Monday, October 10, 2011

Howard Burris' Mentor, Thomas K. Finletter

Air Force Secretary Thomas Knight Finletter, born in Philadelphia in 1893, was slightly younger than Howard L. Burris' own father, and he had already had quite an impressive career by the time Burris became his aide in 1953.

After receiving a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Finletter had joined the 312th Field Artillery as a captain during WWI, after which he became an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and also New York; first employed by Cravath and Henderson (forerunner of Cravath, Swaine and Moore--law firm of John J. McCloy). He spent the remainder of his legal career as partner in the international law firm, Coudert Brothers, and would have represented some of the firm's major clients during the period from 1926-1941:
Coudert Brothers' expertise in international law brought new challenges during World War I. For example, it represented the French government when it arranged in 1915 to borrow $500 million from private U.S. banks. The firm also helped the Russian and Italian governments as they sought to purchase U.S. supplies and weapons after they joined the Allied nations in their fight against Germany and the other Central Powers. Meanwhile, Coudert Brothers attorneys consulted with President Woodrow Wilson on how to deal with the Mexican Revolution.
In the 1920s Coudert Brothers and Coudert Frères, the Paris practice, both prospered. As more American elites moved to Paris, Coudert Frères represented various Guggenheims, Vanderbilts, and other prominent individuals regarding their wills and estates. American firms such as General Motors, Western Electric, Du Pont, Frigidaire, 3M, and ITT established French operations with the counsel of Coudert Frères. Meanwhile, the New York office benefited from plenty of estate work, litigation, and representation of U.S. subsidiaries of French companies. By 1929 Coudert Brothers had 11 partners, mostly young men in their 30s. Although Coudert Brothers did well in the 1920s, big New York law firms such as Sullivan and Cromwell, White and Case, and the Cravath firm grew much faster and larger. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Coudert Brothers' earnings declined significantly, but the firm remained profitable. Like some other law firms, it represented the increased number of firms declaring bankruptcy. And it also represented new clients in the entertainment and movie industry as it grew in the 1930s. For example, Coudert Brothers successfully defended comedian W.C. Fields when he was accused of torturing his canary in one of his acts. The firm's corporate practice grew slowly, with clients such as Banca Commerciale Italiana and the Buckley family's oil and gas firms. As war approached in Europe in the late 1930s, Coudert Brothers represented France in its purchase of American airplanes and engines. Many of those planes did not reach France before it was invaded by Germany; they ended up being used by the British in the Battle of Britain. In any case, those purchases stimulated the U.S. aircraft industry, which helped the United States once it joined the Allies after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Finletter ostensibly left Coudert (to which he repeatedly returned) to become a special assistant to FDR's Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who was called "the Father of the United Nations." At the conclusion of World War II, Finletter returned to Coudert but was appointed in 1945 to serve as consultant to the U.S. Delegation in San Francisco which set up the United Nations. President Truman appointed him Chairman of the President's Air Policy Commission from 1947-1948, then Minister in charge of the Economic Cooperation Administration Mission to the United Kingdom, 1948-1949, and finally Secretary of the Air Force, 1950-1953.

In his 1972 oral history interview Finletter stated that he had been:
assigned the responsibility of going to the San Francisco Conference which set up the United Nations. Then I returned to my practice of the law. In 1948 I was Chairman of the Air Policy Commission which rendered a report as of December 31, 1948, to President Truman on air policy. I was Secretary of the Air Force under President Truman from 1950 to 1953, when his term ended. I then developed a rather keen interest in politics and especially in the career of Adlai Stevenson, who ran for the Presidency on two occasions in the following years. In both cases he was defeated, much to my regret. After the second defeat of Mr. Stevenson and the election of Mr. Kennedy as President of the United States, President Kennedy named me Ambassador to NATO, where I served until July 14, 1965. I then returned to the practice of the law in my firm, Coudert Brothers, in New York City where I stayed for several years and then retired from that firm.
Several men who would almost certainly have had an impact on Finletter's outlook jump out at us from the above brief biography of his career.
  • Cord Meyer, Jr.
From page 350, Baratta

Cord Meyer's admirers included Finletter as well as Grenville Clark, an attorney whose family was explored in this blog a few months earlier. Clark's parents had a family relationship to the first wife of the man responsible for getting Frank Wisner his first job on Wall Street--Franklin Lord. Although complicated, the details set out in the articles in the above links paint a portrait of the society men and women who were in control of the intelligence agencies that operated in America leading up to the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. Both Cord Meyer and Frank Wisner played significant roles within that establishment, as did Howard Lay Burris' boss, Thomas K. Finletter. It was an establishment of Democrats, some say liberal Democrats, which set up an internationalist vision founded upon an earlier Democrat's failed attempt to set up a League of Nations following WWI.

Understanding how that liberal outlook led to such a fiasco requires researchers to follow the money behind the men who first set up the networks that supported Americans' international trade networks--the rope that tied it all together.
  • John J. McCloy
Also born in Philadelphia, McCloy had a lower middle-class background but would become wealthy and associated with men of wealthy during his life. In the 1950s, McCloy was chairman of the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), of which Finletter was also a member. They, as well as Cord Meyer had a world federalist outlook. Grenville Clark of the firm Root Clark Buckner and Ballantine--partner of the late Secretary of State Elihu Root--one-time chairman of the American Bar association committee on civil liberties, and also one of the main organizers of World Federalists and the United Nations. McCloy worked for European Union as High Commissioner of Germany and as a friend of  French counterpart, Jean Monnet.

World Federal Government
Back in 1939, Clarence K. Streit announced a plan for world union of democratic nations in a talk at Swarthmore College. "Union Now" was the name given to the proposal. Outbreak of war blocked promotion of the plan, and centered Streit's efforts on "Union Now With Britain". Today an organization known as United World Federalists, Inc., is making an impression with the proposals "For World Government with Powers Limited but Adequate to Assure Peace". More than 700 separate chapters of United World Federalists have been organized. There is one in Swarthmore under chairmanship of Willard P. Tomlinson.

Alan Cranston, former newspaperman, is president of UWF, and Cord Meyer, jr., is chairman of the executive committee. Vice-presidents include Cass Canfield, of Harper and Brothers, publishers; Grenville Clark, lawyer; Norman Cousins editor, Saturday Review of Literature; Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, former minister to Norway; W. T. Holliday, chairman of the board, Standard Oil of Ohio; Robert Lee Humber, Raymond Swing, radio commentator, Carl Van Doren, author, and Federal Judge Robert N. Wilkin. 

As a "Statement of Beliefs," World Federalists declare:
"We believe that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of justice, of law, of order—in short, of government, and the institutions of government; that world peace can be created and maintained only under a world federal government, universal and strong enough to prevent armed conflict between nations, and having direct jurisdiction over the individual in those matters within its authority."
In its "Statement of Purposes," World Federalists are working to create world federal government with authority to enact, interpret and enforce world law adequate to insure peace:

  1. By urging use of the amendment processes of the United Nations to transform it into such a world federal government; 
  2. By participating in unofficial international conferences of private individuals, parliamentary or other groups seeking to produce draft constitutions for consideration and possible adoption by the United Nations or by national governments in accordance with their respective constitutional processes; 
  3. By pursuing any other reasonable and lawful means to achieve world federation.

Biggest hurdle it has to overcome is the reluctance to have the United States give up any of its precious sovereignty. This same hurdle is faced in other nations. Alternative, the UWF contends, is another world war, eventually. Proposals of the United World Federalists are worthy of study and consideration by everyone interested in world order and peace.

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