Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  61 / 96 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 61 / 96 Next Page
Page Background

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

NOVEMBER 2015

61

FS HERITAGE

The 44th Secretary of State, a true statesman

who displayed exemplary foreign policy leadership,

deserves more recognition.

BY MAXWE L L J . HAM I LTON AND JOHN MAXWE L L HAM I LTON

Maxwell J. Hamilton, a Foreign Service officer

since 2008, is currently the Department of

State’s Burma unit chief. He has previously

served in the Operations Center, Afghanistan,

India and Venezuela.

John Maxwell Hamilton, Maxwell’s father, is founding dean of the

Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State Univer-

sity, a senior scholar at the WoodrowWilson International Center for

Scholars and the author of numerous books. He was a Foreign Service

officer in the 1970s.

O

n Nov. 12, 1921, pre-eminent

statesmen from around the

world assembled in Washington,

D.C., to consider limiting the

growth of the Great Power fleets.

They were motivated by escalat-

ing tensions and the burgeoning

costs of a global arms race. Two

decades before Pearl Harbor, the

Japanese government was already spending half its revenue on

the military.

Hopes for an agreement were not high. No previous disarma-

ment conference had succeeded; the First Hague Conference in

1899 had only acknowledged the desirability of arms limitations.

Taking Stock of

Secretary of State

Charles Evans Hughes

But the calculus changed when U.S. Secretary of State Charles

Evans Hughes rose to address the delegates seated at Continen-

tal Hall’s specially constructed walnut table.

Prior to the conference, Hughes had concluded that the only

way to achieve success was with a bold proposal. This he sold to

President Warren Harding, one of our least visionary presidents.

He also convinced Harding of the wisdom of deviating from the

standard practice of first floating the proposal to the foreign

delegates in a closed session. Hughes feared this would give

naysayers too much room for maneuver. Instead, he unveiled the

specifics of the initiative in his speech welcoming the conference

delegates.

A former Supreme Court justice who later became chief

justice, Hughes made the case like the lawyer he was. He opened

with lulling platitudes, and then stunned the audience by

proposing a 10-year freeze on the size of each country’s fleet.

Hughes named specific ships to be scrapped, beginning with

those of his own country, before turning to Britain and Japan. In

less than 15 minutes, said historianThomas Bailey, Hughes had

sunk more ships “than all the admirals of the world have sunk in

a cycle of centuries.” The result was the Five-Power Treaty, (also

known as the Washington Naval Treaty), signed on Feb. 6, 1922,

which scrapped warships under construction and halted the

production of larger warships for a decade.

Yet today, sadly, Hughes is all but forgotten, despite the many