This Is Our Critical Hour


By GERALD P. NYE, U. S. Senator from North Dakota

Over radio from Washington, May 7, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 453-455

THE floodgates of war propaganda flung wide open these last few days, are subjecting the people of our country to a frantic verbal whipping.

America's Interventionists are on the spot, driven frantic by discovery that the people could not be moved by pleas for any aid in Europe's war beyond that which could be given without dragging us into the war.

In this frantic hour the Interventionists are putting the people of America on the spot. This week, or these next few days, are to determine whether or not America is going to be in Europe's war.

And the people who determine that are going to be the fathers and mothers, the sons and the daughters of America. Determination of this critical question rests now upon the question of whether the American people will make their wishes heard.

'Blitzkrieg' Toward War

I cannot believe that there are people listening tonight who are not aware of the fact that members of the President's Administration and spokesmen for the cause of intervention are blitzkrieging the American people into this war.

All possible pressure, accompanied by deception, is being brought into play to cause that great majority of the people of our land opposed to going to war, to be fearful, and quiet, while the organized Interventionist minority strives to give the President reason to believe that there is overwhelming public sentiment favorable to our getting into Europe's war, at least with our Navy, at once.

While the Interventionists and the Cabinet members serve as shock troops, tossing their trial balloons, it is anticipated that the President will sit back and await tomorrow what is the public reaction to these proposals.

If none but the organized Interventionists pour their thought into the White House by letter and telegram now, the President may be given reason to say that he is forced to convoy by public sentiment.

If, on the other hand, the American people will continue making their minds known, the result that accumulates in the White House can only be good.

People Unqualifiedly Opposed to Convoys

This verbal blitzkrieg which has prevailed now for a few days was precipitated by discovery that the people are unqualifiedly opposed to convoying. The President knew it because his mail and telegrams revealed it. Everyone knows it who has contact with the people of this country.

The Interventionists know it and they now find it their last chance to drive forcefully and quickly for action which cannot be revoked but which will lead America straight to war.

Lend-Lease Bill Step Toward War

This verbal blitzkrieg by the Interventionists has been cleverly organized. Survey it for just a moment.

Down the road to war we have been going with assurances by our leaders that ours were steps "short of war." Hesitatingly, the people have gone along, approving repeal of the arms embargo, the unlawful dispossession of 50 valuable destroyers, peace-time conscription.

On down the road to war we have moved, adopting the lend-lease bill, abandoning the cash and carry feature of the neutrality law, appropriating, as a first installment on our leasing and lending and underwriting of a foreign war, seven billion dollars.

All the way have the people gone, but always with the positive assurance that these were steps to keep us out of war, steps "short of war."

It was fair to assume that ultimately the request would come to use our Navy to convoy production intended to aid Britain through the dangerous war zones.

But when two weeks ago the stage was set for the push to convoying, the American people rose up in magnificent might, left no uncertainty in official Washington respecting their unqualified opposition to this further step, reminding the President that he had said sometime back that "convoying means shooting and shooting means war."

'Deception Brought Into Largest Play'

The people at that stage cried out "enough," and began demanding greater frankness on the part of American leadership.

The anger of those who were displeased by this showing of public determination found outlet through declarations by columnists that there was terrible and dangerous apathy over the country. This anger brought deception into largest play.

The nation was told by the press one day that an Administrative member of Congress had said that it was reliable that at least 40 per cent of our aid is being destroyed before it reaches Great Britain. It followed that we must convoy this aid.

"What is the sense of spending seven billion dollars to aid Britain when 40 per cent of it does not get there?" we were asked.

This was unadulterated deception and when motion was made last Wednesday to get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to invite the authorities who knew what the losses were, to give the committee and Congress the benefit of their information, the Administration forces upon that committee denied the motion.

There was determination that not even the Congressshould be given access to truth in this hour when men were driving us to war.

But today truth has its hour. Admiral Land of the Maritime Commission has advised Congress that from Dec. 31 to Mar. 31, 205 vessels loaded with goods for Britain have cleared from United States ports for United Kingdom ports, that of these 205 vessels only eight have been destroyed.

No Shipment Loss in Two Months

A further disclosure is that in the months of March and April not one shipment of these goods from U. S. ports to Britain ports has been destroyed.

With that excuse for convoying smashed, what shall be stated by the interventionists as a sizeable excuse for convoying now?

On the same day that this deception about losses was planted, the anger of that hour found the President declaring that there might be Nazis in Greenland.

Knowing the circumstances that surrounded that declaration, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the apathy of the people had to be met by frightening them into doing the thing against which their sober judgment dictated.

That was but the beginning of this blitzkrieg to move America into this war. These last three days have brought into the drive deception, incitement to fear, demands for immediate action, and organization to roll onto the President's desk a mighty telegraphic response for people demanding convoying by our Navy.

Three days ago came the headlines announcing that 17 so-called experts were agreed that we could defeat Germany. On the same day came the word from one of these grasshopper statesmen who hops to England and hops back, President Conant, that it was time for America to throw her might into this war on just the naval aid.

Recalls Speech By Stimson

And on that same day the President let the headlines say: "America is ready to fight for democracy again." Yesterday the blitz continued, with Senator Pepper tossing up his trial balloon, proposing that we grab Dakar and the Azores, bomb Tokio, get tough.

Last evening came Secretary Stimson with an unadulterated command to use our Navy to deliver aid to Great Britain through the war zones and declaring that Great Britain "has been accepted by us for a century" as having "accommodated our whole method of life" in America.

No man knows better than Secretary Stimson the part that Britain played during this last century in striving to destroy our union and yet he would cause the people to adopt the theory that our very life depends upon Great Britain and her navy.

Tonight the blitzkrieg continues with Mr. Wendell Willie's panzer division in a rally in New York broadcasting a continuation of this spirit of hate and fear and this demand for America to get in this convoying business without further delay.

Time to Talk of Personalities

Only when men lend their personalities to questionable programs are we entitled to deal with personalities. In this hour when personalities would drive America to war I am not going to hesitate to speak clearly with respect to some of the personalities.

It is time now to speak and to act, tomorrow may be too late, to be as bold as are the Interventionists. This is the time to be demanding that American leaders keep their promises, write an end to deception. This is the time to be turningour backs upon those who have condemned themselves as insincere leaders.

Many of you hear Mr. Willkie tonight. His purpose in this hour is so diametrically opposed to the one he pledged last Fall, that I insist that his appeal now is subject to question. It was Wendell Willkie who, last November 4, said:

"Let us remember that dictatorship always begins by asking the people to give up some law or tradition for some special reason. The reason given may even seem logical. The motives behind it may be honorable and sincere. But if you give in to such reasons, little by little the structure of democracy is taken away from you without your realizing it."

This was the same Mr. Willkie who was prevailed on in February to do his hop to England and back, just in time to testify on the last day of the hearings on the Lend-Lease bill, and appear for this largest grant of power ever extended by a Congress to an executive—the same Willkie.

During his testimony at that time Mr. Willkie was reminded of his campaign assertion of October 30, when he said:

"On the basis of his (Roosevelt's) performance with pledges to the people, you may expect we will be at war by April, 1941, if he is elected"—

When asked whether or not he still agreed that might be the case, Mr. Willkie responded:

"It was a bit of campaign oratory."

It was Willkie who on Nov. 12, with all call for campaign oratory gone, said:

"Mr. Roosevelt and I both promised the people in the course of the campaign that if we were elected we would keep this country out of war unless attacked. Mr. Roosevelt was elected, and this solemn pledge from him, I know will be fulfilled, and I know the American people desire him to keep it sacred."

Let Us Be Sure Sincerity Governs

Could there be language more emphatic? Yet today we hear Mr. Willkie say things that have us wondering if he ever meant what he said when he expressed the desire to keep sacred promises that he and Roosevelt had made to keep out of war.

Let us be sure who leads these days that sincerity governs.

America, don't you see what has been happening, what is being done now?

Don't you realize that here is concerted effort to drive against the determined will of the American people, to take this republic of ours into another futile European war that involves no issues new to those that were involved in the last war?

It is time for the people who have a heart for the future of America to emphatically make known to official Washington, from the President on down, that all of this blitzkrieg by the Winchells, the Thompsons, the Stimsons, the Peppers and the Willkies is not a reflection of popular facts and popular beliefs.

It is time to be demanding frankness, the abandonment of deception, to be reminding official Washington of the promises it has made as these so-called steps short of war have been taken.

Among other things the people should be reminding their President and their representatives of assurances that were given on September 21, 1939, when the President said:

"With the repeal of the embargo this Government clearly and definitely will insist that American citizens and American ships keep away from the immediate perils of the actual zones of conflict."

Reminds President of His Pledges

Remind the President, and your Congress, that these words of 1939 were accepted as being a sincere assurance to the American people, and that May of 1941 finds the people demanding reassurance on this score of keeping out of the fields of war.

One does not associate with people in the East and West in this land of ours without knowing that there is an overwhelming demand that our country stay out of war. All the beautiful words in captivity are not going to alter that determination so long as the facts remain what they are today.

Interventionists may go forth with their program of planting and fanning hate and fear, but so long as that part of our great people who constitute this overwhelming majority make it clear that they are for America first, the fanning and planting are to no avail.

To talk about carrying freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom from fear to all the world, in our time and generation, does not mean much when all the people of America know that there is a considerable portion of these freedoms not yet available to all Americans.

The cause that takes America into these foreign wars again has got to be a better cause than that.

I am not one of those who believes the President of the United States has been without knowledge of the steps that have recently been taken by Interventionists and members of his Administration to make it seem that public opinion is driving him to convoying and to war.

There will be those who will insist that the President has promised to keep us out of war, therefore he will not let these Interventionists drag us in.

Cites First Lady's Talk About Pledge

But let me remind you that however much assurance may have been given to the people by the President,—that Mrs. Roosevelt so very recently gave notice that the President had never given any such assurance, or made any such promise.

Don't, I plead with you who hear me, don't let official Washington have any reason after this pending blitzkrieg is ended, to believe that the people are for the purposes which the blitzkrieg has enunciated.

Make yourselves heard, just as the Interventionists are going to make themselves heard these next few hours, when with all the might of their organizations, they will flood the President with telegrams and communications which would give the President a chance to demonstrate that he was being pressured into convoying, that public demand insisted that convoying be undertaken.

Americans, use the same machinery that your Interventionist foes are using in this hour. It is the telling hour. It is the critical hour. It is the determined hour.

Don't let the record of public expression that comes to rest in Washington these next few days be any excuse for a conclusion that the American people are for convoying, shooting and going to war.