AUGUST 7, 1940
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I got up early this morning and rode before breakfast, thinking in this way I would avoid the flies, but they apparently work early and late. I spent most of the time swishing around the horses' heads trying to help them keep the flies away.
We are expecting quite a delegation of important people from the Pan-American Conference at Havana, Cuba for lunch today. The President spent until five o'clock yesterday afternoon in the complete seclusion for which he had planned. From then on, however, affairs have become somewhat more busy and official. We were so happy to have a nice long visit from Governor Lehman and a number of other friends yesterday afternoon.
I do not find the papers very happy reading these days because so many of the things one dislikes to see done seem to have become necessities in the different parts of the world.
For instance, even though I believe in the selective draft, it seems to me that anyone who does not believe in it has a right to say so. Of course, if it becomes the law of our land, we must conform to its regulations. But that does not mean we have to say that something in which we do not believe is right.
It seems very similar to the old prohibition days. As long as we had a prohibition law, I felt we should live up to it. But I never could see any reason why anyone who did not believe in it should not say so and try to persuade other people that his point of view was right. As time went on, a great majority of people in this country decided, for one reason or another, that prohibition was not the right way to attack an evil which all of us recognized must be fought.
The selective draft probably will pass and registration will take place. There may be many parts of the bill which time will prove to be wrong from various aspects, and many people will disapprove of them and want them changed. Personally, I know nothing about the details of the bill. I approve of the principle of a selective draft. I think that conscientious objectors should be protected, but they should be required to work for the country's good in ways which do not conflict with their religious beliefs.
But to put a man in jail, even when at war, if he has done nothing more than state that he does not believe in something seems to me one of the regrettable actions we ought to guard against.
Fear of our safety makes us do things sometimes in the name of patriotism which are extremely hard to justify when one sits down quietly to reason out certain circumstances and when the heat of controversy which excites people's emotions has ceased to exist.