JULY 8, 1939
HYDE PARK, Friday—I am again going to talk to you about a piece of pending legislation, not for any partisan reason, but because in talking to people and in hearing from them, I am convinced that the point of the neutrality legislation now pending is not understood by many of our citizens.
It is not that I dread the passage of the bill as it now stands, but it is just that I feel that all of us ought to understand clearly what we mean by a desire for neutrality. We have certainly not been neutral under the present neutrality bill.
It seems to me that the whole of our history points to the fact that whatever legislation we have, and whatever government is in power, is we hope to stay at peace ourselves, we must try to prevent war anywhere else. If we exert no influence to prevent war until it has begun, it really matters little where the place may be, we are definitely affected by a condition of war anywhere in the world in our social and economic life, we may be able to keep ourselves out of the actual conflict, but even that is not so very certain once war has begun, for a war spirit spreads and all the neutrality laws in the world are not proof against human nature.
In addition to this I think we should look back over the 150 years of our history, for never has a President deliberately, because of his constitutional powers in foreign affairs, involved this country in a war. All of our wars have resulted from the constitutional action taken by the Congress itself. This seems to me perfectly understandable, for no one individual feeling the weight of responsibility that a war carries with it, cares to carry it alone. You do not send people to be killed and hold yourself the only one to blame if you can possibily share that responsibility with somebody else. That is a very good reason why we may be sure that the President will continue in the future, as in the past, to let Congress share the burden of declaring war.
This being the case, it seems to me, that real neutrality can be achieved more successfully by considering each case on its merits as it comes up, and leaving as much latitude as possible to the Chief Executive and the State Department in the hope that wars may be prevented and thereby make our own position safer.
Between the printing press and the typewriter, both of which occasionally seem to work by themselves, there appeared in the column which I wrote the other day, and in an article in the New York Times, a strange misstatement! The Danish Minister and Mme. Wadsted were metamorphosed into the Norwegian Minister and Mme. de Morgenstierne. I, for one, wish to make it clear that our picnic guests who were leaving for a new post in Italy, were the Danish Minister and Mme. Wadsted. I talked to them both and since I talked about Denmark they must of thought I had taken leave of my senses when they found themselves transformed into the Norwegian Minister and his wife, let alone what that gentleman must have felt when he found he had been at a picnic which he never attended!