CLARK: WORLD PEACE THROUGH WORLD LAW 1882-1967
by J. Garry Clifford,
Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut,
was a tall, strong-framed man, with a rugged face, jutting eyebrows,
and a great square jaw. He was the personification of tenacity,
but his eyes were known to twinkle and his measured voice often
chuckled. New Englander by temperament, aristocrat by birth, Harvardian
by education, lawyer by profession, and citizen by vocation, Grenville
Clark was perhaps the least-known of the Americans who helped
shape the course of the Twentieth Century. "He is that rare thing
in America," his close friend Felix Frankfurter once wrote, "a
man of independence, financially and politically, who devotes
himself as hard to public affairs as a private citizen as he would
were he in public office." The historian Elting E. Morison summed
Clark up as one who "appeared, in critical or confusing times,
as a lobby for particular impulses of the national conscience."
His work spanned war and peace, education, politics, and the law,
and he well deserved the title "statesman incognito."
He was born in New York City
in 1882, heir to a banking and railroad fortune. Educated
at Pomfret and Harvard (where he was Phi Beta Kappa and a
Law School graduate, Class of 1906), he married in 1909 the
former Fanny Dwight of Boston. He was a member of the ultra-exclusive
Porcellian, Somerset, and Knickerbocker Clubs; Clark had impeccable
"establishment" credentials. In 1909 he and fellow law school
classmates Francis W. Bird and Elihu Root, Jr. set up a small
law office in New York at 31 Nassau Street, and within a few
years the firm had grown into one of the largest and most
prestigious in the country, especially noted for the many
bright young lawyers it trained and passed on to positions
Corporation of Harvard University, circa 1945. Front,
left to right: Dr. Roger I. Lee, Grenville Clark, President
James B. Conant. Rear, left to right: Paul Cabot, Charles
A. Coolidge, William L. Marbury, Henry L. Shattuck.
1931 the Wall Street lawyer was elected to the seven man Corporation
that governs Harvard University, thus accentuating his "elitist"
image. Nonetheless, Brahmin ties and Wall Street connections
did not mold Grenville Clark. Money and bloodlines did not corrupt.
There was something about him, an independence of spirit, a
dogged curiosity, a supreme indifference to ignorant criticism,
that made him a unique member of the "establishment."
Perhaps the most interesting thing
about Clark was the quiet and unobtrusive manner in which he conducted
his public activities. He was given the epithet "statesman incognito,"
because he was virtually unknown to the general public but known
very well to a few thousand persons of large influence in national
affairs. This was the way Clark wanted it. Caring nothing for
publicity, he took pride in his role as an independent critic,
free to suggest solutions whenever the need arose. So concerned
was he about preserving this independent status that when he went
to Washington for a few months in the autumn of 1941, as a special
assistant to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, he refused the
nominal "dollar-a-year" salary.
Clark during WWI, Washington, D.C.
His public services were many and
varied. His first important undertaking involved the famous military
training camps for business and professional men at Plattsburg,
New York. It was Clark and several of his New York friends who
first approached General Leonard Wood, after the sinking of the
Lusitania in 1915, setting in motion a practical campaign
to prepare the country for war with Germany. Out of these training
camps came the idea of selective service in 1917, as well as some
one hundred thousand officers who led the National Army into battle
While General Wood stood larger
in the public spotlight and aroused popular support for the
training camps, it was Clark who directed the movement, always
taking care not to antagonize the Democratic Wilson administration
and making sure that Wood's political ambitions would not
wreck their efforts.
After the war (in which Clark
won the Distinguished Service Medal for his work in the Adjutant
General's office), he returned to his Wall Street law practice.
He worked hard at the law during the 1920s, so hard that in
1926 he suffered a breakdown from nervous exhaustion. These
problems with his health remained for the rest of his life,
forcing him to curtail much of his legal work and devote himself
to the more flexible demands of public service.
to concentrate on public work crystallized in 1931 when Clark
joined the Harvard Corporation. That same year he and Archibald
Roosevelt organized the National Economy League, which for the
next several years worked toward balancing the federal budget.
Since many officers of the National Economy League were former
Plattsburgers who supported the principle of a citizen's military
obligation in wartime, it was interesting that they focused
their economic demands on what they believed were overgenerous
veterans' compensations, which at that time totalled more than
a billion dollars, almost half the federal budget. As a director
of the National Economy League, Clark obtained the ear of his
old friend and Harvard contemporary, President-elect Franklin
D. Roosevelt, and drafted what later became the Economy Act
of 1933, one of the first measures of the so-called "Hundred
Clark was a
watchful critic of the public scene during the 1930s. He supported
the New Deal and voted for FDR in both 1932 and 1936. Indeed,
there is a symbolic photograph of Clark and Roosevelt at the
Harvard tercentenary celebration in 1936, both men in formal
attire, sitting in the rain, apart from the rest of the crowd.
in the rain." Harvard Tercentenary celebration, September
19, 1936. Franklin D. Roosevelt & Grenville Clark.
Clark may well have been the
only member of the Harvard Corporation to have voted for Roosevelt
in 1936. They broke, however, over the court-packing plan
in 1937, when Clark and Charles C. Burlingham organized a
national committee of lawyers, all of whom had voted for Roosevelt
in 1936, that opposed any attempt to alter the Supreme Court.
Clark later expressed doubt that his lobbying attempts had
"changed any votes," but certainly support from his committee
gave moral solidarity to many wavering Senators and Congressmen.
1930s also saw Clark take a deep and abiding interest in civil
rights, particularly those treated by the first ten amendments
to the U.S. Constitution. He became concerned, as a member
of the Harvard Corporation, when a controversy arose over
"teacher oaths" in Massachusetts. He became Harvard's spokesman
on matters of academic freedom, a role in which he served
throughout his tenure on the Corporation.
interest, Clark went to the conservative leadership of the American
Bar Association in 1938 and persuaded President Frank Hogan
to create an ABA Committee of the Bill of Rights. Clark served
as chairman of this committee for the next two years, and he
was responsible for its intervention in two landmark cases:
Hague vs. CIO and Minersville School District vs.
Gobitis. It was Clark's belief during these years that civil
rights had become identified too readily with "radicals" and
"liberals," and that "conservatives" had just as much reason
as anyone to give staunch support to the Bill of Rights. In
later years, one should note, Clark stopped referring to himself
as a "conservative," precisely because of lax attitudes toward
civil rights on the part of others of "conservative" stamp.
Clark in Dublin, New Hampshire,
The coming of World War II prompted
Clark to bring about a full-scale revival of the Plattsburg
movement. Gathering together his aging associates of the previous
war, Clark formed, in the spring of 1940, a National Emergency
Committee of the Military Training Camps Association, and
in the next three months he proceeded to write, publicize,
and accomplish the passage of the Selective Training and Service
Act of September 1940. It was the first peacetime draft in
American History. In characteristic fashion, Clark facilitated
his campaign for conscription by persuading Felix Frankfurter,
who in turn persuaded President Roosevelt, to appoint Henry
L. Stimson as Secretary of War. Stimson, an old Plattsburger
himself, followed Clark's advice implicitly throughout that
summer of 1940, and in the next five years he became the one
"man in government" whom Clark could count on for advice and
war years saw Clark actively involved in several efforts to
"Beat Hitler" quickly, the emergency training of officers,
extension of selective service, and a national service law
which would apply to civilians at home, as well as soliders.
This last objective Clark did not achieve. Nonetheless, his
contribution to the war effort was as great as that of any
private citizen, and, characteristically, it went unrecognized
by the general public.
World War II
was also a time when Clark thought about peace. Indeed, as soon
as the German Wehrmacht crunched into Poland in September 1939,
Clark began to theorize about ways and means of organizing a
world at peace under law. His initial effort was a pamphlet
entitled A Federation of Free Peoples, and he put the
matter aside as the campaign for American intervention picked
up steam in 1940 and 1941. He came back to the question of the
"peace" in 1944 when Secretary Stimson told him to "go home
and prevent World War III."
The result was
Clark's most important public undertaking, namely, the quest
for world government. It began with detailed criticism of the
United Nations Organization as outlined at the Dunbarton Oaks
and San Francisco Conferences. Then came the Dublin Conference
of October 1945, organized and hosted by Clark and former Justice
Owen Roberts. For the next several years the retired Wall Street
lawyer served as an elder statesman and unofficial leader of
the United World Federalists. He wrote books and gave speeches.
His collaboration with Harvard Professor Louis B. Sohn began
during this period, an association that culminated in 1958 in
the magisterial treatise World Peace through World Law.
Clark was during these years
no ivory tower visionary with propositions for millennia and
timetables for salvation. He still sought to influence those
former friends and associates close to the seats of power
in Washington. Thus did he cultivate the friendship of individuals
such as Adlai Stevenson, John J. McCloy, Joseph S. Clark,
Ralph Flanders, John Foster Dulles, Averell Harriman, Fredrick
Eaton, and Dean Acheson during the years after 1945. Unsuccessful
in reversing the momentum of the Cold War, Clark nonetheless
enjoyed moderate influence and sometimes added his weight
to important decisions. His phone calls to John McCloy during
the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his contacts with the Vatican
which led to Pope Paul's visit to the United States in 1965
are two cases in point. Indeed, scholars researching Clark's
role as an elder statesman will probably see a dualism: on
the one hand, a theorist pointing the way toward disarmament
and a world under law; on the other hand, a realistic critic,
well aware that government and institutions bend only slowly,
trying mightily to influence politics in a practical way.
Clark and Fanny Dwight Clark. "Just Married"
Civil rights also occupied Clark's
time and energies after 1945. His role as spokesman for academic
freedom resulted in 1949 in perhaps his greatest service to
Harvard when President Conant called upon him to explain to
Frank B. Ober, a wealthy alumnus, why Harvard could not discharge
professors who held unpopular political views. Clark was an
outspoken critic of Senator McCarthy in the 1950s, and he
became involved in the celebrated case of Dr. Willard Uphaus,
a Christian pacifist who was jailed for contempt of court
when he refused to "name names" to the Attorney General of
New Hampshire. Clark's efforts were responsible for obtaining
Uphaus' release in 1960.
Nor did Clark confine
himself to free speech. So distressed was he by the plight
of Negroes in the South, and perhaps a bit guilty about his
own previous lack of involvement, Clark personally raised
some $80,000 in bail money for defendants in the Montgomery
and Birmingham "freedom ride" cases in the early 1960s. This
effort led to the so-called "Clark Plan" for guaranteeing
legal expenses for defendants in civil rights cases, as well
as a personal bequest of $500,000 from Clark and his wife
to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Negro rights were a cause
that Clark came to late in life, but characteristically he
devoted full energy to it.
Clark's last years
were difficult. His beloved wife, Fanny, died very painfully
after more than fifty years of a happy marriage. His own health,
never robust, deteriorated. The world situation, for a time
bright and hopeful in response to the vigor and rhetoric of
President Kennedy, became dominated by Vietnam, missile crises,
and overwhelming armament burdens. At home, the cause of civil
rights made headway too slowly. Yet Clark was a congenital
optimist. He simply could not believe that mankind would be
so stupid as to blow itself up. He believed in the ability
of men to educate themselves to practical necessities. His
favorite quotation was from Abraham Lincoln: "The people will
save the government if the government itself will do its part
only indifferently well."
So he continued to work. He
tried personally to visit The People's Republic of China,
and v ery nearly made
it with the help of Edgar Snow. When the Missile Crisis in
1962 failed to galvanize the United States and the Soviet
Union toward real and lasting disarmament, he thought in terms
of long-range education. The World Law Fund, which he endowed
with some $750,000, would begin this process of long-range
education. And he continued to hope; perhaps his example as
a private citizen seeking to effect change for national and
international welfare would stimulate others. Several times
his friends nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He did
not win, but he deserved the award.