Strength and Peace



Delivered over the radio from Washington, D. C., October 13, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 42-43.

I COME before you tonight to enter a plea for American independence. It is amazing that one should have to plead for American independence in a nation with a heritage such as ours; in a nation which in its infancy revolted against foreign control, and whose people have fought time and time again against the armies and interference of the Old World. Yet the independence and the destiny of America were never more in jeopardy than they are today. During the first century and a quarter of our existence a free and independent people we opposed, and opposed ccessfully, all the major powers in Europe. At the same time that our forefathers pushed through the wilderness to the Pacific they forced, one after another, England, France and Spam to discontinue their interference with American affairs.

We won our independence from England when we were a nation of less than 4,000,000 people. We numbered only 10,000,000 when the Monroe Doctrine was established. With a population of 35,000,000, even though we had just emerged from four years of civil war, we made France remove her invading armies from Mexico. Later in the century, with a population of 75,000,000 we forced Spain to withdraw entirely from the New World.

Why, then, with 130,000,000 people, are we being told that we must give up our independent position, that our frontiers lie in Europe and that our destiny will be decided by European armies fighting upon European soil? What has happened to this nation that it fears in maturity the forces that it conquered in its youth? What change has come over us? Where is the blood of such leaders as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln; blood that stood firm on American soil against the threats, the armies and the navies of the greatest empires on earth?

What we lack today is the type of leadership that made us a great nation; the type that turned adversity and hardship into virility and success. No one doubts that we are in the midst of a world crisis. No one denies that our defenses are weak, that our debt is great, that dissatisfaction is rising among us. We do not question the need for rearmament, for reform, for a better economic system.

What we do question is the leadership that has brought these conditions upon us. We question that the men who were unable to foresee these conditions in time to avoid them, who could not foresee the war in time to prepare for it, who refused to believe the reports of rearming abroad when there was still time to take action, are now competent to carry this nation successfully through a period of great crisis.

Under their leadership we have alienated the most powerful military nations of both Europe and Asia, at a time when we ourselves are unprepared for action, and while the people of our nation are overwhelmingly opposed to war.

His View of Where We Divide

There is no question about the fundamental courage and solidarity of Americans when our national welfare is at stake. There is no division among us about the defense of our own country. We have always been ready to fight against the interference of foreign powers in our affairs. If need be, we are ready to die for the independence of America, as our forefathers have died before us when necessity arose.

On a clearly American issue we stand a united nation. It is only when we are asked to take part in the quarrels of foreign countries that we divide; only when we are asked to merge our destiny with that of other lands; only when an attempt is made to transfer loyalty for America to loyalty for some other nation.

The fact is today that we are divided; we have not confidence in our leaders. We have not confidence in their efficiency or in their judgment.

Instead of a Washington warning us against the wiles of foreign influence and excessive partiality for any nation, we are told that our frontiers lie in Europe.

Instead of a Lincoln telling us that if danger ever reach us it must spring up amongst us, and that it cannot come from abroad, we are informed that we may be invaded from the ice-bound mountains of Greenland; and by fleets of non-existent transatlantic bombers.

We find the same men who have led us to the greatest national debt in our history now telling us that as a nation we are weak and unprepared; that we must appropriate more billions of dollars and devote more years of time to building up our military forces. These same leaders who have failed to solve even our peace-time problems, who have a consistent record of promise followed by failure, now ask us to put ourselves in their hands again as they lead us steadily toward that climax of all political failure—war.

Sees "Harangue" on Democracy

They do not tell us openly what their intentions are. They say we should leave our decisions and our destiny to specialists—to their particular specialists—to the same specialists who have made us a weakened nation in the center of an antagonistic world.

They harangue us about "democracy," yet they leave us with less knowledge of the direction in which we are headed than if we were citizens of a "totalitarian" State. We aretold that we are being prepared to defend America at the same time that orders are placed for the type and quantity of armament that would be used for a war in Europe.

We do not need untold thousands of military aircraft unless we intend to wage a war abroad. What we do need is a thoroughly modern and efficient Air Corps, trained, equipped and maintained for the specific mission of American defense. What we need even more, however, is balanced action, a clear-cut plan and a consistent attitude.

Adequate defense does not necessitate this alarm and confusion. With intelligent leadership, we could have built an impregnable defense for America without disturbing seriously our national life and industry. We have already spent more than enough money to have done this.

With an Army, a Navy and an Air Corps of high quality and reasonable size, we could have maintained our position with safety at home and respect abroad. But today, while we listen to talk of aircraft, guns and battleships, couched in figures so astronomical that they compare only to our national debt, we find ourselves in confusion at home, and under ridicule abroad.

The same thing is happening to us that happened to England and France. We have been led to debt and weakness, and now we are being led toward war. Instead ofbuilding their own national strength, the peacetime leaders of England and France told their people that security lay abroad, that the best way to defend their own countries was to fight for Poland. They followed this advice and failed.

Now we in America are being told under similar circumstances, and by leaders of similar caliber that our security lies abroad; that the best way to defend our own country is to defend England. All the lessons of Europe have passed unheeded before us. The effort that should have been devoted to the welfare of our own nation has been spread ineffectively over the difficulties of other parts of the world. The attention that should have been concentrated on the defense of America has been divided by a controversy over what part we should take in the wars of Europe.

If we desire strength, and freedom, and independence for our country, the first step must be to assure ourselves of leadership which is entirely and unequivocally American. When a man is drafted to serve in the armed forces of our country, he has the right to know that his government has the independent destiny of America as its objective, and that he will not be sent to fight in the wars of a foreign land.

The doctrine that we must enter the wars of Europe, in order to defend America, will be fatal to our nation if we follow it.