Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Letter on the Maintenance of Peace.

November 14, 1935

My dear Bishop Oldham:

Permit me to tell you how deeply I appreciate your letter of October 31, 1935, and how completely I share your desire that America, as you express it, should not let the world down in the crisis now confronting it. I heartily subscribe to your statement "that the only sure way for us to keep out of war is to have no war anywhere, just as the only assurance that your own house will not go down in the conflagration is to take effective steps to prevent all fires." The initiative taken by the United States on many occasions in promoting international peace efforts both before and after the World War were all predicated on the thought that world peace represents the only ultimate security against involvement in war.

I need not detail to you the various steps this Government took prior to the outbreak of the war between Ethiopia and Italy, designed to bring to bear in the interest of peace the weight of this country's moral influence as a co-sponsor and signatory of the Pact of Paris. The failure of the world effort to preserve peace, however, placed us before a new situation. War had become a reality—the fire had broken out. Faced with this fact, it became encumbent on me to give first thought to the unquestioned mandate of our people, expressed in recent legislation and in numerous other ways, through the press, through public gatherings and through petitions and letters, that, above all, the United States should not be drawn into the conflict. But while shaping our Nation s policies to the purpose of banning the fire from its shores, I did not for one moment lose sight of the truth that the best guarantee against such a calamity would be the smothering of the fire itself. Hence, the measures that the Government has successively adopted have served the twofold object of keeping us out of war and of confining and shortening hostilities.

You state that the efforts of fifty-two Nations may come to naught if the United States stands aloof. I submit that, far from standing aloof, we have, in the various steps we have taken to date, done our share toward the restoration of peace and, in a number of respects, have gone beyond the actions so far taken by other Nations.

You may rest assured that, in continuing closely to follow every development abroad, I shall have steadily before me that dual purpose I have attempted to set forth above. The support given me thus far in this difficult task by the public has been all but unanimous and has been most heartening to me.

Sincerely yours,

The Right Reverend G. Ashton Oldham,

Albany, New York

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Maintenance of Peace. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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