Bullitt, William C. (1891-1967)

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BULLITT, WILLIAM C. (1891-1967)

William C. Bullitt, an American political leader, was born on January 25, 1891, in Philadelphia and died on February 15, 1967, in Paris. With Freud, he was coauthor of "Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study" (1967), and he helped Freud to immigrate to London.

Bullitt was raised in Philadelphia and educated at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. He became a prominent figure in American foreign policy. He was a U.S. advisor at the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles and went to see Lenin on behalf of the U.S. and British delegations. When Bullitt's Russian mission was disavowed, he became bitter toward President Wilson and testified before Senator Henry Cabot Lodge's congressional committee; the secretary of state was then forced to resign, and Bullitt's evidence also helped defeat the entry of the United States into the League of Nations. In 1933 when President Roosevelt extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, Bullitt became the first U.S. ambassador. Next Bullitt was ambassador to France from 1936 until the German invasion toppled the French Third Republic. Bullitt performed the role of a roving ambassador all over Europe and possessed a unique set of diplomatic contacts. As ambassador to Austria, Bullitt helped Freud escape Vienna in June 1938 after the Nazis moved into Austria, though what role Bullitt played is not entirely clear.

The stories about Bullitt are colorful. His role in destroying the political career of Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles during the Second World War ruined Bullitt's standing with Roosevelt. Bullitt then attempted to become elected mayor of Philadelphia but was badly beaten. His early disappointment with the Soviets led him to become one of the first cold-war warriors. Bullitt was impulsive and high-handed, mercurial and impressionablealtogether not easy to work with. His brilliance did not prevent his becoming known as intemperate and unstable, even if he could be charming and debonair. In 1948 Bullitt became a Republican and remained on personal terms with some of the great and mighty. But he ended up as an outsider, a political exile.

In 1926 Bullitt published a novel that sold some 150,000 copies. In the late 1920s Bullitt, who had been a patient of Freud's, began a collaborative study with Freud on Wilson, who both authors, for different reasons, hated. It has remained a curiosity how Freud and Bullitt came to write such a polemical assault, using psychoanalytic concepts, in their book on Wilson. It is still unknown who wrote which sections. Part of the scholarly problem has stemmed from Bullitt's fascination with intrigue; Freud privately complained about Bullitt's secretiveness shortly after the manuscript was completed. The book on Wilson may be one of the first efforts at psychological history, but it was so partisan as to have damaged the case for using psychology to understand political leaders.

Paul Roazen

Work discussed: Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Twenty-eighth President of the United States. A Psychological Study.

See also: Politics and psychoanalysis.


Bullitt, William C. (1919). The Bullitt mission to Russia. New York: Huebsch.

. (1926). It 's not done. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

. (1946). The great globe itself. New York: Scribner's.

Freud, Sigmund, and Bullitt, William C. (1967). Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A psychological study. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.