Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941

By United States Department of State | Go to book overview

VIII
EUROPEAN CRISIS 1938

United States Rearmament

As 1937 drew to a close the situation in the world became increasingly threatening. The hostilities between China and Japan raged with growing intensity; in Europe, Spain was torn by a civil struggle which threatened to turn into a general continental war. In November 1937 Italy joined Germany and Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact. Meanwhile, Germany, arming at a feverish pace, was causing grave apprehension as to its intentions toward the European political structure.

During this period there developed considerable public support in the United States for the adoption of a constitutional amendment requiring a popular vote as prerequisite to a declaration of war by the Congress. Both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull at various times expressed their strong opposition to this proposal. On January 6, 1938 the President wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives that such an amendment "would cripple any President in his conduct of our foreign relations" and "would encourage other nations to believe that they could violate American rights with impunity". Secretary Hull on January 8 warned that the proposal would impair the ability of the Government to safeguard the peace of the people of the United States. On January 10 the proposal was voted on by the House of Representatives but was rejected by the close vote of 209 to 188. (101, 102)

President Roosevelt recommended to Congress, in a special message of January 28, 1938, the strengthening of our national defense. The President reported with deep regret that armaments were increasing "at an unprecedented and alarming rate". He called attention to the ominous fact that at least one fourth of the world's population was involved in "merciless devastating conflict" in spite of the fact that most people in most countries wished to live at peace. As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, the President deemed it his constitutional duty to report to the Congress that the national defense of the United States was, in the light of the increasing armaments of other nations, inadequate for purposes of national security and therefore required increase. The President said that "adequate defense" meant that for the protection not only of our coasts but also of our communities far removed from the coasts, we must keep any potential enemy many hundreds of miles away from our continental

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