported to have
asked him to serve in the cabinet of a Labor government, which he
confidently expected to be a reality in the very near future.31
In early 1902, however, the Beards reluctantly decided to return
to the United States. Perhaps, as one student of Beard's Ruskin
Hall venture has suggested, the young reformer had become im-
patient with his failure to achieve immediate and dramatic success
in his effort "to marshall mankind in one mighty crusade against
ignorance."32 On the other hand, maybe the scholarly impulse had
not been adequately satiated, an impulse which had been a pri-
mary motive in his decision to go to England in 1898.
By continuing his graduate studies at Columbia University,
Beard's quest for more knowledge and further professional training
were more than amply satisfied, for this was the "golden age of the
Columbia Faculty of Political Science."33 He was thus afforded an
30. C. A. Beard, "Men Who Have Helped Us. I: William Cobbett, Friend of
Man," p. 172. For Beard's most well known expressions on the theory of his-
torical relativism, see "Written History as an Act of Faith," and "That Noble
31. Wilkins, "Beard on the Founding of Ruskin Hall," p. 284; Alexander
Ware, "The Beards, Chroniclers of the Times," p. 5; Goldman, Rendezvous
with Destiny, pp. 150-51.
32. H. Phillips, "Beard and Vrooman," p. 191.
33. Arthur Macmahon, "Charles Beard, the Teacher," in Beard Appraisal,
p. 225.

opportunity to study under and work with such renowned authori-
ties in public, constitutional, and international law as Frank J.
Goodnow, John W. Burgess, and John Bassett Moore. He did not
long adhere to the Teutonic theory of the evolution of Anglo-
Saxon political institutions embraced by these scholars. But other
professors, in whose seminars he enrolled, encouraged him to
strike out in new directions of historical inquiry during what has
been characterized as "the revolt against formalism" in many disci-
plines before World War I.34 These professors included James
Harvey Robinson and his "New History" school of historiography
and E. R. A. Seligman with his emphasis on the economic interpre-
tation of history.
Shortly after enrolling for the spring semester in 1902, Beard
distinguished himself by winning the George William Curtis Fel-
lowship for his prize essay, "The Present Duty of Every American."
The general principles which he believed should guide each Ameri-
can citizen "in the discharge of his civic responsibilities" included
a brief consideration of foreign affairs. The Spanish-American War
had altered the nature and scope of America's international rela-
tions, especially in foreign commerce. "Never again," he asserted,
"can the United States assume the isolated position which was
once held to be the national destiny." Echoing a theme in his
Young Oxford articles on imperialism, he added that "the coming
race struggle for the planet will force the United States into the
assumption of new obligations." These would "involve perils and
difficulties," and "public intelligence and courage . of a high
order" were necessary to avoid such perils as corruption and the
"usurpation of power" in government. Moreover, the "proper ful-
fillment" of America's "delicate task of governing alien depen-
dents" had to be carried out with a "clear appreciation of the fact
that the standards and institutions of our civilization are only
relatively good, and ought not and cannot be arbitrarily forced
upon alien people."35
Beard received his master's degree in political science in 1903
for a thesis on Civil Service reform. The next year he was awarded
his doctorate. His published dissertation, The Ofice of the Justice
of the Peace in England in Its Origins and Development (1904),

34. Morton G. White, Social Thought in America: The Revolt against For-
35. C. A. Beard, "The Present Duty of Every American."



14 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy
represented the culmination of the formal training received, and
the research begun, in England, when he examined county records
bearing on the powers and functions of this office.
At the age of thirty, Beard stood on the threshold of a multiple
career as a teacher, political scientist, historian, and reformer. This
was a career that would exercise a tremendous influence on the
study and teaching of American history and politics. In reaching
this plateau, his family background, education, and activities in
England implanted in him a number of convictions and traits
which he retained throughout his life. Notably, Beard had demon-
strated an ambivalence toward the requirements of detached
scholarship and committed reformism. In addition, he had out-
lined in broad terms his vision for the American future, namely,
the ideal of what he would one day term a "collectivist democ-
racy."36 Both of these early developments would subsequently figure
prominently in his writings about American foreign policy.

36. "Written History as an Act of Faith," p. 228.


Years of Academic Achievement
and Controversy, 1904-1914

CHARLES A. BEARD'S appointment in 1904 as a Lecturer in History
at Columbia University inaugurated a distinguished thirteen-year
association with an institution that was one of the outstanding
intellectual centers of the nation during the Progressive Era. Beard
himself became one of the "galaxy of teachers" who adorned the
faculty of the college on Morningside Heights in New York City.
To employ the felicitous phrase of Richard Hofstadter, Beard's
"energies of demonic intensity" resulted in a prodigious publica-
tion record and participation in manifold reform activities, par-
ticularly in municipal administration and reform. These achieve-
ments were more than matched by his outstanding skills as an
orator (the fruition, perhaps, of extensive debating experience
even before he went to England) and his consistent popularity as
a teacher.1
This period was marked also by writings and activities that con-
tinued to underscore the tensions between Beard's desire to be a

1. Irwin Edman, Philosopher's Holiday, pp. 129-31; Arthur E. Soderlind,
"Charles A. Beard and the Social Studies," p. 28; Hofstadter, Progressive His-
torians, p. 292; R. Gordon Hoxie et al., A History of the Faculty of Political
Science, Columbia University, p. 84; Josephson, "Charles A. Beard: A Memoir,"
pp. 585-86; Macmahon, "Charles Beard, the Teacher," in Beard Appraisal,
pp. 213-30.

16 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

dispassionate scholar and his inclination toward passionate involve-
ment in public affairs. The result was that he gained a reputation
which he would carry through life, as a person who could both
generate controversy, and be the object of it, in assessing the past,
present, and future of American civilization.
At this time, he began to delineate those who would continue to
be the principal targets of his sometimes devastatingly sarcastic
criticism. These included advocates of rugged individualism and
laissez-faire economics, abstract theorists of political behavior, and,
during the last decade of his career, proponents of extensive Amer-
ican involvement in world affairs. The essential style of Beard as
a controversialist has been described as that of one who "was
truculently confident and self-assertive. The thesis he attacked was
not merely disproved: it was shredded, and stamped upon, and its
proponents exhibited by implication as fools and knaves."2 But
consistent with his graduate training and research in both England
and the United States, Beard, while at Columbia, frequently re-
vealed his attachment to the ideals of objectivity, to the eschewing
of moral judgments, and to temperateness of language in the writ-
ing of history.3
During the decade after he received his doctorate, Beard showed
an increasing interest in the theoretical and practical aspects of
international affairs. The bulk of his published work relating to
this topic dealt with the historical and contemporary diplomacy of
European nations. In his general studies of American history and
politics, however, a few noteworthy interpretations of American
foreign policy appeared. Some of the themes briefly considered
during this period, such as America's foreign trade, national de-
fense, and the diplomatic powers of the president, would, of course,
take on heightened importance and increased space in his writings
from the 1930s until his death.
Through his provocative, revisionist study of the American Con-
stitution in 1913, Beard became prominently identified in academic
and public circles with the economic interpretation of history. But
many years before this, he had begun tentatively to formulate his
thinking on the influence of economic factors in shaping foreign
and domestic affairs and the interaction between the two. Thus,

2. Peter R. Levin, "Charles A. Beard: Wayward Liberal," p. 36.
3. Merle Curti, "Beard as Historical Critic," in Beard Appraisal, pp. 186-200.

in a lecture course on American expansion, which he offered in
1904, his students were advised that "The territorial expansion
resulting from the Spanish-American war and the recent unprece-
dented development of foreign commerce have brought new and
important problems before the people of the United States and
stimulated their interest in international affairs. The relation of
these new issues to domestic policies promises to become of increas-
ing concern. A necessity has therefore been created for a careful
consideration of imperial questions apart from party politics."4
The course itself was designed to show that these events were not
unique in American history, since American involvement in world
affairs "has always extended as far as American interests." The
"unprecedented commercial development of the decade before the
Spanish war prepared the way for the American invasion" of Cuba
and the Philippines. The connection between imperialism and
industrial nations with surplus goods and capital also was to be
covered. The inclusion of John Hobson's Imperialism: A Study
(1901) in a general bibliography, with the remark that it made
"short work of many current fallacies," suggested an important
source of Beard's emphasis on an economic interpretation of im-
perialism at this early date.5
There were no comments in the course syllabus to indicate that
Beard strenuously objected to America's overseas empire and ex-
pansion of foreign trade, or that he regarded them as necessarily
contrary to America's national interest. But similar to his remarks
about imperialism in the previous two years, he indicated his
concern that the expansionist thrust might have unfavorable con-
sequences for the country. Among these consequences were an
increasing war spirit and the providing of "certain classes" with
an opportunity to divert the nation's attention from "problems of
national life" that were "of greater importance than the mission
of civilization."6 Thus, three decades before he consistently and
vigorously espoused an isolationist position, Beard had reflected
briefly upon some of the major arguments which he would use to
buttress that position.
Further encouragement for Beard to apply an economic interpre-
tation to foreign affairs came from two studies of the French Revo-
4. Syllabus on the Expansion of the United States, p. 2.
5. Ibid., pp. 2, 12.
6. Ibid., p. 13.



18 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

lution by the French Socialist scholars Gabriel Deville and Jean
Juares. In a lengthy book review in 1906, Beard agreed with the
authors that "the fundamental force in history is economic," but
he praised them for not reducing "the complex phenomena of
social life . to an economic formula. . Thus restricted," he
added, "the economic interpretation of history will doubtless be
accepted by most scholars who avowedly aim at objectivity, though
they may not agree that the historian should assume the duties of
an ethical teacher-for when he undertakes such a function, he
usually degenerates into a partisan."7
Beard, nonetheless, was disappointed that Juares had not made
his economic thesis relevant to the causes of the wars of the French
Revolution. Rather, he had "fallen into the habit of those his-
torians who imagine that history can be written from diplomatic
notes and parliamentary speeches," by stressing such things as
treaty guarantees between England and France and France's revo-
lutionary propaganda. Far more vital in Beard's mind were the
previous one hundred years of "determined struggle for colonial
and commercial dominion" between the two nations.8
Later that same year, in a book of readings on English history,
Beard wrote that "the international politics of Europe for the last
three centuries can be understood solely in the light of the eco-
nomic interests engendered in the race for markets and territorial
dominion." He conceded that the urge for colonization included
political and religious motives, but that "the main impulse in the
work of colonization was economic." In addition, the domestic
politics of every contemporary European country were "compli-
cated by questions involved in securing new markets for manufac-
turers and new areas for the profitable investment of capital."9
In the two-volume college text The Development of Modern
Europe: An Introduction to the Study of Current History (1907,
1908), written with his Columbia colleague James Harvey Robin-
son, the stress upon the economic factor in contemporary inter-
national relations was even more pronounced. This work was also
unique in the deliberate effort of the authors to break with the

7. "A Socialist History of France." The books reviewed were G. Deville,
Histoire socialist: du 9 thermidor au 18 brumaire, and J. Juares, Histoire
socialist jusqu'au 9 thermidor, 4 vols.
8. Ibid., p. 116.
9. An Introduction to the English Historians, pp. 423, 429, 623.

tradition of the historical guild, which held that the proper con-
cern of the historian was the remote past, unconnected with the
present. Explaining the basic tenets of the "New History" in the
introduction, Beard and Robinson indicated that their primary
interest had been to enable the reader to understand the present
and, implicitly, improve it through an examination of the recent
past. In pursuit of this goal, they emphasized that, while much less
space was devoted "to purely political and military events" than
was customary in histories of the nineteenth century, they had
treated generously the "more fundamental economic matters," such
as the Industrial Revolution, commerce, and colonization.10
In their treatment of these economic matters, Beard and Robin-
son claimed that two powerful forces-factories seeking markets and
capital seeking investment-were "shaping the foreign and commer-
cial policies of every important European country. They alone
explain why the great industrial nations are embarking on what
has been termed a policy of 'imperialism,' which means a policy of
adding distant territories for the purpose of controlling their prod-
ucts, getting the trade with the natives, and investing money in the
development of natural resources."11
Given their conviction that the international rivalries for col-
onies in the preceding two centuries had been the major cause of
constant warfare, the two scholars expressed apprehension about
the possible fruits of this continuing process of colonization into
the twentieth century. They noted that the seemingly inexorable
necessity for industrial nations to pursue policies of imperialism
resulted in their development of large military and naval establish-
ments beyond the requirements of national defense. The resulting
armaments race, involving increasingly sophisticated weapons, had
enhanced the risk and potential destruction of warfare. Moreover,
the tremendous cost of maintaining huge standing armies and
navies was draining away resources vital to improving the social
and economic condition of the masses in each country. They, none-
theless, placed their faith in the possibility that these costly in-
struments of death and devastation might serve as a deterrent to
warfare as statesmen came to recognize that all nations would suffer
greatly from their use. Indeed, even those who had a role in pro-

10. l:iii-iv.
11. Ibid., 2:328, 366 (italics added).



20 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

moting imperialism, including the "financial interests," had a stake
in avoiding the disastrous effects of international conflict upon
trade and industry. Accordingly, the authors optimistically believed
that such interests were using their influence in the "movement for
the peaceful settlement of international disputes and the reduction
of armaments."12
The latter idea was an updating of Beard's belief, fostered when
he was in England, that international trade and finance could
reduce national rivalries and promote a spirit of cooperation that
would minimize the risk of war between civilized industrial na-
tions. It was also a view of international affairs which commanded
the support of many thoughtful American businessmen in the
decade or so before World War I.13 Augmenting Beard's own con-
viction that the world was a "great economic unity"'4 was his faith
in the potentialities of science and technology in furthering inter-
national amity. "So far as our political economy is concerned," he
said in a 1908 lecture, "Japan is as much a part of the United
States as Oregon." He thought that steam and electricity might
be able to achieve "what neither the armies, nor the law, nor the
faith of Rome could accomplish-that unity of mankind which
rests on the expansion of a common consciousness of rights and
wrongs through the extension of identical modes of economic
Beard's general acceptance of the idea that foreign commercial
activities might be a positive force for peace clearly illustrated his
optimism and his belief in progress. This thesis implicitly main-
tains that rational men of good will will pursue rational goals,
particularly when their economic self-interest is involved. Distinc-
tively characteristic of most of Beard's historical analyses, this thesis
may account, in part, for his tendency to give inadequate weight
to chance, ideas, individuals, and even irrational behavior in shap-
ing or defining the course of history. Certainly, he was aware of
these forces and occasionally went out of his way to note their

12. Ibid., 1:80, 2:367-69.
13. C. Roland Marchand, The American Peace Movement and Social Reform,
1898-1918, pp. 74-98.
14. Review of Achille Viallate, ed., La Vie politique dans les deux mondes, in
Political Science Quarterly 24 (March 1909):165.
15. Politics: A Lecture Delivered at Columbia University in the Series on
Science, Philosophy, and Art, p. 30.

importance, especially during the latter years of his life. But his
writings seldom reflected a consistent and balanced presentation
of these factors. The general framework within which his historical
evaluations were made rested upon a rationalist interpretation of
economic behavior.
Beard could be ambivalent in his view of the role of economic
motivation in history. In the Robinson and Beard volumes, for
example, their analysis of imperialism had a pronounced deter-
ministic thrust. Manufacturers, merchants, and financiers were de-
picted as having to support expansionist policies owing to the
necessities of an economic system which required foreign outlets
for surplus goods and investment capital. Economic behavior was
thus presented as essentially a matter of compulsion rather than
of rational choice.
It was not until 1913 that Beard's ambivalence in interpreting
economic behavior would significantly appear in a major work on
American history, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution
of the United States.16 Until that time, a substantial portion of his
published work dealt with European civilization, with much of it
to be found in numerous book reviews on British, French, and
German history and contemporary politics. From 1905 to 1909, he
compiled, with his Columbia colleagues Alvin Johnson and Carle-
ton J. H. Hayes, a semiannual survey of world affairs in the Politi-
cal Science Quarterly. Beard was responsible for the sections on
foreign events.17
In some of his book reviews, as well as in his comments in the
survey of world affairs, Beard demonstrated a keen appreciation
of the actual or potential conflict inherent in rivalries for trade

16. Many scholars have commented on this aspect of Beard's study of the
Constitution. Major critiques are summarized in Lee Benson, Turner and
Beard: American Historical Writing Reconsidered. Benson attributes the am-
bivalence, or dualism, in Beard's thought to his failure to make a sufficient
distinction between James Madison's "economic determinist theory of politics"
in Federalist No. 10 and E. R. A. Seligman's explanation of "the economic
interpretation of history" in a book of the same title published in 1902. Madi-
son's view of the sources of political conflict, Benson points out, rested on the
assumption that human nature is static in a changing environment. Seligman's
theory, on the other hand, was a more open-ended system in which free will
could operate in a larger framework of environmental forces. In short, Beard
did not deal squarely with the perhaps unresolvable dilemma of compulsion
versus choice (Benson, pp. 96-109).
17. Alvin Johnson, Pioneer's Progress: An Autobiography, pp. 155-56.



22 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

and colonies. He often reflected upon the workings of the European
power alignments that had been developing since the 1890s, but
did not seem to regard them as unduly provocative, and, on at
least one occasion, appeared to be skeptical of the relative impor-
tance of the Alliance System as it affected world affairs for good
or ill. When he reviewed a book on Franco-German relations in
1907, for example, Beard faulted the author for his lack of impar-
tiality and for his careful selection of statistical data. But his most
biting criticism was directed at the author's presumptuousness in
predicting that an increased rapprochement among Russia, France,
and Great Britain would encircle Imperial Germany which, in
turn, might increase the prospect of hostilities. "Whether [this]
thesis is a prophecy or delusion," Beard wrote, "the future alone
can decide."'8
The future seemed at hand the following year when the Austrian
annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1908 touched
off a diplomatic crisis that created consternation in the foreign
offices of all the major European capitals. Notwithstanding the
rashness of Austria's act, Beard noted in an essay for the Associa-
tion for International Conciliation that the act did not lead to the
military clash that might have been expected. "The governments
of all the great nations," he observed, "took a judicial attitude."
This restraint, which owed much to the understandings among
England, France, and Russia, "conclusively demonstrated their re-
alization of the responsibilities resting upon the power making
the first belligerent move." Because of this realization, "no country
is willing to take the huge risk of plunging Europe into war."'9
Beard did not think it important to speculate as to whether this
admirable display of prudent statesmanship was due to a concern
for economic interests, the fear of war itself, a belief in the folly
of war, or the reluctance of Europe's leaders to incur the blame
for making a decision in which the "hasty action on the part of
some minor power. . might bring on a local conflict whose larger
implications could scarcely be apprehended." It was sufficient, he
believed, that moderation and good sense had prevailed during
the negotiations that (temporarily, as it turned out) resolved rivalry
between nations over the Balkans. "This happy escape from crisis,"

18. Review of Victor Berard, La France et Guillaume II, in American His-
torical Review 12 (July 1907):897.
19. European Sobriety in the Presence of the Balkan Crisis, pp. 9-10.

he concluded, "may be deemed a triumph for the cause of peace."20
Like many men and women of good will on both sides of the
Atlantic, Beard simply did not want to accept the grim prospect
of Western civilization tearing itself apart over quarrels that could
be settled by reason and conciliation.
Soon after this essay appeared, Beard published his first extensive
analysis of American political history, American Government and
Politics, supplemented by a book of readings. The first edition of
this highly successful college text appeared in 1910 and went
through ten editions before Beard's death. Devoted principally to
a survey of domestic political institutions and practices, he in-
cluded a chapter on American foreign relations that touched briefly
upon a number of topics that would be of vital concern to him in
the 1930s and 1940s.
In both the text and volume of readings, Beard stressed the com-
manding position of the president as the only official of the govern-
ment "authorized to speak with authority for the United States on
the conduct of foreign affairs." The diplomatic functions of the
president as explicitly set forth in the Constitution were noted.
But, in the text, Beard forcefully argued and illustrated the point
that the president's "real achievements are not set by the letter of
the law." Rather, they are "determined . by his personality, the
weight of his influence, his capacity for managing men, and the
strength and effectiveness of the party forces behind him."21
As early as 1910, Beard was anxious that these inherent presiden-
tial powers be exercised in a responsible fashion, and he would
eventually demonstrate this feeling in his criticisms of Franklin D.
Roosevelt's dynamic role in directing American foreign policy. The
president, he observed, had the implied constitutional authority
to make executive agreements with other nations which, for at
least his term of office, were as binding as a treaty. Polk's diplomacy
toward Mexico and McKinley's diplomacy during the Cuban crisis
were briefly considered to dramatize the point that the president
could dispatch troops and ships without specific congressional au-
thority, and could do this in a way that might provoke war. In
time of war, Beard concluded, "the President, having possession
of the military power, can readily close the courts in any district

20. Ibid., pp. 7, 10-11, 13-14.
21. Readings in American Government and Politics, p. 183; American Gov-
ernment and Politics, pp. 187, 344.



24 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy
.. and as a matter of fact, a practically absolute power must be
vested in the commander-in-chief.''22
Beard continued to regard the Spanish-American War as an ex-
tremely significant event, which, because of the subsequent expan-
sion of America's foreign commerce, "was drawing us more and
more into the current of world politics." Contrary to the widely
held view, however, this did not constitute a violation of the alleged
"splendid isolation" of the United States "from the rest of the
powers of the world." The frequent, vigorous military and diplo-
matic defense of America's commercial interests since the adminis-
tration of George Washington refuted the claim that we had
enjoyed a truly isolated position with respect to other nations in
Europe and Asia.23
American power had been a key factor in challenging a policy
of true isolationism. "It is sufficient to say," Beard remarked, "that
we have been a world power, as far as has been necessary, from
the beginning of our history. In a word, the protection of our gov-
ernment has steadily advanced with the extension of our material
interests, and the foreign policy of the last ten years is no breach
of our historical development." He predicted that the continued
safeguarding of newly acquired commercial interests in the Far
East might require occasional military cooperation with foreign
powers, as during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the century.
Consequently, "no political doctrines with regard to our inde-
pendence from the rest of the world are strong enough to overcome
those material and moral forces which are linking our destinies to
the world at large."24
The question of the extent of America's military establishment
had taken on greater urgency and dimensions in the wake of the
Spanish-American War. The protection of overseas dependencies
and the increase in our foreign trade seemed to require a "rapid
increase in expenditures for warlike preparations." Although this
would appear to contradict "a strong tradition in the United States
that we are preeminently a peaceful people," Beard thought other-
wise. Somewhat wryly he noted that Americans usually had pointed
"with pity to the nations of Europe staggering under their enor-
mous military burdens." Distinguishing the appearances from the

22. American Government and Politics, pp. 196-97, 354.
23. Ibid., pp. 330-31.
24. Ibid., pp. 331-33.

realities, Beard deftly presented the following statistics: 41 per cent
of all the federal revenues for fiscal year 1908 had been spent on
the army, navy, and fortifications; 31 per cent of all revenue went
for pensions, interest, and other charges stemming from past wars.25
Consistent with his earlier expressions of concern about military
expenditures which diverted funds from domestic projects, Beard
was not encouraged by this trend. Nevertheless, in a balanced anal-
ysis, he set forth the arguments of those who endorsed these in-
creased outlays for the army and navy. Indeed, in his discussion
of Theodore Roosevelt's message to Congress in December 1907,
Beard did not find fault with the president's "pointing out that in
every foreign war which we have waged an enormous cost in men
and money could have been avoided, if in time of peace we had
taken wise precautions to maintain the regular army at a high
standard of efficiency."26
A similar tendency on the part of Beard not to object to Theo-
dore Roosevelt's boldness in foreign policy matters may be inferred
from his first major survey in American history, Contemporary
American History, 1877-1913 (1914).27 Since the volume appeared
shortly after his controversial study on the Constitution, it probably
attracted more scholarly commentary than was normally given to
a college text. Like his early work on European history with James
Harvey Robinson, however, the methodological approach Beard
employed was another reason for the acclaim and criticism with
which it was received. "In its quiet way," Morton White contends,
this book "helped shape the historical imagination of the coming
generation. It drew the picture which became a religious icon to
the readers of the New Republic and The Nation and which later
was adopted by the New Masses after it had been slightly re-
In the preface to the aforementioned survey, Beard said he was
planning to treat matters which seemed "important from the mod-
ern point of view." Though he confessed that his account was
"impressionistic," he had "endeavored to be accurate and fair"
(p. v). One reviewer suggested, however, that Beard's interpreta-
tions were colored by the intellectual climate of the reform move-

25. Ibid., p. 355.
26. Ibid., pp. 356-57.
27. Pages 279-81, hereafter cited as Contemporary American History.
28. White, American Social Thought, pp. 32-33.



26 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

ment.29 In his treatment of certain domestic and foreign issues,
Beard reflected two of the characteristics of the Progressive mind
delineated by Richard Hofstadter: a compulsion to expose and an
ambiguity about the motives of human behavior.30
In his most detailed analysis of the causes of the Spanish-
American War to date, Beard mentioned the idealistic impulses
and crusading zeal of the American people in regard to Spain's
treatment of the Cuban people. Yet, a few pages earlier he had
remarked somewhat cynically, "Contrary to their assertions on for-
mal occasions, the American people enjoy wars beyond measure,
if the plain facts of history are allowed to speak." In the discussion
of the negotiations to resolve the Cuban crisis, Beard did not
directly charge the McKinley administration with fomenting war
hysteria. But hinting at a possible conspiracy, he wrote, "It was
fortunate for the conservative interests that the quarrel with Spain
came shortly after McKinley's election, and they were able to
employ that ancient political device, 'a vigorous foreign policy,'
to divert the public mind from domestic difficulties."31
More bluntly, Beard located the fundamental cause of the war,
not in idealism, yellow journalism, partisan advantage, or blind
chance, but in the "frank acknowledgments of the new emphasis
on world policy which the economic interests demanded." Follow-
ing the renewal of the Cuban insurrection in 1895, American capi-
talistic interests were "strong enough to induce interference" on
the part of the federal government in order to prevent any further
loss of trade and American property on the island. "Powerful eco-
nomic interests" following the defeat of Spain, he asserted, "were
busy impressing the public mind with the advantages to be derived
from the retention of the distant Pacific Islands," not only as an
area for trade and investment in their own right, but as a base
for expanding American commercial endeavors throughout the
But Beard continued to be ambivalent. He did not reconcile
this economic interpretation in which economic interest groups

29. Review of Contemporary American History by Raymond G. Gettell, in
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 54 (July 1914):
30. "Charles Beard and the Constitution," in Beard Appraisal, pp. 83-87.
31. Beard, Contemporary American History, p. 199 (order of quotations re-
32. Ibid., pp. 204, 213, 214-15.

self-consciously sought to use the government for private gain with
his more general analysis of the "newer imperialism" of the 1890s.
The latter rested upon the assumption of economic determinism.
This was evidenced in his assertion about the "inexorable necessity
of the present economic system," which meant that "markets and
safe investment opportunities must be found for surplus products
and accumulated capital." There was an "inevitability" behind the
more advanced countries engaging in rivalries over the "economi-
cally backward countries" in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
"Economic necessity," he concluded, "thus overrides American iso-
lation and drives the United States into world politics."33
One prominent student of Beard's historiography considered his
view of imperialism at this time as being "very close to the Marx-
ists." For that reason, Beard was "armed with an interpretation
when the First World War broke out" and presented "in popular
form an economic approach to war which was to become almost
commonplace in the twenties and thirties, and to be forgotten by
some in the forties of this century."34
On the eve of World War I, Beard had established a national
reputation as a scholar, teacher, reformer, and controversialist. In
so doing, he displayed incredible physical energy, wide-ranging
intellectual curiosity, and admirable humanitarian impulses. His
approach to the writing of history was informed by a conviction
that the study of the past should be undertaken with a view to
progressively improving man's present political, social, and eco-
nomic environment. The most fruitful way of achieving this aim,
he believed, was through an appreciation of the fundamental im-
portance of economic forces in interpreting men's ideas, institu-
tions, and actions. A growing knowledge of the theory and practice
of international relations and American foreign policy, buttressed
by the assumption of the possible benevolent role of world-wide
economic interdependence, also contributed to Beard's decidedly
internationalist point of view at this time.

33. Ibid., pp. 202-3 (italics added).
34. White, American Social Thought, p. 43.




The War Years, 1914-1919

W HEN WAR broke out in Europe in the summer of 1914, Charles
Beard was extremely well informed on many of the forces and
events which had led up to the clash between two great power
blocs. Even so, less than two years after the conflict began, he and
James Harvey Robinson admitted that "the most terrible and de-
structive war in the history of Europe . came as a horrible sur-
prise," largely because the statesmen of Europe knew in advance
that such a war "would involve untold woe and destruction." This
struggle, they contended with great insight, "is the most important
single event in the whole history of Europe and perhaps the
In their effort to account for this calamity, Beard and Robinson
said that the exact causes were still a matter of dispute. But they
pointed to such factors as the naval armaments race between Ger-
many and Great Britain, the Alliance System, and the economic
forces which had propelled the most industrialized countries of
Europe into competition for colonies. Although the latter explana-
tion received the greatest notice, the authors described it simply
as "one of the causes of the great European war," without claiming
that it was the most important.2 On the issue of national responsi-
1. Beard and Robinson, Outlines of European History, 2:677.
2. Ibid., 2:456, 592, 680-81.

ability for precipitating the crisis, Beard and Robinson suggested
where their own sentiments lay when they asserted that "Prussia
has been the military schoolmaster of Europe." When discussing
the Balkan imbroglio, the authors believed that Austria had to
bear a large degree of blame because of its provocative annexa-
tionist policies and the intolerable conditions of its ultimatum to
Serbia on July 23, 1914.3
It is perhaps not surprising that Beard rather quickly and pub-
licly expressed his personal sympathy and support for the Triple
Entente, or the Allied Powers. In the autumn of 1914, he delivered
a speech at the City College of New York in which he attacked
the Central Powers so sharply that, as he later recalled, the college
president forbade him to speak again at that institution on that
subject.4 The relative speed and the depth of feeling with which
Beard condemned the Central Powers seemed to be the culmination
of earlier experiences when he was in Germany. They were also
the culmination of scholarly studies which had made him extremely
suspicious of the nature and aims of German militarism, very criti-
cal of Kaiser Wilhelm's diplomacy before 1914, and harsh in his
judgments of the autocratic nature of the Imperial German gov-
In the first of a series of four lectures delivered at Amherst
College in 1916, Beard alluded to the war in Europe and, in a
pessimistic vein, said to his audience, "The present plight of the
world seems to show that mankind is in the grip of inexorable
forces which may destroy civilization if not subdued to humane
purposes. It may be that in the end we must ... confess the futility
of our quest." While the carnage of the war sorely tried his faith
in progress, Beard's essential optimism asserted itself in a state-
ment which suggested that mankind should not cease to seek ways
out of its current dilemma: "Even though every door be slammed
in our faces, still we must knock."6
In keeping with his own counsel, Beard had already indicated
his support of a "Congress of Nations." At the Friends' Meeting
House in New York City in January 1916, he spoke of the need
for a postwar international legislative body. A major international

3. Ibid., 2:677, 684, 691-93.
4. New York Times, January 26, 1919, p. 8.
5. Beard and Robinson, The Development of Modern Europe, 2:148-50.
6. The Economic Basis of Politics (1922 ed.), pp. 2-3.



30 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

organization, the Hague Tribunal, had proved inadequate because
it was unrepresentative and inflexible. It was more interested in
settling disputes than in preventing them. Lasting peace, Beard
said, must come through an international legislature composed of
delegates elected by the people of the nations they represent.7
But Beard was finding it personally difficult to restrict himself
to endorsing programs for international peace in which it was
assumed that the United States would commit itself only after the
war ended. The following recollection of a former student of his
at Columbia underscored the extent to which Beard had accepted
the necessity of American intervention on the side of the Allies
and had rejected the notion of pacifism as a justification for con-
tinuing American neutrality:

Throughout 1916, Professor Beard urged America's entry
into the war. He warned us in class that Germany was a
danger to civilization. It was an illusion, he said, to think of
Americans as pacific people; they are and always have been
one of the most violent peoples in history. . One morning,
when the press reported the sinking of a merchant vessel by
German submarines, Dr. Beard came into the classroom pale
and stern. He looked at us for a long time in silence, then
closed his eyes.
"Gentlemen," he said, "the history of the world was altered
today. It will now be impossible for the United States to stay
out of the war. German autocracy will have to be destroyed."
He opened his eyes and they were full of tears.8

Nevertheless, "Uncle Charley," as he was now widely referred to
by the Columbia student body, did not let these intense convictions
override a realistic appraisal of what could reasonably be achieved
by defeating the Central Powers. His skeptical reaction to President
Woodrow Wilson's "peace without victory" speech on January 22,
1917, for example, indicated that he was far from satisfied with its
idealistic rhetoric. In an interview for the New York Times, Beard
was sharply critical of Wilson's intentions in even making the
speech. In particular, he took issue with Wilson's generalities
which, in the case of self-determination of peoples, left unanswered

7. New York Times, January 21, 1916, p. 9.
8. Joseph Freeman, An American Testament, p. 107.

some politically embarrassing questions about such countries as
Ireland and India, not to mention Haiti and Santo Domingo. The
address, Beard told his interviewer, was "not much of a basis for
negotiations." Unless the president was acting "on the basis of
some information which he has received from one or the other con-
flicting party," he was "just preaching a sermon-just a sermon."9
Nearly four weeks after Germany had announced its campaign
of unrestricted submarine warfare on January 31, 1917, President
Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to secure authority
to arm American merchantmen. In another New York Times in-
terview, when asked what he thought about this request, Beard
told the reporter, "Personally I favor more drastic action than the
President has taken up to date. I have thought for some time that
this country should definitely align itself with the Allies and help
eliminate Prussianism from the earth. Even without authorization
of Congress, the President can now take a stand where he will
compel Germany to rescind her illegal orders or admit defeat."10
The Times' account of the interview, however, did not state ex-
actly what Beard might have had in mind beyond "armed neu-
trality." In any event, a Senate filibuster eventually forced Wilson
to issue an executive order arming American merchant ships.
News of the torpedoing of the first armed American merchant-
man, the Aztec, was made public on Sunday, April 1, 1917. A group
of pacifists in New York City planned a mass protest demonstration
for the next day against any possible vigorous response of the
United States government. At Columbia University, however, a
committee of interventionist professors prepared to engage in a
counterdemonstration. On behalf of this committee, Beard issued
a statement that read, in part, "The hour has struck to put an end
to the Prussian oligarchy . Every advocate of peace at any price
S. is now playing into the hands of Prussian militarism."1' On
April 2, President Wilson presented his war message to Congress.

9. Quoted in New York Times, January 23, 1917, p. 2.
10. Quoted ibid., February 27, 1917, p. 2. Slightly more than two months
after the armistice, Beard was still adamant in his disagreement with the presi-
dent's policies before April 1917. In late January 1919, he asserted that he had
not belonged to "Mr. Wilson's sweet neutrality band." Further, he had simul-
taneously taught his students that "war has been one of the most tremendous
factors in the origin of the State and the progress of mankind," although he
had never "advocated war for war's sake." Quoted ibid., January 26, 1919, p. 8.
11. Quoted in Walter Millis, The Road to War, 1914-1917, pp. 428-29.



32 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

The war resolution was approved in the Senate and the House on
April 4 and 6, respectively.
For some time prior to America's entrance into World War I,
the New Republic had adopted the editorial position that Ameri-
can interests would be jeopardized by a victory of the Central
Powers.12 Beard shared this belief of most of the editors of this
liberal periodical to which he had contributed a number of articles
and book reviews since its founding in 1914. Less than two weeks
after the United States became a belligerent, one of the editors may
very well have had Beard, among others, in mind when he de-
clared, "College professors headed by a President who had himself
been a college professor contributed more effectively to the decision
in favor of war than did the farmers, the businessmen, or the poli-
Beard's efforts did not cease with the declaration of war. In his
published statements supporting the belligerent status of the United
States, he usually emphasized the major role the nation would
have to play in halting unbridled German militarism and in pro-
moting postwar stability. He did not, however, completely succumb
to the heady idealism implicit in the shibboleth that the world
was to be made "safe for democracy." Of primary concern to him
were Germany's threats to the interests and values of the United
Beard's contributions to the war effort came under the heading
of propaganda activities. One rumor, which he would neither con-
firm nor deny, was that President Wilson had asked him to make
speeches in the West and Middle West.14 He was briefly associated
with the Division of Civic and Educational Publications, an agency
of George Creel's Committee on Public Information. Under the
direction of University of Minnesota historian Guy Stanton Ford,
this division was responsible for literature that presented "the
Wilsonian war doctrine in a reasoned, accurate, authoritative state-
ment that would appeal to educated people everywhere." One of
the noteworthy volumes produced by this agency was The War
Cyclopedia, "a handbook for ready reference on the Great War."

12. Richard H. Gentry, "Liberalism and the New Republic, 1914-1960,"
p. 84.
13. "Who Willed American Participation?" New Republic, April 14, 1917,
p. 308.
14. New York Times, October 11, 1917, p. 24.

Edited by Professors Frederick L. Paxson and Edward S. Corwin,
many prominent historians contributed to its compilation, includ-
ing Charles A. Beard, Carl L. Becker, Sidney B. Fay, and J. Frank-
lin Jameson.15
A month before the armistice, Harper's Magazine published a
fervent appeal by Beard to support the fourth Liberty Bond Drive.
It contained what was probably his most passionate printed analy-
sis of German responsibility for the war and is quoted at length
for comparison with the more judicious statements he made during
the war and with his revised opinions in subsequent years: "Amer-
ica and her allies are now pitted against the most merciless military
despotism the world has ever seen. Surely all those who hoped for
the conversion of Germany and the House of Hohenzollern to ways
of peace and decency are cured of their delusion by this time.
Equipped by forty years of preparation for armed conquest, forti-
fied by forty years of conspiracy against the democratic nations of
the earth, supported by all the engines of destruction that science
can devise, the German military machine threatens all mankind.
It has made a religion of brutality; it has despised everything that
savors of democracy; it has willed to impose its cruel might upon
all who refuse to accept its yoke. Let whoever doubts this ponder
upon Belgium, the 'Lusitania,' and Brest-Litovsk. A German vic-
tory means the utter destruction of those ideals of peace and good-
will which have been America's great reliance, ideals which make
life worth living in America or anywhere else."16
A more temperate, balanced expression of Beard's estimate of
the nature of the German threat and Allied war aims is to be found
in a letter, written in June 1917, to the editor of the New Republic.
The communication reflected his confidence in the ultimate mili-
tary success of the Allies and anticipated the spirit of Woodrow
Wilson's Fourteen Points speech of January, 1918. But it also
revealed his fear that the diplomacy of the war might be handled
so ineptly as to cancel out the fruits of victory.
At the outset, Beard urged Americans to "strain every nerve to

15. James R. Mock and Cedric Larson, Words that Won the War, p. 173.
First issued in January 1918, nearly 200,000 copies of The War Cyclopedia were
distributed: George Creel, How We Advertised America, p. 455. Since the au-
thors of particular passages are not identified, it is not possible to determine
which items in The War Cyclopedia were written by Beard.
16. "A Call upon Every Citizen," p. 655.



34 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

the breaking point in the mobilization of our resources" and to
"work for a smashing victory which will carry the soldiers of
the Allies to the streets of Berlin." But poised, cold-blooded,
Machiavellian-inspired diplomacy, he insisted, was just as indis-
pensable to winning the war. The United States had to guard
against a self-righteous posture. "A painful consciousness of the
rectitude of our intentions and the purity of our purpose," he
observed wryly, "is more likely to be a nuisance than a service."17
Beard conceded that there was some merit in the interpretation
of the war as a struggle between ideological absolutes, such as
"liberty against autocracy." But he hoped the Allied statesmen
would avoid such characterizations, for he believed they would not
contribute to effective negotiations. Instead, they should focus their
attention on two immediate problems brought about by the war,
the solution of which would have a bearing upon whether the
peace could endure. First, Allied leaders would have to eliminate
the political power of the Prussian military caste over the German
masses. This would be done in order to place political authority
in the hands of the "radical leaders" of the Social Democratic
Party, which had been the principal voice of reform in prewar
Germany. The second problem entailed appropriate Allied reas-
surances to the revolutionary regime of Alexander Kerensky that
Russia's non-Czarist future would be guaranteed by Russia's re-
maining in the war. It was necessary, however, to convince the
radical leaders of these countries "that this is not at bottom, or
even potentially, a capitalist war for colonies, markets, and con-
In this statement, Beard seemed to repudiate his earlier conclu-
sions concerning the importance of imperialism as a cause for the
war. Substantially, he was proposing the same principles of a non-
punitive, nonvictor's peace eventually espoused by Woodrow Wil-
son. He was not ruling out the possibility that the Allies were
entertaining thoughts of imperialistic gains at that time. He was
suggesting that they ought not to continue to embrace them as
war aims. In short, they should not make one of the war's major
causes its principal result. The United States, Beard declared, had
a special obligation to make it unmistakably clear that it had no

17. "The Perils of Democracy," p. 136.
18. Ibid., p. 137.

intention of presiding over a distribution of German colonies
among the victors or of haggling over indemnities, particularly if
negotiations over these issues prolonged the duration and cost
of the conflict. Foreshadowing a major theme of many disillusioned
critics of the Treaty of Versailles, Beard warned, "Let us beware
lest the diplomats make our burden a thousand times heavier than
it need be.'19
Beard elaborated upon these concerns in book reviews during the
war. In Solomon Grumbach's Das annexionistische Deutschland
(1917), for example, he found convincing evidence that the terri-
torial expectations of Germany's leaders were so grandiose that they
probably would regard any proposal for a restoration of the status
quo ante bellum as a humiliating defeat. Compared to Germany's
imperialist ambitions as detailed in this work, he wrote, "the
loose-jointed, ramshackle British Empire is but a child's house of
cards." Beard, nonetheless, believed that generous peace terms
should be offered by the Allies to forestall the possibility that the
German people would again be duped by imperialist-minded lead-
ers, among whom were university professors as well as political,
military, and business leaders.20
A year later Beard applauded the insights and conclusions found
in The End of the War (1918), written by the progressive journalist
Walter Weyl. In the course of the review, Beard itemized a number
of instances when Germany's aggressive conduct was so flagrant as
"to convince all but the unearthly of the justice of the cause for
which America took up arms." Yet his most telling comments were
reserved for Weyl's analysis of "the dread disease of capitalistic
imperialism." In a passage which contained the essential thesis and
the withering sarcasm of many of Beard's foreign policy writings of
the 1930s, he wrote, "The old game of capitalistic exploitation, of
interpenetration, of annexation, of economic rivalry for the main
chance-which is little short of piracy-must cease. Governments
must not be the servitors of capitalists searching in the out-of-the-
way places of the earth for twenty-five per cent dividends and a
guaranteed return of the original capital, plus betterments." In
effect, Beard optimistically added his appeal to that of Weyl to
strip diplomacy of its appearances, and to get down to the realities

19. Ibid.
20. "German Annexations and Indemnities."



36 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

which might bring about "a peace made in the open sunlight, with
full knowledge of the nature of the imperialistic and capitalistic
dynamic of industry as at present organized, shaped toward a future
of internationalism, not of new coalitions, new balances of power
-such is the peace for which Mr. Weyl pleads."21
In the summer of 1918, sixty internationalist-minded members of
the League of Free Nations Association met in New York City.
Charles and Mary Beard were two of the many distinguished aca-
demic and public figures who attended, including John Dewey,
Herbert Croly, and Felix Frankfurter. The participants drafted a
declaration of principles which they believed should guide the
eventual peace negotiations. Together with the older League to
Enforce Peace, the association issued, immediately after the armis-
tice, a "Victory Program" that called for freedom of the seas, re-
moval of trade barriers, and acceptance of limitations upon national
sovereignty if such aims were to be realized.22
Since Beard did not permit his idealism to overwhelm his real-
ism completely, he was reasonably forearmed against the profound
bitterness and disillusionment experienced by many liberals after
Woodrow Wilson's failure to implement significantly the principles
and programs which the president and such organizations as the
League of Free Nations Association had proclaimed. Like most
liberals, however, Beard was troubled by the wartime infringement
on civil liberties growing out of the mood of intolerance that
gripped the nation.
Even during the period of American neutrality, Beard was per-
sonally involved in at least one episode which indicated how the
war in Europe could discourage holding and expressing unpopular
opinions. In 1916, Beard's name was publicly linked with Official
Documents Relating to the Outbreak of the World War, a work
edited by a scholar known to be sympathetic to the German cause,
Dr. Edmund Von Mach. Beard had read the manuscript for the
Macmillan Company, the publisher of many of his own works. Von
Mach failed to make certain factual corrections recommended by
Beard, and the publishers eventually took the book off the market
because of its inaccuracies. Beard's scholarly integrity and his own
pro-Allied sentiments were generally recognized. But this unfortu-
21. "The End of the War."
22. Ruhl J. Bartlett, The League to Enforce Peace, p. 111; Selig Adler, The
Isolationist Impulse: Its Twentieth-Century Reaction, pp. 51-52.

nate incident briefly caused them to be called into question and
probably gave him some inkling of the badgering he and other
academics might expect in the event of American intervention in
the war.23
Beard's controversial resignation from Columbia University in
October 1917 had no direct bearing on his own views of the war at
the time he departed. His major grievance was concerned indi-
rectly with events that took place when many officials of the uni-
versity, including President Nicholas Murray Butler, endorsed
American neutrality. The decision to leave Columbia was precipi-
tated by the dismissal of two professors, ostensibly for their non-
interventionist sentiments prior to April 1917 and their alleged
unwillingness to support the war effort once the United States be-
came a belligerent.24
In the letter of resignation, Beard stressed his own vigorous
support of the war and made it clear that he in no way endorsed
what might have been the antiwar views of the two professors. But
he insisted on the right of teachers to judge the actions of their
colleagues in any case that seemed to warrant severe disciplinary
action. Beard believed that "reactionary and visionless" trustees
were not competent to make such important decisions. He was con-
vinced that, under these circumstances, he could no longer main-
tain his association with Columbia, for he would not be able to
effectively sustain "public opinion in support of the just war on
the German Empire or take a position of independence in the days
of reconstruction that are to follow."25
There would be rapprochements of sorts: Beard served twice as
a visiting professor of government at Columbia, and he received
an honorary degree from that institution in 1944.26 But the con-
troversy evoked occasional traces of bitterness after the war. With
the passage of years, the circumstances surrounding his resignation
became increasingly identified in his mind with the suppression of

23. New York Times, October 29, 1916, p. 14; ibid., December 31, 1916, p. 3.
24. George S. Counts, "Charles Beard, the Public Man," in Beard Appraisal,
pp. 243-44.
25. "Letter of Resignation from Columbia University," p. 446. Twenty years
later, Beard still regarded it as almost axiomatic that "no board of trustees
is fitted to conduct a college or university without the assistance and partici-
pation of faculty representatives": New Republic, February 3, 1937, p. 413.
26. "Exile's Return," New Republic, October 4, 1939, p. 228; New York
Times, April 29, 1941, p. 16, and June 7, 1944, p. 34.



38 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

civil liberties in wartime. The historian and friend Hubert Herring
in 1939 quoted Beard as saying to him, "And then I slowly awoke
to my abysmal ignorance ... I saw Columbia use the war to sup-
press men. . I saw the freedom of the press trampled by spies,
public and private."27
It was not until after World War I ended, however, that Beard
publicly registered his private concern about such matters. In Jan-
uary 1918, he wrote to the New Republic to assert that it was now
time for the federal government to free political prisoners "whose
offense was to retain Mr. Wilson's pacifist views after he had
abandoned them." The "blighting hand of the post office censor"
should also be removed from political publications, and there
should be a restoration of "the rights of press, speech and meeting
which were curtailed during the war .... Is truth so frail and faith
so slight," he asked indignantly, "that they must be handed over
to the police?"28
That same week, Beard's name was included on a published list
of "men and women who have been recorded as active in move-
ments which did not help the United States when the country was
fighting the Central Powers." This information was distributed by
the Senate Judiciary Committee Investigating German Propaganda
and was compiled from a roster furnished by the Military Intelli-
gence Service. Beard was specifically cited for his allegedly "rad-
ical" connections with the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and the
Rand School of Social Science, at which he had lectured after
leaving Columbia. Understandably outraged by the falsity and
ludicrousness of the insinuation that he had worked against the
Allied cause, Beard wrote a biting letter of denial to the chairman
of the Senate committee involved. In citing details which contra-
dicted and refuted the charge, Beard used the occasion to take a
swipe at Nicholas Murray Butler and others who, he claimed, were
"manipulating the Carnegie peace millions," issuing pacifist pamph-
lets, organizing pacifist societies, and employing Columbia instruc-
tors to write pacifist tracts at a time when Beard himself was
urging American involvement on the side of the Allies.29
These personal experiences undoubtedly contributed to the ardor

27. "Freelance among the Historians," p. 652.
28. "The Supreme Issue," New Republic, January 25, 1919, p. 343.
29. Quoted in New York Times, January 25, 1919, p. 1; ibid., January 26,
1919, p. 8.

found in Beard's repeated warnings after World War I that Amer-
ica's participation in another world conflict would signal the immi-
nent and irretrievable loss of civil liberties in the United States.
The very depth of feeling which he occasionally displayed in sup-
port of the war effort might also account, in part, for his equally
fervent determination to oppose American involvement in the
affairs of Europe and the Far East during the 1930s. As Max Lerner
has suggested, Beard, looking back, must have felt that "after all
he had been had. The sense of humiliation" in supporting an
abortive, idealistic crusade "became a rankling resolve to be re-
venged on his own folly."30 Beard's son-in-law, the historian Alfred
Vagts, supports this judgment. But he also suggests that Beard was
equally determined that the historical guild should never again be
"had if he could help it."31
It was not until the 1930s that Beard thoroughly repudiated his
thoughts and behavior in regard to America's role in World War I.
Up to that time, he often made a distinction between the immedi-
ate need for the United States to aid in defeating Imperial Germany
to safeguard its own national interest on the one hand, and to pro-
mote the long-range goal of establishing an enduring peace on the
other. The failure to achieve the latter objective would become a
matter of disappointment and concern to Beard. But his personal
involvement in supporting the Allied war effort and American
intervention did not, of itself, invalidate his many acute observa-
tions about the potential threats to the United States of a German
victory in World War I.

30. "Charles Beard: Civilization and the Devils," p. 23.
31. Vagts to author, May 9, 1968.




The Peace Settlement to the Great
Depression, 1919-1930

D URING the period from the peace settlement to the Great De-
pression,' Beard's thinking on world affairs was marked by alter-
nating moods of optimism and pessimism that coincided, respec-
tively, with many features of liberal internationalist and liberal
isolationist thought in America during the 1920s.2 Consistent with
his conviction that it had been necessary and desirable for the
United States to adopt a belligerent status in 1917-18, throughout
the 1920s Beard frequently emphasized the responsible and active
role which America would have to assume in foreign affairs. Im-
mediately after the war and through 1930, he was generally san-
guine in his appraisal of the prospects for international peace and
1. The material in this chapter, with slight revisions, appeared in the
author's "Charles A. Beard in Midpassage."
2. The terms "liberal internationalist" and "liberal isolationist" are derived
from Eric F. Goldman's delineation of progressive-liberal opinion in regard to
American foreign policy during and after World War I. The liberal interna-
tionalist was basically wedded to the notion of collective security in the promo-
tion of world peace, which meant support of American intervention in World
War I and extensive participation in world affairs, including membership in the
League of Nations following the end of hostilities. The liberal isolationist, on
the other hand, was distinguished by his attachment to an economic interpreta-
tion of war, a fear that war meant the end of domestic reform and compro-
mised civil liberties, a skeptical attitude toward the league, and, by the 1930s,
a "deep-seated disillusionment with Wilsonianism": Rendezvous with Destiny,
pp. 223-61, 374-76.

At times, however, Beard despaired of the possibility of establish-
ing a world that would be "safe for democracy" even if the United
States embraced significant international commitments. On occa-
sion, he feared that these commitments, particularly in foreign
commercial ventures, might jeopardize the nation's security. His
deliberations on the origins of World War I and the "war guilt"
question also gave rise to doubts about the validity and wisdom of
his vigorous support of the war effort. When his thoughts ran in
these channels, he expressed views which clearly foreshadowed a
number of the isolationist and revisionist themes found in his
writings during the 1930s and after.
On the eve of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Beard, in
National Governments and the World War, summarized the rea-
sons for American intervention and reviewed the war aims of the
United States. A German victory, he contended, "would imperil
democracy in the United States in coming years." The defeat of
Great Britain and Germany's annexation of her colonies would
have led to a situation in which "America would not be spared by
a power founded on the sword." Thus, the war was patently one
of national self-defense, a case of "taking up arms to repel acts of
violence and wrong already being committed against the United
States" by the Imperial German Government. But in responding
to this challenge, he added, President Wilson had made it clear
that "the United States sought no new material gains from the
war-no new territories, no forcibly won markets for American
trade, no compensations in money for wrong done-but rather to
overthrow militarism and imperialism, making way for peace and
democratic governments throughout the earth."3
In a sympathetic fashion that implied acceptance of Wilson's
program for a nonvindictive treaty, Beard outlined the major prin-
ciples that were to guide American diplomacy in the forthcoming
peace settlement. But optimism was tempered by words of caution.
The worthy aims of Woodrow Wilson, he observed, probably
would not be "universally accepted or lived up to by all nations in
spirit as well as letter." He nevertheless concluded that "those who
have faith will believe that a real change has come in the long

3. Beard and Frederick A. Ogg, National Governments and the World War,
pp. 13-14, 556, 558. In the preface to this work (dated December 12, 1918), it is
noted that Beard was responsible for writing the chapters from which these
ideas were taken.



42 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

course of history and that the years 1917-18 . will mark the
opening of a new epoch in the rise of government by the people
and in the growth of a concert among the nations."4
In the final chapter of this book, America's membership in a
League of Nations was strongly endorsed. Despite the "complete
abandonment of her traditional policy of isolationism" implicit in
such a course of action, the United States had already set aside
this policy by participating in World War I. "The conditions ob-
taining in the modern world" would have made such a policy
obsolete in any event.5
Before the formal signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28,
1919, however, many liberals who had enthusiastically embraced
Wilson's war aims were disturbed by the prospect that the presi-
dent would not be able to redeem his pledges. During the spring
of 1919, editorials and articles in the New Republic chronicled the
uncertain progress of the peace talks at Paris. Increasingly, many
liberals came to doubt the fulfillment of the Fourteen Points, to
question the integrity of America's recent comrades-in-arms, and to
wonder whether Wilson himself had not lost sight of the noble
aims for which the country had gone to war. By December 1919,
when the New Republic began to serialize John Maynard Keynes'
Economic Consequences of the Peace, a polemic against Wilson
and the reparations clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, a consider-
able number of liberals were in virtual alliance with conservatives
in opposition to the pact.6
Selig Adler has suggested that in 1919 Beard joined with Oswald
Garrison Villard, Herbert Croly, and other liberals in the United
States "who had turned against the League because of the 'im-
perialistic' parts of the Treaty of Versailles."7 If so, Beard did not
develop an implacable anti-league attitude, for he often praised
the concept and certain activities of the league in the decade after
Versailles. It is clear, however, that by mid-1919 Beard was becom-

4. Ibid., p. 570.
5. Ibid., p. 590. The political scientist Frederick A. Ogg assumed the re-
sponsibility for this passage. But the sentiments expressed in regard to the
nonviability of isolationism and the membership of the United States in an
international peace-keeping organization were consistent with Beard's own views
before and during the war.
6. Goldman, Rendezvous with Destiny, pp. 263-70.
7. "The War Guilt Question and American Disillusionment, 1919-1928,"
p. 14n89.

ing impatient with what he regarded as distorted accounts of the
origins and conduct of the war which gave the impression that
members of the Triple Entente (Great Britain, France, and Russia)
were impelled only by idealistic motives in waging war against the
Central Powers. But he just as vigorously asserted that "America's
part in the great war was just and needed no specious apology.''
Throughout the 1920s, Beard usually adhered to the belief that
American intervention was warranted, regardless of any personal
re-evaluations of the "war guilt" thesis and the Versailles treaty.
Accordingly, he did not accept the views of those who argued, as
did Harry Elmer Barnes in The Genesis of the World War (1926),
that American participation was both unnecessary and unwise. In
his review article of Barnes' work, Beard sustained the author's
debunking of the victors' version of "war guilt," which Beard
characterized as the "Sunday-school theory" of responsibility for the
war. Barnes' analysis of the prime causes of the war, with "the bit-
ter rivalry of the industrial powers for markets" at the head of the
list, also met with Beard's approval. But he emphatically warned
that "there is equal danger in the attempt to white-wash the Ger-
man Kaiser, the Crown Prince, the war party and the super-
patriots of the Fatherland."9
Beard pointedly refuted Barnes' contention that President Wilson
had never been neutral and had deliberately promoted a war
spirit throughout the country, observing that as late as February
1917, the President "looked rather coldly upon the pretensions of
both parties to the European war." In view of Beard's extensive
writings on the economic interpretation of war, it is perhaps note-
worthy that this idea was not broached in the essay when he dis-
cussed the reasons for American involvement. Instead, the motive
of national security appeared to be uppermost in his mind. Chal-
lenging the hypothesis that a German victory would have been of
no consequence to the United States, Beard remarked, "Certainly
Mr. Barnes could hardly say that the United States would be in a
more favorable position with a triumphant German military party
astride Europe than with the Entente Allies victorious and at one
another's throats." He added, "It is decidedly to the interest of the
United States to help prevent the rise of any single European

8. "Propaganda in the Schools," p. 598.
9. "Heroes and Villains of the World War," p. 733.



44 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

power to a dominant position." But in a conclusion that would
find wide application in Beard's isolationist writings in the next
decade, he stated that the American people "should not be bam-
boozled" by European statesmen and "should regard with cold
blood all the quarrels of Europe."10
This interpretation of Wilson's restrained behavior and the na-
tional security motive with regard to America's involvement in
World War I was substantially embodied in the highly acclaimed
The Rise of American Civilization, published the following year.
In this work, however, Beard and his wife Mary considered briefly
the notion that Wilson had contemplated American entrance into
the war in 1916. Moreover, the economic interpretation was intro-
duced in a passage which implied that the pressures of interest
groups-investors, munitions-makers, merchants, and manufacturers
-were among the many forces "that helped to form the President's
crucial decision" to ask for a declaration of war.11
By 1930, Beard's interpretation of presidential responsibility for
American belligerency had become more critical. In a study written
with his son, William, Woodrow Wilson's conduct of diplomacy
after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 was described as
"a program destined to end in an open break." The impression
conveyed was that the president's diplomacy might have been inept,
but was without guile.12 Such views stand in rather sharp contrast
to Beard's position of the mid-1930s, when he joined the ranks of
the revisionists who attacked Wilson's idealism and alleged guilt
in dragging the nation into an unnecessary war at the instigation
of economic interest groups.
If Beard was convinced during the 1920s of the power-political
and ideological justification for American intervention in World
War I, he was consistently critical of attempts to gloss over the
complexities of the war's origins. An important impetus to Beard's
revised estimate of the responsibilities for the war and pessimism
over its consequences was a trip he made to Europe in 1919-20.
While on the continent, he observed general breakdown of national
economies combined with political unrest, including a riot in Italy
associated with Benito Mussolini's subsequent rise to power.13 It

10. Ibid., pp. 734-35.
11. 2:626-33.
12. The American Leviathan: The Republic in the Machine Age, p. 275.
13. W. Beard, comp., Charles A. Beard, p. xiii.

was at this time that Beard took the opportunity to examine some
of the official documents then available in European archives.
From these papers and published accounts, he gained insights into
the operations of the alliance system before and after 1914 which
caused him to view his earlier appraisals of "war guilt" with in-
creasing skepticism.14
Also as a consequence of this postwar trip to Europe, Charles
and Mary Beard came back to their homeland with the intention
"to inquire what we can do here to create an American civilization,
determined to center my efforts on the promise of America rather
than upon the fifty century-old quarrels of Europe.' 15This remark
to a friend might have been an instance of Beard projecting his
feelings of the 1930s back to an earlier period. However disap-
pointed he might have been with the new diplomatic revelations
and with some of the results of the war, neither he nor his wife
believed in 1921 that the imperfections of the Treaty of Versailles
and the Senate's rejection of American membership in the League
of Nations absolved the United States of international responsi-
bilities. In the Beards' first joint effort in American history, the
high school text History of the United States (1921), they clearly
rejected isolationism: "By no conceivable process could America
be disentangled from the web of world affairs. Isolationism, if
desirable, had become impossible. . America, by virtue of its
institutions, its population, its wealth, and its commerce, had be-
come first among the nations of the earth. By moral obligations
and by practical interests its fate was thus linked with the destiny
of all mankind.""' Within a year, however, Beard was recommend-
ing that the United States allow Europe "to set its own house in
order under the stress of its own necessities and experiences. Its
statesmen know little enough, perhaps, but they know Europe
better than any agents sent out from Washington."17
This ambivalence seems to have stemmed, in large part, from
Beard's troubled reflections-demonstrated in several book reviews

14. M. Beard, The Making of Charles A. Beard, pp. 30-31; Gushing Strout,
The Pragmatic Revolt in American History: Carl Becker and Charles Beard,
p. 138; Borning, The Political and Social Thought of Charles A. Beard, p. 107.
15. Quoted in Herring, "Freelance among the Historians," p. 646.
16. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1921), p. 620.
17. C. A. Beard, Cross Currents in Europe Today, p. 265, hereafter cited as
Cross Currents.



46 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

by him-on the origins of the war, the gap between the idealistic
and actual aftermath of World War I, economic imperialism, and
war propaganda.18 At this juncture in Beard's life, the most com-
plete expression of his shifting attitudes toward the causes and
results of World War I and the future course of American foreign
policy in the light of this episode is contained in Cross Currents
in Europe Today, based on eight lectures delivered at Dartmouth
College in the fall of 1921.
The first three lectures dealt with the "war guilt" question, and
in them Beard claimed he would "pass no judgments upon the
motives and policies of the actors in the great drama that opened
on August 1, 1914." Yet, he soon commented bitterly on the diplo-
mats who secretly "exchanged pledges and created situations which
drove Europe relentlessly into the abyss. Out of the millions that
went forth to die, out of the millions that stayed home to suffer
and bear the burdens, only a handful-a score or more-knew by
what process the terrible denouement had been brought to pass."19
However inadvertently, Beard was blaming specific individuals for
wrong choices freely made, not inexorable, abstract forces that pre-
sumably made war inevitable.
In his analysis of primary responsibility for the war, Russia and
France were accorded special blame in view of an alleged Franco-
Russian scheme, formulated as early as 1908, to destroy the Austro-
Hungarian Empire in a general European war.20 Beard's moderate-
revisionist account received slight critical notice at the time. But
one reviewer thought the presentation lacked balance and charged
that Beard's entire "war guilt" thesis rested on the questionable
assumption that the whole course of European events after 1908
turned on a vague promise by the Russian government to support
Serbia in the future.21

18. "The Recent War"; "Transition in Politics"; "La Guerre Absolue."
19. Cross Currents, pp. 2, 6. A few years later, Beard confided in a letter to
Harry Elmer Barnes, "I hesitate in measuring out the exact amount of damna-
tion due to the liars and incompetents who got the world into the mess of
1914-but none of them can get too much": Beard to Barnes, July 14, 1926[?],
Barnes Papers, Western History Research Center, University of Wyoming Li-
brary. From the context of the letter, it would appear that Beard wrote it
just before his review of Barnes' book was published in Current History, August
20. Cross Currents, pp. 9-10, 26-27.
21. Joseph Fuller, review of Cross Currents, in American Political Science

It may be that Beard overstated his case at Dartmouth in his
attempt to redress the balance of truth. Yet his views had not
altered when he wrote three years later, "All must admit that one
thing has been established beyond question, namely, that responsi-
bility for the war must be distributed among all the participants
with Russia and France bearing a Titan's share."22 In 1930, how-
ever, Beard and James Harvey Robinson singled out for sympa-
thetic discussion the revisionist work of Sidney B. Fay, The Origins
of the World War (1928), which rejected the notion that one could
fix ultimate or preponderant responsibility on any one of the
powers and denied that the war resulted principally from a Franco-
Russian conspiracy.23
The lecture-essay "America and the Balance of Power," in Cross
Currents in Europe Today, reflected Beard's anxiety over the proper
role which the United States should play in world affairs. His con-
clusions anticipated in remarkable detail some of his isolationist
arguments in the 1930s, particularly the thesis of "continental
Americanism." It is perhaps no exaggeration to suggest, therefore,
that this lecture-essay presents the most revealing of Beard's state-
ments on American foreign policy during the 1920s.
In the first of his Dartmouth lectures, Beard stressed the impact
of world events and forces on the past, present, and future history
of the United States, particularly in trade and finance, where there
was "now a web of international relations .. so fine in mesh and
so tough in fibre that no sword can cut it. The East and West have
met," he continued, "and they are one. The world is an economic
unit and the United States is being woven into the very fabric of
that unity."24 This generalization was reminiscent of an idea first
entertained in an important sense when he was in England and
accepted almost as an article of faith during his first decade at
Columbia University. In the final lecture on "America and the
Balance of Power," however, Beard shifted his perspective to con-
sider how American foreign policies affected world events and,

Review 17 (May 1923):332. Since Beard concluded elsewhere in his lectures
(p. 81) that "circumstances rather than the form and language of the under-
standings" determined the extent to which commitments were fulfilled in 1914,
the reviewer's fundamental criticism had some merit.
22. "Viscount Grey on War Guilt," p. 172.
23. The Development of Modern Europe, rev. ed., 2:319-20.
24. Cross Currents, pp. 1-2.



48 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy
ultimately, American domestic policies. The conclusion of his
analysis was that the United States should adopt a basic approach
to diplomacy that would lead eventually to a severance from the
aforementioned "web of international relations."
Beard observed in his introductory remarks to the last lecture
that America's status as an industrial and trading nation was "the
key to our domestic history and to our future foreign policies,"
with present signs indicating a continuing dependence upon foreign
trade for national prosperity. Emerging from World War I as "first
among the investing, industrial, commercial, maritime, and naval
powers of the earth," the United States was in a favored position
and thus appeared to be on the threshold of penetrating "the most
inaccessible markets of the most distant lands."25
Since he had previously indicated his belief that the historic
competition for overseas markets had led to imperialism, arma-
ments races, and warfare, Beard regarded these new economic
opportunities as being fraught with dangerous pitfalls, particularly
in the Far East. He noted that the cornerstone of American diplo-
macy in that area of the world-the Open Door policy-appeared to
have the dual advantage of satisfying pecuniary interests and ethical
principles. But the fact that the recently concluded Washington
Conference (1921-22) had been so involved with Pacific problems
aroused his interest and concern. He was especially attracted to a
remark in Warren G. Harding's Senate address in which he asked
for approval of the major treaties concluded at the conference and
in which the president had said that "the Pacific had its menaces
and they deeply concerned us."26
To Beard, these "menaces" meant Japanese threats to American
commercial interests in the Orient. He concluded that American
diplomacy at the Washington Conference, owing to power vacuums
created by the war, was essentially designed to isolate and check
Japan by abrogating her twenty-year alliance with Great Britain,
by keeping Japan in a position of naval inferiority, and by impos-
ing a self-denying pledge on any possible expansionist ambitions
Japan might have in East Asia. Although the fulfillment of these
objectives presumably would carry out the principles of the Open

25. Ibid., pp. 240, 242, 251.
26. Ibid., pp. 253-54, 258-59.

Door policy, Beard wondered whether such a policy was in the
national interest in view of the "intense and active rivalry" it
would lead to with England and France, as well as Japan. "Shall
the government," he asked, "follow trade and investments?"27
The answer to this question, he believed, would be determined
by weighing the consequences of three policies open to the govern-
ment and people of the United States. The first was "the policy of
positive imperialism naked and unashamed." This policy, employ-
ing all the diplomatic and military instruments of the government,
was dismissed by Beard because it entailed too many risks to
national security and prosperity in behalf of special economic
interests. The social consequences in the possible development of
a vasterr aristocracy of wealth and a huger proletariat" also made
it unacceptable.28
A second possible policy proposed by Beard was "that of no
policy at all, save the policy of drift and muddle." In pursuit of
overseas markets and investments, "it would follow in the paths of
Alexander and Caesar but would be content with the philosophy
of Buncombe County." Such a policy might achieve a number of
things, Beard admitted, but he sarcastically stipulated only one
possible accomplishment: "It might land the nation at the gates
of destruction."29
The third policy received his most sympathetic consideration
and, although proposed in 1922, embodied many features of his
"continental Americanism" thesis of the 1930s. The devotees of
imperialism, he remarked, referred to this policy disparagingly as
"Little Americanism." As Beard described the policy, it would
mean that the government of the United States would not use
diplomatic or military means to encourage or protect the foreign
trade or investments of American citizens; territorial annexations
would cease, and spheres of influence would be discontinued; the
Philippines would be granted independence, and Hawaii would
become the farthest outpost of American interests and security in
the Pacific; an army and navy would be established "by universal
military service if necessary, and perhaps preferably"; and the
American government might consider membership in the League
27. Ibid., pp. 259-62, 266.
28. Ibid., pp. 267-69.
29. Ibid., p. 270.



50 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

of Nations if other countries "were prepared to adopt a similar
domestic policy." This diplomatic agenda, he declared, "would
bend all national genius upon the creation of a civilization which,
in power and glory and noble living, would rise above all the
achievements of the past."' 3
During the two years which followed the Dartmouth lectures
(1922-23), Charles and Mary Beard made two extensive trips to
the Far East. About twenty-five years later, Beard could still recall
that the first visit had such a profound impact upon him that he
"became a changed person. I have never been the same again!"31
These journeys, buttressed by his earlier speculations on American-
Japanese rivalry and the furor caused by the discriminatory Immi-
gration Act of 1924, led him, in 1925, to write an article analyzing
the prospects of war between the United States and Japan. Once
again, he set forth a number of opinions that were to be revived
during the 1930s.
Beard did not discount the possibility of an armed clash between
the United States and Japan arising out of economic competition
for trade and investment opportunities in China. But he ridiculed
the suggestion that the Japanese could "cross the Pacific Ocean,
assail our Western coast and . seize all the territory as far east as
Denver." Japan simply was not powerful or wealthy enough to
contemplate such a scheme. At best, the Japanese might seize the
Philippines. In that event, he observed with undisguised irony,

30. Ibid., pp. 269-70.
31. Beard to Curti, January 29, 1947, Curti Papers, Box 4, Folder 13. The
first visit, in the winter and spring of 1922-23, was undertaken at the personal
invitation of the mayor of Tokyo, Viscount Goto. In a nonofficial capacity,
Beard was to advise the municipal authorities on administrative reforms. The
results were recorded in Beard's Administration and Politics of Tokyo: A Sur-
vey and Opinions. The second trip was made after the Tokyo earthquake of
September 1923, when Beard volunteered his services to help plan the rebuild-
ing of the city: New York Times, September 5, 1923, p. 4; September 13, 1923,
p. 5; September 17, 1923, p. 14; November 29, 1923, p. 35. Beard's moderniza-
tion plan was not accepted, however, and he left discouraged because of the
obstructionism of Tokyo real estate interests: A. Vagts to author, October 22,
1967. A fascinating postscript to this episode was a post-1945 conjecture in a
Japanese newspaper: "Had [Beard's] plan been brought to reality, Tokyo would
not have burned like a celluloid village even in [the] World War II bombings."
Quoted in M. R. Beard, The Making of C. A. Beard, p. 26. During these visits
to Tokyo, Beard presumably met Prince Konoye, later premier of Japan (1937-
41): Beard to Morgenstern, October 20, 1947, Morgenstern Papers.

considerable effort would be required "to restore them to the posi-
tion of liberty which they now so happily enjoy under American
The America that would emerge victorious from this hypothet-
ical war, he conjectured, probably would occupy Japanese-held
territories in the Far East (Formosa and Korea), as well as create
a few thousand millionaires. But he feared that the consequences
to life in the United States, notably in the violation of civil liber-
ties, would more than offset the material gains of a war caused by
economic rivalry. This potential unpleasantness could be avoided,
Beard suggested, if Americans would pay more attention to the
statistics of trade and finance which demonstrated that our busi-
ness dealings with Japan were far more profitable than with China.
In short, a proper understanding of where our economic interests
in the Far East really lay would enhance the prospects of peace
between the United States and Japan.33
The diplomatic record of the Harding and Coolidge admin-
istrations also influenced Beard's growing apprehension about the
direction in which American foreign policy was moving in the
mid-1920s. In their monumental study The Rise of American
Civilization (1927), the Beards made it clear that they found little
cause for optimism in contemporary foreign affairs. Specifically,
the husband and wife team detected what they regarded as a dis-
turbing tendency that was contradictory in nature. International
political entanglements such as the League of Nations, they noted,
may well have been anathema to both presidents. But the vigorous
pursuit of foreign commercial ventures saw the Harding admin-
istration take "all necessary and appropriate steps to protect and
advance the claims of business enterprise to goods of a ponderable
This policy reached its apogee under Calvin Coolidge, with
Secretary of the Navy Curtis Wilbur as one of its foremost official
spokesmen. In the summer of 1927, Beard publicly attacked Wilbur

32. C. A. Beard, "War with Japan: What Shall We Get Out of It?" p. 311.
33. Ibid. This idea of commercial rivalry in East Asia as the fundamental
reason for Japanese-American antagonisms was reiterated the following year in
an article Beard wrote with Mary Beard, "America and the Far East: The
Issues of Pacific Policy."
34. 2:680-81.



52 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

for his espousal of the notion that the government should protect
private foreign investment anywhere in the world. Anticipating a
prominent liberal isolationist theme in his Open Door at Home
(1934), Beard maintained that every dollar in the "surplus of plutoc-
racy" which was diverted from foreign investment to domestic use
benefitted the nation as a whole. Put into effect on a large scale, he
said, this program "would reduce our chances of becoming mixed-
up in the next European adventure in Christian ballistics."35
In 1927-28, Charles and Mary Beard once again visited Europe.
The trip was made at the request of the American-Yugoslav Society
of New York and sponsored by the National Institute of Municipal
Administration. In no sense, however, was it associated with activi-
ties in behalf of the government of Yugoslavia.36 As a result of
extensive travel throughout the country plus conversations with
representatives of minority groups and some officials, Beard, in
collaboration with George Radin, wrote The Balkan Pivot, Yugo-
slavia: A Study in Government and Administration (1929). Though
the study dealt primarily with administrative conditions in that
country, the authors pointed to the continuing political instability
in the Balkans that could lead to a new flare-up. Were this to
happen, they wondered, "do the peoples of Germany, France, Eng-
land, and the United States wish to shed their blood and pour out
their treasure in an effort to substitute new ways for old?"37
While in Yugoslavia, the Beards had an opportunity to visit with
Stephen Raditch, leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, and also
to attend a session of the Yugoslav Parliament. Prior to departing
Belgrade for Greece, Mrs. Beard, in a letter to her daughter and
son-in-law, wrote critically of the politics of Yugoslavia, observing
that Raditch wanted the king to turn the country over to the army.
About four months later, on June 20, 1928, Raditch was assassi-
nated by a political rival, an episode which profoundly shocked
Charles Beard.38 According to a close friend, Beard returned to
America in 1928 in a disillusioned frame of mind and often spoke

35. Ibid., 2:704-5; quoted in New York Times, August 3, 1927, p. 9.
36. M. R. Beard to Barnes, April 5, 1951, Barnes Papers.
37. Pages vi, 304, 321.
38. M. Vagts to author, February 16, 1971. Although Beard did not approve
of all of Raditch's policies, he consented to write a memorial: "The Last Days
of Stephen Raditch."

of the whole of Europe as just a "big Balkans" and a "madhouse."39
Conceivably, it was about the time that Beard returned to the
United States that he wrote a letter to Harry Elmer Barnes in
which he complained about being "sick of the sniffling gang that
runs Europe." The reluctance of European nations to pay "honest
debts" also bothered him and led him to conclude, "But I am
not going to have any more wool pulled over my eyes, if I can
help it."40
Throughout 1928 and into early 1929, there were other signs
that his recent trip had produced a profound skepticism of, if not
outright contempt for, European civilization. On his visit he had
met a number of German professors, whose obsession with the
"war guilt" question disturbed the American historian.41 Yet, in an
article published in January 1929, Beard seemed sympathetically
inclined toward those Germans who believed their country had
been unjustly treated in the Treaty of Versailles with respect to
such things as heavy indemnities and the loss of territory in which
German nationals still resided.42
In the same essay, Beard presented a devastatingly ironic analysis
of the practical effects which the Kellogg-Briand Pact (August 1928)
might have in preventing carnage on the scale of World War I.
The world, he noted, "is spending more money for preparedness
in 1928 than in 1912." Thus, "at the very moment when war as an
instrument of national policy (with reservations) is solemnly re-
nounced, the civilized world, comparatively speaking, has ready for
death and destruction bigger and better armaments than ever in
its history."43
Shortly after this doleful commentary, Beard demonstrated a
growing impatience with some of the smug criticisms of American
civilization on the part of European intellectuals, some of whose

39. Quoted in Counts, "Charles Beard, the Public Man," in Beard Appraisal,
p. 235. In later years, the memory of the time spent in Yugoslavia prompted
Beard's allusion to a prominent internationalist-minded journalist in the fol-
lowing statement to Eric F. Goldman: "Let Dorothy Thompson settle the
problems of Europe, I can't" (Rendezvous with Destiny, p. 235).
40. Beard to Barnes, June 24, 1928(?), Barnes Papers. Barnes placed the
notation "late 1920's" on this letter.
41. A. Vagts to Gushing Strout, October 31, 1958, copy of letter in "The
Charles A. Beard File," Microfilm No. 139.
42. "Bigger and Better Armaments," pp. 141-42.
43. Ibid., p. 135.



54 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

own notions of the good life in industrial societies struck him as
archaic or irrelevant. But he also indicated his continuing disen-
chantment with the "ukases" of President Coolidge and Secretary
of the Navy Wilbur for having asserted so often that "American
citizens and American dollars are [to be] followed by the flag
wherever they go on the broad surface of the earth."44
Simultaneously, Mussolini's Italy was briefly regarded by Beard
and some other prominent American liberals as one European
country that ought to be looked at objectively for any universal
lessons it might hold for the corporate organization of modern
societies. In 1929, an American philosopher, Herbert W. Schneider,
returned from research in Italy and was "enthusiastically ques-
tioned" by Beard about the nature of the Fascist state.45 Beard
then reviewed Schneider's book, Making the Fascist State (1928).
He admitted that Italy under Mussolini repressed personal liberties
and that the dictator might resort to foreign adventures to solve
domestic problems. Beard insisted, nevertheless, that "an amazing
experiment" was being undertaken in Italy. "It would be a mis-
take," he concluded, "to allow feelings aroused by contemplating
the harsh deeds and extravagant assertions that have accompanied
the Fascist process . to obscure the potentialities and the lessons
of the adventure."46
Despite the overall mood of discouragement reflected in many of
Beard's writings in the year before the stock market crash, some
of his mordant commentaries were paralleled by more hopeful
views of world affairs. In August 1928, for example, Beard sounded
an affirmative note in the preface to Whither Mankind, when he
wrote that "for visions of despair," the contributors to the volume
substituted "a more cheerful outlook upon the future of modern
civilization, without at the same time resorting to the optimism
of the real-estate agent." In the epilogue, he contended that "na-
tions must associate themselves in understandings and guarantees"
in order to avoid the devastation of war. "The magnitude and diffi-
culties of this undertaking are immense," he readily conceded, "but

44. "The American Invasion of Europe," p. 472.
45. John P. Diggins, "Flirtation with Fascism: American Pragmatic Liberals
and Mussolini's Italy," p. 493.
46. "Making the Fascist State," p. 278.


the League of Nations and treaties of renunciation already indicate
what the strategy of peace may be."47
Further evidence that Beard had partially returned to a liberal-
internationalist stance may be seen in an article published in
Harper's in February 1929, in which he went so far as to depict
the United States as a makeweight to any threat to the European
balance of power. "The almost dead certainty that the United
States will throw her sword into the scale if hostilities open again,"
he predicted, "gives pause to the boldest of warmakers." There
were also words of praise for the League of Nations, for, despite
some shortcomings, its very existence lessened the probabilities of
"such subterfuges, evasions, and double-dealing as those which
eventuated in the World War." Regardless of America's "myth of
isolation," he added, and in view of the nation's economic power
and stake in world peace, "the United States is in the League and
it matters little whether or not its adhesion is indicated by parch-
ment and seals."48
In the same Harper's essay and in words that are in dramatic
contrast to his later observations on the disclosures of the Nye
Committee in 1935 and 1936, Beard assigned to international
bankers an almost benevolent role as promoters of peace in the
world community-in contrast to national bankers whose activities
had often fostered economic rivalries between nations. The estab-
lishment of the Bank for International Settlement, a provision of
the Young Plan adopted in August 1929, gave Beard and James
Harvey Robinson additional reason to believe in 1930 that agen-
cies of international finance could make positive contributions to
Also in 1930, Beard and his son, William, forcefully underscored
the possible danger to the United States of blindly accepting isola-
tionism. This doctrine was one of the "popular shibboleths ap-
proved by millions of citizens who could not give a ten-word
account" of its inner significance. It was, moreover, a "dogma"
formulated before technological developments had made the secur-

47. Beard, ed., 'Whither Mankind: A Panorama of Modern Civilization, pp. v,
48. "Prospects for Peace," pp. 327, 330.
49. Ibid., pp. 327-28; The Development of Modern Europe, rev. ed., 2:546.


56 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

ity of formidable ocean barriers obsolete. "Hence the creed of
isolationism which once seemed convincing," Charles and William
Beard concluded, "may be employed to defeat its own purpose,
namely, the maintenance of national security."50
Beard's former bitterness over "secret diplomacy" and the failure
of statesmen to consult public opinion also seemed to be moderated
in 1930. Father and son noted that there was substantial evidence
that "clandestine negotiations" could be more productive of peace
and good will between nations than the constant airing of diplo-
matic disputes in public. Further, the highly technical aspects of
diplomacy and the uncertain passions of the general public did not
justify the practice of constantly submitting important matters of
foreign policy directly to the public for decisions. "The problem
is one of intelligent discretion on the part of officials and watch-
fulness on the part of the public."51
Beard's ambivalent and shifting views on foreign affairs in the
decade after World War I suggest the possible appropriateness of
the phrase "Charles A. Beard in Midpassage" to describe this
period in his life. One can almost sense, particularly in his writ-
ings that were affected by his personal experiences in Europe and
Asia, his mental struggle as he weighed the merits of internation-
alism versus isolationism. He seemed torn between supporting what
he often perceived to be the perilous necessity of extensive Ameri-
can participation in world affairs, or embracing a limited foreign
policy in which future Americans would not have to feel guilt or
responsibility for the devastating consequences of war such as those
Beard had witnessed in Europe.52
Nevertheless, Beard appeared to face the decade of the 1930s
with a relatively optimistic and qualified internationalist outlook.
But even though he turned away from this outlook, Beard would
continue, as he had in the 1920s, to shape his isolationist argu-
ments within the general framework of the goals of national secur-

50. The American Leviathan, pp. 732-33, 736.
51. Ibid., pp. 730-32.
52. Professor C. Vann Woodward has suggested that a widespread attitude
of this nature may explain, in part, the profound national isolationism of the
1930s. "The urge to return to a free security age of innocence and the flight
from the guilt of wielding power," he wrote, "may be traced in elaborate efforts
to maintain neutrality, in desperate struggles for isolationism and 'America
First,' as well as in the idealistic plans of religious and secular pacifists": "The
Age of Reinterpretation," p. 8.

1919-1930 57
ity and the extension of domestic liberal reform. Since the seeds
of his intense reaction to an enlarged American involvement in
world affairs-especially that of a commercial nature-had been
sown and nurtured in the 1920s, Beard's advocacy of a policy of
"continental Americanism," or isolationism, throughout the 1930s
represented the fruition of previous convictions rather than a sharp
departure from them or an entirely new thesis.


Formulating a Philosophy of
Isolationism, 1931-1935

A FTER 1930, the deepening of the Great Depression, accompanied
by world-wide economic, political, and military instability, was the
major force influencing Beard's decision to devote the remainder
of his life to advocating what he called a policy of "continental
Americanism." His sweepingly revisionist interpretation of Amer-
ica's entrance into World War I fostered, to some degree, a radical
departure from his internationalist views of previous decades. Fi-
nally, his reflections on the historiographical writings of European
historians, begun in the late 1920s, continued to interest him and
tended to make him more self-conscious about the relevance of
frames of reference, causation, and objectivity in his approach to
the study of American history during the 1930s and after. Some
reservations might be expressed, however, as to whether Beard's
speculations on historical relativism constituted a startling altera-
tion of his earlier notions about the meliorist function of the
historian. One may also question whether these reflections neces-
sarily caused him to adopt an isolationist outlook. Carl L. Becker,
for example, did not find his own attachment to relativism an im-
pediment to his support of an interventionist role for the United
States before 1941.1
1. Maurice Mandlebaum, "Causal Analysis in History," pp. 37-39; Harry J.
Marks, "Ground under Our Feet: Beard's Relativism"; Whitaker T. Deininger,

During the first half of the decade of the 1930s, Beard formulated
a major theory of foreign policy in which he was able to synthesize
a number of previous ideas and attitudes, such as the economic
interpretation of history, an antagonism toward laissez-faire eco-
nomic theory, and a hostility toward militarism. The end result
was The Idea of National Interest: An Analytical Study in Ameri-
can Foreign Policy and The Open Door at Home: A Trial Philoso-
phy of National Interest. Taken together they constitute Beard's
magnum opus on the theoretical and practical aspects of American
diplomatic history.
Fundamental to Beard's thinking on foreign affairs in the early
1930s was his continuing belief in the Idea of Progress which, in
the judgment of one historian, may account for Beard's passionate
attachment to isolationism.2 In the midst of the worst years of the
Depression, he sought the ultimate fulfillment of this idea in the
application of the rational techniques of technology to national
planning to implement comprehensive economic and social reform.
Thus, in mid-1931, Beard outlined his thoughts on national plan-
ning. He called for Congress to establish a National Economic
Council that would coordinate the functions of finance, produc-
tion, and distribution in a number of the nation's major industries.
Other agencies under this council would be responsible for bring-
ing about an efficient use and consumption of mineral and agricul-
tural resources.3
Beard pointed out why the successful operation of such an ambi-
tious domestic program probably would require significant revisions
in the economic aspects of American foreign policy. Briefly, he
suggested that the pursuit of foreign trade and investments on a
substantial level would not solve, and might impede, domestic

"The Skepticism and Historical Faith of C. A. Beard"; Chester M. Destler,
"Some Observations on Contemporary Historical Theory," p. 508; Lloyd R.
Sorenson, "Charles A. Beard and German Historiographical Thought"; Harvey
Wish, The American Historian: A Social-Intellectual History of the Writing of
the American Past, pp. 147, 268, 289-90; Strout, The Pragmatic Revolt, pp. 128,
152; Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians, pp. 316-17.
2. Strout, The Pragmatic Revolt, p. 116. In 1932, Beard contributed a long
introduction to a reprint of J. B. Bury's Idea of Progress, in which he wrote
that it was an interpretation of history which, "as a faith in possibilities, [may]
actually make history" (p. xxxviii).
3. C. A. Beard, ed., America Faces the Future, pp. 124-32. Beard's essay in
this symposium on the Great Depression originally appeared as "A 'Five Year
Plan' for America."



60 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

recovery. He also feared that war with economically competitive
nations might result if the United States did not reduce signifi-
cantly its commercial activities in a world increasingly beset by
economic chaos and political instability. Accordingly, he recom-
mended that a syndicate of the major export-import corporations
be established to control America's foreign trade and investment.
Beard hoped that such a syndicate would be able to bring about
a more efficient and equitable distribution of the nation's products
in the home market, thereby curtailing the necessity to export
so-called surplus goods. He also envisioned a barter system whereby
nations would exchange only those commodities not supplied by
their own domestic enterprises, and thus remove wasteful competi-
tion and possible military conflict in the rivalry for world markets.
Among his major proposals, he urged tighter controls over the
issuance of foreign securities in the United States and the preven-
tion of American loan extensions to "irresponsible governments."4
Still in effect at the time Beard presented this plan was President
Herbert Hoover's moratorium on the payment of World War I
debts. While he had earlier complained about the former Allies'
nonpayment, Beard now was prepared to see the United States
cancel these debts. But a hint of his growing commitment to eco-
nomic nationalism and a minimum of diplomatic obligations is to
be seen in the condition he attached to such cancellation-that all
the debtor countries would have to reduce their armies to the level
of national police forces. The United States itself would have to
abandon what Beard puckishly called the "Coolidge theorem" of
diplomacy, in which the army and navy were to be of sufficient
strength "to protect any American citizen who wants to make ten
per cent on the bonds of Weissnichtwo or sell cornflakes, shoe-
horns, and collar buttons to the world willy-nilly."5
Beard's analysis and proposals seemed to project the hard-headed
realism often ascribed to him. But, in a sense, he was a utopian,
or at least an idealist, in spite of himself. He was confident that
the voluntary adoption of his plan would afford a golden oppor-
tunity to "lop off the deadwood of our futile plutocracy, so sinister
in its influences on politics, culture and rational living."6 Yet, as
one reviewer could not resist commenting, he was surprised that

4. America Faces the Future, p. 136.
5. Ibid., p. 137.
6. Ibid., p. 124.

"the foremost historian of American class struggles" could assume
that this plutocracy would accept, without a "bitter struggle,"
Beard's suggested restrictions on its economic and political ac-
Additional evidence of Beard's willingness to endorse the notion
of economic nationalism may be discerned in his response to the
tariff issue in the campaign of 1932. In contrast to his many pre-
vious criticisms of the high protective tariff, he attacked the low-
tariff advocates in both major parties for assuming that their
programs would restore prosperity and rescue the free enterprise
system. Reduction of existing tariff barriers, he insisted, would
only flood the American market with cheaper foreign-made goods
and would lead to further lay-offs of American workers.8
Beard was correct in noting that a significant removal of tariff
barriers would not be a panacea for a desperately ailing economy.
But he failed to consider the possible adverse impact of the
Hawley-Smoot Tariff (1930) on America's relations with other coun-
tries and the potentially unfavorable consequences to the nation's
domestic economy. In particular, he seemed to regard as unimpor-
tant the way in which the Hawley-Smoot legislation had already
encouraged retaliatory tariffs that reflected, on an international
scale, some of the "rugged individualism" in American life that
Beard deplored.9 These retaliatory tariffs, in turn, fostered the
creed of every nation for itself and devil take the hindmost. The
result of America's high tariff schedule was a partial intensification
of those international frictions which Beard hoped to avoid by
having the United States pursue what he regarded as a more ra-
tional trade policy.")
Paralleling Beard's search for ways to make the national econ-
omy free of extensive foreign commerce were his efforts to formu-
late a theory of national defense consistent with, and adequate to,
the foreign policy goals and needs of the United States. In this
quest, he was extremely critical of the American military estab-
lishment, particularly the United States Navy. He thus devoted
considerable thought to the historical role of those he derisively
7. Carter Goodrich, review of America Faces the Future, in New Republic,
March 9, 1932, p. 105.
8. Beard, "The Tariff Campaign: The Last Gasp."
9. Beard, "The Myth of Rugged American Individualism."
10. Joseph M. Jones, Jr., Tariff Retaliation: Repercussions of the Hawley-
Smoot Bill.



62 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

labeled the "Big Navy Boys" in shaping American defense and
diplomatic policies. His analysis sharply challenged the arguments,
motives, and behavior of naval officers, of bureaucrats in the De-
partment of the Navy, of politicians sympathetic to naval expan-
sion, and of civilians who actively supported programs calling for
increased naval expenditures.11
Beard had briefly considered these problems during the 1920s. But
his most extensive and penetrating criticisms were presented in 1931
and 1932, with briefer elaborations throughout that decade.12 Coinci-
dent with the early stages of the Great Depression, Beard had avidly
read newspapers, periodicals, and published accounts of House and
Senate hearings from 1929 to 1930, involving such matters as the
failure of the Geneva Naval Disarmament Conference (1927), con-
troversies in the Hoover administration over naval appropriations,
debates over the approval of the London Naval Treaty (1930), and
discussions over whether to grant independence to the Philippines.
There was also a much publicized imbroglio in the fall of 1931
between President Hoover and some members of the Navy League
of the United States. A year before, Beard privately had praised
Hoover's secretary of state, Henry L. Stimson, for his public ad-
dress in behalf of the London Treaty and for his "courageous
action all along in connection with the negotiation and defense of
the treaty, especially for telling so much wholesome truth in the
radio address." 13Perhaps the president knew of this praise and was
encouraged enough, in the midst of the Navy League imbroglio,
to place a phone call to Beard at his home in New Milford, Con-
necticut. The intent was to have Beard come to Washington to
assist the president in his campaign against this nongovernmental
agency which, for some time, had been a proponent of a "Big
Navy." But the initial invitation was quickly withdrawn.14

11. For a detailed discussion of this theme covering the 1920s and 1930s, see
Thomas C. Kennedy, "Charles A. Beard and the 'Big Navy Boys.' "
12. Beard, "Making a Bigger and Better Navy"; three articles entitled "Big
Navy Boys"; "Confusion over National Defense: Shall We Listen to the Pacifists
or the Admirals?" Harper's, February 1932, pp. 257-67. Most of the material in
these articles was reprinted in C. A. Beard, The Navy: Defense or Portent?
13. Beard to Stimson, June 30, 1930, Stimson Papers, Yale University Library.
14. A. Vagts to author, October 22, 1967. The suspicion obtrudes that there
may have been some advisors close to Hoover who, aware of Beard's criticisms
of Coolidge's naval policy, feared they might be admitting a Trojan Horse
within the gates and thus counseled the President to change his mind. Such a
possible interpretation could be read into a letter Hoover's secretary of the

This episode may have had something to do with the timing of
Beard's slashing indictment of American naval policy in 1931-32.
But the most immediate stimulus was his reading of Eckart Kehr's
Schlachtflottenbau und Parteipolitik, 1894-1902 (1930), a work
brought to his attention by his son-in-law, Alfred Vagts, a promi-
nent military historian.15 The study dealt with the political, eco-
nomic, and ideological assumptions that underlay Germany's search,
around the turn of the century, for "a place in the sun" of world
politics, particularly through sea power. The "lessons of history"
which Beard extrapolated from Kehr's work were clearly intended
to be yardsticks for measuring recent naval policies of the United
States, and a warning against the possible baneful domestic and
foreign consequences should the "Big Navy Boys" be allowed to
dictate comparable naval expansion for the United States. At this
time, and throughout the 1930s, Beard regarded increased naval
appropriations as a brake upon domestic economic recovery, as an
instrument of economic expansion designed to benefit a few, as a
threat to the principle of civilian supremacy over the military in
formulating and executing defense policy, and as a grave provoca-
tion to other sea powers, especially Japan.16
A corollary of Beard's critical appraisal of extensive foreign
commercial endeavors and increased naval expenditures during
the early 1930s was his gradual acceptance of a large measure of
diplomatic nonentanglement. Despite his own trenchant and per-
ceptive remarks about the antidemocratic attitudes, militaristic
behavior, and aggressively expansionist designs of Japan, Germany,
and Italy,7 he was reluctant to endorse significant diplomatic coop-
eration with nations which did not blatantly display these charac-
teristics. In the second half of the decade, he occasionally embraced
a rather cynical view of all European and Asian nations. When

navy, Charles F. Adams, wrote in rebuttal to Beard's Harper's article of Feb-
ruary 1932. Secretary Adams vigorously protested what he thought to be Beard's
insinuation that the Navy Department in the Hoover administration embraced,
or was influenced by, the program of the Navy League. Beard denied any in-
tention of conveying such an impression: Harper's, May 1932 [pp. 800-804?].
15. A. Vagts to author, October 18, 1967.
16. For an in-depth evaluation of his concerns and arguments along these
lines, see Thomas C. Kennedy, "Beard vs. F.D.R. on National Defense and Re-
17. See, for example, Beard, "Spooks: Made in Germany"; "Hitlerism and
Our Liberties"; "Education under the Nazis"; "March and Countermarch."



64 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

he did so, he came uncomfortably close to fitting Albert K. Wein-
berg's witty description of American isolationists as persons who
virtually maintained that "international society is a wanton, and
that not even if the American marries the wench can he make an
honest woman of her."18
In late 1931 and early 1932, however, Beard could still publicly
recommend that the United States should adhere to the World
Court and should abide by the tenets of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
He also contended that social science teachers were obligated "to
create in the popular mind the conditions favorable to continuous
realization" of the principles of the multilateral agreement re-
nouncing war as an instrument of national policy.19
The concurrent Japanese invasion and conquest of Manchuria pro-
vided Beard with an important test of some of these internationalist-
oriented ideas. In December 1931, soon after Japanese forces had
become firmly entrenched in the Chinese province, Beard wrote a
letter to the editor of the New Republic in which he discussed
the influence of Japan's generals and admirals upon foreign policy.
The army and navy in that country, he noted, were independent
of civilian authority and were thus in a position to shape political
and military decisions that could commit the government to an
ambitious program of expansion. Of the Japanese militarists, he
said, "Judging from the doings of their brethren in other coun-
tries, it [the Manchurian invasion] doubtless had some relation to
'strategic frontiers' which must be extended to the moon unless
stopped by some immovable body."20
Approximately one week after Japan had established the puppet
state of Manchukuo, Beard addressed a regional conference of
professors held at the University of Southern California. In the
speech, he lamented that "one more war fought with the latest
instruments of technology will blast Western civilization from cen-
ter to circumference." He referred to America's commitment to
the principle of consulting with those powers, the signers of the
Four Power Treaty of 1922, that had interests in the Pacific region,
and of cooperating with the League of Nations for "specific pur-

18. "The Historical Meaning of the American Doctrine of Isolation," p. 545.
19. Beard, America Faces the Future, pp. 136-37; A Charter for the Social
Sciences in the Schools, pp. 51-52.
20. Beard, "Who Runs the Japanese Government?"

poses." But Beard also implied that he rejected the notion of
substantive American commitments to restrain Japan. He insisted
that the United States ought to concern itself only with the defense
of its "continental heritage." Moreover, such "cooperative under-
takings" in which the United States might engage with other na-
tions had to be supplemented by "reasoned policy at home with
respect to commitments, abroad in the form of foreign loans and
trade rivalry supported by bounties, subsidies, and military force."21
Thus, Beard's response to the first overt act of totalitarian aggres-
sion in the 1930s was largely a commitment to ideals rather than
action, and involved almost no sacrifices to the principle of abso-
lute national sovereignty.
During the two years before Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugu-
rated, Beard recorded some of the arguments and attitudes that he
would use as bench marks against which to measure the aims and
accomplishments of a new president's diplomacy. This was partially
achieved during the first year and a half of the New Deal-in
Beard's mature reflections on the theoretical bases of American
foreign policy, The Idea of National Interest, and in the program-
matic sequel, The Open Door at Home.
Beard's scholarly concern about the meanings and uses of the
phrase "national interest" was first demonstrated in a noteworthy
fashion in an article written a few months before the convening
of the Geneva Disarmament Conference in February 1932. In it,
he posed a number of questions which he believed all the delegates
should contemplate prior to the time of the conference: "What is
the national interest? Who has the right to define it? What is ade-
quate defense? Adequate to what and to whom? Why do armies
and navies grow bigger and better? What is to be gained by war?
Who gains it, when, as, and if? Do navalism and imperialism pay?
Pay whom?"22 Beard went on to indicate that he was distressed by
the apparent failure of responsible officials to raise such questions
and added that there was no study to which one could refer for
guidance. Coincident with the writing of the essay, Beard ap-
proached Frederick P. Keppel, an executive of the Carnegie Cor-
poration, with the suggestion that such an inquiry into "national
interest" be undertaken. In March 1932, it was reported that Beard
21. Quoted in New York Tinms, February 28, 1932, sec. 2, p. 4.
22. Beard, "Making a Bigger and Better Navy," p. 223.



66 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

had been asked by the Social Science Research Council to make
this investigation.23
The opening chapter of The Idea of National Interest was de-
voted to a brief consideration of the historical background of the
concept of "national interest." Its forerunners included the for-
mulas of monarchical "reasons of state" and feudal notions of
"national honor." Appeals to "national interest" were not only
relatively recent, according to Beard, but were clearly related to
the simultaneous developments of the "national commercial state"
and "republican control over national affairs."24
In an intensive analysis of the American usages of the concept,
from the Founding Fathers to FDR, Beard concluded that the term
"national interest" had had ambiguous, and sometimes contradic-
tory, meanings when it had been employed as an abstract formula
in American diplomacy. When applied to concrete issues, however,
American statesmen-in domestic as well as foreign policies-gen-
erally had been guided by the economic and political interests of
the party and special groups they represented. The core of Beard's
interpretation-which was first broached in his detailed study of
the controversy over Jay's Treaty (1794), The Economic Origins
of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915), and then applied to American
political history in The American Party Battle (1928)-was that
there had always been two rather clear-cut conceptions of the term
national interest, which he often designated "Jeffersonian" and
"Hamiltonian." Jefferson's political constituency and economic
concerns were essentially agrarian; though expansionist, their pri-
mary goal was the acquisition of land within the continental do-
main for the purpose of enlarging a self-sufficient, independent
civilization. Hamilton's followers and their economic activities
were fundamentally commercial; thus, they consistently sought
overseas markets as an outlet for manufactured goods and invest-
ment capital. By the late nineteenth century, the requirements of
the latter conception of national interest demanded overseas terri-

23. New York Times, March 23, 1932, p. 23; George R. Leighton, "Beard and
Foreign Policy," in Beard Appraisal, p. 169.
24. Beard and George H. E. Smith, The Idea of National Interest, p. 42.
Smith was a professor of political science at Yale University, who, from 1933 to
1940, assisted Beard with his research and collaborated with him in writing this
and five other studies.

stories in the Caribbean and Far East, in part for strategic reasons,
but basically for further commercial expansion.25
The results of both conceptions, Beard thought, had often
been contrary to the general welfare of the American people. But
this was especially true of the Hamiltonian, or Federalist-Whig-
Republican, application of national interest, for it had led to in-
creasingly greater international commitments and naval expansion,
both of which heightened rivalries with other nations in the com-
petition for markets and territories. Such activities did not pay,
and Beard sought to discredit the Hamiltonian stance by employ-
ing a balance sheet technique. This involved the calculation of
the American stake in foreign trade and investment, as measured
against the risk of political and military involvement that often
accompanied these "outward thrusts of power," as Beard was fond
of calling such activities.
Of special relevance to Beard's argument that the United States
should no longer pursue what he considered a provocative Far
Eastern policy were the tables which demonstrated that since 1910,
the volume of America's import-export trade with Japan had been
approximately twice that of her trade with China.26 However, he
did not press such statistics to one logical conclusion, that the
United States should continue and enlarge this profitable trade
relationship with Japan.
To suggest the economic desirability of granting outright inde-
pendence to the Philippines, Beard noted that the United States
had suffered an unfavorable balance of trade with these islands
since 1906, in that American imports over the years had exceeded
the value of exports. Even if one were to include other Pacific
possessions, such as Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and Alaska, there was
still an excess of imports over exports. Further, the combined value
of this trade interchange was minor in comparison to the total
American stake in foreign trade. "To safeguard this stake, to
strengthen and increase it," Beard concluded with obvious dis-
pleasure, "the whole weight of government activities had been
brought into play, on the hypothesis, and no doubt conscientious
belief, that the 'national interest' is truly advanced."27

25. Ibid., pp. 52-88, 548-51.
26. Ibid., p. 284.
27. Ibid., pp. 292-96.



68 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

The numerous pages of tables and statistics, plus the conclusions
drawn from them, served to underscore the overarching economic
interpretation of history that Beard was applying to his study. To
be sure, he granted that the notion of "moral obligation" had
been one aspect of the idea of national interest as proclaimed by
American leaders, particularly since the Spanish-American War.
He even agreed that it could operate as an independent psycho-
logical force in the conduct of foreign affairs. On balance, however,
Beard did not seem to regard the notion of moral obligation as a
very real, or as an especially desirable, factor in explaining or
guiding American diplomacy. He described it as the embarking
upon projects "for uplifting, civilizing, or Christianizing other
peoples beyond the confines of the country." But it was essentially
a "covering ideology" intended to serve materialistic, not idealistic,
Beard's own ideas about how America's national interest should
be defined and carried out were subtly implied throughout the
work. Carl L. Becker, with whom Beard exchanged a modest num-
ber of cordial letters during the 1930s and early 1940s, deftly made
the following observation in his review of the work: "The pattern
in which he arranges his facts in the present volume is revealing
enough by itself, but the author is always at hand, for any reader
who needs a little help, to run his pointer over the essential facts
of the design."29
Beard's intention to assume the role of a frank advocate of a
program of social, economic, and political nationalism was made
crystal clear in his companion volume, The Open Door at Home:
A Trial Philosophy of National Interest. The title of the work, he
remarked in the preface, was borrowed in part from a "misleading
formula of diplomacy" that ostensibly sought to promote the gen-
eral welfare through the extensive pursuit of foreign commerce.
As used in the book, however, the formula was "a direct antithesis
of the historic policy which has eventuated in the present economic
calamity."30 The four areas in which his "trial philosophy of na-

28. Ibid., pp. 358, 388-89.
29. Carl L. Becker, review of National Interest, in Yale Review 23 (Summer
1934):816. Their correspondence, from 1932 to 1944, is in the Carl Becker Papers,
John M. Olin Research Library, Cornell University.
30. Beard and George H. E. Smith, The Open Door at Home: A Trial Phi-
losophy of National Interest, p. vii, hereafter cited as Open Door.

tional interest" was to be applied were nationality, national econ-
omy, national defense, and international relations.
Up to this point in his career, Beard's interest in preserving and
promoting what he conceived of as distinctive qualities of Ameri-
can nationality, ethnically defined, did not represent a major theme
in his writings. But by the early 1930s, for example, he was pre-
pared to accept the quota system established by immigration legis-
lation in the 1920s as a reasonable basis for maintaining what he
called the "social cohesiveness and cooperative capacity" of Ameri-
can society. He felt this was essential in order that the existing
racial mixtures, languages, and traditions of Americans from other
countries would not be seriously altered by a tremendous wave of
new immigration that could upset an already precarious balance.
Though he repudiated the idea that race should be a determinant
in establishing quotas, the "national origins" principle, which he
tolerated, clearly discriminated against Orientals and persons of
Latin and Slavic descent from Europe. He was most concerned,
however, with the diplomatic implications of applying "universal
ethics" to immigration policy. A thoroughly nondiscriminatory
policy, he alleged, would mean acceptance of the principle that
other nations not only had a right to dictate America's immigration
legislation, but that their national interests took precedence over
the national interests of the United States.31
In dealing with problems of the economy, Beard's principal rec-
ommendations included de-emphasizing foreign trade and invest-
ment and paying greater attention to production for domestic
consumption. Policies in both areas would look to increasingly less
dependence upon foreign economic relationships to bring about
complete domestic recovery and security. He realized that the
national planning measures necessary to maintain a satisfactory
"national standard of life" would require the exercise of vigorous
presidential authority. But he was confident this could be done
without tampering with the Constitution.32
Beard's specific proposals for reducing foreign trade were more
far-reaching than his export-import syndicate scheme of 1931. A
Foreign Trade Authority would be set up in the State Department
with substantial discretionary powers to control the nation's exports

31. Ibid., pp. 179-209.
32. Ibid., pp. 210-33, 308-11.



70 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

and imports. There could be some reciprocal trade agreements with
certain countries, but they would have to be carried out under
federal supervision in order to guarantee a flow of goods that
would clearly contribute to the well-being of the American economy
as a whole. As an alternative but possibly complementary plan,
Beard proposed a scheme of tariff manipulation under which the
Foreign Trade Authority would maintain up-to-date tariff sched-
ules that could control the price and quantity of exports and
In one of the most vigorous and incisive summaries of the as-
sumptions and aims of his trial philosophy, one which employed a
favorite metaphor from Voltaire's Candide, Beard wrote that "by
cultivating its own garden, by setting an example of national self-
restraint . by making no commitments that cannot be readily
enforced by arms, by adopting toward other nations a policy of
fair and open commodity exchange, by refraining from giving them
any moral advice on any subject, and by providing a military and
naval machine as adequate as possible to the defense of this policy,
the United States may realize maximum security, attain minimum
dependence upon governments and conditions beyond its control,
and develop its own resources to the utmost. Besides offering the
most realistic approach to the dilemma and conforming to a high
degree to the necessities presented by the posture of nations, it is
a more promising way of life for the people of the United States."34
In both The Idea of National Interest and The Open Door at
Home, Beard found opportunities to apply his analysis and phi-
losophy to the early New Deal. His conclusions on the record of
the first year were mixed; his hopes for the future were ambivalent.
He was very encouraged by FDR's bold leadership in the domestic
program for recovery, reform, and relief. But, despite earlier opti-
mism in his treatment of the president's conduct of American
diplomacy, Beard could not hide some of his disappointment over
certain trends in the administration.35 In contrast to his willing-

33. Ibid., pp. 287-94.
34. Ibid., pp. 273-74.
35. In a study completed in November 1933, Beard and Smith discussed the
first few months of the New Deal. The authors thought the assumptions that
guided FDR's recovery program included neither the notion that foreign trade
was the only outlet for America's surplus goods nor the answer to America's
economic problems. "Followed to its logical conclusions," they said, "this con-
ception will lead to revolutionary adjustments in foreign trade and foreign

ness to accept a commanding role for the president in domestic
matters, Beard began to lean toward the idea of severely limited
presidential discretion in formulating and administering American
foreign policy.
In The Idea of National Interest, it was noted that two major
groups in the higher echelons of the Democratic Party were con-
tending for leadership in guiding the foreign policy of the Roose-
velt administration. The first, deriving inspiration from Woodrow
Wilson and with Secretary of State Cordell Hull as its most promi-
nent spokesman, embraced an internationalist outlook and was
interested in ameliorating the current problems of world trade.
"They look abroad," wrote Beard and George H. E. Smith, "for
the escape from the dilemma presented by periodical crises, with-
out offering any machinery for giving certain effect to their hopes
or any policies guaranteed to work.'36
The second group, though smaller, appeared to exercise greater
influence in official circles and was led, Beard believed, by Presi-
dent Roosevelt himself. This group derived its inspiration from
the principles of Jefferson, principles which Beard had already
identified as including the desire to promote maximum national
economic self-sufficiency and political independence in order to
avoid foreign intrigues, entanglements, and war. These principles
were part of a tradition in which "the old possibility of a distinct
national life and character" continued to be "a living and vital
force." For the group around Roosevelt which embraced this tradi-
tion, the fact that foreign trade accounted for less than 10 per cent
of all American trade activity, whether foreign or domestic, demon-
strated the importance of the strictly national market and the
slight dependence of the United States upon foreign countries for
economic prosperity.37
President Roosevelt's torpedoing of the London Economic Con-
ference in July 1933 struck Beard as a proper application of the
principles of Jefferson. In addition to defending FDR from charges
that he was personally responsible for wrecking the conference,

relations": The Future Comes: A Study of the New Deal, p. 164, hereafter cited
as The Future Comes.
36. National Interest, p. 533. Beard's collaborator blocked out this section on
the New Deal, with Beard refining it. Smith to Beard, August 4, 1933, Smith
Papers, Folder 2, Yale University Library.
37. National Interest, pp. 52-54, 85, 93, 534.



72 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy
Beard claimed that since the conference and its agenda originally
had been approved by President Hoover, Roosevelt was not bound
to accept what Beard called the laissez-faire assumptions governing
the deliberations. He further maintained that there had been no
compelling reasons for believing that the other participating na-
tions were prepared to make drastic changes in their own economic
policies. He thus supported Roosevelt's contention that America's
internal financial structure was of greater importance than the
value of the dollar in relation to the currencies of other nations.
Indeed, Beard lauded FDR's action as an example to other coun-
tries that foreign trade was not essential to a viable national econ-
omy. Under the new conception of national interest, he added,
national security and prosperity were not to be achieved through
international conferences or "outward thrusts of commercial
power," but through an integrated domestic economy and a wider
distribution of wealth.38
The wish seemed to be father to the latter thought, for Beard
also saw some signs that portended a continuation of the "old na-
tionalism" in the Hamiltonian tradition that would include the
commercial imperialism of Machtpolitik (a German term for the
idea of "power politics"). Specifically, President Roosevelt's ship-
building program caused Beard to temper his optimism about the
future of domestic "self-containment." His misgivings led him to
speculate that a "grand diversion" in the Caribbean or the Pacific
might be welcomed by the administration should the president's
recovery program fail to solve the domestic economic crisis.39 Beard
did not explain what he meant by a "grand diversion," but he
implied that FDR might resort to some kind of military action.
Similar reservations were expressed in The Open Door at Home.
Beard was heartened by such measures as Roosevelt's recognition
of the Soviet Union, his support of independence for the Philip-
pines, and the abrogation of the Platt Amendment with regard to
Cuba. But these actions were more than offset, in Beard's judgment,
by the president's reassertion of the Open Door policy in the Far
East, his expressed hope that foreign trade could be expanded, and
his request for increased naval expenditures. If Roosevelt had a
foreign policy that would not jeopardize his domestic program,

38. Ibid., pp. 542-45.
39. Ibid., pp. 548-49.

Beard thought he had yet to reveal it. In impassioned prose, Beard
pleaded for the United States to "really make its diplomacy the
diplomacy of 'the good neighbor,' as distinguished from the diplo-
macy of the dollar, the navy, and the marines," in order "to avoid
costly and bloody entanglements in the historic quarrels of Europe
and Asia."40
Beard's writing of The Idea of National Interest and The Open
Door at Home when he did, and as he did, clearly constituted a
personal "act of faith"; that is, he hoped his critical analysis of
what he believed to be the controlling assumptions of American
foreign policy would encourage the Roosevelt administration to
formulate policies along the lines he proposed. Such policies, Beard
was convinced, could be framed with a view to establishing in
America a "collectivist democracy" or a "workers' republic," both
of which he considered possible and desirable political-economic
systems for the United States.41 There is evidence that Beard was
justified for a time in believing that these two volumes might carry
weight in administration circles. For example, in the autumn of
1933, he and Mrs. Beard dined with the president and his wife
in the White House where, Beard confided to George H. E. Smith,
his collaborator on The Idea of National Interest and The Open
Door at Home, he "got some first hand information on things."
Later, he sent a copy of the book on national interest to the pres-
In January 1934, Ernest K. Lindley, one of FDR's favorite re-
porters, observed that Beard was "one of the intellectual parents
of the New Deal." In part, this kinship was due to the presence
of a number of Columbia University professors in the "Brain
Trust," particularly Raymond Moley, a former student of "Uncle
Charley." Lindley also thought the president's speeches "revealed
that he understood the development of the United States very
much as Mr. Beard saw it." In reviewing The Open Door at Home,

40. Open Door, pp. 316-19.
41. Beard, "Written History as an Act of Faith," p. 228; "The World as I
Want It," p. 333.
42. Beard to Smith, October 28, 1934, Smith Papers, Folder 3; National
Interest, edited with new material by A. Vagts and W. Beard (Chicago: Quad-
rangle Paperbacks, 1966), p. xvi. In February, 1934, the Beards attended an
Army and Navy reception at the White House, where, according to their daugh-
ter, "Beard met several leading military men": M. Vagts to author, February
16, 1971.



74 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

Samuel Flagg Bemis found some shortcomings in the work. But he
predicted that it might become "a classic of American political
thought" nearly as influential as The Federalist. He added that it
was generally understood that President Roosevelt had read the
book, marked passages, and jotted down marginal comments.43
Beard learned from a friend that Bemis' remarks about FDR's
reading the book were accurate and that he "kept it in his desk for
callers to see for three weeks!"44 But he also learned, eventually,
that the president had described The Open Door at Home as "a
bad dish" in one of his handwritten comments.45 Thus, Beard was
destined to be extremely disappointed and frustrated in his efforts
to be an unofficial foreign policy advisor of sorts to the president,
whose rhetoric and programs in the realm of domestic affairs often
earned his respect and approbation. As the evidence became clearer
that Roosevelt, in foreign affairs, apparently did not interpret the
national interest as Beard had defined it, a note of personal be-
trayal crept into a number of Beard's publications and letters even
before FDR's re-election in 1936. The mixed reception accorded
The Idea of National Interest and The Open Door at Home fore-
shadowed, to some extent, the greater controversy Beard would
arouse later in the decade when his warnings about Roosevelt's
diplomacy became more strident and his commitment to a non-
interventionist policy more profound.
Many contemporary reviewers, whether they agreed with him or
not, were well aware that Beard, particularly in The Open Door
at Home, was engaged in pleading a case and was not viewing the
past with cold detachment. But some, like Professor Bemis, saw in
these volumes ideas that were not ephemeral, and they, therefore,
regarded the two volumes as more than just tracts for the times.
The diplomatic historian Tyler Dennett believed the most valuable
contribution made by Beard's study on national interest was the
introduction of a much needed note of realism into the study of
American diplomacy.46 Beard was especially delighted by a letter
he received from Walter Millis, "in which he says that the book is
43. Lindley, review of Beard and Smith, The Future Comes, in New York
Herald Tribune Books, January 7, 1934, p. 5; Bemis, review of Open Door, in
American Historical Review 40 (April 1935):543.
44. Beard to Smith, January 8, 1935, Smith Papers, Folder 7.
45. Beard to Curti, March 3, 1948, Curti Papers, Box 4, Folder 13.
46. Dennett, review of National Interest, in American Historical Review 39
(July 1934):744.

up to the level of the little boy who told the Prince that he had no
clothes on-was stark naked in fact. Now that is a gem beyond
There have been challenges both to Beard's interpretation of
American foreign policy and his prescription for future policy.
Some critics of The Idea of National Interest, for example, took
exception to the heavy emphasis on economic forces and motives.
Raymond L. Buell, who, at the time the volumes were written, was
president of the Foreign Policy Association, was especially con-
cerned about Beard's downgrading of nonmaterialistic factors, such
as social psychology and power politics.48 In a similar fashion,
more recent critics have noted Beard's preoccupation with the
economic motives of individuals and groups, to the near exclusion
of the power-political implications of a nation's quest for security.
While he was very astute in stressing the intimate connections be-
tween certain domestic and foreign policies, Beard, nevertheless,
conveyed the impression that the latter were almost totally a func-
tion of internal necessity and were not apt to be reasoned and
legitimate responses to the external actions of other nations.49
Whatever hopes Beard might have entertained about influencing
Roosevelt must have been short-lived. A prominent member of the
president's cabinet, Henry A. Wallace, penned a long and thought-
ful, but critical, review of The Open Door at Home for the liberal
periodical New Republic. The secretary of agriculture thought
Beard unrealistic in his apparent assumption that America's foreign
trade could be drastically curtailed and an enlarged domestic mar-
ket created almost overnight. Wallace granted that Beard "dreams
a great dream of a beautiful and peaceful future of our great land"
to which "the heart thrills." He feared, however, that "even Beard
has not seen the whole problem. He is not so good an economic
technician as he is a historian."50 Interestingly, the same month the
review was published, Beard had an opportunity to speak with
Wallace in Washington, at which time the secretary told him that
"he was more in sympathy with the book than he indicated."51

47. Beard to Smith, March 8, 1934, Smith Papers, Folder 4.
48. Buell, review of National Interest, in New York Herald Tribune Books,
March 4, 1934, p. 1.
49. Gerald Stourzh, "Charles A. Beard's Interpretations of American Foreign
Policy," pp. 126-32; Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians, pp. 325, 328.
50. Wallace, review of Open Door, in New Republic, January 2, 1935, p. 227.
51. Beard to Smith, January 8, 1935, Smith Papers, Folder 7.



76 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

There were other responses to Beard's work, including one from
Herbert Feis, at the time an economic advisor to the State Depart-
ment. He suggested that Beard's comprehensive program of na-
tionalism might very well lead to the type of belligerent American
chauvinism that Beard deplored. In a similar vein, one reviewer
expressed mild disbelief at what he characterized as "jingoistic
phrases" in The Open Door at Home. Merle Curti, however, ob-
jected to those critics who accused Beard of adopting a narrow and
selfish nationalism. He pointed out that Beard shared the major
aspirations of the internationalists for an orderly and peaceful
world, differing from them only in how these laudable aims were
to be achieved.52
The question of the means to this desirable end was, of course,
the essence of the matter. Most of those critics who disagreed with
Beard did not impugn his motives or idealism, but his particular
proposals. Until the Pearl Harbor attack, he continued to insist
that a rejection of former policies of foreign trade and investment
was a sine qua non for the success of domestic reform and avoid-
ance of war. It should be observed that Beard was partially
vindicated in his estimates of foreign trade, as borne out in his
prediction that the expansion of foreign trade would not be the
ultimate answer to America's economic malaise. In addition, world
peace was not guaranteed by America's foreign commercial en-
deavors after FDR's election. On the other hand, the political
ramifications of the reciprocal trade program were not detrimental
to America's national interests. Nearly all the countries with which
the United States had negotiated reciprocal trade agreements were
lined up against the Axis Powers after December 7, 1941; however,
none of them became belligerents against the United States.53
On the controversial subject of naval expansion, Beard did score
a number of direct hits. This may be seen in his critical examina-
tion of long-accepted sea power doctrines; his skepticism about the
competence of "naval experts"; his pointing out the frequent gaps
between America's diplomatic aims and the inability or undesir-
ability of the navy to fulfill them; and his suspicions about the

52. Herbert Feis, review of Open Door, in Foreign Affairs 13 (July 1935):611;
Stewart Maxwell, review of ibid., in Nation, November 28, 1934, p. 625; Curti,
review of ibid., Mississippi Valley Historical Review 22 (September 1935):323.
53. Power Yung-chao Chu, "A History of the Hull Trade Program, 1934-
1939" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1957), pp. 401-2.

monetary motives of economic interest groups in supporting ship-
building programs. In raising penetrating questions about these
issues, Beard may have caused some "Big Navy" advocates to re-
evaluate their own assumptions and to refine their arguments.
But a number of Beard's verbal salvos against the "Big Navy
Boys" were wide of the mark, largely because of exaggeration or
insufficient evidence. This was especially true of his slashing indict-
ment of the Navy League of the United States for allegedly exer-
cising an insidious influence on American naval policy.54 His
critique, therefore, failed to achieve the balance and temperate
tone that might have made his views more acceptable in the coun-
cils of the Roosevelt administration, in the Congress, and among
the American people at large. More important, international
events by the late 1930s had raised new anxieties about American
security which would tend to overwhelm, and make less acceptable,
Beard's implicit adherence to the efficacy of a "small navy."
With each act of the Roosevelt administration which further
involved the nation in the world's political and economic prob-
lems, and which was accompanied by an increase in defense ex-
penditures, Beard became more and more convinced that Roosevelt
was betraying his own program of domestic reform and recovery.
Such policies were viewed by Beard as prima facie evidence that
FDR was seeking war as a means of deflecting public attention
from his failure to solve the obvious human suffering of the con-
tinuing Great Depression.

54. The most judicious assessment of the role and influence of the Navy
League is Armin Rappaport's The Navy League of the United States. Rappa-
port found that, on balance, the Navy League was a relatively innocuous or-
ganization insofar as the truly important determination of Navy policy was
concerned. He concluded that "the conspiracy theory of history . when
applied to the Navy League of the United States is sheer fantasy." It "was
neither the tool nor the mouthpiece of special economic interest groups. The
insinuations have often stemmed from too little investigation and too much
preconception. They have gained credence not because they were rooted in fact,
but from repetition by scholars, publicists, and legislators" (p. 205).




Waging the Cause of Neutrality,

THE Nye Committee's inquiry (1934-36) into the manufacturing
of and traffic in arms, according to Robert E. Osgood, "provided
the single most convincing argument in the whole arsenal of argu-
ments that sustained the isolationism of the thirties." Hans J.
Morgenthau, in characterizing "the official philosophy" of this
committee as a "devil theory" of imperialism, concluded that it
rested on the fallacious premise that, since such groups as bankers
and munitions manufacturers profited from wars, they necessarily
were primarily responsible for planning and starting wars. During
the 1930s, many writers, with varying credentials for historical
scholarship, promulgated this thesis in regard to America's involve-
ment in World War I. But it was Charles A. Beard, in the opinion
of Eric F. Goldman, who synthesized the revelations of the Nye
Committee into "a widely imitated liberal economic interpreta-
In the course of following these hearings, Beard not only con-
curred with the Nye Committee's recommendations for neutrality
legislation; he also aligned himself with the "revisionist" interpre-
tation of World War I in which Woodrow Wilson's reputation and

1. Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in America's Foreign Relations,
p. 366; Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power
and Peace, pp. 29-30; Goldman, Rendezvous with Destiny, p. 377.

idealism were attacked and discarded. Beard's interest in the enact-
ment and enforcement of neutrality bills also led him to attach
ominous intentions to virtually every act or speech of President
Franklin D. Roosevelt that appeared to contradict the intent of
this congressional legislation.
Published findings of the Nye Committee in the first two months
of 1935 encouraged Beard's expectations for the passage of stringent
neutrality legislation which would "serve notice on future bellig-
erents that they are to receive no aid or comfort from the United
States when they start on the headlong course of war, destruction,
and defeat."2 It was also at this time that Beard made the first of
a number of public allegations that President Roosevelt might
seek a foreign war, particularly in the Pacific, either as a means of
diverting attention from, or solving, America's economic crisis.
Beard expressly denied that FDR would deliberately plunge the
country into an Asian war. His demur was not entirely convincing,
however, for he also intimated that the president might "stumble
into" a suitable "incident" or "provocation," magnifying it into a
"just cause for war." He then concluded, "The Jeffersonian party
gave the nation the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and its partici-
pation in the World War. The Pacific War awaits."3
Many students of Beard's life and thought have appreciated the
significance of these remarks in assessing his commitment to a non-
interventionist stance many years before December 1941. Richard
Hofstadter perhaps stated the significance of this 1935 prediction
most succinctly: "It is a chilling note of prophecy that Beard
strikes here, and it is prophetic not only for the world but for him-
self: in this article he wrote the scenario for the rest of his career,
for the unrelenting battle he was to wage against an event which
he had forecast as all but inevitable."4 What is generally not recog-
nized, however, is that Beard's public prediction and anxiety, in
this instance, were the result of finally declaring private suspicions
he first entertained less than six months after Roosevelt's inaugura-
In the summer of 1933, George H. E. Smith wrote Beard about
the content of their forthcoming study, The Idea of National

2. Beard, "What Is This Sea Power?" See also Beard, "Our Foreign and
Domestic Policies."
3. Beard, "National Politics and the War," p. 70.
4. Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians, p. 328.



80 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

Interest, which was to include a treatment of New Deal diplomacy.
Smith indicated that he did not feel that Roosevelt held anything
like "the attitude of an international approach to national prob-
lems that Wilson held" and, in noting his uncertainty about FDR's
political opportunism, wondered "how far he would permit strategy
to take him on international lines." In reply, Beard expressed his
agreement with Smith, adding, "I think he is a dangerous man in
foreign affairs; he has no headlands for guidance and is moving as
swiftly as he can, whatever his idea, into a war with Japan. Then
to Ft. Leavenworth for me." Beard did concede that there was
"something admirable about his [FDR's] freedom from old clap-
trap." But the nagging doubts persisted. Despite subsequent sup-
port for FDR's actions in regard to the London Economic Confer-
ence (1933) in The Idea of National Interest, in this letter Beard
noted that the conference "showed-up his muddleheadedness from
the start. What a mess. No policy, backing and filling, jumping
and snorting."5
This early lack of confidence in Roosevelt's motives and states-
manship had the effect of heightening Beard's faith in Congress to
restrict FDR's authority to conduct foreign policy. When the
Senate rejected a treaty in the spring of 1935 that would have
made the United States a member of the World Court, Beard
hailed the action as one of the clearest signs that Congress was
prepared to guard jealously its prerogatives in determining foreign
policy.6 When it was announced in June 1935 that the Nye Com-
mittee was planning to shift its examination of the munitions
industry to the activities of American bankers, Beard claimed that
the British and French ambassadors were supposed to have ap-
pealed to the State Department to halt such an inquiry. Beard
alleged that a meeting between Roosevelt and some members of
the committee was then held and that rumor had it that the presi-
dent's attempt at personal dissuasion in the matter had not only
failed, but had deepened the resolve of the committee to press on
with its labors.7
Despite these actions of the Congress, and notwithstanding his
realization that FDR was not following his blueprint for the "new

5. Smith to Beard, August 4, 1933; Beard to Smith, August 4[?], 1933, Smith
Papers, Folder 2.
6. Beard, "The President Loses Prestige," pp. 64-65.
7. Beard, "America Debates War Plans," p. 293.

nationalism" in foreign affairs, Beard once again tried to influence
the president in a personal way. In May 1935, Beard wrote to
Raymond Moley, who still maintained contact with the White
House. In the letter, Beard expressed deep concern about "the
hazards of a futile and idiotic war in the Far Pacific," and he en-
closed a copy of a recent article by a naval officer which, Beard
emphasized, "contains more sound sense on sea power than all of
[Alfred Thayer] Mahan's tomes." He hoped that Moley would
comment on the article in Today, a magazine his former student
edited. Beard also asked Moley to bring the heavily underlined
article to the president's attention. Moley did ask Roosevelt's secre-
tary to give Beard's letter and enclosure to the president.8 Assum-
ing FDR ever read the article, subsequent American diplomacy in
the Far East, plus the continuing commitment to a program of
naval expansion, indicated that Roosevelt did not heed Beard's
implicit appeal to withdraw all diplomatic commitments and mili-
tary forces from East Asia.
In the meantime, the Nye Committee's endeavors had led to the
passage of the first of a series of Neutrality Acts in August 1935.
The bill empowered the president to place an embargo on the sale
and shipment of munitions to belligerent powers whenever he
judged that a state of war existed. With an eye to the tragic ex-
perience of the Lusitania sinking in 1915, the bill also denied
government protection to American citizens who chose to travel
on the ships of belligerent nations. Although he still retained some
discretionary powers, FDR signed the bill with reluctance because
he thought it too inflexible, particularly in not distinguishing be-
tween an aggressor and the victim of aggression.9 Henceforth, this
legal and moral problem would be an important aspect of the

8. Beard to Moley, May 18, 1935; Moley to Marguerite Le Hand, May 25,
1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y. The article in question was
Lt. Comdr. Melvin Talbot's prize essay, "Beyond the Naval Treaties." A num-
ber of Talbot's conclusions coincided with Beard's own ideas about the limited
size and function of the U.S. Navy. Materials concerning Charles A. Beard in
the Roosevelt Library, it might be added, are not extensive. Letters exchanged
until August 1937, moreover, contain no direct criticisms of Roosevelt's diplo-
macy. On the other hand, in a few letters Beard was nearly effusive in his
praise of the president's concern for education, the historic importance of his
state papers, and his judiciary reform proposal. A presidential memo dated
May 21, 1937, indicated FDR's desire to invite Charles and Mary Beard to
spend "a weekend sometime on the Potomac."
9. Robert A. Divine, The Illusion of Neutrality, 1935-1939, pp. 115-17.



82 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

debate between the advocates of strict neutrality and the propo-
nents of collective security who believed that the United States
should adopt selective embargoes and other measures short of war.
Following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935,
Beard fervidly attacked this issue. He ridiculed the notion that one
could make precise distinctions between "good" and "bad" na-
tions and was shocked by the idea that those who embraced the
principle of collective security would "employ the risk of war to
prevent war" on the strength of such distinctions.10 Whatever ques-
tions might be raised about Beard's forcing the debate into abso-
lutes rather than the more realistic and relative distinctions of
"less bad" or "more good," it is clear that by this time he was
emotionally and rationally dedicated to a hard-and-fast policy of
neutrality for the United States. Thus, it was fitting that his study
of The Devil Theory of War (1936) was subtitled An Inquiry Into
the Nature of History and the Possibility of Keeping Out of War.
The "devil theory," as Beard defined it, was essentially a scape-
goat-conspiracy thesis, in which "wicked politicians" and "wicked
bankers" were responsible for policies of self-aggrandizement that
caused wars between nations. "The people" were always assumed
to be peace-loving, desiring only to be left alone to follow their
daily routines. "If politicians would stop interfering at home and
stop making wars," the theory as delineated by Beard concluded,
"the whole world would be busy, employed and (almost) happy.""11
Beard blasted this theory as an "old tune" that was "childish."
The nominally peaceful economic pursuits of "the people," par-
ticularly if they involved industrial and agricultural goods for sale
in foreign markets, had "a direct bearing on war." Politicians and
bankers also did not operate independently of their economic,
political, and social milieu. Accordingly, they did not "intrude
themselves upon the people from some magic world of their own."
The politician, he contended, "reflects the ideas and wishes of his
constituents," while the banker "lives right down in the middle of
things, amid the pushing and shoving of the marketplace."12
In the first half of his study, Beard persuasively and wittily

10. Beard, "Keeping America Out of War," p. 291.
11. Beard, The Devil Theory of War, pp. 18-20, hereafter cited as Devil
Theory. Most of the book was originally serialized as "Heat and Light on
Neutrality" and "Peace for America."
12. Devil Theory, pp. 21-23.

demonstrated that a nation's involvement in war could be a com-
plex, collective responsibility of interaction between political and
business leaders, the people, domestic needs, and external events.
The implication was that an interpretation of this nature should
be applied to America's involvement in World War I. But before
he concluded his examination of how, by 1917, the United States
found itself a belligerent in a war of European origins, Beard came
full circle on the "devil theory of war," with his primary focus on
economic motivation. Given Beard's well-known skill in the use of
irony, one is tempted to wonder whether he may have intended the
work as a masterful exercise in this particular literary style. In any
event, he implicitly endorsed the very thesis which he had dis-
missed at the outset as "childish."
After a passage in which he pondered the problems of the his-
torian in ever truly locating "cause" in history, Beard tentatively
dealt with the issue of why the United States entered World War I.
Rendering his own conclusions in an oblique fashion, Beard
claimed that the "lesson" of World War I was to be found in the
answers to the following questions, bearing on the policies of
engaging in trade with, and extending loans to, belligerent na-
tions: "Do we want, for the future, discussions and decisions of
this character to be carried on secretly behind closed doors or
openly in the Congress of the United States? In fine, are bans on
loans, credits, and sales to belligerents to be raised clandestinely in
huddled conferences of bankers and politicians or publicly by the
representatives of the American people in Congress assembled?"13
Beard then presented his own sweeping proposals for neutrality
legislation, which included an automatic arms embargo and re-
strictions on the sale of arms to neutral nations who might be en-
gaged in the business of reselling munitions and other items of
contraband to belligerent countries. He insisted that such legisla-
tion be mandatory-an obvious reflection of his distrust of Presi-
dent Roosevelt and the State Department. But it was also, in part,
a case of Beard fearing that history would repeat itself, for he had
become convinced that the unpublicized actions of some American
bankers, Woodrow Wilson, Colonel Edward M. House, and Secre-
tary of State Robert Lansing had been responsible for policies that
were contrary to the national interest. He admitted there would be

13. Ibid., p. 103.



84 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

problems in carrying out such laws, but hoped that "perhaps
enough of them can be enforced as to prevent the bankers and
politicians from guiding the nation into calamity as in 1914-
What Beard desired, in essence, was the enactment of a legisla-
tive program that would severely curtail President Roosevelt's dis-
cretionary powers in shaping and conducting American foreign
policy. In July 1937, for example, Beard decried the fact that the
three neutrality bills passed since 1935 did not deny to FDR
powers that he believed had been unwisely used in the past. As a
consequence, Roosevelt was still in a position to take actions that
would involve the nation in a full-scale war without asking Con-
gress for a declaration of war, "a ceremony that is now apparently
as obsolete as the dodo." Beard ruefully reflected, "The American
people may well prepare themselves to see President Roosevelt
plunge the country into the European war, when it comes, far
more quickly than did President Wilson. Unless he is superhuman,
the limelight of the world stage will be too great for his powers
of restraint.""15
This charge was repeated in September 1937, when Beard caus-
tically remarked that Roosevelt, like Wilson, had made it clear
that "he still follows the creed that the United States must do good
all around the world." In another comparison with Wilson, Beard
implied that FDR might not have as much difficulty as the former
president in getting the country into war, since "in 1914 the Amer-
ican people had not yet been conditioned to the idea that the
Government must favor one side or the other in every European
quarrel." Under these circumstances, Beard wrote, "it took time
for Woodrow Wilson to maneuver the nation into war."16

14. Ibid., pp. 118-23.
15. Beard, "Will Roosevelt Keep Us Out of War?" pp. 5-6. Recognizing the
gravity of Beard's charge, the editors of Events wrote on the inside cover of
this issue: "Dr. Beard's article is not only based upon his great knowledge as
historian and social philosopher, but is also a result of the close study of the
subject he is making from day to day. Some of his statements may appear to
be startling, but just because they are put into print with the fullest sense of
responsibility, they ought to receive the most careful attention."
16. "'Will Roosevelt Keep Us Out of War?' Dr. Beard's Rejoinder," Events,
September 1937, p. 164. The "rejoinder" in this instance was in answer to a
White House reply to Beard's July 1937 accusation in Events. The official re-
sponse, given Beard's stature and the nature of his charge, was incredibly inept.
The secretary to the president, Stephen Early, merely sent to the periodical

During the summer and fall of 1937, Beard occasionally expressed
views that seemed to contradict his tenacious attachment to strict
neutrality and called into question the logical basis for his public
animus toward Roosevelt and the advocates of collective security.
For example, in July 1937, Beard took Roosevelt to task for his
response to the Spanish Civil War, namely, his acquiescence when
Congress applied neutrality legislation to this internal, not multi-
national, conflict. Beard correctly observed that this action "was a
clear violation of the principles of international law as they then
stood." But given his own statements about staying out of any
European quarrels, his praise of Congress' initiative in trying to
guarantee this, as well as his knowledge that most congressional
supporters of this measure favored strict neutrality, one is apt to
be puzzled by Beard's virtually snide criticism of FDR, and his
assertion that not supplying either the Loyalists of Spain and the
Franco rebels with munitions was "without any justification in
terms of peril to American interests."17
The events of July 1937 were also critical as a prelude to Pearl
Harbor; the start of the Sino-Japanese War demonstrated that
Japan's territorial ambitions in East Asia involved much more
than the one Chinese province of Manchuria. The following
month, Beard's reflections on the aggressive mentality of what
would soon become the Axis Powers appeared in print: "By their
faith in force . Hitler and Mussolini are more or less beyond
the reach of the old-fashioned calculations. Japanese militarists
belong in the same emotional category. Having a philosophy of
history in which 'anything can happen,' the directors of these three
groups may fling prudence to the winds and make the experiment
[of aggressive war], or without any deliberate intention or open
declarations, the great powers may find themselves at war in the
midst of a dissolving civilization."18
In August 1937, Beard also sent a telegram to the president,

copies of two addresses FDR had made, including the celebrated "I hate war"
speech at Chautauqua, N.Y. (August 14, 1936). In effect, the administration
chose not to engage Beard in a proper dialogue. One may never know how
much this unsatisfactory reply might have further embittered Beard, or ac-
centuated his distrust of the president. "'Will Roosevelt Keep Us Out of
War?'-A Reply from the White House," Events, September 1937, pp. 161-63.
17. Beard, "Will Roosevelt Keep Us Out of War?" p. 3.
18. Beard, "War-If, How, and When?" p. 86.



86 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

which read, in part, "By your action on the Far East, you open a
grand epoch in American diplomacy. . .Hearty Appreciation."19
Since there was no mention of the particular action that Beard
was praising, the communication seems enigmatic, not to mention
apostatic, because Beard-as was true of most isolationists at the
time-could not have been pleased with Roosevelt's failure to in-
voke immediately the relevant neutrality legislation once the Sino-
Japanese War began. The seeming paradox may be explained by
a presidential press conference held the day before Beard tele-
graphed his laudatory message. During this conference, Roosevelt
told reporters that application of the provisions of the existing
neutrality laws in regard to the Sino-Japanese War was on "a
24-hour basis."20 Beard presumably learned of this and believed
that it was a major departure in FDR's Far Eastern diplomacy.
His hopes, of course, were soon dashed. Nonetheless, it is revealing
of Beard's sincerely troubled outlook that he could pin such un-
realistic expectations on this conditional statement by the presi-
Beard's possible uncertainties about the validity of his own con-
victions were still partially evident in the early fall of 1937, about
the time of Roosevelt's "quarantine" speech of October 5, 1937.
When Beard reviewed Quincy Howe's anti-British polemic, Eng-
land Expects Every American to Do His Duty (1937), he expressed
substantial agreement with the author's argument that the United
States should let England fight its own battles. Yet, in the same
review, Beard acutely observed that the two countries were so
intimately tied by such obvious bonds as geography, economics,
and cultural traditions "that even blind isolationists must recognize
the fact in all their thought about practice." Recalling his earlier
justifications for American entry into World War I, Beard suggested
that destruction of the British Empire and its navy, leaving Ger-
many in control of the Atlantic, would create serious problems for
the peace and security of the United States.21
But the quarantine speech probably constituted the greatest in-
tellectual-emotional watershed in Beard's long-held suspicions about
Roosevelt-it seemed to confirm beyond question that FDR was
irrevocably committed to a belligerent course of action, regardless

19. Beard to FDR, August 18, 1937, FDR Library.
20. Quoted in Divine, The Illusion of Neutrality, p. 203.
21. Beard, "America's 'Duty' to England," p. 327.

of what other nations were doing throughout the world.22 Immedi-
ately after Roosevelt's Chicago address, Beard construed the presi-
dent's remark that "peace-loving nations" must join together to
oppose violations of international treaties as evidence of "the over-
whelming propensity of his will in the direction of involving the
United States in the quarrels of Europe and the Orient, with all
the fateful potentialities for war."23
During the first few months of 1938, Beard waged a thorough-
going, and sometimes abusive, campaign against the principle of
collective security and its adherents. Responding to the support
given to Roosevelt's quarantine principle by Earl S. Browder, then
general secretary of the Communist Party in America, Beard com-
mented on the "curious array" of followers among those who were
for and against collective security. On the side of collective action
could be found American citizens of British birth and American
Communists of the Stalinist persuasion. Among those who favored
strict neutrality were Italian-Americans, German-Americans, and
American Communists who owed allegiance to Leon Trotsky. "The
contest," Beard concluded, was not "one of perfect truth against
perfect error, knowledge against ignorance, wisdom against folly
as many disputants would have it." These sardonic, well-informed
commentaries were vintage Beard. He scorned the idea, however,
that "another war for democracy" could have any beneficial results,
and believed that American participation in such a conflict would
likely result in universal fascism. Moreover, given the persistence
of high unemployment in the United States, he pugnaciously asked,
"how can we have the effrontery to assume that we can solve the
problems of Asia and Europe, encrusted in the blood-rust of fifty
centuries? Really, little boys and girls, how can we?"24
Beard's views at this time were still in general accord with the
neutrality and antiwar sentiments of the nation as a whole. One

22. The revisionist critic of American participation in both world wars,
Harry Elmer Barnes, who was a close friend of the Beards by the early 1940s,
thought Beard generally approved of the domestic New Deal up to the "quar-
antine" speech. But Beard later told Barnes that "he felt that F.D.R. was a
hypocrite alout this and wished to detract attention from . the loss of the
Supreme Court battle, and the sharp recession in the preceding months. He
did not feel that F.D.R. had any really sincere fear of 'aggressors.' Barnes to
Charles M. Hepburn, December 16, 1961, Barnes Papers. Hepburn is the author
of "Charles A. Beard and the Founding Fathers."
23. Beard, "Those Old-World Quarrels," p. 261.
24. Browder, "For Collective Security"; Beard, "A Reply to Mr. Browder."



88 Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy

of the more significant barometers of public opinion in this regard
was the substantial public and congressional support of a consti-
tutional amendment sponsored by Louis A. Ludlow (D., Ind.),
which would require a nationwide referendum on war, except in
the event of an enemy attack on the United States or its possessions.
In January 1938, however, the amendment, which was strongly
opposed by the Roosevelt administration, failed to gain House
support by a vote of 209 to 108.25 A few weeks after the defeat of
this amendment, FDR asked Congress for a substantial increase in
military and naval appropriations. This move, in conjunction with
the quarantine speech, the administration's pressures against the
Ludlow Amendment, and an invitation by some members of the
House of Representatives,26 prompted Beard to appear before the
House Committee on Naval Affairs to register his strong opposition
to the president's request for additional military expenditures.
In his prepared remarks before the House Committee on Febru-
ary 9, 1938, Beard alluded to the president's "policy of quaran-
tine" as one that would require "big battleships to be used in
aggressive warfare in the Far Pacific or the Far Atlantic." This
charge was essential to sustaining his fundamental premise, that
the continental United States was already suitably safe from foreign
attack. He ridiculed speculations in which "Fascist goblins of
Europe are pictured as marching across the Atlantic to Brazil."
This "simply fantastic" proposition was "the kind of nightmare
which a holder of shipbuilding stocks had when ordinary business
is bad." Such fears, Beard alleged, were part of "the new racket

25. Divine, The Illusion of Neutrality, pp. 219-21. In October 1937, 73 per
cent of the persons polled by the American Institute of Public Opinion, under
the direction of George Gallup, expressed approval of the Ludlow Amend-
ment: Public Opinion Quarterly 2 (July 1938):387.
26. Beard, "The Supreme Issue for America," p. 268. In this article, Beard
referred to these Congressmen only as "a group of men." Such an invitation
could be extended because Beard was in the nation's capital at the time, a city
that he flippantly regarded as a "burg" which was "a mad house." More im-
portant, as a clue to his attitude before he testified against the administra-
tion's proposed increase of naval funds, he also wrote to George H. E. Smith:
"All social talk turns on the coming war and the administration is making a
drive to stir war psychology. Nothing but the backfire from people who do not
want to fight for our yellow brothers keeps the administration from lunging
ahead-into another crusade for democracy or what have you": Beard to Smith,
January 31, 1938, Smith Papers, Folder 8.