While it might be difficult for readers to believe, once upon a time, Massachusetts was largely a Republican state. The first political dynasty was not the Kennedys, but rather the Lodges. There is the old bit of doggerel, “And this is good old Boston, the home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk to the Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God.”
Henry Cabot Lodge served as both a Congressman and senator from Massachusetts and helped to derail President Woodrow Wilson’s drive to bring America into the League of Nations. Lodge was a warm personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt and was an intellectual. Despite his icy demeanor, Lodge was devoted to his family. Devastated by the loss of his son, George “Bay” Lodge, the old senator was left to help raise his grandchildren, one of whom was named for him.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was the old senator’s grandson, despite the “Jr.” Born at the Lodge summer home in Nahant, Massachusetts on July 5, 1902, Henry Cabot Lodge. Jr. enjoyed all the advantages of wealth and privilege. Lodge’s father, Bay, was a poet, soldier and sometime clerk to Senator Lodge. The three Lodge children, Henry Cabot, John Davis, and Helena lost their father when George died at age thirty-five. Their mother Mathilda, was related to the Frelinghuysen family of New Jersey, which has steadily produced members of Congress and the United States Senate. In fact, there is still a Frelinghuysen in Congress to this day. A Frelinghuysen was Henry Clay’s vice presidential running mate in 1844.
Both Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and his brother, John Davis Lodge, entered politics; Henry served as a senator from Massachusetts, while John, after a reasonably successful career as an actor, was elected governor of Connecticut.
Well educated (young Henry graduated from Harvard cum laude), raised with impeccable manners, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. worked as a reporter before entering politics. His first foray into politics was in 1932, when he was elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives.
Lodge married Emily Sears, the daughter of a doctor who was apparently quite wealthy. They had two sons, George Cabot and Henry Sears.
Tall, strikingly handsome, impeccably dressed and highly intelligent, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was encouraged to seek higher office and he ran for the United States Senate in 1936. It was a daunting year to be a Republican. The GOP majorities in Congress had been wiped out with the advent of the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover had been decisively defeated by New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 and Republicans continued to lose elections in 1934. President Roosevelt was seeking reelection in 1936 and Republicans had little hope of beating him. There appeared to be good reason to think the Democrats would once again see their numbers in Congress increase.
Yet Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. campaigned hard and had the advantage of drawing Governor James Michael Curley as his opponent in the general election. Curley, the notorious “Rascal King”, frequently Mayor of Boston, was overconfident, dismissing Lodge as “Little Boy Blue”. Curley was stunned when he lost to Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Lodge was the only Republican in the country to beat a Democrat for a seat in the United States Senate that had been held by the Democrats that year.
The new Senator-elect was escorted down the isle to take the oath of office by the senior senator from Massachusetts, David I. Walsh. A former governor, Walsh was the most successful Irish Catholic politician in the state. Many Yankee Republicans routinely abandoned their own nominee whenever David I. Walsh was on the ballot. Walsh beamed as he escorted his young new colleague, as he disliked James Michael Curley intensely.
Lodge performed the usual duties of a senator, but as World War II loomed, he became increasingly interested in foreign affairs. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire and America’s entry into the war, Lodge had little interest in the Senate. Lodge actually served a tour of duty in the armed services while still a member of Congress. Lodge had been reelected to the Senate in 1942, but when President Roosevelt insisted all Congressmen return to Washington, Lodge resigned his seat in 1944 to remain in the Army. It was the first time since the Civil War a senator had resigned his seat to serve in the military.
Lodge was a Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the war and returned to Massachusetts. He seemed the logical candidate to run once again for the United States Senate against veteran Senator David I. Walsh. The seventy-three year old Walsh was aging and insisted upon running yet again, despite entreaties from friends and family that he retire gracefully. Walsh had been enormously popular in Massachusetts, running ahead of Franklin Roosevelt in the state, but his appeal had been diminished when he was embroiled in a scandal. Walsh was named as the senator who frequented a male brothel in New York and worse still, apparently the house of ill repute was a gathering place for German spies. It was a lurid and seamy tale and while Senator Walsh was cleared by the FBI, his reputation never recovered.
To his credit, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. waged a positive campaign and he respected Senator Walsh’s service. 1946 was a big Republican year and Massachusetts was no exception. Lodge defeated David I. Walsh with a tremendous majority.
Lodge returned to the United States Senate and although he had lost his seniority when he had resigned, was a spokesman for the more moderate wing of the GOP. With his Senate seat up for election in 1952, Lodge was preoccupied with an intra party fight. Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, known to many as “Mr. Republican”, was making his third and final bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Henry Cabot Lodge. Jr. had worked assiduously to recruit Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. Many Democrats had tried to replace President Harry S. Truman with Eisenhower in 1948, but the general had refused to seek the nomination. Eisenhower proved to be more amenable in 1952 and won the New Hampshire primary. The contest between Eisenhower and Taft went down to the wire and no one was more responsible for Eisenhower’s ultimate victory than Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Eisenhower’s victory was indirectly responsible for Lodge’s defeat. Senator Lodge had largely ignored his own reelection campaign and he faced a formidable opponent in young Congressman John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was young, handsome, and charming. He was also the scion of one of America’s wealthiest families, as well as a political family. His maternal grandfather, John Francis Fitzgerald, had been Mayor of Boston and had once quite nearly beaten Henry Cabot Lodge for his Senate seat in 1916.
Lodge started with the advantage, but many conservative Republicans were highly irritated with Lodge’s backing of General Eisenhower for the GOP nomination. Joseph P. Kennedy, father of JFK, “loaned” one influential newspaper owner $500,000 during the campaign and it is not surprising the ordinarily strongly Republican paper came out for John F. Kennedy for the United States Senate. Lodge narrowly lost his reelection bid.
Lodge remained in public service due to his having been appointed by President Eisenhower as the representative from the United States to the United Nations. Eisenhower elevated the post to a Cabinet level position. Lodge remained at his post at the United Nations for seven years.
In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Nixon surprised a good many Republicans when he chose Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. as his pick for the vice presidential nomination. Senator John F. Kennedy was the Democratic presidential nominee and more than a few Republicans thought Lodge an odd choice for the GOP vice presidential nomination as it was clear he brought little electoral strength to the ticket. Nixon hoped his choice of Lodge might divert Kennedy to having to campaign in his own home state, but JFK easily won Massachusetts.
Lodge did cause a minor uproar when he announced, if elected, Nixon would select an African-American to serve in the Cabinet. This news was most unwelcome in the South and likely helped to blunt some Southern hostility towards Kennedy due to his Catholicism.
It was, however, one of the closest presidential elections in history.
Oddly, it was Lodge’s old rival John F. Kennedy who helped revive Henry Cabot Lodge politically. Lodge was appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1963. It was a precarious time, as the United States was committing more and more military resources to the region and the war was escalating.
Lodge was still serving as Ambassador when his name was entered into the New Hampshire presidential primary. Lodge was not an active candidate, but won the primary on a write-in vote. The Republican nomination was won by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who lost badly to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. remained as Ambassador to South Vietnam and with the fall of the Diem government, Lodge warned the State Department the United States had few options. Lodge noted that if the U. S. did not make South Vietnam a protectorate of the United States, an increased military presence would be required, or the United States would have to leave the country altogether.
Lodge continued his diplomatic career and had been reappointed Ambassador to South Vietnam under Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. served as Ambassador At Large, as well as Ambassador to West Germany. When Richard Nixon finally won the presidency in 1968, Nixon selected Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. to lead the peace negotiations with North Vietnam in Paris.
In 1970, Nixon appointed Lodge to serve as the envoy to the Vatican and Lodge served in that capacity until 1977.
There had been one final contest between political dynasties in Massachusetts in 1962 when Lodge’s son, George Cabot Lodge, was the GOP nominee for the United States Senate against Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy. While Lodge made a respectable showing, Ted Kennedy won that race handily and served in the U. S. Senate until his death.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. finally returned to his home in Beverly, Massachusetts where he assumed the role of elder statesman. Lodge began to have trouble with his legs and required the use of crutches to get around. Still, Lodge made occasional appearances at events in Massachusetts and was fondly remembered by many. Despite his infirmity and the ravages of time, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. retained his stately looks and impeccable wardrobe.
As he grew older, Lodge began suffering from congestive heart failure and he died February 27, 1985 at age eighty-two. Senator Ted Kennedy declared Lodge to be “one of the greatest statesmen”.
Lodge was one of those rare politicians who continually rose in the esteem of many people after having left elective office. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. rests in the soil of his native Massachusetts near his family.