This long cover was sent from the American Consular Service, Melbourne Australia with ‘Accounts & Returns’ to The Honorable, The Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., United States of America..  It had a copy of the Blue 3d KGV head stamp canceled MELBOURNE/ 18/ 6-P 13 JY33/ VIC (Figure 1).

The reverse had a red handstamp ‘FROM THE FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT COLLECTION/ AUTHENTICATED BY H.R. HARMER INC., N.Y.’  This was but one of the many envelopes sent to his colleagues that ended up in Roosevelt’s diverse “regular collection” (Figure 2)

Cordell Hull (October 2, 1871-July 23, 1955) was born in Pickett County, Tennessee, third of the five sons of William and Elizabeth (Riley) Hull. His father was a farmer and a lumber merchant.  He obtained elementary schooling in a one-room school in Willow Grove;  then for three years attended the Montvale Academy at Celina, Tenn., the Normal School at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the National Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio. He received a law degree in 1891 after completing a one-year course at Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee.

Hull practised law in Celina, but from 1893 to 1897 he was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, temporarily serving as captain of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment in the Spanish-American War.  He returned to the practice of law, and in 1903-07 was appointed judge of the Fifth Judicial District.  He married Rose Frances Whitney in 1917.

Elected to Congress from the 4th  Tennessee District in 1907, Hull served as a U.S. representative until 1931.  In his distinguished career in Congress, Hull was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee for eighteen years, the leader of the movement for low tariffs, the author of the Federal Income Tax Bills (1913-16), as well as the drafter of a resolution providing for the convening of a world trade agreement congress at the end of World War I.

Hull was elected U.S. senator for the 1931-1937 term, but resigned upon his appointment as Secretary of State by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 4, 1933.  In 1944 when he resigned because of ill health, he had occupied this post for the longest tenure in American history.

He headed the American delegation to the Monetary and Economic Conference in London in July, 1933, a conference which ended in failure despite the parlous state of world prosperity.  On the heels of disaster came triumph, for in November he headed the U.S. delegation to the 7th  Pan-American Conference in Montevideo, won the trust of the Latin American diplomats, laying the foundation for the good neighbor policy among the 21 American nations, so successfully followed up in the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace held in Buenos Aires (1936), the 8th  Pan-American Conference in Lima (1938), and the 2nd  Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics in Havana (1940).  Given authority through the Trade Agreements Act of 1934, he negotiated reciprocal trade agreements with numerous countries including Australia, lowering tariffs and stimulating trade.

From 1936 on, foreseeing danger to peace in the rise of the dictators, he advocated rearmament, pled for the implementation of a system of collective security, supported aid short of war to the Western democracies, condemned Japanese encroachment into Indo-China, warned all branches of the U.S. military well in advance of the attack on Pearl Harbor,  to prepare to resist simultaneous, surprise attacks at various points. Although Hull participated in some of the policy making conferences of the Allies, his major effort during the later stages of WW II was that of preparing a blueprint for an international organization dedicated to the maintenance of peace and endowed with sufficient legislative, economic, and military power to achieve it.  Although obliged because of his poor health to resign as Secretary of State in late November 1944, Hull served as a member of and senior adviser to the American delegation to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco in 1945.   He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in establishing the United Nations.  A photo of Hull is seen in Figure 3.

Hull did not possess the oratorical talent, the brilliant charm, or the impressive personality characteristic of the politician who makes his way to the front benches. Tall and lean, almost shy in manner, earnest and sincere in thought and deed, Hull had the power of one who is thoroughly convinced of the rightness of his political and economic policies for peace and justice, is capable of defending them against all comers, and unwearying in his efforts to give them practical form.

I found two interesting pieces of information in which Cordell Hull was associated with Australia.  On 4 October 1938 Hull sent the following cablegram to Mr. J.A. Lyons , Prime Minister of Australia.  It read:

“The President has asked me to tell you how grateful he is for your telegram of September 28 which arrived at a time when we were all doing what we could to contribute toward a peaceful solution of the crisis which was then threatening the peace of Europe.  It is his hope, and he feels assured that is your own, that the principles governing peaceful and orderly international relations and their sound application should continue to have the unstinting support of all Governments and peoples.  The President wishes you to accept his most sincere thanks and the assurances of his highest personal regard and consideration”.   On 5 October Lyons sent a further cablegram to Hull expressing the Australian people’s gratitude for the contribution of the United States to the peaceful solution of the European crisis and reciprocating the President’s good wishes.

In 1944, the then Australian Prime Minister John Curtin was shown with the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull (at right) in Washington DC in April 1944 (Figure 4).

Categories: Political