The Vandenberg Republicans

On January 10, 1945, Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, a prominent Republican who had a history of opposition to the New Deal as well as being an outspoken non-interventionist, delivered a speech that became known as “The Speech Heard ‘Round the World”. In this speech, he announced his conversion to internationalism, holding that “Our oceans have ceased to be moats which automatically protect our ramparts. Flesh and blood now compete unequally with winged steel. War has become an all-consuming juggernaut. If World War III ever unhappily arrives, it will open new laboratories of death too horrible to contemplate. I propose to do everything within my power to keep those laboratories closed for keeps. I want maximum American cooperation, consistent with legitimate American self-interest, with constitutional process and with collateral events which warrant it, to make the basic idea of Dumbarton Oaks succeed” (Vandenberg, 603). ith this speech, a post-war internationalist foreign policy became bipartisan. Although there were some partisan divisions on details such as funding levels, the overall orientation of American postwar foreign policy was agreed to.

Following Vandenberg in this transformation in the Senate were Clyde Reed and Arthur Capper of Kansas, Charles Tobey of New Hampshire, George Aiken of Vermont, and Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin. Some of the folks in the House who followed included the whole Republican leadership in Joe Martin of Massachusetts, Charles Halleck of Indiana, and Les Arends of Illinois. Another notable convert was John M. Vorys of Ohio, who had been known as a formidable non-interventionist debater. He was highly influential and could sway many Republican votes. Future Senate party leaders Everett Dirksen of Illinois and Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania were among the Vandenberg Republicans as well. These people, who had previously opposed measures such as eliminating the arms embargo in 1939, Lend-Lease in 1941, and permitting U.S. merchant ships to enter belligerent ports, were now supporting the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Interestingly, although Robert Taft of Ohio was not as enthusiastic as other former non-interventionists, he nonetheless voted for these two measures but with reluctance.

Below are the votes I have used for the House and the Senate, respectively, to illustrate the change.


Vandenberg, A.H. American Foreign Policy. (1945, January 10). U.S. Senate, 599-605.

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3 thoughts on “The Vandenberg Republicans

  1. One Of Your TEXAS Legends Senator Tom Connally Was A Partner In Instituting A Bipartisan Foreign Policy. Perhaps A Bit Too Internationalist/Interventionist. We Are Paying A Price For ALL These Undeclared No-Win Wars! Not Certain I Should Blame THEM
    Your Thoughts? Merry Christmas From Dave IN TEXAS. Stay Warm…

    1. Connally was an internationalist, but he did good with the Connally Amendment, in which the United States gets to decide how subject they are to the World Court. I regard this as an important protection for national sovereignty. Without it, during the Cold War we could have been subjected to repeated malicious prosecutions initiated by the USSR.

  2. Was Hoping You Had One More Story For The Yule Log! This Is Fun. You Are A Great Historian. Merry Christmas, Mike. Thanks From Dave IN TEXAS.

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