Page images

vessel flying the American flag which attempted to transport such articles to China or Japan would do so at its own risk. ( >

On September 28, 1937 the Secretary of State sent instructions to Minister Harrison in Switzerland for the Minister's background information in connection with the activities of the League of Nations in the dispute between China and Japan. The Secretary said that the United States had been approached on several occasions by other governments with suggestions for joint action; that while the United States believed in and wished to practice cooperation it was not prepared to take part in joint action, though it would consider the possibility of taking parallel action. In general, the Secretary felt that spontaneous and separate action on parallel lines was more likely to serve effectively the attainment of the objectives sought. The Secretary said that the Japanese military operations had increased in intensity; that China had affirmed a willingness to resort to conciliation; that the Japanese had announced, however, their intention to destroy the Chinese will and capacity to resist and to overthrow the existing Chinese Government. He said that the Sino-Japanese situation definitely concerned the world as a whole; that no longer did the questions involved relate merely to specific provisions of particular treaties being violated; that they were questions of international law, of humanity, of war and of peace. The Secretary said that the United States in action taken thus far had gone further than any other nation or group of nations in making efforts calculated to strengthen general principles of world peace and world security. Therefore, he felt that other nations might well direct their efforts toward going as far as or farther than the United States had gone. ()

President Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Address

In a significant address delivered at Chicago on October 5, 1937, President Roosevelt dwelt at length on the tense condition of international affairs. He declared that the political situation in the world was one to cause grave concern and anxiety; that the existing reign of terror and international lawlessness had reached the stage where the very foundations of civilization were seriously threatened. He warned that no one should imagine that America would escape from this or that the Western Hemisphere would not be attacked. He called for a concerted effort by the peace-loving nations in opposition to the actions that were creating international anarchy and instability.

The President declared that isolation or neutrality afforded no escape and that international anarchy jeopardized the security of

every nation, large or small. He cited the spreading of the "epidemic of world lawlessness", and drew the parallel that in case of an epidemic of physical disease the community joins in a “quarantine" of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease. War, he said, is a "contagion" and can engulf states remote from the original scene of hostilities. We were determined, he continued, to keep out of war, we were adopting measures to minimize the risk, yet we could not insure ourselves against war's disastrous effects and the dangers of involvement. The President called upon the peace-loving nations to express their will for peace to the end that nations tempted to violate their agreements and the rights of others would desist. He concluded with: "America hates war. America hopes for peace. Therefore, America actively engages in the search for peace." ( )

On October 6, 1937 the Assembly of the League of Nations adopted a report stating that the Japanese action in China was a violation of Japan's treaty obligations. On the same day the Department of State issued a statement that the action of Japan in China was inconsistent with the principles which should govern the relations between nations and was contrary to the Nine-Power Treaty of February 6, 1922 regarding the principles and policies to be followed in matters concerning China, and contrary to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. ( ).

Brussels Conference

In November 1937 the United States participated with 18 other nations in a Conference held at Brussels to consider "peacable means" for hastening the end of the conflict between China and Japan. This Conference was held in accordance with a provision of the Nine-Power Treaty of 1922.

The instructions given by President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull to United States delegate Norman H. Davis stated that the first objective of the foreign policy of the United States was national security, and that consequently we sought to keep peace and promote the maintenance of peace; that we believed in cooperative effort for the preservation of peace by pacific and practicable means; that this country as a signatory to the Kellogg-Briand Pact had renounced war as an instrument of national policy; and that "public opinion. in the United States has expressed its emphatic determination that the United States keep out of war". Mr. Davis was instructed to keep in mind the interest of the United States in peace in the Pacific and in the Far East as evidenced by the Washington Conference treaties, the statements relating to foreign policy made by the President in his Chicago address of October 5, and this Government's

statement of October 6 on the controversy between China and Japan. In the view of this Government the primary function of the Conference was "to provide a forum for constructive discussion, to formulate and suggest possible bases of settlement, and to endeavor to bring the parties together through peaceful negotiation”.

It was emphasized to the United States delegate that if we were to avoid an ultimate serious clash with Japan, some practical means must be found to check Japanese conquest and to make effective the collective will of the powers which desired the settlement of international controversies by peaceful means; that the Conference might be an agency for bringing to bear upon Japan every moral pressure directed toward bringing about a change in Japanese attitude and policy. Finally, the delegate was to "observe closely the trend of public opinion in the United States and take full account thereof”. Japan refused to participate in the Conference, maintaining that its dispute with China was outside the purview of the Nine-Power Treaty. On November 15 the Conference adopted a declaration affirming that the representatives of 15 states considered the conflict between China and Japan to be of concern to all countries parties to the Nine-Power Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. In the presence of this difference between the views of the Conference and the Japanese Government, the Conference considered that there was no opportunity at the time for carrying out its terms of reference so far as they related to bringing about peace by agreement. ( )

In a declaration, dated November 24, 1937, the Conference stated that it strongly reaffirmed the principles of the Nine-Power Treaty; that it believed that a satisfactory settlement between China and Japan could not be achieved by direct negotiation between the parties to the conflict alone and that an acceptable agreement could be achieved only by consultation with other powers principally concerned; that it strongly urged that hostilities be suspended and resort be had to peaceful processes; that the Conference deemed it advisable temporarily to suspend its sittings; that the conflict remained, however, a matter of concern to all the powers assembled at Brussels; and that the Conference would be called together again when it was considered that deliberations could be advantageously resumed. ( )

The United States delegate reported at the conclusion of the Conference that it had demonstrated the "unwillingness of Japan to resort to methods of conciliation" and that the Japanese continued to insist that the issues between Japan and China were exclusive to those two countries whereas the Conference powers, with the exception of Italy, affirmed that the situation was of concern to all members of the family of nations. ( )

"Panay” Incident

On December 12, 1937 the Government and people of the United States were deeply shocked by the news of the bombing and destruction by Japanese aircraft of the United States gunboat Panay and three United States merchant vessels on the Yangtze River in China. The bombing and machine-gunning of the crews and passengers resulted in loss of life to citizens of the United States. This Government immediately sent a note to the Japanese Government stating that the United States vessels involved were on the Yangtze River "by uncontested and incontestable right”, that they were flying the American flag, and that they were engaged in legitimate and appropriate business. The Government of the United States requested and expected of the Japanese Government "a formally recorded expression of regret, an undertaking to make complete and comprehensive indemnifications; and an assurance that definite and specific steps have been taken which will insure that hereafter American nationals, interests and property in China will not be subjected to attack by Japanese armed forces or unlawful interference by any Japanese authorities or forces".

This note was sent to Japan on the evening of December 13. On December 14 the United States Ambassador to Japan received a note from the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs stating that the Japanese Government regretted "most profoundly" the damage to these vessels and the casualties among the personnel; that it desired to present "sincere apologies"; that it would make indemnifications for all the losses; that it would deal "appropriately" with those responsible for the incident; and that it had already issued "strict orders to the authorities on the spot with a view to preventing the recurrence of a similar incident". Finally, the Japanese Government expressed the "fervent hope" that the friendly relations between Japan and the United States would not be affected by this "unfortunate affair". The Japanese Government later made full indemnification in accordance with the request of the United States. ( )

The overwhelming endorsement given by the people of the United States to the manner in which the Panay incident was settled attested to their earnest desire to keep the United States out of war.


United States Rearmament

As 1937 drew to a close the situation in the world became increasingly threatening. The hostilities between China and Japan raged with growing intensity; in Europe, Spain was torn by a civil struggle which threatened to turn into a general continental war. In November 1937 Italy joined Germany and Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact. Meanwhile, Germany, arming at a feverish pace, was causing grave apprehension as to its intentions toward the European political


During this period there developed considerable public support in the United States for the adoption of a constitutional amendment requiring a popular vote as prerequisite to a declaration of war by the Congress. Both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull at various times expressed their strong opposition to this proposal. On January 6, 1938 the President wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives that such an amendment "would cripple any President in his conduct of our foreign relations" and "would encourage other nations to believe that they could violate American rights with impunity". Secretary Hull on January 8 warned that the proposal would impair the ability of the Government to safeguard the peace of the people of the United States. On January 10 the proposal was voted on by the House of Representatives but was rejected by the close vote of 209 to 188. ( )

President Roosevelt recommended to Congress, in a special message of January 28, 1938, the strengthening of our national defense. The President reported with deep regret that armaments were increasing "at an unprecedented and alarming rate". He called attention to the ominous fact that at least one fourth of the world's population was involved in "merciless devastating conflict" in spite of the fact that most people in most countries wished to live at peace. As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, the President deemed it his constitutional duty to report to the Congress that the national defense of the United States was, in the light of the increasing armaments of other nations, inadequate for purposes of national security and therefore required increase. The President said that "adequate defense" meant that for the protection not only of our coasts but also of our communities far removed from the coasts, we must keep any

« PreviousContinue »