Few have ever enjoyed the degree of foreign-policy influence and versatility that Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the grand-son of Woodrow Wilson’s senatorial antagonist, did. In the postwar era, perhaps only George Marshall, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker. Cabot Lodge, however, had the distinction of wielding that influence under presidents of both parties. For three decades, he was at the center of American foreign policy, serving as advisor to five presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Gerald Ford, and as ambassador to the United Nations, Vietnam, West Germany, and presidential envoy to the Vatican.
Cabot Lodge’s political influence was at times immense. He was the first person, in 1943, to see Eisenhower as a potential presidential material; he entered Eisenhower in the 1952 New Hampshire primary without the candidate’s knowledge, crafted his political positions, and managed his campaign. As UN ambassador in the 1950s, Cabot Lodge was effectively at times a second secretary of state. In the 1960s, he was called twice, by John F. Kennedy and by Lyndon Johnson, to serve in the toughest position in the State Department’s portfolio, as ambassador to South Vietnam. In the 1970s, he paved the way for permanent American ties with the Holy See. Over his career, beginning with his arrival in the U.S. Senate at age thirty-four in 1937, when there were just seventeen Republican senators, he did more than anyone else to transform the Republican Party from a regional, isolationist party into the nation’s dominant force in foreign policy, a position it held from Eisenhower’s time until the twenty-first century.
In this book, The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War (Yale University Press, 2020) historian Luke A. Nichter professor of history at Texas A & M University–Central Texas, coeditor (with Douglas Brinkley) of the New York Times bestselling book The Nixon Tapes: 1971–1972, gives us a outstanding narrative of Cabot Lodge’s extraordinary and consequential life. Cabot Lodge was among the last of the well-heeled Eastern Establishment Republicans who put duty over partisanship and saw themselves as the hereditary captains of the American state. Unlike many who reach his position, Cabot Lodge took his secrets to the grave—including some that, revealed here for the first time, will force historians to rethink their understanding of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.