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December 6, 1940 – In Defense Of Neutrality – Will America Keep Out Of War? Past Daily Reference Room

American Troops on Maneuvers - 1940
Neutrality meant not sending Americans into combat. Easier said than done.

Neutrality address by Rep. John G. Alexander (R-Minnesota) – December 6, 1940 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

A little over a year after the outbreak of war in Europe, the issue of whether or not the U.S. would be persuaded to join France and Britain against the Axis and the hesitance to do so was an ongoing discussion and debate at home. Although many Americans had supported President Woodrow Wilson’s 1917 demand that Congress help create a world “made safe for democracy” by declaring war on Germany in World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s spurred a period of American isolationism that would persist until the nation entered World War II in 1942.

Many people continued to believe that World War I had involved mainly foreign issues and that America’s entry into the bloodiest conflict in human history had mainly benefited U.S. bankers and arms dealers. These beliefs, combined with the people’s ongoing struggle to recover from the Great Depression, fueled an isolationist movement that opposed the nation’s involvement in future foreign wars and financial involvement with the countries fighting in them.

By late 1940, it had become unavoidably apparent to Congress that the growth of the Axis powers in Europe could eventually threaten the lives and freedom of Americans. In an effort to help the nations fighting the Axis, Congress enacted the Lend-Lease Act (H.R. 1776) in March 1941.

The Lend-Lease Act authorized the President of the United States to transfer arms or other defense-related materials – subject to ​the approval of funding by Congress – to the “government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States” at no cost to those countries.

Permitting the President to send arms and war materials to Britain, France, China, the Soviet Union, and other threatened nations without payment, the Lend-Lease plan allowed the United States to support the war effort against the Axis without becoming engaged in battle.

Despite what was becoming obvious, there was still considerable opposition to America’s involvement in the War. One of those voicing opposition was Republican Congressman John G. Alexander, citing the grim reminders of World War 1, only 23 years earlier. Here is an address he gave, broadcast December 6, 1940 – ironically, almost a year to the day America would become irrevocably involved.

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