Charles A. Beard, an Intellectual Biography

By Ellen Nore | Go to book overview

13

Battle for Nonintervention,
1935-1941

Early in 1935, Beard predicted war in the Pacific. Noting that the New Deal had not distributed wealth more generally and that the United States possessed its largest peacetime navy, Beard warned that another war might divert the nation from tasks illuminated by the depression. He was not saying, he added,

that President Roosevelt will deliberately plunge the country into a Pacific war in his efforts to escape the economic crisis. There will be an "incident," a "provocation." Incidents and provocations are of almost daily occurrence. Any government can quickly magnify one of them into a "just cause for war." ... The Jeffersonian party gave the nation the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and its participation in the World War. The Pacific War awaits. 1

During the 1920s Beard had repeatedly recalled the suppression of free speech during World War I. He had consistently campaigned against an American overseas empire. He had urged the development of a "consistent theory of national defense" and a retreat from formal and informal empire. 2 Although he steered away from the controversy over a revisionist interpretation of the causes of World War I, Beard constantly reminded his listeners and readers of its disastrous results. 3

As military encounters erupted in Asia and Europe during the 1930s, Beard remained optimistic that America could stay at peace. For him, no worthwhile

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