The Secretary of State to the Honorable Louis Ludlow, House Of Representatives, WASHINGTON, February 10, 1938.


I have your letter of February 9 in which you express yourself as perplexed by "the maze of contradictions and uncertainties" with respect to the problems relating to national defense and peace, and conclude by requesting certain specific information.

I may say that being in possession, as you doubtless are, of the texts of my public statements and published communications which I have made on the subject of our foreign policy and our foreign relations, you should not permit yourself to be disturbed by affirmations from other sources which are contradictory to statements of fact which, as a responsible official, I have repeatedly made. I have in mind especially my statement of principles underlying all internaional law and order and normal relations between nations, on July 16, 1937; my statement of August 23, 1937; my letter to Senator Smathers of December 13 [18], 1937; my letter to the Vice President on January 8, 1938; and numerous statements to the press in addition during the past seven months, setting forth in almost every detail our foreign policy. You will recall that in addition I addressed an executive meeting of some one hundred and fifty Congressmen one evening at the House Office Building on all phases of our foreign policy and invited questions at the conclusion. If you were not present, I am sorry. I have in addition conferred with many Congressmen, as I have with numerous Senators, touching any and every phase of foreign policy in which they expressed the least interest.

Your specific inquiry reads as follows:

"1. Whether all of the ships and auxiliary services provided for in the proposed program are regarded as necessary for defense of our homeland and our possessions, or

"2. Whether the program contemplates the use of some of the units in cooperation with any other nation in any part of the world."

I am glad to have the opportunity to make categorical statements in regard to this matter.

First, in my opinion all of the ships and auxiliary services provided for in the proposed program are needed for the national defense of the United States and its possessions. It is the desire of the people and of the Government of the United States that this country be not drawn into or forced into war. It is the duty and the intention of the Administration to make effective so far as lies within its power the desire of the country in this as in other respects. It is the belief of those of us who, with full sense of responsibility, advocate these increases in our naval strength, that the making of these increases will contribute toward attainment of that objective. As you know, in the opinion of the expert technical authorities, our Navy, even with these increases, would not be able to embark upon offensive or aggressive operations overseas. In our foreign policy there is not any disposition or intent to engage in warfare.

We believe, however, that the people of this country desire that the country be respected, that our nationals and our interests abroad be given fair treatment, and that there should prevail in the world conditions of peace, order, and security. This country always has exerted its influence in support of such objectives. We believe that within the limitations of its traditional policies it should continue to do so. If it is prepared and known to be prepared, the likelihood its being drawn into trouble will either be absent or greatly diminished.

With regard to your second question, I might refer to the letter which I wrote to Senator Pittman under date of February 7 [8], which as read by Senator Pittman in the Senate on February 8. I am glad to repeat or to amplify or in any other possible way restate any of the statements which I have heretofore made public, if by so doing I can be to the least extent helpful to you. For present purposes and in express reply to your question, I may say, the proposed program does not contemplate the use of any of the units in cooperation with any other nation in any part of the world. To be still more specific, I may say that the policy I announced during last August is still being strictly observed; that is that this Government carefully avoids, on the one hand, extreme internationalism with its political entanglements, and, on the other hand, extreme isolation, with its tendency to cause other nations to believe that this nation is more or less afraid; that while avoiding any alliances or entangling commitments, it is appropriate and advisable, when this and other countries have common interests and common objectives, for this Government to exchange information with governments of such other countries, to confer with those governments, and, where practicable, to proceed on parallel lines, but reserving always the fullest freedom of judgment and right of independence of action.

Naturally, we believe that it is a matter of simple common sense for nations which desire peace to cooperate in every satisfactory and practical way toward maintaining peace. If every peaceful nation were to insist on remaining entirely aloof from every other peaceful nation and on pursuing a policy of armament limitation without reference to relative armaments, the inevitable consequence would be that other nations inclined to play lawless roles would thereby be given great encouragement and even assistance toward so doing.

Sincerely yours,


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. 405-07

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Interwar Period Page