Cordell Hull

American politician, U.S. Secretary of State from 1933 to 1944

Cordell Hull (2 October 187123 July 1955) was United States Secretary of State from 1933 to 1944 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in establishing the United Nations.

A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on.


  • There will no longer be need for spheres of influence, for alliances, for balance of power, or any other of the separate alliances through which in the unhappy past the nations strove to safeguard their security or promote their interest.
    • 1945 Testimony before the U.S. Congress hearings on the United Nations Charter
  • A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on.
    • Memoirs of Cordell Hull (1948), 1:220
    • This is a variant of similar statements attributed earlier to Mark Twain, e.g., "A lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on." The oldest attribution (1831) is to Fisher Ames: “falsehood proceeds from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling on his boots”.

Quotes about Hull

  • Perhaps the real fantasists were the Americans, who adopted a remarkably confrontational stance in the final pre-war months, given the vulnerability of their own military installations in the Pacific, particularly the Philippines. The British were markedly more conciliatory, even temporarily closing the Burma Road - 700 mostly mountainous miles along which supplies were travelling to China - in response to Japanese pressure. For reasons that are not easy to fathom, Roosevelt consistently exaggerated the actual economic and future strategic importance of China and underestimated the perils of war with Japan. He declined an invitation from Konoe to attend a summit conference in the summer of 1941. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wanted complete withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and Indo-China; he would not hear of any suspension of US aid to Chiang, which the Japanese demanded. In his fateful note of November 26, Hull even proposed a mutual surrender of extraterritorial rights in China - an end, in effect, to the old Open Door system - and recognition of the Guomindang government. With some justification, the policy of the United States towards Japan in this period has been likened to her policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 491
  • Hull has passed most of his threescore years and ten in useful service to his country and to the world. His rank in history will depend on the fate of democracy, for he has been one of its most ardent champions. If democracy should fail and disappear at this critical point in its history, he will be forgotten as a minor prophet of an unimportant illusion in the development of the human race. If democracy emerges triumphant from the tempering furnace, he will be hailed as a major prophet whose words have lighted his fellow men to hope and progress.
    • Harold B. Hinton, Cordell Hull (1942), London: Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., hardcover, p. 245
  • I think it would have been humanly impossible for two people, over a period of eight years, to agree more consistently and thoroughly than Mr. Hull and I have done. There has never been the slightest important difference of opinion between us, and so far as I am personally concerned I think it would be impossible for any man in my position, who has been so closely associated with the Secretary- who has had the opportunity of being associated wuth a man of his extraordinary moral courage and consistency, and I think an almost unique intellectual integrity- to have anything except very deep devotion for him.
    • Sumner Welles, 11th U.S. Under Secretary of State, on 28 December 1940 in a response to rumors that he and Hull were at odds. Discord between the two and allegations of Welles (who was a closeted bisexual) being homosexual led to Welles being forced out of office by Hull in 1943, after which he returned to private life. As quoted by Harold B. Hinton, Cordell Hull (1942), London: Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., hardcover, p. 244
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