The Boldness of Charles Evans Hughes

The advent of a new historical epoch requires boldness in foreign policy architecture. Though less studied than the post-World War II master builders, Charles Evans Hughes' effort after World War I is a worthy case in point.

Issue: Summer 2003

With the current high drama in our national life, commenced on
September 11, 2001, it may seem odd to suggest an interest in the
life and diplomacy of Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of State from
1921 to 1925 under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. At first glance,
his times seem much less daunting than ours: a period of peace,
burgeoning prosperity and, flappers and Prohibition aside, what
President Harding called "normalcy." But, in truth, Hughes became
Secretary of State at a critical juncture. The United States had been
tested by a horrific world war and had emerged divided over its
proper international role. The awesome mortality rate of that war
(more than 50,000 American soldiers were killed in action), and the
use of poison gas as a method in it, alarmed many Americans. Just
beneath the surface, too, many feared exposure to the historic
vulnerabilities of the Old World, as if America's exceptional

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