Understanding the American Past: American History and Its Interpretation

By Edward N. Saveth | Go to book overview
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Roosevelt and His Detractors

by ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR.

[Reprinted by permission from Harper's Magazine CC ( June 1950), 62-68. Copyright 1950 by Harper & Bros.]

Like World War I, the Second World Warhas bred among historians the seeds of disillusionment. This can be credited in part to a survival of prewar isolationist sentiment arguing, in effect, "I told you so," and to the feeling that our contribution to the destruction of fascism served merely to strengthen the Communist adversary that now confronts us. Finally, there flows through certain of the revisionist tracts a conviction of the diabolism of the late President Roosevelt, seeing him as consciously plotting, frequently with the worst possible motives in mind, to involve us in war.1

Harry Elmer Barnes, who, it will be remembered, was a leading spokesman for the post-World-War-Idisillusionment, has recently charged the existence of a "historical blackout" concerning American intervention in theSecond World Warby historians, publishers, and government authorities -- most of whom he accuses of being committed to the interventionist point of view and of deliberately obscuring the true situation. In a pamphlet entitled The Struggle against the Historical Blackout, Barneshas attacked a number of historians whom he accuses of being pro-Roosevelt.2

The late Charles A. Beard, prominent in the campaign to keep the United Statesout of World War II, in the last two books he wrote, charged President Rooseveltwith maneuvering the country into war while appearing to want peace.3 Bearddid not examine too closely the motives which led Rooseveltto act as he did. But Frederick C. Sanborn,4 Harry Elmer Barnes, and John T. Flynn5do not hesitate to accuse Rooseveltof plotting war in order to insure

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