Asking for Trouble


By GERALD P. NYE, Senator from North Dakota

Delivered before America First Rally at Newark, New Jersey, September 23, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 29-32.

THE candidate of the Republican Party for President in 1940 has since become a director in a British dominated insurance company, a director of the New York Ship Building Company, which is enjoying contracts approaching a half billion dollars with the United States government, has become a director or has been nominated to become a director in the Lehmann Brothers Corporation, and is an out-front advocate of further involvement of our country in Europe's war.

Nevertheless, he is the same man who on November 12, a few days following the Presidential election, 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 reelected, and this solemn pledge for him I know will be fulfilled, and I know the American people desire him to keep it sacred."

Some of us are still asking that those promises made by President Roosevelt and Mr. Willkie be kept sacred. I think it altogether fair, in light of what is being revealed by polls and immediate contact with the people, that 90% of the people of these United States are prayerfully urging that these Roosevelt-Willkie promises of the late campaign be kept sacred.

Because we are asking and insisting that our country be kept from involvement in foreign war we are called "isolationists," with emphasis upon the implication that we are blind, or would bury our heads in the sands, that we would have no social, no economic relations with the rest of the world, that we would simply ignore all the world, and that we would even abandon foreign trade.

Now let's just pause long enough here to see who are the real isolationists in keeping with this loose defining of what constitutes isolationism.

As a result of Presidential conduct of our foreign policy during the last two or three years, the United States hasvirtually no shipping or trade activity in the Pacific, we have surrendered to others our ships and tankers until we have all but abandoned trade with South America, and are even without the usual inter-coastal shipping on the Atlantic seaboard, largely because we have given our ships to others. Whatever trade exists on the Atlantic Ocean is a Santa Claus trade, a trade that brings us only debt, a trade most costly of maintenance. This is the result, I repeat, of the manner in which our foreign policy has been conducted, a policy that was threatening virtually every power upon this earth excepting only one, a policy which engendered hatred and suspicion. This has been the policy of the interventionists.

This interventionist policy has all but completely isolated the United States. Those who would get us nearer to, or actually into the foreign wars, have accomplished an isolation more complete than the United States has known in all its history. And when this madness is over with, as it will be one day, we shall doubtless find that Great Britain has all our cargo carrying ships, continuous control of all the sea lanes, her own trade intact, while we have abandoned ours and are without the shipping capacity needed to undertake renewal of our lost foreign trade.

That will be the result invited by the kind of isolationist policy pursued by the Roosevelt administration and the interventionists of America.

Washington and Jefferson were isolationists, but in quite another sense. They were isolationists against the hates and the wars of foreign lands. They were isolationists against the notion that we could hope to reform or in any wise influence Europe in the adoption of American ideology. Jefferson expressed his style of isolation well when he said:

"For us to attempt to reform all Europe, and bring them back to principles of morality and a respect for the equal rights of nations, would show us to be only maniacs of another character."

Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, President of Stanford University, brings the Jefferson thought down to date in more modern language when he says:

"If anyone believes the American people can go out and force other nations around to our way of thinking, he has a Hitler complex."

President Roosevelt was once this style of isolationist. It wasn't more than four years ago that the President was saying that he would not object to being called an isolationist so long as isolation meant isolation against other peoples' wars.

I know that I, along with millions of Americans, am isolationist in the sense only of seeking to avoid trouble with and part in other peoples' wars. The interventionists have won isolation by seeking for and asking for trouble.

The Monroe Doctrine afforded in essence, the kind of isolation that I believe in but definitely not the kind of isolation which the interventionists advocate and further. The President and the interventionists have re-defined the Monroe Doctrine. We have had the Doctrine so re-defined as to make it an invitation to trouble. As construed by American leadership today the Monroe Doctrine is an instrument which forbids non-Americans any interference on the American continent but which permits America to interfere anywhere in the world. It becomes now, in the hands of interventionists, an instrument to invite trouble for ourselves.

There is nothing new about this venture because for many months the administrators of our American affairs have been asking for trouble—threatening, daring, and pushing others to extremes which could not win anything but trouble. This asking for trouble has brought our country to a distressing need for more of the instruments of national defense. In the providing of that defense, however much people may differ with the occasion for it—in the winning of national defense of adequacy, there is no disunity among the people or in the Congress. There is disunity on the theory that our defense is adequately provided for by defending others or providing the defense instruments for others who in turn might one day surrender them to those against whom we feel required to provide a larger defense for ourselves.

The saddest thing in this day is the knowledge that our national invitations to and for trouble have been always in the name of peace, of keeping our country out of other peoples' wars. With no enemy in sight, with no threat made against us, or even implied, we have pursued a defense policy that has made us, if not in word, then by deed at least, a partner of certain belligerent nations.

Look now to the question of how we have been asking for trouble at every turn in the conduct of our foreign policy of the last three years.

First came repeal of the Arms Embargo in the name of keeping us out of war. This action violated neutrality in the eyes of international law and understanding. Indeed, it violated international law. Repeal could have been accomplished only as the administration sold Congress on the theory that the repeal would help us keep out of war. And it will be remembered that with the repeal of the embargo, the President said:

"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.

Need the American people be shown in detail how far afield from this declaration of September 21, 1939, the President has flown since he accomplished his purpose with repeal?

As if asking for more trouble, and in violation of our own laws, the President dispossessed us of exceedingly valuableships at a time when our navy was pleading for more ships. This act, too, was represented by the President as being a step to keep us out of war, however much it violated the spirit of international law.

Asking for trouble as we were, we found ourselves eventually ready to adapt the ways of Europe, the instrument without which a dictator could never thrive—we adopted peacetime conscription, and later, put military training on a 30-month basis, whereas up in Canada, which is at war, compulsory military training is a requirement for only 4 months with the Canadian conscriptee subject to service away from home only as he volunteers that service.

This policy of ours of asking for trouble found the President speaking pleasantly only of those countries which would pitch their strength with one belligerent, with "stab in the back" language for those that would not ally themselves as the President would choose they might ally themselves.

The Lend-Lease bill, with its provisions in violation of international law permitting the repairing of the ships of a belligerent nation in our own ports, and permitting other acts which were in violation of international law, was a further asking for trouble and was attained by the President and his administration with their representation that even these steps were in the interests of keeping us out of war.

The President, and his sons who have chosen to speak elsewhere in the world, have shown a terrible impatience in the lack of incidents which would bring us more actual trouble, in a seeming policy of everlasting asking for trouble.

With patience gone, seemingly, because the incident did not occur in sufficient degree to enrage the American people, the President took to the air-waves 12 days ago and proclaimed a war. Not a constitutional war but a war by Presidential utterance. In that fireside chat he ordered American ships to shoot on sight the vessels of certain nations not at war against us. And quite simultaneously comes the announcement of the Secretary of the Navy that our navy is convoying ships across the Atlantic. This convoying had to be upon the orders of the President of the United States, the very same President who, when in attaining these steps to trouble one after another in the name of helping us keep out of war, had said upon occasion: "Convoys mean shooting and shooting means war."

Put two and two together and we must acknowledge that we are today at war, not constitutionally at war but at war by Presidential proclamation, in violation of the Constitution, and in violation of the wishes of the great majority of the American people.

This is the result of a program of many months of asking for trouble in the name of keeping our country out of war. There may be some confusion in some minds about this day but historians 25 and 50 years hence are going to have no difficulty understanding just what is responsible for our predicament of this hour, or what will be responsible for our involvement in the war if we are involved. Historians are not going to look with any sympathy upon the Presidential declaration, after all of these invitations to trouble have been issued, to the effect that the decision of war or peace is now up to Germany. By what right can any man order our ships to shoot the ships of other nations and then say that the choice of war or peace is up to that other nation alone?

Asking for trouble! And while we have been asking this, we have been parading our representation of interest in peace, peace, peace.

And not once has our government under President Roosevelt made the slightest move to bring about peace. Never has our government sought to bring warring nations to an understanding. Instead he has prodded, and jibed, and driven

others on to war. Again, when history of these days is recorded, it shall have to be everlastingly recorded that there never was a better time for peace than now. No peace accomplished later on can be any better or any more enduring than a peace that could be entertained right now. But instead of trying to accomplish an end to this world slaughter, American leadership says, as the President said last February 25th: "The first thing is to win the war."

Oh, fellow Americans, who can be so blind as to fail to know the part which our country, under its present leadership, is playing in a continuation of this world slaughter.

How much longer will the American people consent to the surrender by its Congress to Presidential request, Presidential dictate? How much longer will the people let their Congress consent to this continuing asking for trouble? How much longer will there be consent to a leadership of our American thinking by British minds which are bent upon bringing not only American machinery but American lives, and still more American dollars, into the preserving of domination of the world by one power?

I am not blaming Britain for her persistent effort to get us into this war. I can not avoid blaming my country for the seeming blindness which is taking us into that war. Might I suggest that if we Americans must listen to British statesmen, that we listen to British statesmen speaking in an hour when they were less selfish than they are in this terrible hour of pressure upon them.

We like to think that what we are doing for Great Britain, Great Britain would do for us if we were in her shoes. Winston Churchill told us in 1934, told all the world, in fact, that Great Britain "must be safe from undue foreign pressure. . . . We cannot confine the safety of our country to the passions or the panic of any foreign nation which may be facing some desperate crisis." So we need more notice than that of what we might expect from Great Britain if our positions were reversed in this hour?

Lord Beaverbrook comes to us and eternally preaches that there can be not even faint suggestion of peace with one so lacking in honesty and sincerity as Hitler. Yet in 1938 it was the same Lord Beaverbrook who declared:

"We certainly credit Hitler with honesty and sincerity. We believe in his purpose. . . ."

Britain's Lords and Earls engage in most persistent effort to convince us that there can be no peace with Hitler. Yet Lord Rothermore in 1938 declared:

"There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take. He is simple, unaffected and obviously sincere. He is supremely intelligent."

The lone cause of this war, we are told, and we want to believe, is Hitler. Lord Lothian did a grand job for his country in parading this belief for American consumption. Yet it was the same Lord Lothian who in 1938 said of the trouble that was brewing in Europe:

"We are largely responsible for the situation that confronts us today—('We' meaning Great Britain).

"If another war comes and the history of it is ever written the dispassionate historian a hundred years hence will not say that Germany alone was responsible for it, even if she strikes the first blow, but that those who mismanaged the world between 1918 and 1937 had a large share of responsibility."

"The thing to do now is win the war," says the President. "Stop the Aggressors." And Winston Churchill seconds the motion with more demonstration of how impossible it is to even think of talking about a peace with Hitler. He maywish now that he had not said it, but in 1938 we found thesame Churchill saying:

"I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations."

Aren't we making ourselves the laughing stock for all time to come when we let our thinking be so completely dominated by the pressure of Britons who are under pressure at the moment? Are we going to anticipate that history will record as fact that which some would have us believe today, namely, that our present predicament is one occasioned by unavoidable circumstances? Isn't it rather clear that time must show to our satisfaction, if we are not satisfied now, that our predicament is one by invitation and proclamation of our own, encouraged and invited by foreign and selfish influences that would not do as much for us under reversed circumstances?

We did not make this man Hitler; Britain did. Hitlerism is not the cause that Britain fights; Hitlerism is only the result of a cause. Waste our blood and our wealth in destroying Hitlerism if we will, but let us know that when our war is won, we will have defeated, not the cause of this war but the consequence of Britain's dictated peace following the last war. No one makes quite so plain and clear the causes of this war as has David Lloyd George, who, after this present war was declared by Britain against Germany, stood on the floor of the British Parliament on the 9th day of May, 1940, and delivered himself of this feeling, knowing, and understanding address:

"The Treaty of Versailles was not carried out by those who dictated it. A good deal of the trouble was due to that fact. We were dealing with governments in Germany which were democratic governments, based on a democratic franchise, with democratic statesmen, and it isbecause we did not carry out the undertakings we had given to those democratic governments that Hitler came into power. There was a good deal that was done in Germany more particularly with regard to disarmament. The solid promise that we gave, not merely in the treaty itself, but in a document which I took part in drafting, which was signed by M. Clemenceau on our behalf, that if Germany disarmed, we should immediately follow her example, was not carried out, and there is no government that is more responsible for that than the present national government which came into power in 1931. They had their opportunity. America was ready, Germany was ready—it was a time when Herr Bruening was in charge—but we refused to carry on the terms after Germany had been completely disarmed. We had the certificate of the ambassadors to say that disarmament was completed, but in spite of that we did not carry out our part."

No one outside the inner circle can speak authoritatively in this hour concerning the possibility of the existence of commitments made by Americans, with or without the consent and knowledge of the President, but commitments nevertheless which might have been made to Great Britain, to France, to Russia, to Poland, to the Balkan countries. Butit is altogether fair to say, and to say again and again, that if commitments have been made regarding what America would do in certain eventualities—if these commitments have been made and become now embarrassing under invited circumstances, let the President of the United States be made to remember at every minute that he has made commitments as well to 131 million Americans, the folks at home. Commitments that are a first obligation upon the President of the United States.

Come, Americans, chins up! This is nothing more than a Presidential War. Your country is not at war, and will not be at war until it is declared by your representatives in Congress. Don't let that opposition which would break this splendid united front of non-intervention if it could—don't let them inject prejudices and racial strife to accomplish that end. Chins up! The cause of non-intervention is not lost. Indeed, the winning may be just around the corner. We can win. I repeat there has been as yet no declaration of a constitutional war. And I can say to you here and now, without fear of contradiction, that no one knows better than the President of the United States himself that he can't obtain, with the situation what it is at this moment, a declaration of war out of the Congress of the United States.