Keep War from the Americas



Delivered over the Radio at Washington, D. C., August 4, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, p. 646.

FELLOW citizens: I am speaking tonight because I consider it my duty. It is my duty to tell you that in my opinion we face problems of the utmost seriousness, that all the things we hold most dear are gravely threatened.

I must tell you that we can defend them only if we make up our minds now to speak the truth without concealment, if we make up our minds to face the truth without flinching, if we make up our minds to act upon the truth without hesitating. I think you will believe me when I say that no war was ever prevented by hiding the danger and by arguing that the danger does not exist.

The men who are best qualified to know what is going on in Europe, and in Asia, and in this hemisphere; the men whose business it is to know the facts, are very nearly unanimous in believing what I am saying to you tonight: That grave danger for us lurks in the present world situation.

So the time has come when we must rise up as a united people to make secure our country's independence and our great inheritance of constitutional liberty.

More than half the world is ruled by men who despise the American idea and have sworn to destroy it. They know that while the one great people remains independent and free, because it is strong and is brave, they can never crush finally the people they have conquered.

The example of liberty here will always continue to inspire the resistance to tyranny over there. They are fanatical, they are strong, they are efficient and they are ruthless.

Eight nations have tried to appease them. The appeasers of eight nations are dead or in jail, or discredited and ruined. In seven of these eight nations the appeasers who would not take the danger seriously, who would not prepare when there was still time, have led their countries into disaster.

It is not hysterical to insist that democracy and liberty are threatened. Democracy and liberty have been overthrown on the continent of Europe. Only the British are left to defend democracy and liberty in Europe. By sending help to the British we can still hope with confidence to keep the war on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the enemies of liberty, if possible, should be defeated.

But some are bold about what they would do tomorrow, if Great Britain is defeated and the war comes to this hemisphere. I say to you, solemnly, that today may be forever too late to keep war from the Americas. Today may be the last time when, by measures short of war, we can still prevent war.

We must be ready to meet force with a stronger force. We must make ourselves strong by building up our Army and Navy, and the establishment of the principle of universalselective service, which means merely that the men needed are chosen by lot.

And I am telling you tonight, because it is my duty to warn you before it is too late, that the British Navy needs destroyers and small craft to convoy merchant ships, to escort its warships, and hunt submarines, and to repel invasion.

We have an immense reserve of destroyers left over from the other war, and in a few months the British will be completing a large number of destroyers of their own. The most critical time, therefore, is the next few weeks or months. If there is anything we can do to save the British fleet during that time we shall be failing in our duty to America if we do not do it.

If a proper method can be found, America will safeguard her freedom and security by making available to the British or Canadian governments at least fifty of the over-age destroyers, which are left from the days of the World War. If the destroyers help save the British fleet they may save us from the danger and hardship of another war.

Americans should not shrink from duty because of probable hazards. I know that many sincere patriots are frightened at the thought of even the smallest act, because they think such acts would lead us closer to the day when another American Expeditionary Force sets sail for Europe.

It is my opinion that in this war it would be absolute folly even to consider sending another expeditionary force. No one is considering it, and those who may say that any one is considering it are deceiving themselves and deceiving you.

We must have the strength of character to face the truth. Foremost among the truths, which we will ignore at our peril, is that the time needed to build our own defenses may be lengthened if we have the courage to make the small, but important contribution which is still without our power toward the sustaining of the British defense.

A new kind of war is loose in the world; fought with all weapons, including treason, and fought most insidiously during what some of our countrymen call peace time. It is a war against a civilization that we know; it is a revolution against the values which we have cherished, and which we wish our children to cherish in the future. It is a revolution that denies the dignity of men, and which banishes the hope of brotherhood and comradeship on earth.

We can see it developing right before our very eyes. It must be faced with daring and with devotion. We must lift up our hearts. We must reaffirm our noble tradition. We must make ourselves so strong that the tradition we live by shall not perish from the earth. I thank you.