Defenders of sovereignty: sixty years ago this month, two insightful senators opposed the plan for world government and defended American sovereignty by voting against the UN Charter.
The war in the Pacific dragged on. Over Japan, 2,000 Allied planes bombed Kure, Kobe, and targets in the Inland Sea. The air strikes sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Amagi, the cruiser Izumo, the light cruiser Oyodo and a destroyer. In retaliation, the Japanese attacked American ships near Okinawa. A Japanese kamikaze flyer hit the American destroyer Callaghan, sinking it.
In New York, a U.S. Army B-25 bomber, lost in the fog, accidentally crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing 14 people.
Two hundred miles further south, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate voted to ratify the United Nations Charter by the lopsided margin of 89 to 2. Later in the year, both houses of Congress agreed to a measure implementing U.S. membership in the UN, and the U.S. has been entangled in the world body ever since.
Four days prior to the critical July 28 vote ratifying the UN Charter, Sen. Burton Wheeler (D-Mont.) had warned his colleagues during the floor debate: "If it is to be contended that if we enter into this treaty we take the power away from the Congress, and the President can send troops all over the world to fight battles anywhere, if it is to be said that that is to be the policy of this country, I say that the American people will never support any Senator or any Representative who advocates such a policy; and make no mistake about it." Wheeler was concerned about Article 43 of the charter, which pledged member nations to "make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security."
Yet, ignoring his own admonition, Sen. Wheeler cast his vote on behalf of the Charter, rationalizing: "I am voting for the ratification of the Charter because of the terrible conditions which exist throughout the world today. I am voting for it, because I do not see any other alternative. I am voting for it with the same hope that every other Member of the Senate has; that it will work out and do some good, although I must confess that I am extremely skeptical as to whether it will accomplish the good which so many people think it will accomplish."
Wheeler and his colleagues were under tremendous pressure to vote yes. The American Establishment was solidly behind the charter, and the propaganda on behalf of its ratification was immense. On June 26, at the conclusion of the San Francisco Conference (the UN's founding meeting), representatives of our government signed the charter and President Harry Truman claimed that it was a declaration of "faith that war is not inevitable."
Thanks to pressure from the White House and an unrelenting pro-UN media propaganda blitz, deliberations in the Senate on this grave matter lasted a mere six days. On July 27, the day before the vote, Truman falsely assured the Senate that any agreements under Article 43 would be sent to Congress for approval.
There were 96 senators in those days, but as already indicated, only two had the courage and wisdom to stand up and denounce the plan for a future world government: Henrik Shipstead (R-Minn.) and William Langer (R-N.D.). *
It is worth examining these two stead fast patriots who were apparently able to see what many of their more short-sighted colleagues were not, and who acted upon their convictions.
Henrik Shipstead was born in Burbank, Minnesota, on January 8, 1881. After graduating from Northwestern University, Chicago, in 1903, Shipstead practiced dentistry in Glenwood, Minnesota. He began his political career as the mayor of Glenwood, and later became active in regional, agrarian politics. In 1917, he served in his state's legislature, but lost subsequent elections for Congress and for governor. He joined the Farmer-Labor party in 1920, and in 1922 Minnesota voters elected him to the Senate.
As a Farmer-Labor senator, Shipstead shared with Minnesota Congressman Charles Lindbergh, Sr., some of the same philosophical makeup. Lindbergh, who had served five terms in the House from 1907-16, was a Progressive Republican and the leading opponent in Congress to the Eastern Establishment wing of the GOP led by Senator Nelson Aldrich--who authored the legislation that created the Federal Reserve System. As such, Shipstead aligned with Western and rural progressives against Eastern financial interests.
On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War II, Shipstead joined Congressman Lindbergh's son, Charles, Jr., the famous aviator, in supporting the anti-war America First Committee. In early 1941, he was one of 31 senators who voted against the Lend Lease Act, which gave President Franklin D. Roosevelt the powers to sell, transfer, exchange, and lend equipment to any country fighting against the Axis powers.
Like Lindbergh and many other patriots who opposed U.S. entry into the war, Shipstead publicly supported the war effort following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The Second World War culminated with the internationalists' call for a world league of nations, this time called the United Nations. The Senate had rejected the League of Nations on November 19, 1919 by a vote of 38-53. Earlier that year, on March 19, leading internationalists of the day met at the Majestic Hotel in Paris to found two organizations--the American Council on Foreign Relations and the British Royal Institute of Inter national Affairs--groups dedicated to forming a world government. Members of the CFR in the Roosevelt State Department such as Sumner Welles were instrumental in forming the United Nations. (See "Framework for World Government" in THE NEW AMERICAN for July 11.)
Coming from a political tradition that distrusted the Eastern internationalists, Henrik Shipstead told his colleagues in the Senate that they were "being lured away from constitutional representative government." On July 27, 1945, the day before the fateful vote, the Minnesotan stated:
It is also held by some Members of Congress that the United States delegate to the [UN's] Executive Council, in ordering out troops, will act independently of the Congress and without its authority, but will be solely under the orders of the President. This view is held by some on the ground that the President is a symbol of sovereignty, and so has the fight to call the Army into war in foreign countries without consulting Congress. It is said that this has been done many times in history. If that doctrine is accepted, the President can take us into war at any time, and the declaration of war by Congress will be simply rubber-stamping the act of the President. Such a doctrine would indicate that many people believe that the Constitution can be changed by customary violations of its limitation of executive power. This, if adhered to, is dangerous doctrine.
... The control of the war power, as provided in the Constitution, must remain in the Congress if the United States is going to remain a republic.
Henrik Shipstead paid greatly for his July 1945 vote against the United Nations Charter: he was defeated in the 1946 Minnesota Republican primary. He would later state that his vote against the UN "did a great deal to defeat me." It was a classic example of what happens when a politician fights a battle without an informed constituency behind him.
William Langer was born September 30, 1886 in Everest township, near Casselton, Dakota Territory. He received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of North Dakota in 1906.
Though he passed the bar at 18, Langer was not allowed to practice law until the age of 21. Therefore, he decided to continue his education at Columbia University in New York City, graduating in 1910 with a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts and valedictorian honors. He turned down an offer to join a prominent New York law firm, and decided to return to North Dakota.
Langer served as Assistant States Attorney until 1914, when he was elected the States Attorney for Morton County. Two years later he was elected North Dakota Attorney General, with endorsements from both the Nonpartisan League and Usher Burdick's Progressive Republicans. (Almost providentially, Burdick, as a U.S. Representative in the 1950s, became the staunchest opponent of the United Nations in the House, introducing a bill to revoke U.S. membership in the UN in 1952.) Langer was reelected as Attorney General in 1918.
On March 23, 1920, Langer announced his candidacy for governor, again being endorsed by Usher Burdick's Progressive Republicans, but lost in a close election. After pursuing his profession in law for more than a decade, Langer was finally elected governor in 1932 as a Non-Partisan League (NPL) candidate. His opponent, incumbent Governor George E Shafer, lost votes by defending the policies of President Herbert Hoover.
In 1934, the North Dakota Supreme Court removed Langer from office, as a result of his being convicted for fundraising improprieties. He remained popular in North Dakota, however, and appealed his conviction. In May 1935, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the original conviction and ordered a new trial. The first trial, for conspiracy, resulted in a hung jury. Another trial for perjury in December found Langer not guilty. A second conspiracy trial, also held in December, again found Langer not guilty.
In 1936, in a close three-person race, Langer was again elected governor, with 36 percent of the vote.
In 1938, the NPL endorsed Langer for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Langer lost that election but ran for North Dakota's other Senate seat in 1940. After gaining the support of the NPL, Langer won both the Republican primary and the general election.
Langer's Senate career was notable for his steadfast defense of U.S. sovereignty and the Constitution. He opposed the Lend-Lease Act, the extension of Selective Service, and the transfer of ships to Great Britain. Though he had opposed U.S. entry into the war, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he voted to approve the declaration of war.
When the Senate was given the UN Charter to ratify, Langer made some firm statements against it. With remarkable perceptiveness, Langer saw through the carefully created illusion that the UN was man's "best last hope for peace." In a speech on July 28, the day of the final vote, he said:
I feel from the bottom of my heart that the adoption of the Charter --and, make sure, we are going to implement it--will mean perpetuating war. I feel that it will mean the enslavement of millions of people from Poland to India, from Korea to Java, as well as people in many other places on this earth.... I feel that the adoption of the Charter will be one step more toward compulsory and military conscription, and all that which goes with war. In my opinion, the Charter is not at all similar to the Constitution of the United States, which was adopted by the Original Colonies.
Langer expressed agreement with a statement Senator Styles Bridges (R-N.H.) made earlier in the day, when Bridges said that "neither Ben Franklin nor the other members of the Constitutional Convention would have tolerated a constitution by which two or three or five of the States were given a veto power over all of the rest." Langer then added:
Mr. President, I say to you and to the other Members of the Senate that, in my judgment, if the Charter had been in effect when the American Revolution took place, France and all other countries who came to help us would not have been able to come, and today we would still be a colony under the rule of England.
Langer also told his colleagues in the Senate that day:
[N]ot having been elected to create an organization to which we would give a promise, either express or implied, that it would have the authority to send our boys all over the earth, I cannot support the Charter. I believe it is fraught with danger to the American people and to American institutions.
In a letter to a constituent, Langer explained that he owed it to U.S. servicemen, who would bear the burden of enforcing UN operations, to vote against the charter.
In his reelection bid in 1946, Langer faced strong opposition in the primary. Joseph B. Bridston, a state senator from Grand Forks, attacked Langer for his vote against the United Nations. However, Langer won the primary by almost 14,000 votes and defeated his Democratic opponent in the election by a two-to-one margin.
During the post-war period, Langer voted against the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), foreign aid to Greece and Turkey, and the Marshall Plan.
Langer ran for reelection in 1952, winning by almost 30,000 votes.
He was reelected again in 1958, carrying every county in North Dakota. He had been seriously ill during that election and made no campaign appearances. He died a year later.
Senators Who Regretted Voting "Yea"
Although Senator Robert Taft voted in favor of the UN Charter in 1945, it is extremely likely that his initial vote to approve the UN Charter was attributable to the hasty manner in which the charter was rushed through the Senate, prohibiting a thorough study of it and its future ramifications. Later on, when he had time to observe the UN in action, Taft would state emphatically: "The United Nations has become a trap. Let's go it alone!"
Democratic Senator Patrick McCarran of Nevada, like Senator Taft, voted to approve the UN Charter. He later lamented: "Until my dying day, I will regret signing the UN Charter."
It is high time that all Americans reexamine our involvement in the web of internationalist entanglements that have hamstrung our foreign (and even domestic) policies for 60 years. In hindsight, it is obvious that Shipstead and Langer were far ahead of their time.
Soviet spy Alger Hiss played a prominent role in the San Francisco Conference. Not only was he the conference's acting secretary general, but as a member of the conference's steering and executive committees, he played a major role in drafting the UN Charter. He also helped to staff the U.S. delegation and was chosen by his peers for the prestigious task of personally transporting the charter to President Harry Truman and to the Senate for ratification. An almost amusing historical footnote is that the original copy of the Charter was given its own parachute on the flight back to Washington even though Hiss, who was carrying it, traveled without one. The implication is that the Establishment internationalists regarded the Communists as expendable pawns in their quests to achieve their own agenda. Of course, in 1945 Alger Hiss' secret life as a Soviet agent had not yet been uncovered.
* A third senator, Hiram Johnson (R-Calif.), announced his opposition. He was not present for the vote and died a few days later.
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|Title Annotation:||Henrik Shipstead, William Langer|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Jul 25, 2005|
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