Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

October 09, 1942

THE PRESIDENT: Some time ago I got a cable from the Emperor of Ethiopia, saying, "My Government and people are anxious to assume the obligations of the United Nations Pact. We, the first Nation to regain its freedom and independence, wish to place the military and economic resources of the country at the disposal of those Nations who gladly sacrifice all for liberty and justice."

And after consultation with the other Nations, I sent the Emperor a reply yesterday, saying, "I have received Your Majesty's telegram. It is gratifying to accept the adherence of Ethiopia to the Declaration by the United Nations, to welcome as one of the United Nations the first state to regain its territory after temporary occupation by an Axis aggressor. You may be sure that there is deep appreciation for your offer to place at the disposal of the United Nations the military and economic resources of Ethiopia for use in the struggle against the common enemy."

Q. Mr. President, I want to ask you a question in regard to the St. Lawrence. I don't want to bring up an old thing, but you made a statement about three weeks ago to the effect that the St. Lawrence Seaway should be postponed. The background on this question is this: The Democratic platform at Brooklyn came out for the Seaway. The Republicans at Saratoga Springs said nothing. Mr. Poletti last week was up in Massena and Watertown, upstate New York, in which he came out for it. Mr. Bennett [Democratic Nominee for Governor of New York State] spoke Monday night in Watertown, in which he said that his policy would be just the same as it was during the Smith, Roosevelt, and Lehman administrations. The Republicans are answering that by saying there is no necessity for the Seaway now, the President has thrown it down. What your friends in northern New York want to know, sir—and you have plenty of them, as you know—is whether or not you have?

THE PRESIDENT: You have been very frank and fine in giving me the background. The background, of course, is the political background in the State of New York at the present time. And I have long ceased to think of this subject as a political matter between two parties, or between two regions. It has seemed perfectly obvious for a great many years—twenty years at least—that this Nation and the Canadian Nation between them have, in the St. Lawrence- regardless of politics, regardless of what party is in power, regardless of what one community thinks—a great river, connecting the largest inland bodies of water in all the world with an ocean. Now that's the real background. It goes back more than twenty years—it goes forty years back. And it is a physical situation which, because of certain rapids and waterfalls like the Niagara River, we are unable to use for our own commerce, or Canadian commerce, or world commerce, what is always the cheapest form of transportation, that is water transportation.

And again, entirely aside from politics, there is no question in the world that if we win this war the time is going to come, after forty years of a great deal of spilled ink and a great many words, there is no question that there will be, some day, access from the Great Lakes to the ocean. It's not just a matter for the State of New York, or a State bordering the Great Lakes. It's a matter for the whole Nation. It's bound to come, because man has the scientific mechanical ability to overcome a handicap of nature. At the same time we all know that a great many different types of power are needed in the development of the Nation. We are getting to the point scientifically where we can transmit power very, very long distances.

Now at both the Niagara Falls, where we harness only a small portion of the power, and in the St. Lawrence River, science will give us, for a reasonable cost, a very large additional pool of power. And therefore, if the country, including northern New York, and Buffalo, and New York City, would all think of this in national terms, there is absolutely no question that in time—I don't say now, because that becomes purely a military question during this war—they will recognize the benefits. I doubt very much whether, under the present production circumstances of steel primarily, and manpower, whether we can go ahead at the present time. But that doesn't in any way change the broad aspect of the need of opening the Lakes to the ocean, and of developing the power as soon as we are able to.

Well, I think that's about all there is.

Q. It isn't dead, as far as you are concerned?


Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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