In This Review

Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull, and Sumner Welles
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull, and Sumner Welles
By Irwin F. Gellman
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, 499 pp.

This work probes the relationship among three men who played the principal role in American foreign policy before and during the Second World War. Its centerpiece is the feud that developed between Welles, "the most important undersecretary of state in the twentieth century," and Hull, who came increasingly to resent Welles' importance. The liaisons with black male train porters that Welles wished to consummate, when drunk, and the incapacity produced by Hull's tuberculosis are the two closely guarded secrets Gellman explores. Hull emerges in a thoroughly unflattering light, a handsome gramophone endlessly playing the same old song ("free trade equals international peace") but good for not much else. When he did succeed in forcing Welles' resignation in 1943, it opened up a void in the State Department that Hull was incapable of filling. Though there is much original material on internecine State Department struggles, Gellman's treatment of Roosevelt's diplomacy is perfunctory and unenlightening. Despite all the biographical detail, moreover, the characters remain wooden, their psychological portraits too often drawn by a compilation of the nasty comments of their enemies, and obscured by the author's censorious tone.