FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Quarantine the Aggressor
October 5, 1937
I am glad to come once again to Chicago and especially
to have the opportunity of taking part in the dedication
of this important project of civic betterment.
On my trip across the continent and back I have been shown
many evidences of the result of common sense cooperation
between municipalities and the federal government, and
I have been greeted by tens of thousands of Americans who
have told me in every look and word that their material
and spiritual well-being has made great strides forward
in the past few years.
And yet, as I have seen with my own eyes, the prosperous
farms, the thriving factories and the busy railroads-as
I have seen the happiness and security and peace which
covers our wide land, almost inevitably I have been compelled
to contrast our peace with very different scenes being
enacted in other parts of the world. It is because the
people of the United States under modern conditions must,
for the sake of their own future, give thought to the rest
of the world, that I, as the responsible executive head
of the nation have chosen this great inland city and this
gala occasion to speak to you on a subject of definite
The political situation in the world which of late has
been growing progressively worse, is such as to cause grave
concern and anxiety to all the peoples and nations who
wish to live in peace and amity with their neighbors.
Some fifteen years ago the hopes of mankind for a continuing
era of international peace were raised to great heights
when more than sixty nations solemnly pledged themselves
not to resort to arms in furtherance of their national
aims and policies. The high aspirations expressed in the
Briand-Kellogg Peace Pact and the hopes for peace thus
raised have of late given way to a haunting fear of calamity.
The present reign of terror and international lawlessness
began a few years ago.
It began through unjustified interference in the internal
affairs of other nations or the invasion of alien territory
in violation of treaties and has now reached a stage where
the very foundations of civilization are seriously threatened.
The landmarks and traditions which have marked the progress
of civilization toward a condition of law, order, and justice
are being wiped away.
Without a declaration of war and without warning or justification
of any kind civilians, including women and children are
being ruthlessly murdered with bombs from the air. In times
of so-called peace, ships are being attacked and sunk by
submarines without cause or notice. Nations are fomenting
and taking sides in civil warfare in nations that have
never done them any harlot Nations claiming freedom for
themselves deny it to others. Innocent peoples and nations
are being cruelly sacrificed to a greed for power and supremacy
which is devoid of all sense of justice and humane consideration.
To paraphrase a recent author, "perhaps
we foresee a time when men, exultant in the technique
of homicide, will rage so hotly over the world that every
precious thing will be in danger, every book and picture
and harmony, every treasure garnered through two millenniums,
the small, the delicate, the defenseless-all will be
lost or wrecked or utterly destroyed."
If those things come to pass in other
parts of the world, let no one imagine that America will
escape, that it may expect mercy, that this Western Hemisphere
will not be attacked, and that it will continue tranquilly
and peacefully to carry on the ethics and the arts of
civilization. If those days come, "there will be
no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer
in science. The storm will rage till every flower of
culture is trampled and all human beings are leveled
in a vast chaos."
If those days are not to come to pass- if we are to have
a world in which we can breathe freely and live in amity
without fear-the peace-loving nations must make a concerted
effort to uphold laws and principles on which alone peace
can rest secure. The peace-loving nations must make a concerted
effort in opposition to those violations of treaties and
those ignorings of humane instincts which today are creating
a state of international anarchy and instability from which
there is no escape through mere isolation or neutrality.
Those who cherish their freedom and recognize and respect
the equal right of their neighbors to be free and live
in peace must work together for the triumph of law and
moral principles in order that peace, justice, and confidence
may prevail in the world. There must be a return to a belief
in the pledged word, in the value of a signed treaty. There
must be recognition of the fact that national morality
is as vital as private morality.
A bishop wrote me the other day:
It seems to me that something greatly needs to be said
in behalf of ordinary humanity against the present practice
of carrying the horrors of war to helpless civilians, especially
women and children. It may be that such a protest might
he regarded by many, who claim to be realists, as futile,
but may it not be that the heart of mankind is so filled
with horror at the present needless suffering that that
force could be mobilized in sufficient volume to lessen
such cruelty in the days ahead. Even though it may take
twenty years, which God forbid, for civilization to make
effective its corporate protest against this barbarism,
surely strong voices may hasten the day.
There is a solidarity and interdependence about the modern
world, both technically and morally, which makes it impossible
for any nation completely to isolate itself from economic
and political upheavals in the rest of the world, especially
when such upheavals appear to be spreading and not declining.
There can be no stability or peace either within nations
or between nations except under laws and moral standards
adhered to by all. International anarchy destroys every
foundation for peace. It jeopardizes either the immediate
or the future security of every nation, large or small.
It is, therefore, a matter of vital interest and concern
to the people of the United States that the sanctity of
international treaties and the maintenance of international
morality be restored.
The overwhelming majority of the peoples and nations of
the world today want to live in peace. They seek the removal
of barriers against trade. They want to exert themselves
in industry, in agriculture, and in business that they
may increase their wealth through the production of wealth-producing
goods rather than striving to produce military planes and
bombs and machine guns and cannon for the destruction of
human lives and useful property.
In those nations of the world which seem to be piling
armament on armament for purposes of aggression, and those
other nations which fear acts of aggression against them
and their security, a very high proportion of their national
income is being spent directly for armaments. It runs from
30 to as high as 50 percent. The proportion that we in
the United States spend is far less-11 or 12 percent. How
happy we are that the circumstances of the moment permit
us to put our money into bridges and boulevards, dams and
reforestation, the conservation of our soil, and many other
kinds of useful works rather than into huge standing armies
and vast supplies of implements of war.
I am compelled and you are compelled, nevertheless, to
look ahead. The peace, the freedom, and the security of
90 percent of the population of the world is being jeopardized
by the remaining 10 percent who are threatening a break-down
of all international order and law. Surely the 90 percent
who want to live in peace under law and in accordance with
moral standards that have received almost universal acceptance
through the centuries can and must find some way to make
their will prevail.
The situation is definitely of universal concern. The
questions involved relate not merely to violations of specific
provisions of particular treaties; they are questions of
war and of peace, of international law, and especially
of principles of humanity. It is true that they involve
definite violations of agreements, and especially of the
Covenant of the League of Nations, the Briand-Kellogg Pact,
and the Nine Power Treaty. But they also involve problems
of world economy, world security, and world humanity.
It is true that the moral consciousness of the world must
recognize the importance of removing injustices and well-founded
grievances; but at the same time it must be aroused to
the cardinal necessity of honoring sanctity of treaties,
of respecting the rights and liberties of others, and of
putting an end to acts of international aggression.
It seems to be unfortunately true that the epidemic of
world lawlessness is spreading. When an epidemic of physical
disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins
in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the
health of the community against the spread of the disease.
It is my determination to pursue a policy of peace and
to adopt every practicable measure to avoid involvement
in war. It ought to be inconceivable that in this modern
era, and in the face of experience, any nation could be
so foolish and ruthless as to run the risk of plunging
the whole world into war by invading and violating, in
contravention of solemn treaties, the territory of other
nations that have done them no real harm and which are
too weak to protect themselves adequately. Yet the peace
of the world and the welfare and security of every nation
is today being threatened by that very thing.
No nation which refuses to exercise forbearance and to
respect the freedom and rights of others can long remain
strong and retain the confidence and respect of other nations.
No nation ever loses its dignity or good standing by conciliating
its differences and by exercising great patience with,
and consideration for, the rights of other nations.
War is a contagion, whether it be declared or undeclared.
It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original
scene of hostilities. We are determined to keep out of
war, yet we cannot insure ourselves against the disastrous
effects of war and the dangers of involvement. We are adopting
such measures as will minimize our risk of involvement,
but we cannot have complete protection in a world of disorder
in which confidence and security have broken down.
If civilization is to survive, the principles of the Prince
of Peace must be restored. Shattered trust between nations
must be revived. Most important of all, the will for peace
on the part of peace-loving nations must express itself
to the end that nations that may be tempted to violate
their agreements and the rights of others will desist from
such a cause. There must be positive endeavors to preserve
peace. America hates war. America hopes for peace. Therefore,
America actively engages in the search for peace.