There are problems of vital importance to this and all other nations and to civilization itself which demand closer consideration by each citizen. The founders of our institutions, knowing the horrors of almost constant war in the Old World, were resolved, to the extent that might be possible, to save the New World from the most terrible scourge to which mankind is subjected. Washington led the Revolution in order that men should be free, but he led in the effort to weld into a more perfect union the States that then existed and those to be created, in order to insure harmony instead of discord and thus eliminate the causes of war. It is easy to imagine what would be the almost certain condition in this portion of the Western World had that effort not been successful. It is also easy to imagine how far less peaceful this hemisphere would be if, under the leadership of Monroe, who was one of Washington's soldiers and one of his successors in the Presidency, there had been no agreement, which is to remain effective for all time, to close the Great Lakes, the boundary between the United States and Canada, to warlike activities, and no emphatic proclamation through Monroe looking to our necessary self-defense.
At this moment, while on this side of the ocean there is a relatively peaceful condition, and neighborly and friendly ties among the nations are stronger and more genuine than ever before, we are obliged to feel deep concern that across the water, notwithstanding the terrible havoc and wreckage wrought by the war that began 20 years ago, and notwithstanding that the inventions of science will make future wars more terrible, there is so much reason for the gravest apprehension. Regardless of the fact that preparation for war but too often makes war inevitable, and the fact that preparation places a grievous burden on the people, armaments are being momentarily increased, and in practice the theory seems to be abandoned that nations, like individuals, should live not as potential enemies, but as neighbors and friends. Our Government has a duty to perform, and it is performing it. Supported by an overwhelming public sentiment, the Government, within the limitations necessary to be observed, is striving to the utmost to make its full contribution to the maintenance of peace and civilization. Without any question of its earnestness and fidelity, it is pursuing every method within its province to discourage and minimize armed conflict.
I wish to refer briefly to another problem belonging to the class I have just
indicated, having both foreign and domestic aspects. In recent years a dangerous
conception has become too prevalent, a strange economic conception that a nation
can live to itself and virtually dispense with customary international relations.
It is significant that none of the statesmen who made history in the period
before and during the Revolution, and during a long later period were connected
with the Federal Government, had any thought that this country could or should
lead a self-contained existence. All of the evidence is directly to the contrary.
They were devoted to their own land, but even though communication was slow
with other lands, they completely realized that it was not possible for this
country to develop without commercial, social, and cultural relations with Europe.
They of course barred the possibility of political relationship. It is for the
purpose of returning to the older conception which they held that it has just
been decided by Congress that the Executive shall have authority to negotiate
trade agreements with other nations, it being expected that by this method there
can be effected a substantial expansion of international commercial dealings,
and markets opened that in recent years have been to a large extent fenced about
by insurmountable harriers. I can have no argument with any who may be actuated
by mere partisanship in opposing that policy. But I would invite such opponents
as are not thus controlled to tell me, if they are now fearful of the possibilities
of the limited and temporary regimentation of business, what relief they expect
to find in any other direction; and should they be unable to give a specific
reply, I would suggest to them that their opposition might prove disastrous,
should the continuance of such international relations as now impede commerce
force further regimentation.
I shall not detain you by prolonging observations which might, but could not on an occasion of this character properly be elaborated; but I must not close without a reference to the spirit which should animate every citizen as we pass through an ordeal of extreme and unprecedented difficulty. A feeling of fear or despair would be dangerous and perhaps fatal. Those of the earlier days to whom I have alluded tolerated no such feeling, but in the bitterest hours displayed the utmost faith, courage, and patience; and had they not been supremely hopeful, they could not have been either courageous, faithful, or patient. To emphasize this, let me quote the striking language of James Bryce-the final words of his great work on "Modern Democracies": "Hope often disappointed but always renewed is the anchor by which the ship carries democracy and its fortunes will have to ride out the latest storm, as it has ridden out many storms . . . democracy will never perish until after hope has expired."
Not dismayed by the enormous difficulties now being encountered, or by the overturn of some of the democracies that were in existence when war swept the world, it is for us to face the future with unabated hope that our democratic system as created by the fathers shall lose none of its strength and vigor in this time or in the years to come.
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. 231-233.
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