FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
January 6, 1941
Mr. Speaker, members of the
I address you, the members
of this new Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the
history of the union. I use the word "unprecedented" because
at no previous time has America security been as seriously
threatened from without as it is today.
Since the permanent formation of our government under
the Constitution in 1789, most of the periods of crisis
in our history have related to our domestic affairs. And,
fortunately, only one of these --the four-year war between
the States --ever threatened our national unity. Today,
thank God, 130,000,000 Americans in forty-eight States
have forgotten points of the compass in our national unity.
It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often
has been disturbed by events in other continents. We have
even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a
number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean
and in the Pacific, for the maintenance of American rights
and for the Principles of peaceful commerce. But in no
case has a serious threat been raised against our national
safety or our continued independence.
What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United
States as a nation has at all times maintained opposition
--clear, definite opposition-- to any attempt to lock us
in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession
of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children
and of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for
ourselves or for any other part of the Americas.
That determination of ours, extending over all these years,
was proved, for example, in the early days during the
quarter century of wars following the French Revolution.
While the Napoleonic struggle did threaten interests of
the United States because of the French foothold in the
West Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the
War of 1812 to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it
is nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great Britain
nor any other nation was aiming at domination of the whole
And in like fashion, from 1815 to 1914 --ninety-nine years
--no single war in Europe or in Asia constituted a real
threat against our future or against the future of any
other American nation.
Except in the Maximilian interlude in Mexico, no foreign
power sought to establish itself in this hemisphere. And
the strength of the British fleet in the Atlantic has been
a friendly strength; it is still a friendly strength.
Even when the World War broke out in 1941 it seemed to
contain only small threat of danger to our own American
future. But as time went on, as we remember, the American
people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic
nations might mean to our own democracy.
We need not overemphasize imperfections in the peace of
Versailles. We need not harp on failure of the democracies
to deal with problems of world reconstruction. We should
remember that the peace of 1919 was far less unjust than
the kind of pacification which began even before Munich,
and which is being carried on under the new order of tyranny
that seeks to spread over every continent today.
The American people have unalterably set their faces against
I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic
way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in
every part of the world --assailed either by arms or by
secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek
to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are
still at peace.
During sixteen long months this assault has blotted out
the whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number
of independent nations, great and small. And the assailants
are still on the march, threatening other nations, great
Therefore, as your President,
performing my constitutional duty to "give to the Congress information of the state
of the union," I find it unhappily necessary to report
that the future and the safety of our country and of our
democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond
Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly
waged in four continents. If that defense fails, all the
population and all the resources of Europe and Asia, Africa
and Australia will be dominated by conquerors. And let
us remember that the total of those populations in those
four continents, the total of those populations and their
resources greatly exceeds the sum total of the population
and the resources of the whole of the Western Hemisphere
--yes, many times over.
In times like these it is immature-- and, incidentally,
untrue-- for anybody to brag that an unprepared America,
single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can
hold off the whole world. No realistic American can expect
from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return
of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom
of expression, or freedom of religion-- or even good business.
Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our
neighbors. Those who would give up essential liberty to
purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty
As a nation we may take pride in the fact that we are
soft-hearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed. We
must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and
a tinkling cymbal preach the ism of appeasement. We must
especially beware of that small group of selfish men who
would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to
feather their own nests.
I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern
warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack
which we must eventually expect if the dictator nation
win this war.
There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate
and direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as
long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger
exists. Even if there were no British Navy, it is not probable
that any enemy would be stupid enough to attack us by landing
troops in the United States from across thousands of miles
of ocean, until it had acquired strategic bases from which
But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in
Europe-- particularly the lesson of Norway, whose essential
seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built
up over a series of years.
The first phase of the invasion of this hemisphere would
not be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic
points would be occupied by secret agents and by their
dupes-- and great numbers of them are already here and
in Latin America. As long as the aggressor nations maintain
the offensive they, not we, will choose the time and the
place and the method of their attack.
And that is why the future of all the American Republics
is today in serious danger. That is why this annual message
to the Congress is unique in our history. That is why every
member of the executive branch of the government and every
member of the Congress face great responsibility-- great
The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy
should be devoted primarily-- almost exclusively-- to
meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems
are now a part of the great emergency. Just as our national
policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent
respect for the rights and the dignity
of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national
policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect
for the rights and the dignity of all nations, large and
small. And the justice of morality must and will win in
Our national policy is this:
by an impressive expression of the public will and without
regard to partisanship, we are committed to
all-inclusive national defense.
Second, by an impressive expression of the public will
and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to
full support of all those resolute people everywhere who
are resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away
from our hemisphere. By this support we express our determination
that the democratic cause shall prevail, and we strengthen
the defense and the security of our own nation.
Third, by an impressive expression of the public will
and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to
the proposition that principle of morality and considerations
for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce
in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers.
We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost
of other people's freedom.
In the recent national election there was no substantial
difference between the two great parties in respect to
that national policy. No issue was fought out on the line
before the American electorate. And today it is abundantly
evident that American citizens everywhere are demanding
and supporting speedy and complete action in recognition
of obvious danger.
Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase
in our armament production. Leaders of industry and labor
have responded to our summons. Goals of speed have been
set. In some cases these goals are being reached ahead
of time. In some cases we are on schedule; in other cases
there are slight but not serious delays. And in some cases--
and, I am sorry to say, very important cases-- we are all
concerned by the slowness of the accomplishment of our
The Army and Navy, however, have made substantial progress
during the past year. Actual experience is improving and
speeding up our methods of production with every passing
day. And today's best is not good enough for tomorrow.
I am not satisfied with the progress thus far made. The
men in charge of the program represent the best in training,
in ability and in patriotism. They are not satisfied with
the progress thus far made. None of us will be satisfied
until the job is done.
No matter whether the original goal was set too high or
too low, our objective is quicker and better results.
To give you two illustrations :
We are behind schedule in turning out finished airplanes.
We are working day and night to solve the innumerable
problems and to catch up.
We are ahead of schedule in building warships, but we
are working to get even further ahead of that schedule.
To change a whole nation from a basis of peacetime production
of implements of peace to a basis of wartime
production of implements of war is no small task. The greatest
difficulty comes at the beginning of the program, when
new tools, new plant facilities, new assembly lines, new
shipways must first be constructed before the actual material
begins to flow steadily and speedily from them.
The Congress of course, must rightly keep itself informed
at all times of the progress of the program. However, there
is certain information, as the Congress itself will readily
recognize, which, in the interests of our own security
and those of the nations that we are supporting, must of
needs be kept in confidence.
New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for
our safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased
new appropriations and authorizations to carry on what
we have begun.
I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds sufficient
to manufacture additional munitions and war
supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations
which are now in actual war with aggressor nations. Our
most useful and immediate role is to act as an arsenal
for them as well as for ourselves. They do not need manpower,
but they do need billions of dollars' worth of the weapons
The time is near when they will not be able to pay for
them all in ready cash. We cannot, and we will not, tell
them that they must surrender merely because of present
inability to pay for the weapons which we know they must
I do not recommend that we make them a loan of dollars
with which to pay for these weapons-- a loan to be repaid
in dollars. I recommend that we make it possible for those
nations to continue to obtain war materials in the United
States, fitting their orders into our own program. And
nearly all of their material would, if the time ever came,
be useful in our own defense.
Taking counsel of expert military and naval authorities,
considering what is best for our own security, we are free
to decide how much should be kept here and how much should
be sent abroad to our friends who, by their determined
and heroic resistance, are giving us time in which to make
ready our own defense.
For what we send abroad
we shall be repaid, repaid within a reasonable time following
the close of hostilities, repaid in similar materials,
or at our option in other goods of many kinds which they
can produce and which we need. Let us say to the democracies
: "We Americans are vitally
concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth
our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to
give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world.
We shall send you in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes,
tanks, guns. That is our purpose and our pledge."
In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated
by the threats of dictators that they will regard as a
of international law or as an act of war our aid to the
democracies which dare to resist their aggression. Such
aid is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally
proclaim it so to be.
And when the dictators --if the dictators-- are ready
to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war
on our part.
They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands
to commit an act of war. Their only interest is in a new
one-way international law which lacks mutuality in its
observance and therefore becomes an instrument of
oppression. The happiness of future generations of Americans
may well depend on how effective and how immediate we can
make our aid felt. No one can tell the exact character
of the emergency situations that we may be called upon
to meet. The nation's hands must not be tied when the nation's
life is in danger.
Yes, and we must prepare, all of us prepare, to make the
sacrifices that the emergency --almost as serious as war
itself-- demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and
efficiency in defense, in defense preparations at any time,
must give way to the national need.
A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation
from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to
the leaders of business, of labor and of agriculture to
take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups
but within their own groups.
The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble-makers
in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example,
and if that fails, to use the sovereignty of government
to save government.
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by
armaments alone. Those who man our defenses and those behind
them who build our defenses must have the stamina and the
courage which come from unshakeable belief in the manner
of life which they are defending. The mighty action that
we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all
the things worth fighting for.
The nation takes great satisfaction and much strength
from the things which have been done to make its people
conscious of their individual stake in the preservation
of democratic life in America. Those things have toughened
the fiber of our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened
their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect.
Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking
about the social and economic problems which are the root
cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme
factor in the world. For there is nothing mysterious about
the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.
The basic things expected by our people of their political
and economic systems are simple. They are :
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in
a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the basic things that must never
be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity
of our modern world. The inner and abiding straight of
our economic and political systems is dependent upon the
degree to which they fulfill these expectations.
Many subjects connected with our social economy call for
immediate improvement. As examples :
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age
pensions and unemployment insurance. We should widen the
opportunities for adequate medical care. We should plan
a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful
employment may obtain it.
I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured
the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that
call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more
money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that
a greater portion of this great defense program be paid
for from taxation than we are paying for today. No person
should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program,
and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability
to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our
If the congress maintains these principles the voters,
putting patriotism ahead pocketbooks, will give you their
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look
forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere
in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in
his own way-- everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which, translated into
world terms, means economic understandings which will secure
to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants
--everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into
world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments
to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no
nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical
aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the would.
That is no vision of
a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind
of world attainable in our own time and generation. That
kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of
tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash
of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception --the
moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of
world domination and foreign revolutions alike without
Since the beginning of our American history we have been
engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution,
a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting
itself to changing conditions without the concentration
camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which
we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together
in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads
and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its
faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means
the supremacy of human rights everywhere.
Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights
and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.