Henry L. Stimson

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Henry L. Stimson

Henry Lewis Stimson (September 21, 1867October 20, 1950) was an American statesman.


Early Life

Stimson was born in New York City to a socially respectable, but not wealthy, family of old colonial derivation. His grandfather was a stockbroker and his father was a doctor.

Stimson attended a boarding school, Philips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, which always afterwards had a special place in his heart and at which there is now a dorm named for him. At Yale University he was a member of Skull and Bones and graduated in 1888.

During these years he met and fell in love with Mabel Wellington White. They were not married until five years later when he established himself in a profession. They were fated to have no children, but it was a very long and happy marriage.

After graduate work and law school at Harvard, he entered the law firm headed by Elihu Root in 1891 and two years later became a partner.

US Attorney For the Southern District of New York

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Here he made a distinguished record prosecuting antitrust cases. Stimson was defeated as Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1910.

Secretary of War in the Taft Administration

Stimson was appointed Secretary of War in 1911 under President William Howard Taft. He continued the reorganization of the Army begun by Elihu Root, improving its efficiency prior to its vast expansion in World War I.

World War I

Following the outbreak of war, he was a leader in the American effort to aid the stricken people of Belgium. After the United States became a belligerent, he served in France as an artillery officer, reaching the rank of Colonel in August 1918.

The Law, Nicaragua and the Philippines

In 1927, Stimson was sent by President Calvin Coolidge to Nicaragua for civil negotiations. Stimson wrote that Nicaraguans "were not fitted for the responsibilities that go with independence and still less fitted for popular self-government." Later, after he was appointed Governor-General of the Philippines (succeeding General Leonard Wood), an office he held from 1927 to 1929, he opposed Filipino independence for the same reason.

Secretary of State 1929 to 1933

From 1929 to 1933 he served as Secretary of State under President Herbert Hoover. In 1929 he shut down MI8, the State Department's cryptanalytic office, saying, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." (He later reversed this attitude.)

From 1930 to 1931 Stimson was the Chairman of the U.S. delegation to the London Naval Conference. In the following year, he was the Chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference. That same year, the United States issued the "Stimson Doctrine" as a result of Japanese invasion of Manchuria: the United States refused to recognize any situation or treaty that limited U.S. treaty rights or was brought about by aggressive action.

Private Life and Public Opinions

Returning to private life at the end of Hoover's administration, Stimson was an outspoken advocate of strong opposition to Japanese aggression.

Secretary of War 1940 to 1945

In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned him to his old post at the head of the War Department, and he skillfully directed the rapid, tremendous expansion of the Army to a force of over 10,000,000 soilders.

During this period he advised both Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman on the use of atomic weapons, encouraged allowing something short of unconditional surrender for the Japanese, and later supported the use of the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Last Days and Assessment

Stimson retired from public office on 21 September 1945. He died at the age of 83 in Huntington, New York and is buried at Memorial Cemetery near Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. The United States Navy submarine USS Henry L. Stimson was named after him.


  • American Policy in Nicaragua, 1927.
  • The Far Eastern Crisis, 1936.
  • Autobiography: On Active Service in Peace and War, 1948 (reprinted 1971).

External links

Preceded by:
Jacob M. Dickinson
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
Lindley M. Garrison
Preceded by:
Eugene Allen Gilmore
Governor-General of the Philippines
Succeeded by:
Eugene Allen Gilmore
Preceded by:
Frank B. Kellogg
United States Secretary of State
Succeeded by:
Cordell Hull
Preceded by:
Harry H. Woodring
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
Robert P. Patterson

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