Our Faith in the Union


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

Over radio from New York, June 6, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 553-555.

THE men who founded this country called it The United States of America. Their ideal runs through our history and our traditions like a strong persistent refrain. It finds expression in a score of national slogans and historic phrases—"United we stand * * *" "In union there is strength," "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We fought a bitter war to preserve our national union.

We have met here tonight to express our faith in that union. We have come together not to quarrel with those who may disagree with us. We have come here to emphasize the fact that today, as never before, America needs that spirit of unity which has made and preserved this nation. Within this spirit there is room for honest differences of opinion.

But, unhappily, attempts are being made to make it appear that there is no honesty on either side of the great question before us now. Those of us who sincerely and deeply believe that this country must give every possible effort and support to Britain are accused of secretly conspiring. We are accused of secretly conspiring to throw this nation into an unnecessary war. On the other side, many sincere men and women who hold the opposite views have been smeared, with equal injustice, as pro-Nazis and as defeatists. We shall not advance the cause of our national safety nor of free men anywhere in the world by hurling libel at each other.

"No War Party in America"

There is no war party in America. And no little group has a monopoly on the title of peace party. The truth is that none of us wants war for the sake of war—nor for the sake of empire. Nor can any of us insure peace no matter how much we may desire it. And I do not know of any responsible leader in or out of government who does not devoutly pray that America may be spared the horrors of war.

But certain criticisms of motive and integrity have been made again and again in recent weeks. It is time to consider these.

It has been said that in the last election the Americanpeople were not given a fair chance to express their views on foreign policy. As a matter of fact, in the very nomination of their candidates they expressed their views. President Roosevelt's foreign policy was well known. And my position about aid to Britain was taken publicly in advance of the Administration's and has been unaltered since the beginning of the war. Frankly, I think one of the principal reasons why I was chosen by my party to be its nominee was because I had been more emphatic and consistent than any of the other candidates in urging all-out aid to Britain.

It has been said further that both the President and I in our campaigns promised to avoid war and that after the election both of us changed and became war-mongers. I have no right to speak for the President. But let me say flatly: I am not a war-monger.

Views Altered by Developments

However, let me say with equal frankness that in view of developments my conception of what constitutes effective aid to Britain has changed. I said many times before and during the campaign that England must win the war if our democracy is to survive. But eight, seven—even six months ago I hoped—and said—that top-speed production in the United States would be all the help necessary from us to enable her to win.

In those early days Germany was preoccupied on the Continent and Britain was able to carry her own goods. If our production has been intensified at that time, the story might be different today. Now it is painfully obvious that production is not enough. The goods we produce must get there if England is to win. And, with the slaughter of ships in these past months, we can no longer get those ships there by Britain's help alone. It is now our job not only to produce the goods necessary for her survival but to deliver them by whatever means will be most efficient.

Some say I have changed my position because, whereas as I criticized Mr. Roosevelt very severely during the campaign, I have done my best since then to support him in such of his policies as I believe to be for the best interests of my country. This is a catch argument. Of course I criticized Mr. Roosevelt and I disagree with him right now on many questions of domestic policy and on the administration of many defense efforts.

But the American people expressed their views in a free election. They chose Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this hour of great national peril it would be downright folly, if not worse, for any man to spend his time in criticizing and obstructing the efforts of the Administration, for the sake of mere partisan advantage or for the vanity of a seeming consistency.

I shall continue with all my power to do what I can to support the President in his foreign policy so long as I continue to believe that his foreign policy is the wisest one for my country. For, like millions of my fellow-citizens, I believe in, pray for and want this country to remain the United States of America.

Declares '40 Campaign Is Over

The campaign of 1940 is over and there is nothing to be gained by attempting to revive it; yet we seem to have a few who are trying to run a kind of out-of-season political campaign of their own. We have been lately informed that this country needs a new leader. That is reckless and misguided talk. We in America do not choose new leaders between elections. We cannot under our constitutional system have a new leadership until 1944 without revolution and destruction of the very values we seek to save.

From this same source we have heard the charge that President Roosevelt exceeds Hitler in his aggressive designs upon other nations. This is a wholly outrageous interpretation of the President's statement that this nation would not permit the seizure by Hitler of island outposts from which he could menace our safety. Such an interpretation implies a belief that we should acquiesce in any encroachment upon the Western Hemisphere that may suit Hitler's designs and that to oppose such encroachment is aggression. Only an obstinate determination to remain aloof from present-day realities or a sadly limited comprehension can explain such a point of view.

Defense cannot be a negative thing. It must employ the imagination to foresee and the energy to forestall potential attacks. Only the other day we read in our papers that Hitler and Mussolini were meeting at the Brenner Pass to decide what their attitude toward the United States would be. A man does not wait to be hit before putting up his guard. And may I say that I hope that the President shortly establishes bases in such places as Iceland in order to protect our interests.

Our strength will come in facing the facts, however bitter. We cannot shout and drive away the nightmares. We cannot have peace by vote nor a safe America through resolutions or drastic speech.

'Britain's Fate in the Balance'

Tonight the fate of Great Britain is in the balance. The British Isles cannot survive nor maintain their war effort without the constant inflow of armament, equipment and food.

In 1938, the last full year of peace, Great Britain imported 52,000,000 tons to supply the needs of her normal civilian life. In the first full year of the war, with military needs added to civilian needs, she was not able to import this amount by several million tons. Then came the fall ofFrance and the enlarged activity of German bombing and submarines. In the year 1941 Britain's leader set a much smaller minimum requirement for her needs. And even that minimum has not been maintained. Germany is sinking British ships at the rate of over 25 per cent a year of her total ship tonnage.

We have all wondered how much of our aid is really reaching England. Let me tell you. Of the American materials shipped to England over 10 per cent has been lost—one-tenth of the products of our toil and sweat are now rusting wreckage on the bottom of the ocean. But, even more important, the ships themselves have found the same grave.

Every ship lost means the loss of the carrying capacity for four cargoes of food and munitions a year; for each ship makes at least four trips a year to England. According to the most hopeful estimates of the combined shipbuilding endeavors of the British Empire and the United States, we will not produce ships as fast as they are being destroyed today until the Fall of 1942.

Protection of Shipping

Our naval patrol, although helpful in providing information and moral encouragement, does not stop the deadly toll. It can be stopped, however. For we know that Britain, when able to provide proper naval and plane protection for her incoming supplies, has lost hardly a ship. Her losses come from her inability to fight on other fronts and at the same time to provide effective protection for her merchant ships.

Now I say to you deliberately and earnestly—unless those losses of shipments to England are stopped or greatly reduced—and at once—England cannot survive. And there is only one way that job can be done—America must insure the safe delivery of at least her own production to England. Fortunately, with the strongest navy in the world and with an increasingly strong air force, America has the ability to do that. If America insures delivery, we have well-founded assurances that not alone will England survive but England will win.

But critics of our foreign policy say if we help in any effective way, we may become involved in war.

If Hitler Makes War on Us

I cannot tell you the point at which we may become involved in war. Neither can any other American. All we can know is that if and when Hitler thinks it is to his advantage, he will make war upon us. But if he does it now, he has lost his cunning, for this will thus combine the British and the American Navies and the British and American air forces.

The result will be an immediate and complete clean-up of the Atlantic. He will then know what a blockade really means. In any event, we of America must decide at once whether or not we will let Britain go down.

In making our decision we must remember that war will not be fended off by the mere fact that we do not want it. How many nations of Europe that Hitler has trampled under his iron heel wanted war? And how many, by trying to remain strictly neutral, avoided it?

Nor should our decision be based upon the illusion that by locking ourselves within our own walls America can escape the plague that afflicts the rest of the world. That is mere wish fulfillment. The Nazi philosophy is a restless and a grasping one that seeks the domination of the world. Its present claim that it seeks the control of Europe only in order to correct old wrongs and give its people opportunity will have as little meaning as its promises to the conquered countries of Europe.

Ireland, Yesterday and Today

I remember well when I was in Ireland in February, how confident the Irish seemed that Germany would respect Ireland's neutrality and refusal to cooperate with England. I wonder today whether they still feel so confident as they visit the devastated areas of Dublin.

In any event if we are to play a decisive role in this great struggle to preserve democracy, if we are to have a share in shaping the world to come, we must act and we must act together. Every minute that is lost in bickering, in inefficiency and in misguided efforts may be the minute that spells the lost race against time and the death of free government.

First, there must be an end of petty politics. I have nothing but contempt for any Republican who hopefully keeps on the fence praying that at a later date he may inherit what he supposes will be the inevitable reaction toward isolation and appeasement.

And I have equal disdain for those New Dealers and Democrats who cogitate and plan how America's present stupendous efforts can be translated into offices and political power.

Furthermore, I have no sympathy with efforts to use this emergency to demand unnecessary powers over us and our rights or powers which are a mere alibi for inadequacy and procrastination or attempt to transform our system behind the blind of national defense.

Unity the Pressing Problem

Such actions bring disunity. Ours is a problem of unity United, pulling together, we can do the job. Our country has the capacity with free labor to turn out arms in greater quantity and better quality than the regimented and captive labor that the dictators can ever produce. We have the re sources of men, materials and skills. We must direct those resources to the maximum of their efficiency. But we have no time to spare. Again the need is unity.

This is a vast and complicated effort. Stresses upon one segment of our economic system show up in strains upon another segment seemingly far removed. To insure the smooth functioning of the entire system in an enormous task of management engineering.

We must gear ourselves for a united and complete effort in government, in industry, in labor and in agriculture. We must wipe out political blacklists. The fittest men to administer the defense, irrespective of their political affiliations or economic beliefs, must be brought to Washington.

A master priority plan must be at once formulated. Our industrial capacity must be allocated, among our military, our naval, aeronautical, lease-lend and civilian needs, so that one effort supplements another in proper order. The hope to do this cannot be accomplished through arbitrary power, with partial authority scattered among a multitude of competitive bureaucrats. It must be accomplished through a coordinated centralized authority under the direction of one man responsible to the President, and this authority must deal not in political theories and social objectives but in a single aim—the building of our defense and, as the first step toward it, the providing of Britain's requirements.

Competence and sanity must be exercised in the management of our finance, tax and economic legislation, so as not to produce the devastating effects of inflation.

As to Industry and Labor

Labor and industrial peace must come, and come quickly, whatever may be the sacrifice of ordinary aims. And their respective positions must not be exploited for political purposes. The preservation of liberty is more important toprivate industry than profits, and the American working-men, like his fellow-Britons, knows that, however imperfect democracy may be, under totalitarian rule he will be a slave. Neither businessman nor worker has found freedom or opportunity under Hitler.

The President has proclaimed a national emergency. It calls for unusual measures. It requires the organization of our whole economy into one vast, closely cooperating machine with every part adjusted to every other part and the whole thing ticking like a first-class watch. It can be done and it must be done.

We know by this time what has happened to the European countries that tried to be neutral. We know the dark picture of the world we would live in if we should let Britain fall.

Making Democracy a Reality

But we are beginning to see far more than this negative vision of the consequences to us of a British defeat. We are beginning to see that a British victory, with our aid, will be the greatest affirmation of the democratic faith that history has ever known. And we begin to see in that victory a chance to correct the errors of the past and to make democracy a reality for all men.

In all those silent places of the earth where men are enslaved and dictators now seem permanently in power there will be lifting of heads as there was more than a century ago when men first heard of the Declaration of Independence. The myth of the invincibility of dictatorships will be ended. The creative genius of the people that collectivism and dictatorship now suppress will again be released—as the inventive genius of the American people was released in our own early days. We are beginning to see that outside our borders a British victory will refresh and renew the world's faith in democracy, while here at home it will end the creeping despair of those who have lost that faith and who fear that our own way of life can never be strong and productive again.

What the Nazis Are Saying

The war lords of Nazi Germany boast that this country is powerless to thwart their long-laid plans of world conquest. America, they tell us, will be too late. America is divided. She is torn with labor strife, with political dissension, with class and race antagonisms. And she is a democracy, they say, that fatal weakness. Democracies, the Nazis have told us over and over again, are incapable of unified and effective action in a crisis. Rent by conflicting counsel which democracy permits, America, they claim, will fall a prey to indecision until too late, when like an overripe fruit it will drop into the hands of the conqueror.

That is the picture that the Nazis paint. But we Americans see a picture they never can see. It is a picture that must be forever invisible to the eye of tyranny because it shows itself only to the inward gaze of free spirits.

We see a nation slow to anger and unused to fear. We see a broad, rich and varied land. Here men, whose ancestors were hereditary enemies, work perfectly together, unmindful of those ancient feuds. Here stretches mile on mile of unfortified frontier. Men speak their minds, read what they please and worship in accordance with their consciences. A chance to earn a living, raise and educate a family and be self-respecting, free individuals, is all they ask. It is a peaceful nation, unused to military pomp and circumstance. Strangers may think it soft, divided, ineffectual. What they do not see is that, underneath, the love of country burns. Deeper than all the surface differences there runs the unifying devotion to our common heritage of freedom.

And when that freedom is threatened, as it is today, this country will be found, as it has always been found in a great crisis, not divided but the United States of America.