Henry Cabot Lodge (1850 – 1924)

February 16, 2012

Henry Cabot Lodge was a U.S. Senator, Political Leader and author.

Born in Boston, Henry Cabot Lodge was the only son of John Ellerton Lodge, a wealthy merchant of the China trade, and Anna Cabot, the granddaughter of Federalist George Cabot.  A child full of energy, Henry grew up in Boston and spent his summers at his mother’s family home in Nahant where he later resided as an adult.  His father died in 1862 but he enjoyed a close relationship with his mother until her death in 1900.  He attended Harvard University for both undergraduate and graduate studies, earning his B.A. in 1871, a law degree in 1874 and the first Ph.D. in political science ever to be awarded by Harvard in 1876.  The day after his college graduation in 1871 he married his mother’s cousin Anna “Nannie” Cabot Davis.  Although an average student who graduated in the middle of his class, Lodge early on considered an academic career. 

During his graduate work at Harvard he was an assistant editor of The North American Review.  Lodge wrote several histories and biographies including the Life and Letters of George Cabot (1877), his great-grandfather.  Other biographies and histories followed: Alexander Hamilton (1882), Daniel Webster (1883) and George Washington (1889).

Lodge’s writings often revealed his political leanings.  His interest in history and politics were intermingled and eventually inspired his entrance into a political career.  In 1878 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  Lodge gained a reputation for eloquence, clarity and loyalty to the Republican Party.  After actively participating in a number of Republican campaigns, Lodge was elected to the United States Congress, a position he held for six years from 1886 until 1892.  As an outspoken Congressman, Lodge stirred up many debates.  He strongly supported and pushed legislation involving civil service reform, the protective tariff and African American suffrage.

In 1893, Lodge was elected to the United States Senate. During his 30 years in the Senate he helped to draft a number of new laws including the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and the landmark Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.  Lodge was particularly interested and competent in the field of international affairs.  President Theodore Roosevelt trusted his judgement and relied on him as an advisor.  As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Lodge was involved in the Alaskan Boundary agreement and the Hay-Pauncefote Treaties that allowed U.S. construction and fortification of a Central American Canal. 

Lodge is, however, best known for his opposition of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.  At the end of World War I in 1919, Wilson proposed the League of Nations as a means to secure independence of nations of all sizes and promote international peace.  The League was one of Wilson’s fourteen points and was adopted through the Treaty of Versailles. Lodge, a Republican internationalist, believed that American involvement in the League threatened U.S. sovereignty.  He did not believe that the League would be effective, nor would Americans be willing to risk soldiers’ lives for other nations’ territorial boundaries.  In addition, Lodge feared that a peace settlement made at the same time as the creation of the League of Nations would result in lighter indemnities on Germany.  In March of 1919 Lodge, along with 36 Republican senators, signed and submitted a resolution to Congress objecting to American participation in the League of Nations.  The U.S. Senate never ratified the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. “Lodge’s action gained him at the time warm admiration and bitter resentment in about equal measure.”  As a senator and politician, Lodge was considered to be a great intellect, but at times a ruthless one. He served in the U.S. Senate until 1924.

Lodge and his wife Nannie were the parents of a daughter and two sons.  Tragically their son George Cabot Lodge, known as Bay, a promising poet, died at 35 in 1909.  Lodge paid close attention to his grandchildren and particularly encouraged Bay’s son Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., his namesake, to follow his lead. Lodge’s wife died suddenly in 1915 and his death came following an operation in 1924.

Lodge is buried in the family tomb built by his mother, Lot 3613 Oxalis Path.  This brownstone tomb is the resting place of three U.S. Senators: Henry Cabot Lodge; his great-grandfather George Cabot (1752-1823); and his grandson Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1902-1985), who was indeed inspired by his grandfather.

Cabot Lodge Family Tomb

Adapted from the research of Amanda Yost as published in Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Person of the Week: Henry Cabot Lodge, 2003.


Portrait of Henry Cabot Lodge: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing, [LC-DIG-hec-16581]

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