About William Christian Bullitt, Jr.
William Christian Bullitt, Jr. (January 25, 1891 – February 15, 1967) was an American diplomat, journalist, and novelist. Although in his youth he was considered something of a radical, he later became an outspoken anticommunist and anti-Semitic.
Bullitt was born to a well-to-do old Philadelphia family. His father was William Christian Bullitt, Sr., and his grandfather was John Christian Bullitt, founder of the law firm today known as Drinker Biddle & Reath. He graduated from Yale University in 1913, after having been voted "most brilliant" in his class. He briefly attended Harvard Law School but dropped out on the death of his father in 1914. At Yale he was a member of Scroll and Key.
He married socialite Aimee Ernesta Drinker in 1916. She gave birth to a son in 1917, but the baby died after two days. They divorced in 1923. In 1924 he married Louise Bryant, widow of radical journalist John Reed. They divorced in 1930 after he discovered her affair with English sculptor Gwen Le Gallienne. In 1924, the Bullitts had a daughter, Anne Moen Bullitt, who in 1967 married U.S. Senator Daniel Brewster as her fourth husband.
Bullitt became a foreign correspondent in Europe and later a novelist. In 1926, he published It's Not Done, a satirical novel that the New York Times described as "a novel of ideas, whose limitation is that it is a volley, a propaganda novel, directed against a single institution, the American aristocratic ideal, and whose defect is that the smoke does not quite clear away so that one can accurately count the corpses."
Working for Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference, in 1919, Bullitt was a strong supporter of legalistic internationalism, subsequently known as Wilsonianism. Prior to the negotiation of the Versailles accords, Bullitt, along with journalist Lincoln Steffens and Swedish Communist Karl Kilbom, undertook a special mission to Soviet Russia to negotiate diplomatic relations between the US and the Bolshevik regime. Having failed to convince Wilson to support the establishment of relations with the Bolshevik government, Bullitt resigned from Wilson's staff.
He later returned to the United States and testified in the Senate against the Treaty of Versailles and had his report of his Russian trip placed into the record.
First US ambassador to the Soviet Union
Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Bullitt the first US ambassador to the Soviet Union, a post that he filled from 1933 to 1936. At the time of his appointment, Bullitt was known as a liberal and thought by some to be something of a radical. The Soviets welcomed him as an old friend because of his diplomatic efforts at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Though Bullitt arrived in the Soviet Union with high hopes for Soviet-American relations, his view of the Soviet leadership soured on closer inspection. By the end of his tenure he was openly hostile to the Soviet government. He remained an outspoken anticommunist for the rest of his life.
The Spring Ball of the Full Moon
On April 24, 1935, he hosted a Spring Festival at Spaso House, his official residence. He instructed his staff to create an event that would surpass every other Embassy party in Moscow's history. The decorations included a forest of ten young birch trees in the chandelier room, a dining room table covered with Finnish tulips, a lawn made of chicory grown on wet felt; an aviary made from fishnet filled with pheasants, parakeets, and one hundred zebra finches, on loan from the Moscow Zoo; and a menagerie of several mountain goats, a dozen white roosters, and a baby bear.
The four hundred guests included Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov and Defense Minister Kliment Voroshilov; Communist Party luminaries Nikolai Bukharin, Lazar Kaganovich, and Karl Radek; Soviet Marshals Alexander Yegorov, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, and Semyon Budyonny; and the writer Mikhail Bulgakov.
The festival lasted until the early hours of the morning. The bear became drunk on champagne given to him by Karl Radek, and in the early morning hours the zebra finches escaped from the aviary and perched below the ceilings around the house. Bulgakov described the party as "The Spring Ball of the Full Moon" in his novel The Master and Margarita. On October 29, 2010, Ambassador John Beyrle recreated Bullitt's ball with his own Enchanted Ball, dedicated to Bullitt and Bulgakov.
Ambassador to France
Bullitt was posted to France in October 1936 as Ambassador. Fluent in French and an ardent Francophile, Bullitt became established in Paris society and rented a château at Chantilly. He owned at least 18,000 bottles of French wine. As a close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with whom he had daily telephone conversations, Bullitt was widely regarded as Roosevelt's personal envoy to France, and as such was a man much courted by French politicians. Bullitt was especially close to Léon Blum and Édouard Daladier, and had cordial but not friendly relations with Georges Bonnet. Historians have criticized Bullitt for being too influenced by the last person to whom he spoke and for including too much gossip in his dispatches to Washington.
On September 4, 1938 in the midst of the great crisis in Europe that was to culminate in the Munich Agreement, during the unveiling of a plaque in France honoring Franco-American friendship, Bullitt stated that "France and the United States were united in war and peace", leading to much speculation in the press that if war did break over Czechoslovakia, the United States would join the war on the Allied side. On September 9, 1938, Roosevelt denied that the US would fight on the Allied side in the event that war broke out over Czechoslovakia.
In 1939 Prime Minister Édouard Daladier informed him French intelligence knew that Alger Hiss in the United States Department of State was working for Soviet intelligence. Bullitt passed the information along to Hiss's superior at the State Department.
After the German invasion of France in 1940, Bullitt fell out with Roosevelt. Bullitt insisted on remaining in Paris as the only ambassador of a major nation left when the Germans marched in. This angered Roosevelt, who believed Bullitt should have followed the French government to Bordeaux to look after US interests. Once thought of as a potential cabinet member, he found his career blocked.
Campaign against Sumner Welles
In the late 1930s, the State Department was divided by rivalry between Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Undersecretary Sumner Welles, who was Roosevelt's favorite. Bullitt, who disliked Welles, was allied with Hull and Department Counselor R. Walton Moore.
In September 1940, Welles, while drunk, made homosexual propositions to a pair of railroad porters. Bullitt learned of this incident through Moore, who at his death passed affidavits sworn by the propositioned porters to Bullitt. Bullitt used this information to campaign for Welles's resignation. Roosevelt long resisted taking any action against Welles. Elliot Roosevelt later wrote that his father believed that Bullitt had bribed the porters to make overtures to Welles to entrap him.
On April 23, 1941, Bullitt confronted the President with his evidence, but Roosevelt refused to yield to Bullitt's demands and dismissed him from any further significant duties with the State Department. At one point, he suggested to Hull that Bullitt should be appointed Ambassador to Liberia, one of the worst postings in the Foreign Service. In 1942, Bullitt pushed the story to Vice President Henry A. Wallace and to Secretary Hull. Roosevelt told Wallace that Bullitt ought to "burn in hell" for what he was saying about Welles. In early 1943, Hull began to demand Welles' removal. Bullitt now informed Senator Owen Brewster, a Republican, a strong opponent of Roosevelt. Brewster threatened a senatorial inquiry. The potential scandal forced Roosevelt to act, and on September 30, 1943, Welles resigned. Roosevelt remained very angry with Bullitt and refused to give Bullitt any government post.
Denied a commission in the US Armed Forces by Roosevelt, Bullitt joined the Free French Forces. Roosevelt suggested to Bullitt to run for Mayor of Philadelphia as a Democrat in 1943, but Roosevelt secretly told the Democratic leaders there "Cut his throat." Bullitt was defeated.
Between 1941 and 1945 Bullitt wrote volumes of stories and social commentary on the dangers of fascism and Communism. In the post-war years he became a militant anticommunist.
In the August 24, 1954 issue of Look, in his article "Should We Support an Attack on Red China?", he proposed an immediate attack on Communist China and asserted that the United States should "reply to the next Communist aggression by dropping bombs on the Soviet Union."
Bullitt died in Neuilly, France on February 15, 1967, and is buried in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Co-author with Freud
Bullitt was psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna in the 1920s.The patient and the analyst became such good friends that they decided to write a book together, a psycho-biographical study of Woodrow Wilson. This was quite exceptional, as Freud very rarely co-operated with other authors. The book, first published in Europe in the 1930s did not appear until 1967 in the US. When it did, many psychoanalysts doubted that Freud had had much to do with it, though Freud was in fact an active co-author. The book received an almost unanimously hostile reception. Historian A.J.P. Taylor called it a "disgrace" and asked: "How did anyone ever manage to take Freud seriously?"
Freud's view of Wilson was that of a naive American politician whose foreign policy ideas were driven by religious fanaticism. Bullitt had been dismissed by Wilson, late in the battle for the League of Nations, and Bullitt never forgave the slight. It is not clear how much of the book was really written by Bullitt, as he was skilled in several languages, while Freud wrote only in German and had died by the time it was published. Several references attributed to Freud are uniquely American, such as his introduction in which he compared Wilson's naiveté to Christian Science.
Foreign policy The Bullitt Mission to Russia (New York: Huebsch, 1919)
The Great Globe Itself (New York: Scribner's, 1946)
Biography Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1967), with Sigmund Freud
Novel It's Not Done (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1926)