Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

PART II: 1941-MORE THAN MERE WORDS

CHAPTER X
The Garden Hose

Immediately after election day, the major problem confronting Roosevelt was one that had not been mentioned either by him or by Willkie during the campaigns: Great Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy in terms of dollar credits. Her balances which had amounted to four and a half billion dollars before the war were gone, including the holdings in America of British individuals which had been expropriated by His Majesty's Government and liquidated. It was obvious that Britain could not survive much longer without supplies from the United States and, under the "Cash and Carry" law, she could not obtain these supplies without dollars. In the endless discussions of this problem Roosevelt began to say, "We must find some way to lease or even lend these goods to the British," and from this came the vast concept which Churchill later described as "a new Magna Carta . . . the most unselfish and unsordid financial act of any country in all history."

In mid-November the German Air Force, defeated in the Battle of Britain, gave a shocking demonstration of its power in the intense raid on Coventry in which more than a thousand people were killed or wounded. This saturation bombing was extended to one British town after another, the propagandists in Berlin boasting that the whole island was to be systematically "Coventryized," while the Blitz on London continued with deadly monotony. Toward the end of November, the British Ambassador, Lord Lothian, returned to Washington from a trip to London and saw the President. At a press conference (on November 26) Roosevelt was asked:

Question. Mr. President, did the British Ambassador present any specific requests for additional help?

The President. I am sorry, I shall have to disappoint quite a number

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