The Cause of Human Freedom


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Candidate of the Republican Party for President in 1940

Delivered at Madison Square Garden, New York, May 7, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 455-457

NOW my fellow Americans, we are gathered here tonight in the cause of human freedom and in that there should at least be no diversity among American citizens. You have listened to Americans, descendants of many races and representatives of diverse languages. Leaders of labor and of industry and of commerce have had their say.

I speak to you tonight as an American—an American passionately devoted to my country. In America we are free—free to choose our government, free to speak our minds, free to practice our different religions, and we believe that those who disagree with us have a right to do so. We hate no people and covet no people's land. We are blessed with a natural and a varied abundance. We set no limits to man's achievement—in mind, factory, field or service. We have great dreams and in America we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true.

But our freedoms are under attack today. There has appeared in the world the philosophy of totalitarianism which seeks to blot them out. It has captured most of Europe. It seeks now to conquer the British Isles—the last citadel of freedom in Europe.

Its agents are in South America and are slipping among us as evil advance messengers of its future designs.

Totalitarianism is a ruthless philosophy, for it cannot survive in a world where freedom exists. The believers in totalitarianism in Italy, Germany and Japan are bound together not alone by treaties but by common habits ofthought, common aspirations and common purposes. The lovers of liberty throughout the world cannot simply sit still and remain free. They too must likewise bind themselves together for their common purpose or else their freedom will pass. Fellow Americans, there is no compromise—the world will be dominated by free men or it will be dominated by enslaved men. We cannot appease the forces of evil. We cannot make peace with those who seek to destroy our very way of life. For the difference between us is fundamental.

Now, naturally, we love peace—we would like to close our eyes and rid ourselves of the nightmare of this useless and this wasteful struggle. And all around us men shout peace, peace, when there is no peace. The struggle is already upon us. We cannot shut our eyes to it. Already the outposts of the only remaining free people of Europe are being battered and destroyed. If we allow the valiant British to fall we shall be the next to feel the onrush of this barbaric force with its insidious propaganda, mechanized warfare and revolutionary political purposes.

But some among us say we are weak and we are unprepared; that the British are bound to fall and that our own hope lies in locking ourselves behind our own defenses while freedom collapses all about us.

One might as well seek to guard his own home with an iron fence while all his neighbors are sickening and dying of a contagious disease which cannot be kept out by mere iron bars.

A Doctrine of Confusion

This is a doctrine of confusion, fear and despair. If we had followed this doctrine in the past, in all the struggles we've had, we would not possess freedom today. It is a cowardly doctrine, an ignoble doctrine, unworthy of our past and destructive of our future.

I reject and repudiate utterly—as I know you do—any such doctrine of defeat and of despair. The truth is that if we see to it that the ever-increasing production of American factories and farms is safely delivered to England, England will not only survive; England will win. And personally I am not interested in mere words and technical phrases.

I care not whether you call safe delivery convoying, patrolling, airplane accompaniment or what not. We want those cargoes protected and we want them protected at once and with less talk and more action. That is America's right and also her duty and also her self-interest. If America will but do that, she will not alone save freedom but provide her own last probable chance to ultimately avoid war.

We have listened much of late to so-called self-styled practical men, who tell us that such messages of hope are but the words of politicans and of idealists. They say that if we protect our shipments and provide England with the tools of war and the means of life, even then England cannot win this war. They also say that our help would at best permit England to exist under the constant bombing of the German air fleet. They say that even if we provide England with planes, she can never acquire air superiority for it would be in their language physically impossible to base enough aircraft in the British Isles alone to equal in strength the aircraft that can be based on the continent of Europe.

They say that German production so far surpasses English and American production that all attempts except to build our own defenses are futile and doomed to failure.

Such conclusions run afoul of the opinion of experts, the understandings of reasonable men and the experiences of history. To think of England's air power as limited to the number of planes that can be based on the British Isles, while the air force of the Axis powers with all Europe as a base control the situation, is like looking into a small end of a telescope.

This war is being fought in the Middle East, in Northern Africa and in the Far East. Planes are needed throughout that whole area, as recent events around the Mediterranean have made tragically clear. Look at the map. Europe does not surround the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British Commonwealth of Nations surrounds Europe. And all that far flung Commonwealth, and associated peoples provide bases for airplanes. It is our job to provide the planes, and when we do that England will have the air superiority.

I know that the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States can outproduce all the boasted ingenuity and capacity of Hitler and his factories. I have faith that they will do so. If I did not believe that I should be desperate indeed. For if we have lost our industrial superiority, we are upon our way out. If totalitarianism has so harnessed and can so direct the productive forces of this mechanical age as to outdo the productive capacity of our free way, then our democracy will shortly go, even if peace reigns throughout the world tomorrow.

By the grace of the English Channel, by the good fortune of resolute and resourceful leadership and the heroism of a united nation—coupled with Hitler's delay in attack last Summer, England has survived. And I tell you, and I tell you as one who has seen with his own eyes—she has survived with her morale strengthened, with her people fanatically devoted to democracy and people of all groups andclasses devoted fanatically to the defense of democracy, her leadership is undaunted and her productivity in airplanes and tanks and guns at the highest point in her history. And, incidentally, this is not a 1938 report.

Hitler cannot win this war without conquering Britain. To prevail he must write his peace in London. And Hitler can never successfully invade the Isle of Britain provided her sea lanes are kept open. But by the same token, Britain will probably fail unless America helps her immediately and effectively to keep those life lines unbroken.

And Americans, Democrats, Republicans, people who voted for me and people who voted against me, I call upon you as united people to keep that lifeline unbroken.

There is, however, no reason for despair. The free people control the great resources of this world. Germany and Italy are in Europe and are shut off from their Japanese partner. Russia, a somewhat doubtful friend, cannot supply their economic needs owing to inadequate production and still more inadequate transportation. The British still control the seas and can draw on all the world's resources. The three Axis powers with a population of about two hundred million constitute only one-quarter of the world's people, most of whom are hostile and have to be held down by force.

The United States, the British Empire and China have half the world's people. They can draw on the resources of all the non-Axis world. Steel, as you know, is the cornerstone of mechanized war power. Now, even those practical minded men who warn us against idealism, should be impressed that the United States and the British Empire have a steel capacity of 100,000,000 tons per year, while the capacity of the European Axis plus the fourteen countries they have conquered is only 42,000,000.

Our practical friends should also know that oil, copper, rubber and the non-ferrous metals are essential elements of war capacity. We either control or can draw on the world's resources of these. Germany cannot obtain what she needs from Europe and is cut off by the blockade from outside resources.

Incidentally, one of Germany's greatest weaknesses and a principal target of the R.A.F. is her transport system. When the Allies achieve air supremacy, as, incidentally, they are going to do with the help of the United States, they will be able to strike at the German transport system with much more decisive effect.

Now let me say it to you again. Furnish to Britain today, tomorrow and the next day for her desperate need, ships, the ships in our docks, the ships in our coastwise trade until it hurts, the impounded ships of other nations, the ships we are building. Give to her destroyers, and see that those ships loaded with the ever-increasing production of American factories and farms deliver their cargoes safely to the ports of Western and Northern England. Thus England will survive and thus England will win.

And then, in 1942 and 1943, when the combined airplane and armament production of two hundred million free people in England, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand give to Britain a sufficient, assured and overwhelming superiority in the air, the enslaved people of France and Belgium and Holland and Norway and all of the conquered countries—perhaps even the enslaved people of Germany—will begin to arise. They will begin to arise and this monstrous menace to the liberties of free men everywhere will be eradicated utterly.

But people of America, there is no magic by which this goal can be achieved. There is no easy formula. If we Americans had waited for easy formulas we would not today have freedom.

We must work as we have never worked before, we must work to make this vast system of ours produce, produce, produce, and we must work together. The gigantic forces of America cannot be exerted effectively unless we are unified and united. We must be bound together by a common will to make freedom strong.

If we do the work and if we have the will the schemes of boastful dictators cannot stand against us. We shall find that they are not insuperable obstructions, but merely shadows in the progress of mankind.

We Americans shall pierce these shadows. There never was any people in the world so strong as the people of the United States of America. There never was any people so able to decide concerning what is right and what is wrong. There never was any people so capable of success, once their decision is made.

When I think of the depths and of the heights within this American people, I say to Hitler: You have never met any people like us. And you had best implore whatever pagan god you believe in, that you may be spared that day.