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Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain: Two Appeasers Author(s): Donald Watt Source: International Journal, Vol. 28, No. 2, United States Foreign Policy (Spring, 1973), pp. 185-204 Published by: Canadian International Council Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40201112 . Accessed: 25/01/2011 02:53
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Controversy still rages around Franklin Roosevelt's role in the approach of the Second World War as it does around all other aspects of the only president to hold office in the United States for more than two terms. It used to be that Roosevelt was accused of so manoeuvring the United States that it was committed to war in Europe without the American people being aware of what was going on. His defenders retorted by depicting him as a man who saw what was happening in Europe and tried to lead the American people to see and understand what was happening, while using all the powers available to his office to prepare the United States for the ordeal which lay ahead of it. His detractors saw him as a super Machiavelli, always intriguing, evil. His defenders saw him as an all-wise and all-seeing father figure. Seen from Europe Roosevelt looked rather different. To the French he was for a long time their ace in the hole. When everything went wrong, he would intervene to save them. Just how exaggerated their hopes were can be seen in the appeals for intervention French Premier Paul Reynaud directed to him in the dark days of the fall of France. The British saw him differently. To some he was basically on their side against European fascism more so than their own government. To others, like Churchill, he was the United States' leader and Britain's friend. To the British government, especially to Premier Neville Chamberlain, he seems to have appeared as an unreliable windbag in charge of a country whose friendship and support Britain simply had to have. Chamberlain wanted American help and understanding. But he accepted the facts of American isolationism. It is never safe to count on the
Professor of International History, University of London, F.R.Hist.S; author of a number of books including Personalities and Politics (1965).
Americans for anything except words, that was his view.1 It was his mission, as he saw it, to do all he could to prevent Europe stumbling into another world war. If there was such a war then American help would be indispensable. Until then he did what he thought was right. He did his best to explain what he was doing to the various American ambassadorsand envoys in London. But he was not prepared to change what he was doing to win American support. It would, he thought, be only verbal, not even diplomatic. In coping with the problems of an approaching war Roosevelt was no more prescient than anyone else. It was a long time before he realized how threatening internationally, as opposed to how unpleasant in their domestic politics, were the aggressor states, Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. He was at first more worried by the arms race as a burden on world recovery from the depression than by the prospect of another Armageddon. He was neither well informed nor very well equipped to understand what was happening in Europe; and he suffered from several grave handicaps. He did not agree with, or have much confidence in, his secretary of state, Cordell Hull. He preferred rather to work with Hull's deputy, Sumner Welles. He did not really trust his ambassadors abroad, and he made no effort to cultivate foreign ambassadors in Washington as Theodore Roosevelt had. He had the fashionable liberal prejudices against professional diplomatists as such.2 He had no first-hand knowledge of Europe to call on later other than the visits he had paid to Europe as under-secretary of the navy under Wilson and his childhood experiences in Germany.8 He knew none of Europe's leaders, neither dictators nor democrats. And he was so constituted that, unless he had intermediaries he could trust and rely on, unless he could form his own idea of how the minds of those with whom he had to deal in Europe worked, he was hesitant and out of touch with reality.
i Keith Feiling, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London 1046). p ftsg. 2 See his remarks to Harold L. Ickes, The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes (3 vols; London 1955), n, entry of 22 March 1939. 3 See his letter to Lord Murray of Elibank of 4 March 1940, Murray of Elibank Papers, Scottish National Library, folio 8809, pp 229-30.
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This caution was reinforced by the suspicions Cordell Hull felt towards Europe, the antagonism felt by idealist liberals in the State Department towards British conservatism and traditionalism, and the timidity all displayed, faced with an isolationist Congress which wanted to reshape United States neutrality legislation so as to keep the United States not so much neutral as neutralist. Much of Roosevelt's policy towards Europe represents the groping of someone trying to establish his own private envoys and channels of communication with British and French leaders. In fact he thought very much as they did. And although the policy with which he approached Europe in 1936 was singularly out of touch with the realities of the European situation, he came to adopt the same approach as they did, and by the time of the great Czechoslovakia crisis which led on 30 September 1938, at the Munich conference, to the purchase of peace by the sacrifice of much of Czech independence to Hitler's demand, he was following and supporting the same line - 'appeasement'- as the leaders of Britain and France. With the approach of his second term in the spring and summer of 1936, Roosevelt had become uneasily conscious that events in Europe were threatening to make nonsense of his hopes that the United States might be able to solve its economic problems on its own. Stimulated by pressures from various elements in the American peace movement,4 he had been toying, since 1936, with the idea of calling a conference of the great powers to do something - what was never quite clear - to avoid what he then believed to be the steady drift of the world towards war, a war which, with Cordell Hull, he believed would spring not so much from the deliberate aggression of one power but from economic competition. In the beginning, in August 1936, he had been taken by the view, then fashionable among liberal revisionists, that rearmament itself was the crippling burden to be avoided and that it could lead to an arms race which would in turn lead to war. He had therefore instructed Professor William Dodd, the liberal
4 Sec EdgarH. Nixon, FranklinD. Rooseveltand Foreign Affairs(Cambridge,
Mass, 1969), in, 373, 375-6, and footnote 1 thereto.
historian of the American south whom he had made ambassador in Berlin, to sound the Germans on the prospects of such a conference.5 Dodd's attempts to open the question in Berlin had been more than a little discouraging,6and the British foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, learning of the matter from his ambassador in Berlin, Sir Eric Phipps, overrode his principal adviser, Sir Robert Vansittart, who felt that Roosevelt should be encouraged, and did his best to pour cold water on the idea as premature.7 At this stage, Roosevelt's mind had moved away from the simple idea of a meeting of the great powers to discuss disarmament, and was turning instead to the idea of a conference to discuss basic economic issues. He outlined his ideas at length to the British novelist, John Buchan, who as Lord Tweedsmuir, governor general of Canada, accompanied Mackenzie King, the Canadian prime minister, to Washington in March 1937;8 and he listened with equal interest to Mackenzie King's own ideas on the same subject, soliciting from his long-time Canadian friend a memorandum summarizing them.9 And he instructed Norman Davis, his personal expert on disarmament, on the eve of a visit to Europe in the spring of 1937, to try discreetly to ascertain the reactions in Europe to the idea of divesting the League of Nations of its political function and reorganizing it as a kind of economic council in 'which case the United States ought to be able to go along/ He also told Davis to see what he could do to find a means of bringing the European governments together 'in a co-operative attempt to
5 Roosevelt to Dodd, 5 August 1936, The Roosevelt Letters, in: 1928-1945 (London 1952), p 183. 6 Dodd to Roosevelt, 9 August, 7 December 1936, in Nixon, Roosevelt, hi, 390-2, 526-8. See also the German records of Dodd's discussions with Dieckhoff of the German Foreign Ministry and Baron von Neurath, the foreign minister, on 17 September and 16 October 1936, Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-194$, series c, vol. v, nos 544 and 611. 7 Lord Avon, Facing the Dictators (London 1962), pp 525-6; Ian Colvin, Vansittart in Office (London 1965), p 119. 8 Buchan to Chamberlain, 25 October 1937, copy in Viscount Simon Papers, Institute of Historical Research, London. 9 Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan (London 1965), pp 444-5. James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada, 11:Appeasement and Rearmament (Toronto 1965), esp 41-3 and Appendix, doc 2.
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arrest the rapid deterioration in the international situation.'10 In the light of later events, it is interesting that the main opposition to Davis' proposals came from Anthony Eden who thought that 'it was not yet the time' for action.11An excellent reason for this opposition was provided by Sir Eric Phipps, now British ambassador in Paris, who told William Bullitt, American ambassador in Paris, at the end of April 1937, that negotiations with Germany were doomed to failure unless Trance and England should be prepared to accord Germany absolute domination/ a view which Andri Fianfois-Poncet, the French ambassador in Berlin, confirmed the following month.13 Roosevelt's hopes of a general conference were given a different turn in the summer of 1937 by the outbreak of hostilities between Japan and China. Although United States stakes in China were immense, American resistance to Japan had long been dominated by suspicions that Britain wanted the United States to stand up to Japan so as to protect Britain's even greater share of Chinese wealth.18 Once again, Hull's suspicions were able to thwart Britain's suggestions of joint Anglo-American action.14 Chamberlain was confirmed in his view that 'it is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words,'16and negotiations which Norman Davis had been conducting with the premier for him to visit Washington were broken off at the end of September, on the pretext that the time was not yet ripe, despite a friendly exchange of letters between Roosevelt and Chamberlain.19The incident must have gone some way to discrediting
10 Davis memorandum,19 March 1937,cited in Dorothy Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis,1933-1938(Cambridge,Mats, 1964),p 374 and fn is. 11 Davis to State Department,10 April 1937,ForeignRelations of the United States 1937, 1, 73-4. (HereafterFRUS.) it Bullitt to State Department,30 April and 12 May 1937,ibid, 1, 84-5,and 9a. 13 Nicholas Clifford,Retreat from China:British Policy in the Far East, 1937-41 (Seattle 1967), p 19; Borg, Far Eastern Crisis, passim. 14 For the British proposalof so July 1937and the Americanreply, see FRUS 1937,m, SS6-7,S35-6. 15 Felling, Chamberlain, 3S5. p 16 Chamberlainto Davis, 8 July 1937,Norman H. Davis Papers,Libraryof Congress,box 8.
Norman Davis in Roosevelt's eyes as the kind of confidential gobetween for whom he was searching. During the summer, Roosevelt's mind began turning towards positive measures which might be used to restrain what he was now coming, in private conversation, to call the 'bandit nations/ His mind moved gradually towards the idea of universal economic sanctions (although even in his most private conversations he fought shy of using this term), involving the denial of trade, indeed the complete isolation from all international contacts, of the aggressor. An essential preliminary to this, and one that was being urged on him independently by Sumner Welles, still convinced of the need for an international conference, was universal agreement on the accepted rules of international behaviour. Put together, these proposals began to settle in Roosevelt's mind into a sketch for a programme - a speech outlining his proposals to isolate the aggressors, another appealing for a conference, and then perhaps a conference at the initiative of the United States. Seen from the vantage point of 1939, let alone 1973, there is a delicious naivete about these ideas. They rested on such a range of assumptions about the world outside the United States that one is left to speculate on the state of a man who, in the autumn of 1937, could seriously entertain the prospect of their realization. They were not to be realized: indeed they were so far from even being seriously proposed, that controversy still rages over what precisely was in Roosevelt's mind. The first stage came at Chicago on 5 October 1937 with Roosevelt's public proposal for a 'quarantine' of the aggressor nations.17The speech provoked a storm of protest from the isolationist press, and was followed by a press conference at which Roosevelt was clearly badly rattled.18The majority of American opinion on the other hand regarded the proposal rather favour17 For the text see FRUS, Japan, 1931-1941, 1, 379-83. 18 Press Conferences of Franklin D. Roosevelt 1937, Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park.
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ably.19It aroused 'mixed feelings' in Chamberlain.20Eden ignored it completely, apart from an anodyne reference in a speech to his constituents in Leamington, leading Roosevelt to complain that he had hoped for 'a little more unselfish spirit' from Britain.21 As Sumner Welles had told the British charg£ in Washington on 12 October that Roosevelt was not proposing 'the immediate or imminent application of quarantine measures/22 Eden's reaction was hardly surprising. Roosevelt's own behaviour, or rather that he permitted his administration to show during the following month, made this comment rather ironic. Norman Davis went as his emissary to Brussels to a conference called to attempt to put an end to the Sino-Japanese conflict by agreement.28Davis himself travelled to Brussels with the belief that once the conference had registered its inevitable failure to get such an agreement, he was authorized to discuss various means of pressure on Japan. The vital conversation with Roosevelt at which he seems to have gained this impression was never discussed with Hull; as a result Davis suddenly found himself directly repudiated by both Hull and Sumner Welles despite all the evidence he had reported of British willingness to co-operate in any measures up to and including a joint naval demonstration.24 Davis retired, hurt and bewildered, to direct the American Red Cross, and Roosevelt, unwilling to move as fast as circumstances demanded, yielded to Hull and Welles with their renewed concern for American isolationist opinion. Hull was to involve the United States in a still greater display
19 This is the conclusion of Dorothy Borg, 'Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine ' Speech/' Political Science Quarterly, lxxii (1957), 424-33. See also John McVickar Haight Jr, 'Roosevelt and the Aftermath of the Quarantine Speech/ Review of Politics, xxrv (April 1962), 233-59. 20 Feiline, Chamberlain, p «2S. 21 Roosevelt to Murray, 7 October 1937, Murray Papers, folio 8809, p 45; Murray Memorandum, 10 September 1940, folio 8809. 22 FRUS iQtf, in, 601. 23 Report adopted by the League of Nations Assembly, 6 October 1937, FRUS, Japan, 19311941, 1, 394. 24 FRUS 1937, rv, 145-7, 158*4J Borg» Fa* Eastern Crisis, pp 405-30.
of pusillanimity early in December when reports arrived in Washington of Japanese air attacks on hms Mosquito and the uss Panay, the British and American gunboats on the Yangtse river. Aware of the imminence of a British proposal for a joint Anglo-American naval demonstration, he moved with unaccustomed speed to secure and accept a Japanese apology, not only before the British proposal could be made, but even before he had received any reports from the Panay's survivors.26 Hull was, however, unable to forestall or inhibit action by other departmental advisers to Roosevelt. The two who took the most direct hand were Admiral Leahy, Roosevelt's senior naval adviser, and Henry Morgenthau, secretary of the treasury. Leahy wanted the fleet made ready to put to sea but found Roosevelt unwilling to go this far.26Morgenthau and his advisers conceived the idea of joint Anglo-American action to freeze all Japanese governmental assets in the United States and Britain. Roosevelt enthusiastically welcomed this new form of bloodless retaliation as an example of the 'quarantine' idea, and Morgenthau plunged to the transatlantic telephone to call Sir John Simon, his opposite number in London. He could not have chosen a more unfortunate person or hour. Simon was at this time the arch-enemy of precipitate action. The British service chiefs found him the biggest obstacle to British rearmament. And he had burnt his fingers badly in 1932 as foreign secretary when he relied on the transatlantic telephone to co-ordinate British and American policy over Manchuria and Shanghai with the then secretary of state, Henry L. Stimson. In 1937, called from his soup (he was playing host at a dinner party at No 11 Downing Street), he referred frostily to the usual channels and the need to have proposals in writing. He then made sure that a vague and circumlocutory negative was returned to Morgenthau's following cable.27
25 For this incident see FRUS 1937, rv, 490-1, 494-5, 497, 499-500; Borg, Far Eastern Crisis, chapter xvi, passim. 26 Admiral William Leahy Diary, Library of Congress, entry of 14 December 1957. 27 See John Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries, 1: Years of Crisis 1928-1938 (Boston 1959), pp 489-91.
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In the meantime, however, Leahy and Morgenthau together had stirred the President into action. On the evening of 16 December he had sent for the British ambassador,Sir Ronald Lindsay.28 He began by proposing naval staff conversations in London. Their object would be to arrange for a blockade or 'quarantine' of Japan to be implemented whenever the Japanese committed their next 'grave outrage/ A line should be drawn from the Aleutians through Hawaii and the Philippines to Hong Kong, the United States looking after everything east of the Philippines, and all Japanese trade and shipping across the line stopped by a cruiser blockade, the aim being to cut Japan off from raw materials. It would take about eighteen months, he said, to bring Japan to its knees. It would not mean war and it was within his presidential rights. He did not feel that the eight or nine battleships the British were prepared to send to the Far East for a naval demonstration would be needed - one or two would be enough. The effect of this on Lindsay and those in Britain to whom he was reporting can be imagined. Here was a president who, with all the evidence of Japanese ruthlessness in front of him, did not feel strong enough to accept a joint Anglo-American naval demonstration, talking of a major measure of war. Still worse, he seemed to imagine that the Japanese would tamely submit to slow economic strangulation without making any effort to destroy those whose fingers were on their windpipes. In fact he denied that his proposals would mean war. Even more extraordinary in this context were his expressions of satisfaction with American opinion and his admonitions to Lindsay that the British should stop talking of 'joint action/ Lindsay was caught between the professional's inclination to gobble at these 'utterances of a harebrained statesman/ a man 'in his worst inspirational mood/ and his sense of history. His report to London, from which these comments are quoted, admitted his own 'horrified criticisms/ but swung heavily in favour of taking Roosevelt seriously as a man 'who had done
28 Lindsay to Foreign Office,17 December 1937,Public Record Office,fo 371/20961 (1937)-
his best in the Great War to bring America in speedily on the side of the Allies and who was equally anxious to bring America in on the same side before it might be too late/ Roosevelt's cabinet wanted even more immediate action.29 The British cabinet were more confused. To Chamberlain, Roosevelt's rather 'naive ideas' about the possibility of blockade without war made education of the Americans in the realities of life essential. The cabinet agreed that staff talks were a useful means for such education.30 They still preferred, like Roosevelt's cabinet, more immediate action; but an invitation duly went off to Washington. Roosevelt's chosen emissary was Captain Royal E. Ingersoll, then chief of the war plans division of the American navy. He arrived in London on New Year's Eve and immediately disabused Anthony Eden of any hopes he had continued to nurse of immediate joint action. Eden left it to the Admiralty and to his subordinates to deal with Ingersoll and departed for the south of France for a brief holiday, leaving Chamberlain in charge of foreign affairs in his place. Talking with the Admiralty, Ingersoll only confirmed their worst fears about American unpreparedness and the curbs imposed upon United States freedom of action by American public opinion. Nevertheless agreement was reached on how the two navies would implement a distant blockade if their governments agreed on one, and on the fleet movements that each would undertake in support of such a blockade. Arrangements were made for the exchange of codes and ciphers.81 The British Foreign Office now nerved itself, despite Lindsay's objections, to a final appeal to Roosevelt for immediate action in the form of a joint naval demonstration. Roosevelt in fact agreed to announce that the Pacific fleet was to be made ready to go to
29 Ickes, Secret Diaries, 11,274-6; Blum, Morgenthau Diaries, 486-7. 30 Cabinet meeting of 22 December 1937, conclusions,pro, Cab. 23/90. 31 For the Ingersoll conversationssee LawrenceW. Pratt, 'The Anglo-American Naval Conversationsof January 1938 and the Far East,' International Affairs xlvii (October 1971), 745-63;John McVickarHaight Jr, 'Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Naval Quarantine of Japan,' Pacific Historical Review, XL(May 1971), 203-26,does not have the full story on the British side.
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sea, providing that British announced similar preparations. He also agreed to announce the advancing of naval manoeuvresin the Pacific to early February. But at this point the Admiralty in London refused to denude the Mediterranean of British ships for the Far East. Italian submarine activities against British ships trading with Spain, checked the previous year by joint AngloFrench pressure, were again becoming troublesome, and so the matter lapsed for the time being.32 Ingersoll's visit to London and the agreements reached between the two navies marked the highwater mark of Roosevelt's determination against the aggressors. This determination was, it must be emphasized, a lot more talk than action. And it was accompanied by his acceptance of Sumner Welles's earlier proposals for an American initiative to call a world conference. Hull wanted more than this. His immediate reaction to the Panay outrage had been to forestall any British proposal for joint action. But in the later deliberations of Roosevelt's cabinet he changed his position completely. Italy's adherence to the anti-Comintern pact in November 1937 had convinced him that the three Axis powers were acting together. His Tennessean outrage, once he learnt the full story of the Japanese attacks on the Panay, led him to call for parallel British and American naval measures in the Pacific; in Europe he was prepared to allow Germany and Italy one last chance to participate in Anglo-American conversations on economic co-operation and disarmament. But their refusal would, in his view, be a signal for a combined British and American rearmament drive. This went too far for Welles and Roosevelt. Welles knew of Chamberlain's efforts to reach an understanding with Germany and Italy. His scheme, a conference of the United States and the neutral powers to draft an agreement on 'practical recommendations which would insure world peace and which would safeguard modern civilization,' was intended to reinforce Chamberlain's efforts. If it failed, 'the worst of possible contingencies' as Welles described it, at least the 'rallying of public opinion on a world scale' would have an effect on the German and
32 Pratt, 'Anglo-American Naval Conversations.'
Italian peoples. What the United States would then do, Welles preferred not to speculate upon.88 Roosevelt now made this scheme his own. On 11 January, Welles saw Lindsay and gave him the text of the message it was proposed Roosevelt should issue, calling the conference. To assure his brain child a respectful hearing, he took it upon himself, apparently on his own initiative, to warn Lindsay that if no action were taken on the proposal, Britain might well forfeit America's confidence.84Chamberlain remained unmoved. So far from sharing Welles's belief that such a proposal would aid his efforts to nail the dictators down to an agreement, he thought it 'fantastic and likely to excite the derision of Germany and Italy* and likely to give them a perfect out.85 He replied, asking Roosevelt to stay his hand. Unfortunately, he also revealed it to be his intention to 'recognize' the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. Hull's delight at seeing Welles thwarted changed at once to outrage at this defiling of his sacred cow, the doctrine of non-recognition of gains by conquest. The unfortunate Lindsay had to suffer a harangue reminiscent of a Baptist preacher'srebuke to sin.86 At this point Roosevelt's initiative was overtaken by history. Despite Chamberlain's later acceptance of Roosevelt's proposal once Eden had returned from leave and insisted that a more positive answer be given the President, Hitler's annexation of Austria on 12 March 1938 killed the idea. All that was left was Hull's renewed distrust of Britain, and a denial by Welles that he had approved the recognition either of Italy's conquest in particular or of Britain's appeasement policy in general, couched in terms certainly to destroy Lindsay's credibility in Washington87 and possibly to damage Chamberlain's and Halifax's confidence in the seriousness of American intentions.
33 FRUS 19^8, 1, 115-17,memorandumby Sumner Welles. 34 Avon, Facing the Dictators,pp 548-50;Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm (London 1948),p 251. 35 Chamberlaindiary cited in Iain Macleod,Neville Chamberlain (London 1961), pp 212-13. 36 Hull memorandumof 19 January 1938, FRUS 1958, 1, 133-4. 37 ChamberlainDiary, Macleod, Chamberlain,p 213; FRUS 1938, 1, 126-30; William L. Langerand S. EverettGleason,The Challengeto Isolation 1937-1940 (London 1952),pp 28-31.
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The gap between Chamberlain and Roosevelt had now, if anything, opened wider. Hull had destroyed Davis as a reliable gobetween. Welles had now damaged Lindsay. The minions of the New Deal on the one hand and their acceptance of the picture painted by the famous private newsletter, The Week, published by the crypto-communist British journalist, Claud Cockburn, on the other, were now to destroy Joseph Kennedy, Roosevelt's new ambassador in London, whose initial success with London political society was such that its fame reached even the American embassy in Rome. Roosevelt feared and distrusted Kennedy's ambition and sent him to London largely to get him away from Washington - or so he told Morgenthau. He was, therefore, already disposed to mistrust his chosen emissary to Britain before he arrived in London. In April 1938 already stories of Kennedy's connections with the Cliveden set were common gossip, and The Week denounced him that month for obtaining Roosevelt's public approval for the Anglo-Italian agreements.88This was far from true. The approval came from Welles in response to a direct appeal from Halifax;39and there were other influences at work of which neither Kennedy nor Welles, nor for that matter Claud Cockburn, were aware. The main one was that of a friend from the days of 1917, Colonel the Honourable Sir Arthur Murray, chairman of the Eastern Railway Company. Murray was a displaced Liberal. Before 1914 his brother had been Liberal chief whip while he served as Edward Grey's private secretary. During the war he had served as assistant British military attach^ in Washington, and had become great friends with Roosevelt in the latter's unregenerate pan-Anglo-Saxon imperialist days.40 With the Liberal electoral d^Mcle in 1918 and the Democratic d^bScle two years later, both men had retired into private life, Murray permanently, and the friendship lapsed. It was to be renewed in 1933 on Murray's ini38 Cited in Ickes, SecretDiaries, n, 377, entry of 23 April 1938,without identifying The Weekas such. 39 Kennedy to State Department, 15 April 1938, enclosing personal and confidentialletter from Lord Halifax, FRUS 1038, 1, 143-5. 40 Lord Murray of Elibank, 'Franklin Roosevelt: Friend of Britain/ ContemporaryReview, June 1955.
tiative; and in May 1936, Murray and his wife were the President's guests in the White House. This was in Roosevelt's 'trade and conference days/ and Murray was a close friend of Walter Runciman, then president of the British Board of Trade. With much cloak and daggery and code words (and at the expense of £22.13.2 in cables) Murray arranged for Runciman to visit Washington privately as Roosevelt's guest in January 1937.41 Shortly thereafter, as Chamberlain became premier, Runciman refused the office of Lord Privy Seal and resigned from the Commons, going to the House of Lords.42Roosevelt, however, remained in contact with both men, who wrote to him at some length on various occasions, keeping him au fait with the ins and outs of British politics. Murray had warned Roosevelt six months in advance of the imminent clash between Eden and Chamberlain and had backed Chamberlain.48Runciman for his part wrote in mid-February 1938 on Chamberlain's desire for a closer understanding with Roosevelt, a letter which Murray supported in similar terms.44Whatever Roosevelt's advertised distaste for the AngloItalian agreement and the careful legalism with which Welles strove to dissociate the United States from positive support there can be little doubt Roosevelt approved of the agreement, as he was, by and large, to support British policy on Czechoslovakia. The American role during the crisis of the spring and summer of 1938 over Czechoslovakia was no happier than that of any of the more active participants in the crisis.45Indeed the course of
41 MurrayPapers,folio 8808,pp 8, 309-14. 42 Murrayto Roosevelt, 25 May 1937, ibid, folio 8809, pp 25-30; Runciman to Roosevelt, 18 February 1938, copy in ibid, folio 8809, pp 61-62; Runciman Papers, University of Newcastle Library. 43 Murrayto Runciman,21 February1938,MurrayPapers,folio 8809,p 63. The letter to Rooseveltis not in the MurrayPapers. original of Murray's 44 Runciman to Roosevelt, 18 February1938. 45 On this general theme see John McVickarHaight Jr, 'France,the United States and the Munich Crisis/ Journal of ModernHistory, Decemberi960; Edward L. Henson Jr, 'Britain, America and the Month of Munich,' International Relations, n (April 1962);William V. Wallace, 'Roosevelt and British Appeasement 1938/ Bulletin of the British Association of American Studies, new series,no 5 (December1962).Arnold C. Ofner, The United Statesand the Appeasementof Germany1933-38(New York 1969).
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American policy exhibited all the worst faults of Roosevelt's preference for division of counsel and control in the conduct of American foreign policy. Hull reverted to his deep-rooted conviction that Britain's leaders were trying to involve the United States as a scapegoat to take the blows for their own inactivity. Welles turned down all requests from London with the sanctimonious aplomb of a bank manager denying overdrafts to the needy. And the State Department liberals followed Roosevelt's example in denouncing the immorality of appeasement. Only towards the end did Roosevelt abandon the role of shocked spectator, acting with sufficient force to earn the position of accessory before and after the fact to the Munich settlement. It was, therefore, vain work for the British to attempt to get from the United States public statements of approval for the Runciman mission or for Sir John Simon's warning speech of 24 August.46 The effect was simply to confirm Hull and Welles in their belief that the British were seeking to shift to United States shoulders the responsibility for their decision not to support Czechoslovakia. It is, however, interesting to note Roosevelt's knowledge of his friend Runciman's mission in Czechoslovakia.47 The absence of American support in no way worried Chamberlain. He expected none, and indeed advised Joe Kennedy at the end of August of the opinion of his ambassadorin Berlin that any statement by Roosevelt might do more harm than good.48The real impact of America's abstention from action, the policy of 'the eternal question mark ... to create a doubt in the minds of Germany and Company that we would in all circumstances stay out and at the same time to create a doubt in the mind of England and Company that they could count on us for direct action no matter what transpired' in the words of Jay Pierrepont Moffat, the head of the State Department's European department,49was on French determination. It was in France, fed by the contacts of
46 47 48 49 FRUS, 1938, 1, 537-9, 549-51. Runciman to Roosevelt, 26 July 1938, copy in Murray Papers. Kennedy to State Department, 31 August 1938, FRUS, 1938, 1, 560-1. Nancy Harvison Hooker, ed, The Moffat Papers (Cambridge, Mass, 1956).
8OO INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL
French opinion with the liberals of New York, that hopes of the United States were highest. It was the French press that spoke of the United States being 'alongside Britain and France when the great decision must be made/ of Roosevelt and Hull ignoring the neutrality legislation and 'leading America towards intervention/ of isolationism being discredited and of the 'union and firmness of the democracies/50It was Georges Bonnet, who had abandoned the French embassy in Washington in April 1938 to become foreign minister, who seriously expected American reactions to his appeals for American leadership; and it was Bonnet who reacted with despair and capitulation when on 9 September Roosevelt angrily denied to the press the existence of any moral commitment to the democracies of Europe.61 Under these circumstances the talk in the State Department, in the Senate, in the American press, and from Roosevelt himself of a 'sell-out' over Czechoslovakia at the time Chamberlain met Hitler at Berchtesgaden, did those who uttered such sentiments a great deal less than honour. As Bullitt himself cabled angrily on 19 September to Washington, 'I know nothing more dishonorable than to urge another nation to go to war if one is determined not to go to war on the side of that nation/52 It is a measure of Roosevelt's calibre that, unlike the bulk of his advisers, unlike the agitated American foreign correspondents in Europe whose devotion to the ideals of the Popular Front had so misled French opinion as to American sympathies, he was beginning to abandon the idea that crisis in Europe was for the United States simply a kind of spectator sport. Already before Berchtesgaden he had told a French visitor that France could count on the United States 'for everything except troops and loans/58 And as opinion in Britain swung towards resistance to Hitler, especially after the second meeting between Chamberlain and Hitler at Godesberg, he swung
50 Haight, Trance.' 51 Ibid, citing GeorgesBonnet, Defense de la Paix, de Washingtona Quai d'Orsay (Geneva1966),p 211. 52 Bullitt to State Department,19 September1938,FRUS, 1938,1,615-18. 53 Lindsayto ForeignOffice,12 September1938,Documentson British Foreign Policy, series ra, n, no 841.
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his advisers into agreeing to some kind of action. Unfortunately, he could not swing them far enough. Hull and Norman Davis, temporarily recalled to action, ruled out any offer of 'good offices' or of an 'international conference/ His first intervention therefore took the rather wishy-washy form of an appeal for continued negotiation. Under the circumstances such an appeal only blurred the clear moral issue by equating aggressorand victim, Hitler and Benes; moreover it may possibly have tipped the balance in London in aiding Chamberlain to overcome Daladier's resistance to the despatch of Sir Horace Wilson to Berlin.54 Roosevelt had been driven to this intervention, as he was to be driven to his second intervention two days later, by a combination of baseless anxiety and misleading information. The misleading information came in part from his minute intelligence service (this was before the monstrous growth of the oss) which produced 'information of unquestioned authenticity'55 to the effect that Hitler had fixed the moment for German attack on Czechoslovakiaat 2 pm on 28 September, and in part from Colonel Lindbergh, the sad figure whose one-man flight across the Atlantic (and subsequent tragedy in the kidnapping and murder of his child) had raised him to the stature of oracle on the world balance of power in the air. Early in September he had ended a European tour in Paris where his judgments of German superiority in the air over the French and Soviet air forces had played a potent part in destroying France's determination.56 His judgment was unquestionable: but the statistics of German aircraft production with which he backed this judgment, accepted unquestioningly by Roosevelt, were grotesquely exaggerated to something like the power of ten.57 Roosevelt's baseless anxieties arose from his deep-rooted susDny 54 This was the view of the Czechpresident,EdwardBenes,Mnichovskyd (London 1955),pp 105-10,cited in Wallace,'Rooseveltand Appeasement/ Haight Jr, 55 SumnerWelles, speechof 3 October1958,cited in John McVickar
American Aid to France, 1938-1940 (New York 1970), pp 20-1.
56 Haight, AmericanAid to France,pp 15-16and sourcesthere cited. 57 RooseveltestimatedGermanaircraftproductionin 1938at 30,000planes per annum. The actual figurewas 2847as of August 1938.
picion of German and Italian penetration of Latin America. Seen from Berlin, Germany's position in Latin America had suffered so disastrously from the Foreign Ministry's inability to control the small groups of extremist Nazi hotheads among the various groups of German settlers scattered through the continent that the Foreign Ministry's Latin American experts were forced to spend most of the twelve months from June 1938 onwards hammering out some system of control and responsibility by which political discipline could be maintained. Seen from Washington on the other hand, Latin America was aflame with Nazi and Fascist conspiracy. A German victory over France and Britain, which Roosevelt in his gloomier moments thought inevitable, would be followed, so his advisers believed, by a direct Axis challenge to the United States in the western hemisphere, the first challenge from Europe since the threat of the Holy Alliance to suppress the revolutions in Spain's American colonies had led President Monroe to formulate his famous doctrine.58It was thus Roosevelt came to send his second message to Europe appealing for an international conference. It was this fear of war which led him to welcome Chamberlain's decision to go to Munich, despite Czechoslovakia's exclusion from the conference, with the words 'good man.'59 And it was for this reason he shared in the general euphoria which attended the outcome of the Munich conference and was to claim, in writing to his ambassador in Rome, in midOctober, that his second message had played a large part in inducing Mussolini to secure the meeting at Munich.00 Roosevelt was to turn against Munich very quickly. By the end of October he was not only confessing his 'shame' at his support of the agreement to members of his cabinet,61but was actively planning with British and French intermediaries to find ways of putting the United States industrial potential to work for their respective rearmament programmes despite the terms of the 1937
entries of 24 September,9 October1938. 58 Iekes,SecretDiaries,11, 59 FRUS, 1938,1, 688. 60 Roosevelt to William Phillips, 17 October 1938,RooseveltLetters,in, 244. 61 Blum, From the MorgenthauDiaries, u: Yearsof Urgency(Boston 1965),48-9.
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neutrality legislation.62 In this he was only matching the movement of opinion within the British cabinet and government. Suggestions that he was ahead of it rest basically on the old popular-front fellow-travelling writings which used Roosevelt's 'democratic*stance as a backdrop against which they could depict the Villainies' of the British appeasers in even blacker hues. In actuality there were considerable parallels between Roosevelt's position and that of Neville Chamberlain. Both were liberal reformers with the liberal's distrust of the official machinery and outlook. In foreign affairs this liberalism lead them into very similar positions. They shared the liberal antipathy to the 1919 peace settlement and to the traditional diplomacy which had preceded it. They preferred personal intervention, unofficial intermediaries, co-operation only with those who shared their prejudices and predilections. They shared the liberal belief in the economic origins of war and the healing qualities of international trade. They believed in the establishment of good will, Roosevelt being as much deceived and misled by Stalin as ever Neville Chamberlain was by Hitler. Both were authoritarian personalities who preferred manipulative to open politics in domestic affairs while equally inclined in foreign affairs to prefer diplomacy by rhetoric and appeal to lengthy negotiations. Where they differed the differences arose from the very national contexts in which they worked and from which they came. These differences were mainly ones of style, national as much as personal. Chamberlain was anxiously pragmatic, Roosevelt rather nebulously idealist. Roosevelt in American terms was a hereditary oligarch in a land nominally egalitarian and democratic, Chamberlain scion of a successful British bourgeois family in a land previously dominated by an aristocracymixed from birth and talent. Of the two, however, Roosevelt was the more inclined to favour large gestures designed to keep the peace, conscious of his nation's vast reserves of strength. Chamberlain, always conscious of Britain's economic and military weakness, was driven to be more pedestrian and piecemeal in his approach. Yet his dramatic
62 See Haight, American Aid to France, chapter 1; Murray of Elibank, 'Roosevelt/
flights to Germany showed that he could command the large gesture too and won Roosevelt's admiration and praise. Had the two men changed places there would obviously have been many differences in the course of action they would have taken. What a historian who looks at Roosevelt's record through eyes unfettered by American party dogma must doubt is whether, in the end, there would have been any difference, whether Roosevelt would have trod the path of Churchill. The record is against any such assumption.