The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973 Page: 341
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William Lockhart Clayton was a man of extraordinary ambition and
talent. In Horatio Alger style he rose above his origins in southern
poverty to build, before the Second World War, the world's largest cot-
ton brokerage firm. During and after the war he significantly influenced
the foreign economic policy of the United States through his service as
assistant secretary and under secretary of state, 1944-1947. When Clay-
ton died in 1966 he was not yet a very "controversial" figure. Since then,
historians of the radical left, proceeding from the assumption that
American foreign policy has been expansionist and imperialistic out of
institutional necessity, have frequently cited Clayton as one of the archi-
tects of an American plan to dominate the world economically.
Clayton did believe that international peace would be assured by in-
ternational prosperity. International prosperity, in turn, would be
achieved when nations battered down tariff barriers, brought efficiency
to production, and integrated their economies with those of their neigh-
bors. It was an article of faith with Clayton that nations with a stake in
the economic well being of other nations would be peaceful nations, and
he directed his public career toward achieving, in Frederick Dobney's
phrase, "trade as free as possible between national economies as efficient
The new economic determinist historians (some object to the label
"radical left") have argued that Clayton's open door trade policy for the
world was the entrde for American domination. Since the United States
emerged from the war with production facilities of incomparable effi-
ciency and with the only treasury capable of underwriting industrial
development on a large scale, they argue, the world open door meant
that the United States would continue to be the world's primary manu-
facturer and financier while other nations manufactured secondary
products and supplied raw materials. Clayton's economic international-
ism (which he insisted would yield the greatest good for the greatest
number) has thus been translated by critics into a devious and patently
immoral scheme for assuring American prosperity and economic de-
pendency of other nations.
Dobney has brought together eighty documents from widely scattered
sources, fifty-one from the years of government service, all of which are
illustrative of Clayton's views and his career. This volume will not lay
to rest the revisionist charges against Clayton, because underlying preju-
dices and motives which men rarely commit to paper or understand too
vaguely to articulate, and the moral "rightness" of their ideas, are the
centers of disagreement. However, Dobney has provided a selection of
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973, periodical, 1973; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/m1/383/: accessed December 12, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.