You realize, I am sure, that throughout the world hundreds
of millions of human beings are living today in constant fear of a new
war or even a series of wars.
The existence of this fear—and the possibility
of such a conflict-are of definite concern to the people of the United
States for whom I speak, as they must also be to the peoples of the
other nations of the entire Western Hemisphere. All of them know that
any major war, even if it were to be confined to other continents, must
bear heavily on them during its continuance and also for generations
Because of the fact that after the acute tension in
which the world has been living during the past few weeks there would
seem to be at least a momentary relaxation—because no troops are
at this moment on the march—this may be an opportune moment for
me to send you this message.
On a previous occasion I have addressed you in behalf
of the settlement of political, economic, and social problems by peaceful
methods and without resort to arms.
But the tide of events seems to have reverted to the
threat of arms. If such threats continue, it seems inevitable that much
of the world must become involved in common ruin. All the world, victor
nations, vanquished nations, and neutral nations, will suffer. I refuse
to believe that the world is, of necessity, such a prisoner of destiny.
On the contrary, it is clear that the leaders of great nations have
it in their power to liberate their peoples from the disaster that impends.
It is equally clear that in their own minds and in their own hearts
the peoples themselves desire that their fears be ended.
It is, however, unfortunately necessary to take cognizance
of recent facts.
Three nations in Europe and one in Africa have seen
their independent existence terminated. A vast territory in another
independent Nation of the Far East has been occupied by a neighboring
State. Reports, which we trust are not true, insist that further acts
of aggression are contemplated against still other independent nations.
Plainly the world is moving toward the moment when this situation must
end in catastrophe unless a more rational way of guiding events is found.
You have repeatedly asserted that you and the German
people have no desire for war. If this is true there need be no war.
Nothing can persuade the peoples of the earth that any governing power
has any right or need to inflict the consequences of war on its own
or any other people save in the cause of self-evident home defense.
In making this statement we as Americans speak not
through selfishness or fear or weakness. If we speak now it is with
the voice of strength and with friendship for mankind. It is still clear
to me that international problems can be solved at the council table.
It is therefore no answer to the plea for peaceful
discussion for one side to plead that unless they receive assurances
beforehand that the verdict will be theirs, they will not lay aside
their arms. In conference rooms, as in courts, it is necessary that
both sides enter upon the discussion in good faith, assuming that substantial
justice will accrue to both; and it is customary and necessary that
they leave their arms outside the room where they confer.
I am convinced that the cause of world peace would
be greatly advanced if the nations of the world were to obtain a frank
statement relating to the present and future policy of Governments.
Because the United States, as one of the Nations of
the Western Hemisphere, is not involved in the immediate controversies
which have arisen in Europe, I trust that you may be willing to make
such a statement of policy to me as head of a Nation far removed from
Europe in order that I, acting only with the responsibility and obligation
of a friendly intermediary, may communicate such declaration to other
nations now apprehensive as to the course which the policy of your Government
Are you willing to give assurance that your armed forces
will not attack or invade the territory or possessions of the following
independent nations: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Ireland, France,
Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Poland, Hungary,
Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, the Arabias,
Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iran.
Such an assurance clearly must apply not only to the
present day but also to a future sufficiently long to give every opportunity
to work by peaceful methods for a more permanent peace. I therefore
suggest that you construe the word "future" to apply to a
minimum period of assured non-aggression ten years at the least a quarter
of a century, if we dare look that far ahead.
If such assurance is given by your Government, I shall
immediately transmit it to the Governments of the nations I have named
and I shall simultaneously inquire whether, as I am reasonably sure,
each of the nations enumerated will in turn give like assurance for
transmission to you.
Reciprocal assurances such as I have outlined will
bring to the world an immediate measure of relief.
I propose that if it is given, two essential problems
shall promptly be discussed in the resulting peaceful surroundings,
and in those discussions the Government of the United States will gladly
The discussions which I have in mind relate to the
most effective and immediate manner through which the peoples of the
world can obtain progressive relief from the crushing burden of armament
which is each day bringing them more closely to the brink of economic
disaster. Simultaneously the Government of the United States would be
prepared to take part in discussions looking toward the most practical
manner of opening up avenues of international trade to the end that
every Nation of the earth may be enabled to buy and sell on equal terms
in the world market as well as to possess assurance of obtaining the
materials and products of peaceful economic life.
At the same time, those Governments other than the
United States which are directly interested could undertake such political
discussions as they may consider necessary or desirable.
We recognize complex world problems which affect all
humanity but we know that study and discussion of them must be held
in an atmosphere of peace. Such an atmosphere of peace cannot exist
if negotiations are overshadowed by the threat of force or by the fear
I think you will not misunderstand the spirit of frankness
in which I send you this message. Heads of great Governments in this
hour are literally responsible for the fate of humanity in the coming
years. They cannot fail to hear the prayers of their peoples to be protected
from the foreseeable chaos of war. History will hold them accountable
for the lives and the happiness of all—even unto the least.
I hope that your answer will make it possible for humanity
to lose fear and regain security for many years to come.
A similar message is being addressed to the Chief of
the Italian Government.