Claude Bowers

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Claude Bowers
Claude Bowers cph.3b13150.jpg
United States Ambassador to Chile
In office
September 7, 1939 – September 2, 1953
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byNorman Armour
Succeeded byWillard L. Beaulac
United States Ambassador to Spain
In office
June 1, 1933 – February 2, 1939
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byIrwin B. Laughlin
Succeeded byH. Freeman Matthews (Acting)
Personal details
Claude Gernade Bowers

(1878-11-20)November 20, 1878
Westfield, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJanuary 21, 1958(1958-01-21) (aged 79)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic

Claude Gernade Bowers (November 20, 1878 in Westfield, Indiana – January 21, 1958 in New York City) was an American historian, Democratic Party politician, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's ambassador to Spain (1933-1939) and Chile (1939-1953).[1] His histories of the Democratic Party in its formative years from the 1790s to the 1830s helped shape the party's self-image as a powerful force against monopoly and privilege. As ambassador he worked to keep the United States out of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.


Bowers began his career as a journalist with a newspaper in Terre Haute, Indiana. While residing there, he became the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives, at the request of powerful Democratic leader John Edward Lamb. Though he lost, the experience polished his abundant speaking skills.

Bowers's enormously popular books Party Battles of the Jackson Period (1922) and Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America (1925) are critical of the Federalist Party, the Whig Party, and the Republican Party, as bastions of aristocracy. Jefferson and Hamilton builds on the documentary evidence and analysis of Charles Beard's Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy to depict the operations of Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury in Washington's first administration on behalf of financial speculators (including at least two dozen members of Congress) to fund depreciated debts a full face value (to their substantial benefit and the substantial loss of the original holders of the debts), and to establish a national bank on the same basis.

Bowers was an editorial writer for the New York World from 1923 to 1931, and a political columnist for the New York Journal from 1931 to 1933.[2]

In his very popular histories, he promoted the idea that Thomas Jefferson had founded the Democratic Party. President Franklin Roosevelt, an avid reader of Bowers was impressed enough to build the Jefferson Memorial and appoint him the US ambassador to Spain in 1933. Bowers's The Tragic Era (1929) attracted wide attention for its attack on the Republican Party, which Bowers believed humiliated the South and corrupted the North during Reconstruction. His work popularized the Dunning School, which "provided an intellectual foundation for the system of segregation and black disenfranchisement that followed Reconstruction."[3] He was the temporary chairman of the 1928 Democratic National Convention where he gave a keynote speech.[4] Roosevelt appointed him ambassador to Spain and later Chile.

Although disillusioned when the New Deal veered the country away from pristine low-budget Jeffersonian principles, Bowers held his tongue and never criticized his patron. His biography of Senator Albert J. Beveridge, Beveridge and the Progressive Era (1932), was non-polemical and of high quality. He continued writing late into his life, completing My Mission to Spain in 1954, which chronicled his time in Spain as ambassador, covering both his travels throughout the country, and the hectic politics that foreshadowed the Spanish Civil War. Bowers was highly critical of what he saw as fascist agitation and strongly defended the regime of the Spanish Second Republic.[5]

He died of leukemia in 1958 and is buried at Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana.


  • Bowers, Claude (1962), MY LIFE THE MEMOIRS OF CLAUDE BOWERS, Simon and Schuster, New York, E'book


  1. ^
  2. ^ Thomas T. Spencer, "'Old' Democrats and New Deal Politics: Claude G. Bowers, James A. Farley, and the Changing Democratic Party, 1933-1940" Indiana Magazine of History (1996) 92#1 pp: 26-45. in JSTOR
  3. ^
  4. ^ Text in New York Times June 27, 1928. p. 8
  5. ^ Spencer, "'Old' Democrats and New Deal Politics: Claude G. Bowers, James A. Farley, and the Changing Democratic Party, 1933-1940"

Books by Bowers[edit]

Scholarly studies[edit]

  • Merrill D. Peterson. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1998). partly online
  • Peter J. Sehlinger and Holman Hamilton. Spokesman for Democracy: Claude G. Bowers, 1878-1958 (2000).
  • Spencer, Thomas T. "'Old' Democrats and New Deal Politics: Claude G. Bowers, James A. Farley, and the Changing Democratic Party, 1933-1940" Indiana Magazine of History 1996 92(1): 26-45. in JSTOR
  • Taylor, F. Jay. The United States and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. 1956, 1971, Introduction by Bowers.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Pat Harrison
Keynote Speaker of the Democratic National Convention
Succeeded by
Alben W. Barkley
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Irwin B. Laughlin
United States Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
H. Freeman Matthews
Preceded by
Norman Armour
United States Ambassador to Chile
Succeeded by
Willard L. Beaulac