Address Delivered by the Secretary of State at Washington, April 25, 1939, [Extract]


Nations have most frequently resorted to war on the plea that it is the only method open to them for redressing wrongs or the only means left to them of settling international differences. For neither of these purposes is war the best of the remedies available to man, or, in fact, a remedy at all. There is no controversy, no difference that can arise between nations, which could not be settled with far greater benefit to all concerned by the peaceful processes of friendly adjustment than by resort to armed force.

When a nation makes a deliberate resort to armed force, on any plea whatever, it pursues in reality a wholly different objective; it uses war or threat of war as an instrument of a policy of territorial expansion or domination of others. Such nations are the authors of war, the awful cost of which is paid by their own people and by the rest of mankind.

Whenever there are nations in the world which adopt this type of policy, their intentions and actions inevitably set into motion forces of resistance. Terrible as are the realities and consequences of war, sooner or later conditions arise in which peaceful and peace-loving nations prefer armed defense to subjection and slavery.

There is ample room on this earth for the two billion human beings who inhabit it. There are ample known resources of materials and skill to enable all nations to enjoy a high level of economic prosperity and to face a future of continued plenty. There are ample proven resources of mind and soul to enable the whole of mankind to enjoy the blessings of spiritual advancement. But there as never been, and there is not today, room on this earth for a political organization of mankind under which a single nation or a group of nations will enslave and dominate all the others.

No single nation holds a monopoly of material resources needed by all to maintain the modern level of civilized existence. While some nations are more generously endowed than others, none is or can be self sufficing within its frontiers except at the price of a disastrous decline in the level of satisfaction of its people's wants. In the present stage of civilization and technical progress, the material and spiritual resources of the entire world are available to all nations through mutually beneficial trade and through all those innumerable peaceful and friendly international relationships in very phase of human activity whose capacity to enrich the lives of individuals and of nations has already been convincingly demonstrated. No nation can prosper without adequate access to the resources of the entire world rather than only to those contained within its own frontiers. And such access is possible only on the basis of peaceful international cooperation.

No nation is excluded from participation in the benefits of these precious means of betterment and advancement of mankind, except as it deliberately excludes itself either by short-sighted attempts at national isolation or the even more short-sighted policy of armed aggrandizement. Isolation dooms a people to inescapable impoverishment; armed aggrandizement, under modern conditions of warfare, entails destruction for which no conceivable advantages secured by the conqueror can possibly provide compensation. A nation entering upon either of these ruinous courses inflicts an incalculable injury upon its own people and upon the world as a whole.

The maintenance and improvement of the structure of peaceful international relationships, upon which the entire fabric of our present-day civilization rests, require a willing contribution from every nation. They are impossible unless each nation respects the independence and sovereignty of every other nation; unless each nation scrupulously observes its international obligations and the rules of conduct embodied in the voluntarily accepted provisions of international law; unless each nation is prepared to abstain from resort to armed force as an instrument for the settlement of international differences and controversies and to adjust all such disputes solely by pacific means; unless each nation is willing to place its economic relations with all other nations upon a basis of the greatest practicable, mutually advantageous interchange of goods and services, flowing through the channels of equal economic opportunity and nondiscriminatory commercial treatment.

Every thoughtful man today, in every country of the world, is confronted with the inescapable duty of weighing-in the scales of reason, common sense, his own advantage, and the good of his nation- the benefits of living in a world functioning on the basis of the principles I have just enumerated against the prospect of living in a world caught in the stifling net of anguish and suffering engendered by the constant recurrence of war, of preparation for armed hostilities, and of the aftermath of armed conflict.

I, for one, cannot believe that any nation today has irrevocably entered upon a road from which there is no turning save in the direction of a new widespread war. The road to peaceful adjustment of whatever reasonable and legitimate grievances there may exist has always been open and is still open. But upon this road one must travel with a sincere desire for peace, with a firm determination to observe the pledged word once given, with a sense of respect for the dignity of the human soul. I hope with all my heart that at the present fateful juncture of history, all nations will decide to enter upon this road.
Yet so long as some nations continue to arm for conquest, all other nations are confronted with the tragic alternatives of surrender or armed defense. So far as our nation is concerned, the mere posing of the alternatives supplies the answer. We hope devoutly that a negotiated peace before rather than after the senseless arbitrament of war, a peace based on a mutually-fair adjustment of outstanding problems, will be the happy lot of mankind in the future which lies immediately ahead. We are prepared to make our appropriate contribution to such a peace. But if our hopes are doomed to disappointment, if, after all, the red flames of war rather than the noonday sun of peace are to illumine our horizon, we are equally prepared to defend successfully our national interests and our cherished institutions.


Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 458-60


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