Advise and Consent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the legal principle, see Advice and consent. For the film which was based on the novel, see Advise & Consent (film).
Advise and Consent
First edition
Author Allen Drury
Country United States
Language English
Genre Political novel
Published 1959 (Doubleday)
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette)
Pages 616 pages
ISBN 0-385-05419-X
Followed by A Shade of Difference

Advise and Consent is a 1959 political novel by Allen Drury that explores the United States Senate confirmation of controversial Secretary of State nominee Robert Leffingwell who is a former member of the Communist Party. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1960[1] and was followed by Drury's A Shade of Difference in 1962 and four additional sequels.


This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel's title comes from the United States Constitution's Article II, Sec. 2, cl. 2, which provides that the President of the United States "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consults, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States...."

Author Allen Drury, a staunch anti-Communist, believed most Americans were naive about the dangers of the Soviet-led communist threat to undermine the government of the United States:[2]

Drury believed that the Soviet Union led an international totalitarian communist movement whose ultimate goal was world domination and that communists were willing to achieve that goal by whatever moral, immoral, or amoral means worked, including propaganda, lies, subversion, intimidation, infiltration, betrayal, and violence. A Drury thesis was that American liberalism contributed to communism's incremental success in its war against American democratic capitalism.

Advise and Consent is a fictional account of the nomination of a prominent liberal, Robert Leffingwell, to the cabinet position of Secretary of State during the height of the Cold War. It is said that the story is based on Drury's first-hand insight into the personalities and political practices of the late-1950s including the 1954 episode wherein Senators Styles Bridges and Herman Welker threatened to publicize a homosexual in Senator Lester Hunt's family if Hunt did not resign from the Senate.[3]

In fact, the website of the U.S. Senate states:

Based on Drury’s observations, one may guess who the author based his fictional senators on: Alben Barkley may be the dashing majority leader; Robert Taft might be the minority leader; Kenneth McKellar may be the southern senator; the overzealous Senator Fred Van Ackerman might be a caricature of Joseph McCarthy; and the tragic Brigham Anderson, who kills himself in his Senate office, reminds us of Senator Lester Hunt of Wyoming, who took his life in the Russell Building in 1954. The president and vice president strongly resemble President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President Harry Truman. The entire incident could be loosely based on the Chambers-Hiss case.

However, the book is not meant to be a roman a clef, and it does not purport to disguise a true story. Drury considered his fictional senators and others as composites, and wove them through successive books. The author was not interested in profiling any one individual but in capturing the whole gallery of stock characters that Washington had seen and would be seeing again.[4]

Several sources agree that character Robert Leffingwell, the novel's nominee for Secretary of State represents Alger Hiss.[5][6][7]

Plot summary[edit]

A U.S. President decides to replace his Secretary of State to promote rapprochement with the Soviet Union. Nominee Robert Leffingwell, a darling of liberals, is viewed by many conservative senators as an appeaser. Others, including the pivotal character of Senator Seabright (Seab) Cooley of South Carolina, have serious doubts about Leffingwell's character. The book tells the story of an up-and-down nomination process that most people fully expect to result in a quick approval of the controversial nominee.

But Cooley is not so easily defeated. He uncovers a minor bureaucrat named Gelman who testifies that twenty years earlier then-University of Chicago instructor Leffingwell invited Gelman to join a small Communist cell that included a fellow traveler who went by the pseudonym James Morton. After outright lies under oath by the nominee and vigorous cross examination by Leffingwell, Gelman is thoroughly discredited and deemed an unfit witness by the subcommittee and its charismatic chairman Utah Senator Brig Anderson. The subcommittee is ready to approve the nominee.

At this crucial moment in the story, the tenacious Senator Cooley dissects Gelman's testimony and discovers a way to identify James Morton. Cooley maneuvers Morton into confessing the truth of Gelman's assertions to Senator Anderson who subsequently re-opens the subcommittee's hearings, thus enraging the President. When the President's attempts to buy Anderson's cooperation fail he places enormous pressure on Majority Leader Robert Munson to entice Anderson into compliance. In a moment of great weakness that Munson will regret the rest of his life, Munson provides the President a photograph, acquired quite innocently by Munson, that betrays Anderson's brief wartime homosexual liaison.

Armed with the blackmail instrument he needs, the President ignores Anderson's proof of Leffingwell's treachery and plots to use the photo to gain Anderson's silence. The President plants the damning photo with leftist Senator Fred Van Ackerman thinking he will never need to use it. But the President has underestimated Van Ackerman's treachery and misjudged Anderson's reaction should the truth come out.

Through a series of unfortunate circumstances involving Anderson's wife, the Washington press corps, and several senators, Anderson decides there is only one way to maintain his honor and dignity. He kills himself. Anderson's death turns the majority of the Senate against the President and the Majority Leader. Anderson's suicide and the exposure of the truth about Leffingwell's lies regarding his communist past set in motion a chain reaction that ends several careers and ultimately rejects Leffingwell as a nominee to become Secretary of State.

The final 100 pages of the book contain several "teases" by the author making it clear there is a sequel to come (Drury wrote five more books in his series), but Advise and Consent effectively ends with the overwhelming vote to reject Leffingwell. The segue to the next book in the series is the death of the President (heart attack) and the elevation of Vice President Harley Hudson.


Saturday Review said of Advise and Consent in August 1959 that "It may be a long time before a better one comes along."[5] Roger Kaplan of Policy Review wrote in 1999 that the novel "in many ways invented a genre in fiction…. The use of a racy intrigue, if possible involving both sex and foreign policy, is what characterizes the contemporary form. Forty years on, Advise and Consent is the only book of this genre that a literary-minded person really ought to read."[5]

In 1960, the Pulitzer Prize committee recommended that the award for fiction be given to Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King. The board overrode that recommendation and awarded it to Advise and Consent.[8][9] As of 2011, it was the last time the Pulitzer for fiction was awarded to the year's bestselling novel.

The novel was adapted by Loring Mandel into the 1960 Broadway play Advise and Consent, directed by Franklin Schaffner and starring Richard Kiley, Ed Begley. Henry Jones and Chester Morris. The play ran successfully on Broadway, at the Cort Theatre, from November 17, 1960 to May 20, 1961. The production was followed by a national company, starring Farley Granger.

The novel was adapted into the 1962 film Advise & Consent, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Walter Pidgeon and Henry Fonda. Preminger was nominated for a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Burgess Meredith won the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actor for his role. Charles Laughton was also nominated for a British Academy Film Award for Best Foreign Actor.

The book was out of print as of 2011.[10] On February 21, 2014, the novel was available for sale on Kindle and on February 24, 2014, it was for sale on Nook e-readers[11][12].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pulitzer Prize Winners: Fiction (1948-present) - Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  2. ^ Kemme, Tom (1987). Political Fiction, the Spirit of the Age, and Allen Drury (Bowling Green State University Popular Press). pp. 165, 170. ISBN 0-87972-373-4. 
  3. ^ Mallon, Thomas (June 25, 2009). "'Advise and Consent' at 50". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Virtual Reference Desk: Advise and Consent, Allen Drury (1959)". United States Senate. Archived from the original on 2014-12-08. 
  5. ^ a b c Kaplan, Roger (October–November 1999). "Allen Drury and the Washington Novel". Policy Review. Hoover Institution at Stanford University. 
  6. ^ Rich, Frank (May 15, 2005). "Just How Gay Is the Right?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ Ringle, Ken (September 4, 1998). "Allen Drury, Father Of the D.C. Drama". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  8. ^ Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (2007). Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction (Munich: K.G. Saur). p. 21. 
  9. ^ McDowell, Edwin (May 11, 1984). "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ Denn, Rebekah (August 29, 2011). "Top 100 most wanted out-of-print books of 2011". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  11. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]