Franklin D. Roosevelt

Radio Address Before the Pan American Governing Board.

April 15, 1940

Gentlemen of the American Republics:

In the year 1890, on April fourteenth, and without any fanfare of trumpets, an Inter-American Conference unanimously adopted a resolution providing that "there shall be formed by the countries represented in this Conference an association under the title of the International Union of American Republics."

The tasks of this new organization were simple. They were to collect and distribute commercial information, to publish a bulletin, to provide trade information and to carry forward the work of promoting sound business relations.

But behind these somewhat prosaic words there was the driving force of a great American conception which had been gathering headway for sixty years.

The ideal originated in the mind of Simon Bolivar; and a kindly history has preserved for us the draft that he had written in 1825, sketching his purpose and objective.

His aim was peace for the Americas. His hope was that the American example might eventually give peace to the entire world. His plan was stated in a single, brilliant sentence: "The New World takes shape in the form of independent nations, all joined by a common law which would control their foreign relations and would offer them the stabilizing force of a general and permanent Congress." The result, as' you know, was the calling of the Congress of Panama in 1826.

At that time, well over a century ago, it took bold minds even to dream of universal peace. And yet, the Congress of Panama gave clear expression to precisely that aspiration. Before that time, there had been but two systems of peace known to the world. One of them had been the peace of universal conquest, which Rome had achieved and lost, and which Napoleon had vainly endeavored to imitate. The other was the dangerous and temporary peace of balance of power—which even in 1826 was plainly no permanent solution.

At the Congress of Panama in 1826, the American nations there assembled proclaimed the ideal of a new form of peace, a Cooperative Peace; the peace of free equals freely agreeing to settle whatever differences might arise among them by none but pacific means—determined to cooperate with each other for the greater good of all of them.

Never before had any group of nations been asked to renounce the splendors of indefinite conquest, and to achieve their true grandeur by peaceful cooperation. Yet that was precisely what the Americas were considering at that time.

The dream of Bolivar was not realized at the Congress of Panama. But it did remain a hope and an inspiration. To the writers, the poets, the dreamers, who kept the ideal of cooperative peace alive through the imperialistic nineteenth century we owe an everlasting debt of gratitude.

In spite of several attempts to bring to a realization the ideal of inter-American unity, more than six decades went by before the seed began to grow. I am proud that on that occasion the initiative came from the oldest of the American Republics, the United States. In 1888, President Cleveland approved an Act of Congress authorizing him to call a conference of the American countries in order that there might be worked out a peaceful plan for the settling of disagreements and disputes, and a means of encouraging such reciprocal relations as would benefit all.

It was that inter-American conference, fifty years ago, that set up the International Union of the American Republics, the anniversary of which we are observing today. In opening the Conference, the Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, expressed its high purpose in the following words: "We believe that a spirit of justice, of common and equal interest between the American States, will leave no room for an artificial balance of power like unto that which has led to wars abroad and drenched Europe in blood."

Fifty years of unremitting effort have brought our Republics far along the road that leads to this goal. Today, as never before, our nations have reason to appreciate the fruits of that progress. For today the world and we, ourselves, are again face to face with the old problem.

Universal and stable peace remains a dream. War, more horrible and destructive than ever, has laid its blighting hand on many parts of the earth. But peace among our American nations remains secure because of the instruments we have succeeded in creating. They embody, in great measure at least, the principles upon which, I believe, enduring peace must be based throughout all the rest of the world.

Peace reigns today in the Western Hemisphere because our nations have liberated themselves from fear. No nation is truly at peace if it lives under the shadow of coercion or invasion. By the simple process of agreeing that each nation shall respect the integrity and independence of the others, the New World has freed itself of the greatest and simplest cause of war. Self-restraint and the acceptance of the equal rights of our neighbors as an act of effective good will have given us the peace we have had, and will preserve that peace so long as we abide by this ultimate moral law.

Peace reigns among us today because we have agreed, as neighbors should, to mind our own businesses. We have renounced, each and all of us, any right to interfere in each other's domestic affairs, recognizing that free and independent nations must shape their own destinies and find their own ways of life.

Peace reigns among us today because we have resolved to settle any dispute that should arise among us by friendly negotiation in accordance with justice and equity, rather than by force. We have created effective machinery for this purpose; and we have demonstrated our willingness to have full recourse to that method.

Peace reigns among us because we have recognized the principle that only through vigorous and mutually beneficial international economic relations can each of us have adequate access to materials and opportunities necessary to a rising level of economic well-being for all of our peoples. In every practicable way we are seeking to bring this vital principle to its realization.

We of this hemisphere have no need to seek a new international order; we have already found it. This was not won by hysterical outcries, or violent movements of troops. We do not stamp out nations, capture governments, or uproot innocent people from the homes that they have built. We do not invent absurd doctrines of race supremacy, or claim dictatorship through universal revolution.

The inter-American order was not built by hatred and terror. It has been paved by the endless and effective work of men of good will. We have built a foundation for the lives of hundreds of millions. We have unified these lives by a common devotion to a moral order.

This cooperative peace in the Western Hemisphere was not created by mere wishing; and it will require more than mere words to maintain. In this association of nations, whoever touches any one of us touches us all. We have only asked that the world go with us in the path of peace. But we shall be able to keep that way open only if we are prepared to meet force with force if challenge is ever made against us.

Today we can have no illusions. Old dreams of universal empire are again rampant. We hear of races which claim the right of mastery. We learn of groups which insist that they have the right to impose their way of life on other nations. We encounter economic compulsions shrewdly devised to force great areas into political spheres of influence.

All this is not of mere academic interest. We know that what happens in the Old World directly and powerfully affects the peace and well-being of the New. It was for this very reason that we have adopted procedures that enable us to meet any eventuality. At Buenos Aires we agreed that we would consult, should our peace be threatened. At Lima we agreed to stand together to defend and maintain the absolute integrity of every American nation from any attack, direct or indirect, from beyond the seas. At Panama we worked out means for keeping war away from our Hemisphere. I pray God that we shall have to do no more than that; but should it be necessary, I am convinced that we should be wholly successful. For the inner strength of a group of free people is irresistible when they are prepared to act.

In my conception, the whole world now is struggling to find the basis of its life in the centuries that lie ahead.

I affirm that that life must be based on positive and permanent values.

The value of love will always be stronger than the value of hate; since any nation or group of nations which employs hatred eventually is torn to pieces by hatred within itself.

The value of a belief in humanity and justice is always stronger in any land than the value of belief in force, because force at last turns inward and if that occurs each man or group of men is finally compelled to measure his strength against his own brother.

The value of truth and sincerity is always stronger than the value of lies and cynicism. No process has yet been invented which can permanently separate men from their own hearts and consciences or prevent them from seeing the results of their own false ideas as time rolls by. You cannot make men believe that a way of life is good when it spreads poverty, misery, disease and death. Men cannot be everlastingly loyal unless they are free.

We acclaim today the symbol of fifty years of the American way. We are determined to continue on that way of friendship. We are determined that our mutual relations be built upon honor and upon good faith. We are determined to live in peace and to make that peace secure. We are determined to follow the path of free peoples to a civilization worthy of free men.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address Before the Pan American Governing Board. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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