Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to the Daughters of the American Revolution on National Defense.

April 20, 1936

My dear Mrs. Becker:

I had looked forward with pleasure to the opportunity to appear this year before the 45th annual Continental Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution. You will understand, I am sure, why that is not now possible. I shall be grateful, however, if you will extend my cordial greetings to the officers and delegates assembled.

This Administration, as you know, stands for adequate national defense. It stands, also, for the policy of the good neighbor. These are not contradictory principles. As they are followed by this Administration they represent an expression of the purpose of peace.

There is much confusion of thought and some unnecessary apprehension on this matter of national defense. There are sincere and patriotic people who have been led to believe that our military and naval establishments are inferior and inadequate. That, so stated, is a totally wrong conclusion. It has been the aim of this Administration to make our national defense efficient and to keep it adequate. Today our defense forces are on a stronger peace-time basis than before. It is our purpose to keep them that way.

There are other equally sincere and patriotic people who look upon our system of national defense as much too large for our needs; an unnecessary expense, a threat, perhaps, to peace. That, too, is a totally wrong conclusion. When we say adequate defense we mean just that. The prospect of a war of aggression has no place in our American policy. It has no place in our military or naval program. We are maintaining a system that will meet our defensive needs. We have no plans for any other kind of system.

Americans generally will agree that some measure of preparedness for defense is necessary. They disagree as to how much is necessary. The policy of the Government on that point is determined by several factors. First of all, it is determined by a very common-sense fact. If we take on any of the obligations of self-protection, it follows that we must take on all the obligations of self-protection. We have, for example, two extensive and widely separated coasts to guard. There would be no sense in a preparedness policy adequate for the defense of only one coast. Defense must be adequate, not sectionally adequate, but nationally adequate.

Now our answer to the question as to what is nationally adequate is not always the same. It changes—in is bound to change-with changing international situations. If this were a disarming world it is obvious that our needs would be proportionately decreasing. I regret that today this is not that kind of world. I regret it deeply.

But here we confront the question of disarmament. On that issue our policy is clear. That policy has two elements in it. First, we propose to press, continually, for a limitation of armaments by international agreement. Second, failing to get that, we will make no increase of our own armaments unless other powers by increasing their armaments make increase by us necessary to our national safety.

If progress in armament limitation has been slow, progress in other areas has been rapid. We have stated the principle of the good neighbor as the standard for the conduct of our foreign policy. We have begun the practice of that principle. Already that practice has ushered in a new era of good-will between ourselves and the great Nations of the Americas. One after another we are liquidating the causes of friction and misunderstanding between us. A new confidence has been established. This summer's Pan-American Conference will meet in an atmosphere of unprecedented friendliness. What we have achieved in that one area is a measure of what we desire to achieve through the whole range of our international relationships.

That achievement is wholly consistent with our program of national defense. It is an expression of the very objectives on which our national defense is based.

We have a disinterested, consistent and successful foreign policy. In it we give no thought to a war of aggression on the part of the United States. We stand firmly by our solemn treaty obligations renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.

Very sincerely yours,

Mrs. William A. Becker,

Daughters of the American Revolution,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to the Daughters of the American Revolution on National Defense. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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