Hull, Cordell, 1871-1955

Hull was ROOSEVELT’s Secretary of State from 1933-44. He was a confirmed internationalist and played a large part in founding the United Nations. Before the USA declared war on Japan, Hull was involved in protracted negotiations with the Japanese (which began in July 1941) over the situation in the Far East. He had the advantage of having all Japanese messages from Tokyo to Washington decoded and this meant that he could see that the Japanese were preparing for war. In September 1941 Hull persuaded the President not to meet Prime Minister KONOYE because he felt that there would have to be a diplomatic agreement to prepare the ground. The final stage of negotiations opened on 22 November 1941 when the US and Japanese considered draft proposals for an interim agreement which outlined a timetable for Japanese withdrawal from Indo-China and eventually from China. This could have saved the day but the Chinese did not like the proposal, fearing that they were being abandoned by the US. After consultations with the President, Hull submitted a final demand that Japan withdraw from all of mainland Asia. This was unacceptable to the Japanese and they handed Hull the Declaration of War two hours after Pearl Harbor had begun (7 December 1941).

During the war Roosevelt conducted much of US foreign affairs himself through his special envoys, HOPKINS and HARRIMAN. Hull had no more than weekly meetings with the President. However he had his own concerns and pursued a policy of trying to win over the Vichy Regime in France which led to the DARLAN Agreement. US relations with the Free French movement of DE GAULLE were soured by this and Hull refused to recognize de Gaulle’s Committee until August 1943. He suffered from ill-health but was able to lead the US delegation to the Foreign Ministers’ Conference at Moscow in 1943 which solved many postwar problems. Hull also did much work for the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in which the workings of the proposed United Nations were discussed. He retired shortly afterwards because of ill- health.

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