Sumner Welles

American government official and diplomat (1892-1961)

Benjamin Sumner Welles (October 14, 1892 – September 24, 1961) was an American government official and diplomat in the Foreign Service. He was a major foreign policy adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served as Under Secretary of State from 1936 to 1943, during Roosevelt's presidency. He preferred to be called Sumner after his famous relative Charles Sumner, a leading Senator from Massachusetts during the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

Sumner Welles in 1905


  • 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.
    • 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

Quotes about Welles

  • On January 17, 1940, Harold Nicolson heard that there was 'still a group in the war Cabinet working for appeasement and at present in negotiation via the former Chancellor Bruning to make peace with the German General Staff on condition that they eliminate Hitler'. But the chance that the German 'opposition' might play the deus ex machina was long gone. Roosevelt was even less realistic. He continued to act as if a compromise peace might still be concocted on the basis of Munich-style concessions to the dictators; hence the 1940 trips to Europe by the Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, and the Vice-President of General Motors, James Mooney, the former touting concessions to Germany that even Chamberlain and Halifax thought laughable. Only with the fall of France was appeasement finally buried.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 381
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