Throughout his second term (1937-1941), FDR had to struggle with a public opinion averse to entering another foreign conflict. He delivered this address after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. What does it reveal about his thoughts--and what does the fact that the address produced no significant policy change say about FDR's motives for delivering the speech?

The President's Address in Chicago, 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 national importance.

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

Some 15 years ago the hopes of mankind for a continuing era of
international peace were raised to great heights when more than 60 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 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. It has
now reached the stage where the very foundation of civilization are
seriously threatened. The landmarks, the traditions which have marked the
progress of civilization toward a condition of law and order and justice
are being wiped away.

Without a declaration of war and without warning or justification of any
kind, civilians, including vast numbers of 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 harm. Nations claiming freedom for themselves
deny it to others.

Innocent peoples, innocent nations are being cruelly sacrificed to a greed
for power and supremacy which is devoid of all sense of justice and humane

To paraphrase a recent author, "perhaps we foresee a time when men,
exultant in the technique of homicide, will rage 80 hotly over the world
that every precious thing will be in danger, every book, every picture,
every harmony, every treasure garnered through two millenniums, the small,
the delicate, the defenseless - all will be lost or wrecked or utterly

If those things come to pass in other parts of the world, let no one
imagine that America will escape, that America 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

No, if those days come, "there will be no safety by arms, no help from
authority, no answer in science. The storm will rage until 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 - then 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 human 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 throughout 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

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 be 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 20 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 per cent. The proportion that we in the United States spend
is far less - 11 or 12 per cent.

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.

Nevertheless, my friends, I am compelled, as you are compelled, to look
ahead. The peace, the freedom, and the security of 90 per cent of the
population of the world is being jeopardized by the remaining 10 per cent
who are threatening a breakdown of all international order and law. Surely
the 90 per cent 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

AND MARK THIS WELL: 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 are too weak to protect themselves adequately. Yet the peace of the
world and the welfare and security of every nation are 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 every loses its dignity or its 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
course. There must be positive endeavors to preserve peace.

move on to next document

and don't forget to listen to the Chamberlain address!