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Charles R. Crane and Wilsonian Progressivism


Zacharie Leclair

This book presents a study of the career of Charles R. Crane, a central player in President Woodrow Wilson’s entourage. In the wake of the U.S. intervention in the Great War, Crane participated in important diplomatic and fact-finding missions. Leclair follows Crane through revolutionary Russia and on the Western front, in the emerging countries born out of the Ottoman Empire, and then in postwar China. In the process, Leclair’s book offers original insights into some of the major domestic and international decisions that define Wilson’s presidency and its legacy in the history of the United States and of international relations, most notably Wilson’s motivation and effort to bring about a new world order under American political and moral leadership. Leclair convincingly portrays Crane as a proponent of the principle of self-determination –one, indeed, whose aversion to colonialism predated Wilson’s international vision as formulated in his Fourteen Points. While a convergence of reform interest and humanitarian concerns brought Crane and Wilson together on some of the most complex issues of the time, Crane’s vision –propelled by a genuine philanthropic commitment—adds substance to what has largely been derided as empty Wilsonian idealism. The thematic structure of this book, the quality of its narration, and the wealth of information it contains, are added elements that make it an excellent contribution to the field of U.S. history. It could be used as a an assigned reading in college or university courses, especially in advanced American history, American Political thought and international relations courses.

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Conclusion: Charles R. Crane in a Post-Wilsonian Era


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After China

Charles Crane left China in 1921 and spent the summer visiting Lake Baikal, a few Siberian villages, the Urals, and Moscow. Afterward, he stopped in Prague to see his son Richard, then United States ambassador to Czechoslovakia, and to pay a visit to President Tomáš Masaryk. He stayed a few days in the company of Masaryk and of his daughter Alice, whom Crane greatly admired and whom he had most likely helped free in 1916, in the president’s summer home, where he deemed that Masaryk was living “quite like a king.”During one of these days, he also took a leisurely drive with his wife Cornelia, who had joined him in Prague, their children John and Frances as well as Masaryk’s children, Alice and Jan (who would go on to marry Frances Crane in 1924). By the end of the afternoon, they were also joined by Richard. Crane rejoiced to see the president so well surrounded, with at his side the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edvard Beneš as well as Alice and Jan, who acted as their father’s personal secretaries. “Jan,” Crane assessed with satisfaction, “is developing finely and by tact, industry and judgment helps very much his father and his state.”Crane was also requested to describe his travels and happily regaled this little congregation with accounts of his voyage through Russia.1 ← 289 | 290 →

Crane’s reputation had evidently spread...

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