The Americas in the World Crisis


By RT. REV. MGR. DONALD A. MacLEAN, Associate Professor of Social and International Ethics, Catholic University, Washington, D. C.

Delivered at the "National Conference of the Catholic Association for International Peace, April 6, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 429-433.

PEARL HARBOR punctured the glittering bubble of our splendid isolation and forced us to replace our long cherished neutrality by Christian conceptions of our fundamental social relations and our international responsibilities. The tragic events of current world history finally compelled us, in spite of our Federal neutrality and traditions of isolation and national self-sufficiency, to face the world crisis as our own problem and to gird ourselves for military action everywhere and anywhere in the world.

World affairs became overnight in deed and in truth our national concern. As a nation we became Catholic in our world outlook for the first time in our national history, and in the first fervor of our conversion we enthusiastically acclaimed the President's proclamation that we would do battle anywhere in the world against the forces of totalitarians barbaric savagery. An all-out war against the savage attacks of the Axis partners, today finds little opposition or criticism from the people of America, criticism in the main being directed against inaction, red tape and industrial and governmental conflicts which spur our impatience. We have been fully convinced that we can never live to ourselves and hope to escape serious scorching while the world around us burns.

Nor is this the conviction of the United States alone. Continental and hemispheric solidarity has received great impetus because of our consciousness that not only are the nations of the Western Hemisphere geographically and economically contiguous and dependent but that under the present world attack the independence, integrity and welfare of each is bound with the safety and well-being of all.

By the Good Neighbor policy, inaugurated by President Hoover during his visit to South America as President "elect", and further implemented and actualized by the present administration, we as a nation repudiated, let us hope for all time, what was regarded by many as an aggressive, imperialistic policy with reference to Latin Americas, and substituted a policy of helpfulness more in conformity with the principles of Christian international ethics.

President Roosevelt, in his Inaugural Address on March 4th, 1933, formally repudiated any predatory ambitions, and dedicated this nation to a policy of constructive cooperative helpfulness in the promotion of world order, peace and prosperity. His statement in part is as follows: "In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and because he does so, respects the rights of others-the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with his world or neighbors."

With Canada this practical policy of "good neighbor" has long since become reciprocally traditional. The three thousand miles of unfortified boundary form the noblest monument in all the world to a neighborly social, economic and political friendship. Mutual trust and mutual cooperation form the basic structure of that monument. Our interests are their interests, while our economic well-being and theirs are one. Their wars are ours and ours are theirs. Little wonder then that Canada's proclamation of War against Japan, coming seven hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, preceded even that of the United States itself.

By a long series of meetings and conferences there has emerged a policy of helpful cooperation between the United States and the Latin Americas. At the Inter-American Conference of Buenos Aires in 1936, President Roosevelt pledged the United States to defend all its neighbors of the Americas from attack. At Lima, Peru, the mutual defense of the Western Hemisphere was further considered and planned. In August 1938 in an address at Kingston, Canada, the President proclaimed the doctrine of "continental solidarity" for cooperative defense and mutual well-being; while at the Panama convention of 1939 the United States led in the establishment of a permanent agency of socialand economic planning for the Americas. On May 27, 1941, in proclaiming an unlimited national emergency, President Roosevelt ordered that the nation "be put on the basis of readiness to repel any and all acts of aggression directed towards any part of the Western Hemisphere." By various reciprocity trade treaties successfully negotiated by the State Department under Cordell Hull with Canada and other American States, by the operation of the Export-Import Bank, and the creation in 1941 of the Inter-American Bank, practical evidence is afforded of the vitality of the good neighbor policy of mutual helpfulness in the broad sphere of international trade and in the development of natural resources essential to hemispheric defense, national development and international security. Through the Lend-Lease policy recently applied to Latin American countries government funds are being extended to enable them to develop their resources, stabilize their exchanges and to establish new industries which will be beneficial to all, while direct aid is being afforded to many of these states in the matter of strengthening their military defenses.

The signing, on January 28, 1942, at the conclusion of the Rio de Janeiro Conference, by the twenty-one foreign ministers of the American Republics there represented, of a sixty-four page final Act which included forty resolutions, constituted a further vital act of reaffirmation of Continental unity and solidarity of action in face of the greatest crisis with which the United States has ever been confronted.

The most significant of the forty resolutions was that which "recommended" the breaking of relations with the Axis. Nineteen of the twenty-one Latin American States are now formally aligned against the Axis. The other two are cooperating efficiently in political and economic matters. Most of the Latin American nations have gone beyond this and joined Canada and the United States in war as allies against the Axis nations.

Other political resolutions provided for rigid control of subversive activities, communications and aviation, creation of an Inter-American Military Committee to sit at Washington during the war to exchange and coordinate information on hemispheric defense; establishment of a united front to deal with post-war problems and adherence to the Atlantic Charter.

The most important economic resolutions called for severance of financial and commercial relations with the Axis nations. Others provided for accelerated production of strategic war materials, mobilization of shipping and other transportation facilities, maintenance of internal economies during the war and conferences of American states to establish an international stabilization fund. Through the specific resolution re-affirming their adherence to the Atlantic Charter, as well as by the general terms of the Rio Conference, the Americas confirmed their global participation in the furtherance of the cause of liberty and world peace. By the "twenty-six nation Agreement", adherence to the Atlantic Charter these nations pledged their all out efforts against the members of the Tripartite Pact and their united efforts for the promotion of peace.

As partners, not merely as good neighbors, the Americas— United States—Canada and the many liberty loving republics of Central and South America have pledged their loyal and undivided forces to resist totalitarian, barbaric attacks on any front wherever freedom, democratic institutions and Christian civilization may be imperilled. Conjointly as one Continent, as a united hemisphere, we of the Americas are joined with the other free peoples of the world against an armed and "quisling" conspiracy to destroy free religious and political institutions wherever they exist. In this we have, I trust, the full implication of the Christian traditionaldoctrine, that of the unity and the solidarity of mankind, coupled with the common responsibility for defending the liberties and the rights of all nations, big or small, for the promotion of Christian civilization and for the establishment of organized world peace.

As national and international planning are imperative for the successful prosecution of the war, it is even more vital that nations cooperate in planning to perpetuate the fruit of such victory and to insure a just and permanent world peace. Only on the basis of the principles enunciated by Pope Pius XII can real world peace and a dynamic new world order be constructed once the horrors of war are terminated. To that end the Catholic forces of the Americas must persistently strive for proper recognition of Christian principles as underlying all true social order.

Already in response to a message pledging American all-out Catholic loyalty, President Roosevelt has proclaimed that the victory of the allied forces shall be but the prelude to a world peace grounded on Christian principles.

In a letter to Archbishop Mooney, "Chairman of the Administrative Board" of the American Catholic Hierarchy, the President declared: "We shall win this war, and in victory we shall seek not vengeance but the establishment of an international order in which the Spirit of Christ shall rule the hearts of men and of nations."1

In the post-war work of organizing for world peace the Americas have a sacred duty to play a leading role. The forces of barbarism must be effectively and permanently curbed, while power must be put at the disposal of right order. This can be accomplished only by the joint organized action of the world states. No state or world society can achieve its vital purpose without organization. Pope Pius XII has on several occasions reaffirmed the principle enunciated by Benedict XV during the first World War, that "All States should unite in one sole league, or rather a family of nations, both to guarantee their own independence and safeguard order in the civil concert of peoples." In the Atlantic Charter we have, by implication, again committed ourselves as a nation to the organization of the world society. It is to be hoped that costly experience of this World War will have sufficiently convinced all the Americas that, unless we earnestly cooperate at all times to defend others against aggressive forces, we shall ultimately be unable to successfully defend ourselves against the same violence.

The world should be fully convinced that effective "defense" of true democracy and of Christian civilization does not consist in drifting into World Wars and then barely winning them after a costly struggle; but it consists chiefly in using powers and organized resources in such a way that war does not and cannot take place. At the root of the recent Axis triumphs, through the use of barbaric force, lies a political fact, while at the base of that fact lies a moral failure. The desertion of the League and the World Court by the United States after the last World War has made it possible for Prime Minister Churchill, in his address before the United States Congress, to lament in retrospect, that, "If we had kept together after the last War, if we had taken common measures for our safety, this renewal of the curse need never have fallen on us." That tragedy of dereliction to the World Society to the League of Nations, the World Court, etc., must never be repeated by any member of the American nations.

The re-establishment and further development of the League of Nations and of the World Court are essential forenduring peace in a stable and organized world. Among the problems of post-war planning the economic issues will necessarily loom larger, and a solution on a sound moral, social and political basis is vital.

Christian social justice and social charity also demand of the Americas as an essential part of the organization for world peace, their generous cooperation in promoting the economic well-being of mankind in establishing a better world economic order. In this task all nations must play their proper roles. Pius XI made this an essential part of his social reconstruction program: "It would be well," he stated, "if the various nations in common counsel and endeavor strove to promote a healthy economic cooperation by prudent pacts and institutions, since, in economic matters they are largely dependent one upon another, and need one another's help."2

Our global economic interdependence, even for basic raw materials, has become patent under the stress of war. Even our Western Hemisphere, rich though it be in natural resources, finds itself dependent on practically every other continent and island of any importance for some of the raw materials vital for the operation of its essential industries. In the new world order in which the Americas are by Providence destined to play a leading role, an effective and complex system of economic, political and judicial world organizations dealing effectively with the problems of world communications, labor, industrial, financial and other economic and political international questions must be re-established. An economically interdependent world, that is not effectively organized, emerges sooner or later into the chaos of war and international collapse.

The International Labor Office and the Bank of International Settlements must needs have drawn into their orbit all other major international groups dealing with kindred economic problems so that the common social welfare of mankind may be properly promoted and safeguarded. Past experiences have shown how necessary such organizations are. The world should moreover profit from defects and past errors in the ordering of international, economic, social, legal, and political relations. Many have failed to appreciate the fact that our inclusion in the world commonwealth is more original and of more fundamental importance to the United States and the other members of the Western Hemisphere than that of our inclusion in a Pan-American Union. This does not preclude regional or all-American organizations dealing with the local or special regional phases of the world problems. Experience has already demonstrated their practical utility. However, it should be kept in mind that all states, nations, or regional groups of nations, must always be regarded as a member of the great world commonwealth. Neither must we forget, as stated by Pius XII, that, while "a disposition of the divinely-sanctioned natural order divides the human race into social groups, nations and states," yet this does not break "the unity of the supranational society." For all that, "the human race is bound together by reciprocal ties, moral and judicial, into a great commonwealth, directed to the good of all nations and ruled by special laws which protect its unity and promote its prosperity."3

The unparalleled economic resources and strength, as well as the territorial vastness of the Americas imposes on Americans—the people of the Western Hemisphere—far-reaching responsibilities in the matter of post-war problems of economic and social reconstruction. As Pope Pius XII, in charting the basis for a new world order, recently pointed out: "It is inevitable that the powerful States should by reason of their greater potentialities and their power, play leading roles in the formation of economic groups comprising not only themselves but also smaller and weaker States as well."4

Already in the Atlantic Charter we are pledged "to further enjoyment by all States, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms, to trade and to raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity." In his last Christmas Message, Pope Pius XII seems to note with approval this agreement, stating "it is for us a source of great consolation to see admitted the necessity of a participation of all in the natural riches of the earth, even on the part of those nations which in the fulfillment of this principle belong to the category of 'givers' and not that of 'receivers'."

Nations as well as individuals blessed with abundance of the world's goods are under Divine Providence, "God's dispensers and providers of the world's goods" to the less fortunate and indigent. Much of this obligation can never be adequately fulfilled unless the claim on the part of some of the world's peoples to more living room as well as to a larger share in the natural resources of the world is afforded practical recognition. This claim is a reasonable and morally valid one. Collective selfishness on the part of some of the American nations has been responsible in a considerable measure for the economic and social misery of peoples in the world's highly congested areas. A realistic solution of the problems of raw materials, international exchanges, and credits, cartels, tariffs and immigration is, therefore, of paramount importance for world peace. It constitutes one of the major post-war problems of the Americas.

A more favorable and equitable distribution of the world's population over portions of the earth suitable to colonies and agricultural workers must be quickly undertaken. The Americas, such as Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, are under grave moral obligation to remove speedily by progressive action present unreasonable immigration barriers. Nor does the obligation terminate here. There exists the further auxiliary moral duty of facilitating the transportation and settlement of surplus populations in our wide open uninhabited spaces.

By unreasonable immigration restrictions, tariff barriers, credit and exchange controls, we have stripped hundreds of millions of less fortunate peoples in the highly congested areas of Europe and Asia of their vital birthright in the natural riches of "that surface which God has created and provided for the use of all."5 Christian social justice demands that "the nations less favored by nature" be "permitted access to the economic resources and materials destined for the use of all"6 which heretofore have, with cold and calculating egoism, been hoarded or even burned or destroyed;—while hundreds of millions of peoples have been forced thereby to endure misery, degradation and even the tortures of death from starvation.

Most of the major social disorders today stem from denial or lack of religious and moral principles or the refusal to accept the social implications of Christianity and the consequent widespread lack of economic and social security. This second social evil is basically an outgrowth or result of the denial of the principles of Christian social solidarity, the ignoring which allows free play to egoism and greed in a world where surplus goods constitute a major political problem in many States.

A basic Christian principle which is often lost sight of is that "the goods which were created by God for all men should flow equally to all according to the principles of justice and charity." This basic ethical truth, which has been reaffirmed by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical to the American Hierarchy and in his world broadcast of last Pentecost, is but a re-assertion of the principle stated over fifty years ago by Leo XIII "that the blessings of nature and of grace belong in common to the whole human race."7

This general right is original and underlies and conditions all private ownership so that secondary rights remain subordinate to the primary natural scope of material goods, and "cannot emancipate itself from the first and fundamental right which concedes their use to all men."8 Private ownership, at all times, "should serve to make possible the actuation of this right in conformity with its scope." Besides it is so intimately bound up with family well-being, that "the right of family to vital space is recognized as a basic human right."9

An elementary and sympathetic understanding of the world's demographic problems will indicate the urgent necessity of finding a rational solution in accord with these Christian principles. Population pressure, indicated by the density and the rate of increase of inhabitants in relation to national resources and opportunities, must naturally affect profoundly the social problem as well as the international policies of a state. A study of the population ratio per square mile of the seven great powers playing a dominant role in the present World War discloses revealing and suggestive facts.

According to Simonds and Emery10 such population ratio per square mile in the United States is 102, in Great Britain 596, in France 294, Russia 68, Italy 500, Germany 587, and Japan 2,430. While the development of explosive nationalistic aggressions by Italy, Germany and Japan cannot be explained solely on the basis of their intense population pressure, yet surely no one can be blind to the intensifying effect of the world immigration barriers, the international exchange restrictions, and other economic controls on their social and political problems, especially during the recent world economic crisis.

In a recent statement of the United States Catholic Hierarchy the necessity is stressed of affecting a more reasonable and wider distribution of land among the peoples of the world. "Domestic progress and peace," they assert depends "on securing vital space for the rural family, and world progress and peace depend on securing space for all nations of the world. Accordingly, an adequate solution of the problem of emigration is of major importance in bringing tranquility to a confused world."11

When we consider the fertility, the vastness and variety of the natural resources of the Western Hemisphere in the light of the fact that the twenty-two countries of the two American Continents with an area of 15,517,000 square miles have a total population of only around 275,000,000, while China, with a territory less than either Canada, Brazil, Australia or the United States, has a population of 450,000,000, and India with half the territory of the United States or Canada has a population of about 375,000,000 or double that of the North American Continent, one can readily perceive the reasonableness of the claim made by the peoples of congested areas to be permitted at least to share in waste lands as crumbs falling from the rich man's table. Even Europe with an area about that of the United States, has a population three times that of the Continent of North America. For the former, acute congestion is far from exceptional, while in the latter, vast areas suitable to cultivation "which God has created and prepared for the use of all,"11 are still abandoned to wildnatural vegetation, or even forced out of production by government edict.

The American Continents could easily absorb several hundred millions extra people without suffering any real inconvenience. In fact, they might benefit considerably thereby. This is especially true of Canada, the United States, Brazil and Argentina in which there still remain large rural areas capable of supporting large populations.

The land under cultivation in the United States at present amounts to about only 27 per cent of the total land area, while in Canada it is but 10 per cent. In Argentina it is 11 per cent. While the United States and Canada already till a half and a third respectively of their potentially arable land, Argentina with 75 per cent of her territory potentially tillable has vast uncropped areas, while her population is but slightly larger than that of Canada. Brazil, about the same area as Canada, "has only 1.6 per cent of her vast area under cultivation, while over one half of it might ultimately be cropped."12

Although the other American Republics are not so vast or comparatively rich in natural resources, yet they could easily admit with benefit to themselves considerable immigration, especially if they should be aided in the process of absorption and development by the major world nations particularly by the extension of necessary credits.

The continent of Australia as well as that of Africa could also, in time, absorb considerable immigrants—possibly a couple of hundred millions of additional people. A considerable impetus to the speedy prosecution of an allied victory, as well as a practical solution of one of the most critical of the world's social and political problems clamoring for speedy settlement, might well be afforded should Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Curtin of Australia, by joint declaration, add to an official statement establishing Dominion status for India, the further proclamation that all immigration barriers prohibiting entry into Australia of the people of India were now removed, and that the two countries were prepared to render needed assistance to facilitate settlement of India's surplus population in that vast continent. Thereby would be assured the loyal support ofIndia for an allied victory, as well as the complete frustration of the military aspirations of Japan for its domination of the island continent.

A further stimulus to Indian royalty, allied victory and the development of free democratic institutions might be afforded should the Government of Great Britain announce the appointment of the leaders of the three major parties in India to membership in the British war cabinet coupled with representation for India in the war joint staff council. When one recollects that the population of India is almost double that of Great Britain, the United States and the British free Dominions, and when the strategic importance of India for allied victory is envisioned, the value of such action can hardly be overestimated. Only courageous strategy and daring, even involving great risks, can assure victory. India's potentialities for victory are incalculable. Such a challenging stimulus might well spur the people of India to acts of heroic action in defense of the Empire and might well prove the turning point for a speedy allied victory.

The problem of the adjustment of world population is one which the League of Nations together with the nations possessing large available territories must face realistically and with a will to find a solution, i. e., if we are not to witness intermittent recurrences of world wars. In the solution of this problem which constitutes one of the major objectives of world peace in a Christian new world order never must we lose sight of the basic truth that the world constitutes a common "fatherland," the lands and resources of which are destined by God for the use of all men. Furthermore we must cease to pay mere lip service to the greatest of all forces of world reconstruction—the Christian social doctrine enunciated by Pope Pius XII. We must indicate to the world in practical economic, social and political terms how that teaching can be realized. Immediate steps to prove that we are in earnest is a vital need, if the world is to be saved from a post-war cataclysm even more fearful than the war itself. To avoid this "ruin of a frustrated and deluded peace" it is essential that the cooperation of all people, and especially of all Christendom, be secured for the promotion of this universal undertaking which is so vital to the common good of all humanity. In this providential mission the Americas are destined to play a historic role.


1 Catholic Action, January, 1942.

2 Quadragesima Anno .

3 Pius XI, Summi Pontificates, para. 64, 65.

4 Christmas, 1941.

5 Pius XII, Pentecost, 1941.

6 Pius XII, Christmas, 1941.

7 Rerum Novarum

8 Pius XII, Pentecost, 1941.

9 Pius XII, op. cit.

10 The Great Powers in World Politics, P. 94, American Book Co., 1937.

11 Pius XII, Pentecost Message to the World, June 1, 1941.

12 Ezekiel, Mordecai, Economic Relations between the Americas , p. 99, International Conciliation Publication, No. 367, February, 1941.