Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

September 07, 1943

THE PRESIDENT: I want to talk about a mistake, for which I apologize. I will tell you the whole story.

When I was up in Quebec, it came the time for the lend-lease report to Congress. And there were several suggested drafts for my "Foreword" that I always send, and on one of the drafts somebody said I had approved it. As a matter of fact, I hadn't seen any of the drafts, and the verbal statement that I had approved it—which I hadn't—went into type, and in type as "Franklin D. Roosevelt," not a signature.

And as such it was sent to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, and released.

Now there were two sentences, when I did see it after I got back from Quebec- but a little late. I didn't like the two sentences, not because they haven't got a very large element of truth, but it's a condensation of the truth, and it might be very widely misconstrued. So all I have done is to take the two sentences out.

They read: "The Congress, in passing and extending the Lend-Lease Act, made it plain that the United States wants no new war debts to jeopardize the coming peace. Victory and a secure peace are the only coin in which we can be repaid."

Well, that is only about a quarter of the truth. For instance, "new war debts to jeopardize the coming peace." What is a debt? Is it money, or is it goods, or is it some other benefit? And the way it's put here, it doesn't do justice to the whole situation. It is perfectly true that in the narrow technical sense we want no new war debts, but at the same time the element of the Lend-Lease Act does mean that other Nations operating with us in its administration will repay us as far as they possibly can. Now that doesn't mean necessarily dollars, because there are all kinds of other repayments which can be made. Therefore, the sentence is not clear.

The same way, "Victory and a secure peace are the only coin in which we can be repaid." Well, a great many people in this country think of a coin as something that you will jingle in your pocket, and of course in the large sense there are all kinds of coins. I wouldn't have put it that way if I had had a chance to see it before it was printed.

Now, that's literally all that happened. That's the whole story. They thought I had approved it- I never saw it- so it was printed. And now the real copy is going up next Monday to Congress. . . .

Q. Mr. President, could you say anything about Mr. Churchill's allusion in his speech at Boston to possible continuance of the Combined Chiefs of Staff after the war?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me talk on that.

People are awfully—what will I say?- immature when they talk about "after the war." They have the idea, because of certain precedents, that when the last shot is fired in one area, let us say, there will be an immediate peace conference, or if all the areas stop shooting that there will be immediately a peace conference; there will be a great treaty signed between all the Nations of the world.

I think that it is a pretty fair guess to say that there will be a transition period. You have to remember certain things, and you have to remember that most of the world is pretty well shell-shocked now. Many of you are somewhat shell-shocked. (Laughter) Occasionally, I think that I am a bit shell-shocked. And I think that for the good of humanity perhaps it might be good before we start writing the fair copy of what is going to happen later on, that we should catch our breaths; our handwriting will be better, and what we say will be better if we read it over a good many times, and perhaps for a good many months.

And so I rather look forward to a period of transition between the firing of the last shot and the signing of a formal agreement or treaty. Obviously, there are certain things that will happen during that transition period. One of them is the maintenance of peace. Well, by whom? The victors. The victors will maintain the peace during that transition period, and they will try out things. They will keep their Combined Staffs working, meeting, watching, ready to maintain peace by force if necessary. And the Prime Minister was absolutely right.

Now, that may develop into such a good working plan from a military point of view that the United Nations may say, "Well, that's pretty good"—the United States and Britain, of course, and other Nations which contribute in a military way to the maintenance of peace. And that, I think, is the way the Prime Minister put it yesterday when he was getting his degree. . . .

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

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