Department of State pub. 701
Address Delivered by the Secretary of State at New York, February 16, 1935
MR. PRESIDENT, MEMBERS AND GUESTS OF THE CANADIAN SOCIETY OF New York: I am delighted to be with you on this occasion of your annual dinner and to be able to join you in extending a sincere welcome to Prime Minister Bennett and, through him, greetings of my fellow citizens to the people of your great Dominion. May I also take advantage of this opportunity to extend our greetings to the people of the entire British Commonwealth of Nations, with whom we share a heritage of profound devotion to the causes of international peace, justice, and fair dealing.
Your society, Mr. President, has a long and distinguished record. I am impressed with its purposes as set forth in your constitution: "To interpret Canadian nationalism, to further goodwill between English speaking peoples, to promote social intercourse among Canadians in New York and to provide relief for Canadians in need of assistance." I am confident that the work of your society has contributed to the happy state of the relations which subsist between our countries.
The United States and Canada probably have as many and as strong ties and associations as any other two countries in the world. The reasons for this are clear. Geography, naturally, is the prime factor, but we cannot underestimate our common origin and traditions. Furthermore, commerce between the United States and Canada is greater than that between any other two nations in the world. In addition, our peoples are closely interrelated. For example, citizens of the Dominion have achieved distinction in almost every walk of life in the United States. Jacob Gould Schurman, Margaret Anglin, Franklin R. Lane, Edward Johnson, and Sir William Osler are some of the names in a list that could be extended almost indefinitely. It has, in fact, been said that one of the surest prospects of attaining success in the United States is the possession of a Canadian grandmother. We have sent to Canada a large number of sturdy pioneers who have contributed a great deal to the building of your institutions and the widening of your activities. This exchange of numberless individuals, each of whom can be a messenger of understanding, is a circumstance which has assisted greatly in the development of our friendship.
Even between the best of friends there can be misunderstanding. The United States and Canada have frequently found themselves in disagreement over particular cases. But our countries have nevertheless a record for the speedy and amicable settlement of any differences, of which both may be proud, and in the background of any particular disagreement there has always been a quiet, firm realization that nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of our enduring friendship.
With reference to our economic relations, a few weeks ago announcement was made of forthcoming negotiations between our Governments looking to the conclusion of a trade agreement. It is my earnest hope that in these negotiations it will be possible to remove many of the obstacles, costly to both countries, which have interfered with their trade.
It is natural that on such an occasion as this I should think not only
of our relations with Canada but of the nature of our general foreign policy.
It is often assumed that a nation's foreign policy is or can be altogether determined by the Government of the moment. This is true in fact only within certain very definite limits which greatly restrict the field of choice. I am thinking not merely of historical traditions and conventions which put a brake on the whims of statesmen and insure a certain continuity of foreign policy, or of the obvious fact that each country's policy is affected and to some extent motivated by that of other countries. What I have in mind rather are such external factors as size and resources, geographical location, and technical developments, which constitute the framework within which a nation's foreign policy must evolve and assume its formal characteristics.
The interaction of these factors is particularly interesting. Thus it would seem at first blush unlikely that a small nation with few or undeveloped resources can be in a position to play a major role in international affairs. Yet such is the influence of location that such a nation may conceivably counteract and even cancel the supposed disadvantage of relative smallness. We are all acquainted with the part played in former centuries by several small maritime communities along the Mediterranean. It would manifestly be impossible for a land-locked country, whatever its resources, to become a nation of seafarers. Access to the sea, however, is not the only consideration applicable to a small state, as shown by the history of many countries—for instance, Switzerland, whose foreign policy is fixed very largely by its central location in the heart of Europe, as well as by its control of the principal Alpine passes. It was this position which in part helped Switzerland to maintain her neutrality during the World War. The influence, finally, of technical developments on foreign policy is most clearly evident in connection with the rapid evolution of the means of communication which has brought country after country into the current of world affairs and made any attempted policy of isolation and pure nationalism increasingly obsolete and impracticable.
Let us consider the effect of some of these elements on American foreign policy. All of them have conspired to force the United States out of its earlier preoccupation with domestic matters into an increasingly active participation in international affairs. The enormous speeding up of trade and communications under the influence of technical discovery and advancement condemns to futility any endeavor to induce this nation again to withdraw into "splendid isolation". Our policies must of necessity be those of a so-called "great power". We cannot, even if we would, fail profoundly to affect in-
ternational relations; our choice is of the various ways of affecting them which are open to a nation situated as we are. It would be hard to deny that we are so placed that we could, if that were our intention, engage in a policy of imperialistic expansion and aggression to the detriment of others. The alternative course open to us is to make our influence felt through a policy of political, economic, and cultural cooperation to the advantage of all and in an atmosphere of trust and peace. The latter is our policy, a policy so accurately described by the President as that of the "good neighbor". But this policy is not a simple alternative to that of force, arbitrarily chosen for the immediate future and liable to be discarded again at any time. Every day, on the contrary, makes it more evident that President Roosevelt's policy is in consonance with the pivotal factors I have touched upon, and the merit of its adoption lies not least in the recognition that it is both the better course, from an ideal humanitarian point of view, and the wiser course, in the interests of the United States as well as of other countries. The good-neighbor policy thus meets the requirements of every reasonable test of history It is in harmony with the great need of the modern world and with the particular needs of a modern United States in this modern world
While the present foreign policy of the United States represents, in its fundamental principles, a consistent whole, it operates differently in relation to different parts of the world, in line with basic geographic factors. Aside from the common bond created through community of language, traditions, and cultural heritage, the nature of our northern frontier, as I have said, has made of Canada and the United States outstanding examples of good neighbors for over a century. Our two countries, including Alaska, have the longest common boundaries anywhere on the globe. We are inevitably the most neighborly of neighbors, and a foreign policy on the part of either country which attempted to fly in the face of this fact would be suicidal, not to say impossible. Thus, out of a circumstance of geography has grown a sense of trust and mutual security which it would be hard to duplicate.
Looking southward, we must not be misled by the boundary lines of the map. Mexico may at one time have been our only southern neighbor, but the growth of trade and communications has steadily enlarged the number of our neighbors in the south. If our immediate neighborhood a few years past might appropriately be considered as having included only the Central American and Caribbean republics, the airplane and the coming inter-American highway are making neighbors of all countries in the Western Hemisphere.
I realize only too well that neighbors can be estranged even when race and language should make them brothers, and of this the present war in the Chaco is a ghastly reminder. Undoubtedly some of the states to the south in the past viewed the growing proximity of the United States with misgiving, and I cannot but admit that there have been occasions when our words and actions gave some justification to their fears. Today these suspicions are happily vanishing, and I believe the time is at hand when the American republics will be convinced not only that the good-neighbor policy is being carried out in practice, but also that in strictly observing it the President, with magnificent foresight, has adopted a course which the future progress of our two continents makes imperative. The truth is that cooperation is proving itself profitable in every way. The most recent instance is our reciprocity treaty with Cuba, which, in the few months of its operation, has worked wonders both in the economic and in the political spheres. If the Platt Amendment was symbolical of an early epoch in our inter-American relations, its recent abandonment is an emphatic symbol of a new era in which it becomes our manifest destiny to enter into ever closer relations of free and voluntary collaboration for the furtherance of the prosperity of each and the peace of all.
Thus far I have not dealt with our relations east and west, or what might be called our transoceanic policies. Here again, there is no break in unity but merely an adaptation to the very different geographical and historical situation. The fundamental element is the ocean, the Atlantic on the east, the Pacific on the west. There was a time when the ocean meant, or could mean, a certain degree of isolation. Modern communication has ended this forever; but necessarily a gap remains, and with it the difference in perspective. Seen from the distance of this hemisphere, the manifold boundary lines on the map of Europe become blurred and Europe emerges as an entity. We have no direct concern with the political and economic controversies of the European states. We have time and again expressly disassociated ourselves from these disputes. Nevertheless, we are deeply interested in the peace and stability of Europe as a whole, and have therefore taken part in a number of multilateral efforts to achieve this purpose.
The most outstanding instance is the Disarmament Conference, which, by concentrating on land and air armaments, deals with an issue of primary importance to Europe. Although believing that the limitation and reduction of armaments in-itself tends to increase confidence and security—a view which has been amply confirmed by our experience on our northern borders—we are compelled to recognize
that rampant suspicion and hostility between nations, based on longstanding political and economic differences, constitute a barrier to effective action. This is particularly true on the European Continent, still smarting under the ravages of the World War. Hence, our basic policy of not intervening in individual European disputes has not prevented us from encouraging, proposing, and offering to participate in measures of a universal nature designed on the one hand to forward general political appeasement and on the other to facilitate general disarmament. Thus, in his well-known message of May 16, 1933, to the heads of states, President Roosevelt, after reaffirming and amplifying the disarmament proposals designed to strengthen security through abolishing aggressive land weapons, suggested the conclusion of a general non-aggression pact in which each country would agree not to send any armed forces of whatsoever nature across its frontiers. Six days later Mr. Norman Davis, representing us at Geneva, made a further contribution in the form of an offer that the United States, subject to an effective disarmament agreement, would be willing to consult with other states in case of a threat to peace, with a view to averting conflict; and that, moreover, the United States would not take steps to hinder any collective action which the other states might decide to take against an aggressor, provided the United States should independently concur in their decision as to the identity of the aggressor.
These proposals, taken together with the provisions of the Kellogg Pact, provide, I submit, the four pillars of a sound peace structure: First, the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy; second, a promise of non-aggression; third, consultation in the event of a threat to peace; and fourth, non-interference on our part with such measures of constraint as may be brought against a deliberate violator of peace.
All four are political measures, if you like, as distinguished from technical disarmament measures. However, they are political only in the wider sense of being designed to assist in general pacification and stabilization, of equal benefit to all countries and with no implication of any intervention on our part in controversies between individual states. I should emphasize, moreover, that these four pillars might readily crumble were they to be built on the shifting foundations of unrestricted and competitive armaments. We have therefore insisted that a real limitation and reduction of the instruments of warfare must be an essential concomitant of any such peace program as I have outlined.
I have already indicated that the factors molding our foreign
policy toward Europe have led to our support primarily of endeavors of a general and universal nature. While growing out of and adapted to the basic needs of Europe, they are in effect world-wide in scope and application. If we turn our eyes in the opposite direction, toward the Pacific, we find a situation occupying an intermediate stage between our more immediate preoccupation with the issues of the Western Hemisphere and our more generalized participation in transatlantic problems. The greater width of the Pacific is more than compensated for by our possessions in that area and by long-standing historical developments and relationships. I shall not go into the origin of the "open door" and other elements of our traditional Far Eastern policy, but merely point out that this policy is most clearly set forth in a series of connected treaties which set up an integrated system for the maintenance of peace and stability in the Far East and the Pacific. I refer, of course, to the accomplishments of the Washington Conference, which, in their essence, still embody the basic principles we believe in and stand by. The problems dealt with in 1922 were in some respects peculiar to the special situation in the Far East and our relation thereto, notably the emergence of certain territorial questions, the predominance of economic issues, and the emphasis on naval rather than land and air armaments. But the elements common both to our transpacific and transatlantic policies are even more striking: Political and economic stabilization through conference and mutual agreement; cooperation for the maintenance of peace through non-aggression, consultation, and through limitation and reduction of armaments. I endeavored to summarize the basis of our Far Eastern policy when, on March 3, 1934, I expressed the hope, in reply to a message from Foreign Minister Hirota, "that it may be possible for all of the countries which have interests in the Far East to approach every question existing or which may arise between or among them in such spirit and manner that these questions may be regulated or resolved with injury to none and with definite and lasting advantage to all." In other words, a good-neighbor policy in the Orient.
In this brief survey I have endeavored to cover the four major divisions of American foreign policy—Canadian, Latin American, European, and Far Eastern—and have touched upon the varying phases of each. It would be generalizing too much to state that the fundamental object uniting them is the preservation of peace. No nation would ever admit its policy to be or to have been other than one of peace. It is more a question of the means. After all, the Roman Empire knew long periods of peace; but the essence of the
Pax Romana was predominance over wide areas, a peace of inequality based on force. The kind of peace we envisage, and I think it is the kind not only we in the United States but the peoples of all nations, great and small, desire at heart and pray for, is the peace of friends, who feel secure in their independence not through immense armaments, the balance of which must again and again be destroyed by uneven competition, but through the give and take of political and economic cooperation which benefits no one country to the detriment of others but is of equal advantage to all. For what I said in a speech shortly after I became Secretary of State is true fundamentally for all nations: "It is a great satisfaction", I then stated, "to one who is confronted with the tasks devolving upon the Department of State to realize how, in meeting the problems that are our daily portion, the interests of our Government and our people seem so clearly to coincide with the interests of humanity."