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Sumner Welles: FDR’s Global Strategist by Benjamin Welles (174,000 words, 13 illustrations)

“Sumner Welles (1892-1961) ranks among the half-dozen most influential American career diplomats of this century. And among high officials brought down by sexual scandal, he has no rivals. This long-awaited biography by his son Benjamin blends an adequate narrative of diplomatic achievement with a candid and painful description of the subject’s alcohol-fueled bisexual excess in an era when unconventional sexual behavior was often a matter of criminal prosecution... As a diplomat and shaper of foreign policy, Welles, like Roosevelt, showed an appreciation of the importance of power, a liberal commitment to the Good Neighbor policy toward Latin America, cautious support for the establishment of the United Nations and a belief that difficult problems with the Soviet Union could be worked out. He wrote and spoke with educated precision and was able to do more work in a day than most people could do in a week... as a candid, sympathetic portrait of a great and tragic figure in a bygone era of aristocratic privilege, the biography succeeds admirably.” — Gaddis Smith,
The New York Times

“An absorbing study of an enigmatic character who for nearly a decade after 1933, as Franklin Roosevelt’s trusted adviser, wielded great influence over American foreign policy... While the author treats convincingly the diplomatic episodes in which his father played a significant role, it is as a study in character that the book makes its most important contribution.” — David C. Hendrickson,
Foreign Affairs

“Affectionate yet scrupulously candid, this biography by his son... is an act of homage.” —
Publishers Weekly

“This is one of the saddest stories of a good soldier that I have ever read. Until 1943, Sumner Welles, an often arrogant patrician who had attended Groton School and Harvard College a decade after Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was one of the most distinguished members of the interwar foreign service, rising to become undersecretary of state in Roosevelt’s administration. He had elaborated the Good Neighbor Policy in the 1930s, which renounced direct U.S. military intervention in the Latin American countries; he wrote the Atlantic Charter, which Roosevelt and Winston Churchill endorsed in 1941 and became the cornerstone of the United Nations. Later he drafted the United Nations charter and supported the creation of Israel as a national homeland for Jews... Unfortunately, scandal destroyed Welles’ career, and he died many years later, broken in spirit and ravaged by alcohol... a compassionate but ruthlessly honest biography... Neither harsh nor apologetic, Benjamin Welles shows a deep understanding of his father’s character” — James Chace,
The Los Angeles Times

“Benjamin Welles has provided a very complete portrait, a significant contribution to scholarship in its own right... “ — Mark Falcoff,
The National Interest

“A fascinating look at a little-remembered contributor to 20th-century history... [Benjamin Welles] is also to be commended for seeing his father’s weaknesses and not pulling punches when discussing them... The political intrigue revealed in this biography alone makes it a gripping tale; the author’s eye for balancing public and private lives nicely clarifies what could have been a murky read.” —

“A detailed and sympathetic portrait that does not disguise the flaws of its subject... Benjamin Welles’s book should stand as the definitive biography for a long time.” — Helen Delpar,
Latin American Research Review

“This is a graceful ‘life and times’ summary as well as a look at the sometimes troubled personal life of an important figure — a personal life that did affect Welles’s public life. A son’s perspective is unique, and anyone examining Welles’s important role in American history will want to begin with an appreciation of that perspective.” — Warren F. Kimball,
The International History Review

“Benjamin Welles has written the best biography and account of Sumner Welles and his diplomatic career... the scope of research is extensive and impressive... the author has conscientiously laid out his father’s painful personal issues — alcoholism, adultery, and homosexuality — which adversely affected Welles’s career and eventually ended... Welles, the author, has written the best account about his father’s diplomatic career... It is full of fresh details and incidents that promote a fuller understanding of U.S. foreign affairs and reveal the depth of State Department internal intrigues. The family anecdotes, many amusing, and the tragic ending of Welles’s career and life make this a memorable and thoughtfully compassionate account of a son’s reconstruction of father’s life.” — John Offner,
The Americas

“The diplomat’s son has done a remarkable job of seeking to present a balanced picture of his father’s service. The book is an important one. I recommend it for all those interested in the diplomacy of World War II and the period immediately preceding the war.” — William C. Spragens,
Presidential Studies Quarterly