Date of Completion
J.P. Morgan, cooperation, governance, U.S.-European relations, public diplomacy, finance, bankers
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation examines the late nineteenth and early twentieth century public diplomacy of Morgan bankers George Perkins, Henry Davison, Dwight Morrow, and, most importantly, Thomas Lamont. It approaches this narrative through the lens of “cooperation,” a concept advocated by John Pierpont Morgan as he transformed U.S. railways. Morgan later brought the idea of cooperative capital to both U.S. industry and U.S. finance, triggering thereby powerful popular countermovements that chafed at the aggressive collectivist actions of increasingly wealthy capitalists within a democracy. Morgan met the public challenge mounted by a rebelling demos by hiring younger, more democratically-inclined partners whose charismatic personalities and savvy enabled them to manage a variety of people using the “soft,” increasingly important techniques of persuasion.
The dissertation traces how the Morgan partners framed public narratives that supported the consolidation of a national economy, the adoption of a European-style central banking system, financial support of Great Britain and France during American neutrality and wartime, U.S. entrance into the League of Nations, and U.S. reconstruction of postwar Europe. In an age of mass democracy, these were changes that needed public acquiescence and cooperation. The first two chapters focus on the development of Morgan cooperation in the domestic context and trace the firm’s narrow, but evolving understanding of “the public.” The remaining chapters examine Morgan narrative framing of U.S.-European finance. The Morgans pushed hard for the creation of the League of Nations and for the widespread purchase of foreign government securities. U.S. failure to join the League of Nations soured the Morgan partners on public advocacy and redirected their energy towards financing and publicly participating in debates through newly created think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Foreign Policy Association, and more carefully building international spaces, such as the Bank for International Settlements that were devoted to “non-political,” private actor deliberation and decision-making.
The Morgans shaped rationalizations and public dialogue concerning the domestic economy and America’s relationship with Europe. Although they did not always get exactly what they wanted, they did succeed in circulating ideas that through repetition made capitalism publicly palatable and resilient.
Koulisis, Olga J., "Prophets of Global Order: How the Morgan Bankers Sold “Cooperation” in an Age of Democratic Conflict, 1890-1924" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 2270.
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