I am going to feature some of my favorite conservative figures from history. They will be conservatives because that is where my compass points true north. I'll start with Lodge because I wrote about him in a prior post in reference to his opposition to the League of Nations. To start read this short article. He was certainly a major figure in his time.
He was a contemporary of Theodore Roosevelt and they both held some common views. While TR was a progressive in most social issues, that is where he and Lodge parted company. They were both in favor of the Spanish-American War, intervention in the First World War, and staunch believers in American Exceptionalism which led them to be in favor of American Imperialism in the Philippines and Asia. Taken in the tenor of the times these were mainstream views. There were to be sure, anti-Imperialists and they were some of the leading lights of the day, including Mark Twain.
If you believe that imperialism would brand Lodge a Neo-Conservative, I would differ with you. The Spanish-American War was a war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine which fell in line with Lodge's views of America as exceptional. Further, it ensured American sovereignty in the Western Hemisphere. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, America was an emerging power trying to find a place in a world dominated by Europe. The US was subject to the sway of the European powers economically and therefore, were subject to the disagreements and ancient grievances that would culminate in the First World War.
Greatly influenced by the Civil War, Lodge and many Americans felt that the US should intervene in the First World War in order to stop the autocratic German Empire from expanding and encroaching in the affairs of the other European powers. He saw the German empire as evil. Was that a good policy? You make the call. In the interest of full disclosure, my grandfather was drafted and fought in the First World War. See his grave marker to the left.
The article makes the point that following Lodge's death in 1924, he was villified by the progressive allies of Wilson. In my humble opinion, Lodge's contributions to his country were at least on par with Wilson's. I would submit he did more for the US by leading the fight against the League of Nations than Wilson did by committing the US to this misguided policy that placed the US at the mercy of the vicissitudes of the world's factions. Lodge's grandson makes the point that Article 10, that robs signatories of sovereignty, is missing from the United Nations. Lodge was right and should be recognized for his prescience in foreseeing the folly of such an agreement.
An examination of Lodge would surely reveal that he was not a libertarian, a philosophy with which I have some trouble. That's a post for a later time. I will close with a quote from Lodge that reveals his feelings about immigration which was an issue that was at least as burning an issue as it is today. By contrast, most immigration in this time period was from Europe. Therefore, the quote reflects his thought and philosophy towards European immigration.
Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs and keep their memory green. It is a pious and honorable duty. But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and German-Americans, and so on, and all be Americans...If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives; and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description.
He's a true conservative hero.