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The long-anticipated memoirs of Cordell Hull, Secretary of State during momentous years, will prove to be not only of immediate interest, but of permanent value as an integral part of the record of our times. Only a very small part of the text- which will run to some 1500 pages- has appeared in newspapers- and the excerpts, while high-spotting salient features, fail to give the sense of history unfolding that one gets in reading the complete text. It is inevitably a long and at times a tedious book; but it has restraint, objectivity, frankness -- and it tells a close-up of events on which speculation has too often played. The story briefly sketches his early years, from a childhood in the mountains of Tennessee, through his career as a rising lawyer, solider, congressman- fighting the cause of lower tariffs, which later was to bear fruit in his achievement with reciprocal trade agreement -- and finally, his twelve years as Secretary of State under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The early part of those years brings home forcibly the terrific problem of the extremes of our isolationism, the difficulties of building public confidence in our participation in world affairs, the creation of the Good Neighbor policy which brought its own reward in the solidity of hemisphere participation-Argentine alone standing out -- when war came, the changing pattern in the Far East. During those years his devotion to and admiration for Roosevelt grew to where- with his death- Hull could declare him as one of the greatest of social reformers of modern history, outstanding as Commander in Chief, unrivalled in political skill. Their relationship was a close one, though- during the years of war, they differed as to the contribution the State Department should make to military decisions. Now and again they differed; occasionally Roosevelt failed to back him, as with the London Conference, but Hull assesses the reasons dispassionately. On major issues of policy, often difficult ones (as in the Vichy France and later the De Gaulle problems, in the decision to hold for basic principles with Japan, in Spain, Ethiopia, in relations with neutrals, in repeated stands with Russia on expansion, on Poland, the Baltic countries, etc.) Roosevelt and Hull saw eye to eye. Hull disagreed with the Morgenthau Plan; he disapproved of the Unconditional Surrender position -- but always he presents both sides without venom. There is little of anger in the book- little of personalities. The recurrent crises created by Sumner Welles going over his head, acting independently, are given as just cause for Welles' resignation, and retirement from active participation. Much that is already half-forgotten history is brought into its due relation with the more dramatic events. An interesting picture emerges of how two great countries- England and the U.S.A.- and two great leaders- Churchill and Roosevelt- could differ, oppose each other, compromise, and work together for the greater good, despite their differences. There is much that is clarifying- rather than newsworthy- much that is revealing. The book lacks the style that made the Byrnes' book easy reading. But it is bound to get a tremendous press, and to make for itself a permanent place in the record.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1948
Publisher: Macmillan