AUGUST 10, 1946
NEW YORK, Friday—It seems to me that one of the first things we as a people have to learn is that our experience as a nation has been completely different from that of most of the peoples of the world.
Fortunately for us in our early formative days, when we were a weak nation, the oceans on either side of us were a real barrier against invasion. We suffered in our trade by capture of our merchant ships at sea, and therefore we built up a Navy which, though small, distinguished itself for valor and ingenuity. On shore, we had mechanical advantages against the Indians which outweighed our weakness in numbers. Canada was no permanent threat, nor Mexico either.
For a long time, the possible invasion from foreign countries, either French or Spanish or British, through Canada or Mexico or along our own shores, created a fear but the difficulties of transportation were such that this fear rarely materialized into a formidable reality. We fought wars, and our land was invaded, but it has been a long time now since any enemy forces were on our soil.
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Our children have not grown up in the shadow of the constant fear of invasion by specific nations on our borders. On the other hand, French children have grown up expecting that almost every generation would fight a war with Germany. Italy might be either friend or foe, depending on the particular interest involved.
In the Balkans, where races are mixed, it has been constantly possible for big powers to incite warfare to keep the people of those countries from developing economic and social security, and to serve outside interests that often did not concern the fighting peoples. The Greeks have looked with fear upon their neighbors. The Turks have been threatened. The areas populated by Armenians have been a constant battleground.
The Germans have feared the Russians. The Scandinavians have feared both the Germans and the Russians and the British. The British have been feared by many peoples because of their far-flung empire and their strong Navy. They themselves have feared invasion of their island now and then, and also attacks upon various parts of the empire from which they draw their strength.
China and Japan have feared each other, and the Koreans have been a captive people. Innumerable people in the Pacific islands have been captives also.
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So we look upon a world that has lived in constant fear of actual attack upon its homes. The United States has been a refuge for people from many of those harassed lands, because here we could allow more freedom. We could develop gradually through the processes of democracy because we were so free from the fear of invasion.
By the time the oceans became less of a barrier, we had become a strong nation. Materially, we had resources, both natural and human. We were an inventive people and, both in preparation for defense and in the production of the mechanisms that made life more comfortable we were well ahead of the rest of the world. All this gave us the confidence which made our brand of democracy possible.
In our dealings with other peoples, this fundamental background must never be forgotten.