Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Atlantic System

Forrest Davis

Reynal & Hitchcock
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 10
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p297  IX. "Atlantic Charter":
Toward a Liberal World Order


Once the North Sea, English Channel, and Atlantic ports of the Low Countries and France had fallen in June, 1940, the Atlantic world lay constructively open to the Nazis. Only one bastion remained, hemming them in to the seaward. And who, in the stunned days of Dunkirk, dared hope that the thin line of British resistance, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the stubborn gallantry of the British people, could stay the Teutonic tide for long? It was in those days, the grimness of which sobered and alarmed America, that the second phase of the modern struggle between England and Germany — between the classical, liberal, Christian civilization of the West and the primitive, reactionary forces of the Teutoburg Forest — burst the bounds of Europe, becoming a world war by definition and America's war in fact.

Thenceforward a wave of the future totally unlike the dark flood adumbrated by Anne Morrow Lindbergh began to bear the United States ineluctably into the conflict. It was then that "the defense of the security of the Atlantic world" became, in Walter Lippmann's phrase, "an inexorable necessity." In that historic moment America's vital interests were engaged. Until the barrier states of the West went down, only American sentiments were involved. Overwhelmingly, the American people detested and feared the new barbarism of the Germans; sympathizing with its victims, they wished to extend assistance to its enemies. To that end in October, 1939, only a few weeks after the wanton invasion of Poland, Congress repealed the mandatory provisions of the arms embargo, opening American industrial productivity to the Atlantic belligerents, England and France.

 p298  That act in itself did not identify the war as American. Although Americans understood the moral issues, recoiling from the swelling Nazi terror, it was only when the Germans stood on the opposite shores of the Atlantic that their defeat became directly essential to the American nation. The war had been revealed for what it was, "fundamentally," as Colonel Frank Knox put it, "an attempt by Germany to seize control of the seas from Great Britain." To that "vital" situation, the Secretary of the Navy added, the United States could not remain indifferent, any more than in 1917 it had held aloof when command of the Atlantic seemed likely to pass to a hostile, aggressive Power. England was again, as in 1823, as in 1898 and from 1917 onward, the eastern stronghold of the Atlantic world, and her fate was a matter of concern to America only relatively less important than our own.

Being no longer detached, if interested, bystanders, the United States promptly displayed by its acts recognition of the American stake in the war. Congress passed and the President signed the first peacetime draft in American history. Billions were poured out unquestioningly for an army and an air force. Again, as in 1916, when it appeared that Britain might be subdued, America undertook the creation of a two‑ocean navy. Those were defense measures calculated to fortify the United States at sea and on shore. But Administration and Congress went beyond such negative defense.

The United States Government proceeded almost automatically to Britain's help, thus signifying a conviction that the English were bearing the brunt for America and the American neighbors of the Atlantic world. Only on the hypothesis that England was the first line of security for the United States would the Government have been justified in alienating guns, ammunition, tanks, shipping, and aircraft or exchanging fifty over‑age but serviceable destroyers to England for seven offshore bases from Newfoundland to Trinidad. (By their part in this trade, the English finally concluded the drama of their retirement in force from the American seas, confiding their North American and Caribbean possession and interests to American guardian­ship. The British  p299 withdrawal was an unprecedented manifestation of trust by one nation in another. Nor was it merely a crisis maneuver. It crowned, as we appreciate from our observation of British policy, a long process of retirement.)

Another unprecedented action was to follow, this time on the American side. Early in 1941 the President and Congress, acknowledging even more directly that England was fighting the American fight, enacted the Lend-Lease Act, which for the first time in history placed the treasure of one country at the free disposal of another. Unless vital American interests were being served by the British the United States Government lacked the moral right to share with them the American sinews of war.

The fact was that the United States Government, Administration and Congress alike, was defending its country and the Atlantic world at the point of best defense — the other side of the Atlantic. American wartime policy became thereafter one of unified effort with Great Britain.

Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act only after a searching inquiry and a debate frivolously protracted by the isolationist minority. The relation­ship of Britain and America to the defense of the Atlantic world was made abundantly clear by witnesses testifying before congressional committees and in the debates in both houses. Among other responsible witnesses were the three Cabinet members most concerned with the war situation: Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, and Knox. The testimony of these men left Congress and the public in no doubt as to where our interest lay. Said Secretary Hull: "Control of the high seas by law‑abiding nations is the key to the security of the Western Hemisphere. . . . Were Britain defeated . . . Germany could easily cross the Atlantic — especially the South Atlantic — unless we were ready and able to do what Britain is doing now."

To Stimson, the statesman who had sought so steadfastly and heartbreakingly to nip totalitarian aggression in the bud, it was apparent that "the British fleet today stands alone as an  p300 obstacle to German control of the Atlantic." It remained, however, for Knox to spread before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in detail the historical and strategical reasons for the inescapable link of America with Britain. Because the Secretary's statement may be regarded as the official declaration of the United States Government on its relation­ship with England and the Atlantic world, we draw extensively from its text. The importance to America and the Western hemisphere of sea power could not, said Knox, be exaggerated, continuing: "It has been because of the existence of sea power, exercised by two nations, Great Britain and ourselves, that both the Atlantic and the Pacific have served as barriers against the acquisitive designs of aggressive powers." Not, it will be noted, the existence of the oceans as broad bodies of water but the identity of the Powers commanding them had guaranteed the security of America in the past. After specifying the three great sea exits from Europe, the North Sea, the English Channel, and Gibraltar, the Secretary proceeded by explaining:

Our entire western world has been safe from attack from Europe because the British fleet has always stood sentinel at those three exits . . . and the British policy, for many years, has accepted and assisted us in the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine. That has sufficed to make the Atlantic barrier secure.​1

Turning to the Pacific, Knox recapitulated the rise of Japanese sea power, the strengthening of Japan during the First World War, and the transfer of our fleet to that ocean as a "check" on Japanese "aggressions." The United States, said the Secretary, was able to maintain its battle fleet in the Pacific only "because the existence and deployment of the British Navy gave us security in the Atlantic." The effect, Knox concluded, was that "both we and the British actually  p301 had had a two‑ocean navy, operated for a single peaceful purpose."

The Anglo-American sea‑power partner­ship described by the Secretary of the Navy was not ended by the war. It has, in truth, been intensified. While the British Navy has been fighting, convoying, and patrolling in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean, the United States Navy has also been performing a military function by containing the Japanese Navy. Impassive, dogged, ready for battle, the American fleet by its presence in force has dissuaded the Japanese from opening a naval front in the Pacific or venturing a direct assault on Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, the Netherlands East Indies, and Burma. Thanks to the partner­ship which, as we have seen, dates from 1922, the British have been required to keep only a secure naval force east of Suez. The United States Navy has been guarding what a London journal called the "ramparts of the democracies in the Pacific" as well as lending a hand in the Atlantic.

Owing to the failure of both governments to disclose their naval policies in detail, it has not been as widely understood as it should be that the most urgent field for American "exertions" in the common cause — as predicted by Admiral Mahan a generation ago — is the Far East. Yet it was not lost on students of the development that Winston Churchill in his world-wide broadcast of August 24, 1941, depicted the United States as the principal in the attempt to bring Japan to heel. The United States, said the Prime Minister, was patiently seeking a peaceable solution of the Asiatic problem, but if its efforts failed "we shall, of course range ourselves unhesitatingly at the side of the United States." Apparent from Churchill's words, as well as from the logic of the situation and other evidences, is the fact that in the Anglo-American division of labor the United States bears the primary responsibility for coping with the Axis in the Pacific.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1941, the United States pushed steadily across both oceans. The Alaska, Guam, and Manila bases were hastily strengthened, the fleet was  p302 placed in final readiness, the Philippine army was mustered into United States Army Service, and a unified army command established for the Far East. Increased help went forward to China, a joint plan of defense being concerted with the British and Netherlands commanders, and negotiations were opened, it was supposed, with the Soviet Government looking to a land and air front in Siberia. In the Atlantic the United States Navy moved eastward, taking over the protection of Greenland and occupying the Iceland base in conjunction with the British. As the arc of patrol of the navy was extended, it exerted increasing influence on the Second Battle of the Atlantic. Meanwhile the offshore bases were being hurried to completion, and in South America progress was made toward a unified hemisphere defense.

By the fall of 1941 the United States Navy occupied a position of menace in both oceans. The decision as to whether America should change her status from full-scale but nonbelligerent participation to all‑out war now rested with the Axis, both in Europe and in the Far East. During the first nine months of 1941 the tempo of American participation rose. The flow of goods and food for Britain mounted week by week. It was the addition of American fighter craft to British production that justified the costly air offensive against Germany and the occupied countries in the summer. United States merchantmen were delivering supplies to the British Middle East command by way of the Pacific and the Red Sea. In August the President announced that the United States was undertaking the responsibility of ferrying planes to the Middle East by way of the South Atlantic and Africa — a significant step in the light of open American concern over the disposition of the French base at Dakar. This undertaking meant the establishment of an air base — under the civilian auspices of the Pan‑American air lines — on the Atlantic coast of Africa.​a


With his country already deep in the war by midsummer of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the peace  p303 America's also by his epochal meeting at sea with Winston Churchill in mid‑August. The Atlantic conference between those "two men of the sea," in the evocative phrase of the New York Times, was in a sense a fulfillment and an enlargement of the Atlantic System. By its suggestive setting "in a spacious, landlocked bay," as Churchill described it, the conference dramatized for the English-speaking peoples their solidarity on the sea. Meeting to consider broad oceanic strategy and the problem of supply, the seagoing statesmen charted also a Pax Anglo-Americana, which was, in point of terms, a broadening of the liberal practice of the Atlantic world — nonaggression, political and economic freedom — into a formula for wider application when the war is ended. "An Atlantic charter," as the Laborite London Daily Herald construed it, for world application; a phrase adopted by Churchill in the broadcast mentioned before as a title for the Eight Principles which he and the President had declared.

To statesmen familiar since youth with the sea‑power theses of Admiral Mahan, as are Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, the place of meeting was singularly appropriate. The fact that both the heads of government are students of sea power cleared the road to what Churchill termed their "comrade­ship," and in all likelihood prompted the Prime Minister's remark at the end of the Sunday service on the British battle­ship Prince of Wales, a remark attributed to him by Time magazine: "I'm not a religious man, but I thank God that such a man as you is the head of your Government at a time like this."

The conference was likewise symbolical, emphasizing as Anne O'Hare McCormick saw it in the New York Times, "the supreme importance of the Atlantic battlefield," and reminding the Nazi master of continental Europe that the command of the sea by the English-speaking Powers was still unbroken. A reminder also to the people of both countries that the Atlantic, in the words of the London Daily Telegraph, was no longer "an abyss dividing us" but "a means and a bond of union." In his report to the British Empire by  p304 radio on August 24 Churchill also mentioned the unifying aspect of the conference, saying that the meeting symbolized

in form and manner which everyone can understand in every land and in every clime, the deep, underlying unities which stir, and at decisive moments rule, the English-speaking peoples throughout the world.

Yet the significance of the conference lay not alone in the appropriateness of the meeting-place and the decisions reached there. Of equal import to us in appraising the event is the bare fact that a President of the United States and a British Prime Minister had entered into a joint understanding in world affairs. Insofar as a President and a Prime Minister may commit their peoples, Roosevelt and Churchill had formed an Anglo-American alliance to administer the peace, and inasmuch as their program must wait on victory, they forged also an alliance for victory.

If the Atlantic Declaration meant anything, it clearly bespoke an English-speaking power concert, "openly arrived at." Those persons on both sides of the water who found little but a "vague" resemblance to Wilson's Fourteen Points in the Eight Articles overlooked the power implications of the conference. Where Wilson avoided the nettle of power, Roosevelt and Churchill grasped it firmly. In article Eight of the "Atlantic Charter" the conferees proposed that the English-speaking Powers themselves disarm the aggressors and, in effect, police the peace; the material clause reading: "they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential."​2 The President and the Prime Minister, as the New York Herald Tribune viewed it, intended "taking military authority into the hands of the democratic and non‑aggressive powers."

That reading of Article Eight gained confirmation from Churchill's broadcast, wherein he said:

The United States and Great Britain do not now assume that there will never be any more war. . . . On the contrary, we intend  p305 to take ample precautions to prevent its renewal in any period we can foresee by effectively disarming the guilty nations while remaining suitably protected ourselves.

In that attitude toward power lay the most salient difference between Wilson's foreshadowing of the shape of things to come and the Atlantic Declaration. The First World War President treated disarmament as an abstraction, leaving its definition to a parliament of states. His disarmament point, Number Four, merely suggested "adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety." Roosevelt and Churchill, being men of limited objectives, preferred to keep postwar fulcra of military power in the custody of liberal nations, placing a "system of general security" later on their time schedule. In 1941 that seemed only good sense. It was the precise reverse of Wilson's policy. Wilson had not waited, as we have seen, even until the Armistice to begin dismantling the Anglo-American sea‑power accord growing out of that war — in the interest of a general enfeebling of the Sea Powers. Although he could not at that time have had a clear perception of postwar relation­ships, alignments, and power problems, Wilson preferred trusting to the effectiveness and good purposes of a society of nations that had not yet taken form.

The statesmen of the Atlantic conference, it was clear, sought to conserve the solidarity of the English-speaking peoples and to avoid a division of their powerful forces. They had, it is true, the advantage of experience. Both Churchill and Roosevelt had had occasion to observe at close range what Walter Lippmann has termed the postwar "disintegration of Anglo-American power," a failure to harness the potentialities of the Atlantic and British power groupings for world security which Lippmann charges with the major responsibility for the current war. To Lippmann it was "separatism, isolationism, disarmament, a blind pacifism and a mean cynicism which, in the twenty years from the Armistice to the outbreak of the war, reduced the English-speaking nations  p306 from a position of invincible security to that of the desperate defensive."3

Although the President and the Prime Minister avoided the word and color of alliance, few thoughtful Americans or Britons doubted the essential nature of the sea‑born agreements. There was little dissent from the conclusion of Dr. Edmund A. Walsh, S. J., an authority on international affairs at Georgetown University, that the Atlantic Declaration "changes our previous defensive relations into an out‑and‑out defensive alliance with Great Britain." In general the American press found in the conference what the New York Times, characteristically friendly to Great Britain, hailed as "the immense and inevitable fact of Anglo-American partner­ship." That part of the press supporting the country's foreign policy approved the new association, seeing it with Lippmann in the Herald Tribune as a minimum and reassuring condition of national survival. "There is no turning away," wrote Lippmann, "from the fact that the independence and security of the English-speaking peoples require their close and unbroken collaboration."

Also typical of this point of view, the St. Louis Star-Times rejoiced that Britain and America had become "indissolubly united in self-defense against Hitler's evil New Order." In Atlanta the Constitution suspected that the linking of English-speaking fortunes at sea would take rank in historical importance with the signing of Magna Carta and the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. The Syracuse Post-Standard expressed gratification that the United States was committed to postwar reconstruction "hand in hand with Britain," and the Galveston Daily News was no less pleased that Roosevelt and Churchill were now "speaking for the Anglo-Saxon world."

No less alert to interpret the significance of the conference, the newspapers opposing our foreign policy took, on the way, a captious line. The Chicago Tribune, which daily promises peace to "Chicagoland" in a world being racked to bits, meanwhile attempting to thwart the national defense  p307 program, was certain that "the country repudiates it" (Roosevelt's pledge of collaboration). The Denver Post wondered darkly what the Senate would have to say about the President's "entering into an 'alliance' . . . without consulting it," and the New York Daily News, which specializes in rallying religious and racial antagonisms against the foreign policy of the Government, sought to score on the declaration on the ground that it omitted reference to that one of Roosevelt's "four freedoms" dealing with religion. In an address delivered earlier in 1941, the President listed political, civil, economic, and religious freedom as desirable goals toward which to work in a postwar order. This omission, the News supposed, must have occurred out of "deference to our new ally — Joe Stalin." A few days after the announcement of the conference, the President sent a copy of the Atlantic Declaration to Congress. In his covering letter he added a corollary to the Eight Articles, a stipulation pointing out that the Declaration self-evidently includes "the world need for freedom of religion and freedom of information. No society of the world organized under the announced principles could survive without these freedoms, which are a part of the whole freedom for which we strive." Wilson's Fourteen Points likewise were silent on religion.

It should be remembered that the anti-Communist animus displayed by congressional isolationists, the America First Committee, and that part of the press believing that defense begins at the three-mile limit was not directed at the Kremlin, or even the Communist sectaries in our midst. As long as the Nazis and the Bolsheviks were linked, the Communists enjoyed a like immunity with the Nazis from the attack of these groups. It was only when Hitler betrayed Stalin's confidence and invaded Russia in June of 1941 that the isolationists discovered that Russia's place in the war could be turned to use. Their motive was of course readily apparent. The support of England and America for the Soviet Union's military endeavors was a club with which to beat the Roosevelt Government, another ideological weapon at the disposal of the appeasement and defeatist forces in America.

 p308  A Washington dispatch to the Chicago Tribune brought the Atlantic Declaration under the fire of the Senate isolationists five days after its announcement. Upon his return from the meeting at sea Roosevelt conferred with Democratic congressional leaders. At this gathering, said the dispatch to the Tribune, the President disclosed "the grand strategy of the new Anglo-American-Russian alliance for the defeat and disarmament of Germany and Italy." Further, the President was represented as having told the leaders "that an invasion of the Continent would be necessary to accomplish this, and that an American expeditionary force would be required." In the Senate Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky, Administration leader, arose to deny the truthfulness of the report, charging that its author had "deliberately falsified" the President's disclosures.

Whereupon Senator Hiram Johnson, venerable bellwether of the isolationist flock, took occasion to defend the Senate's prerogative in foreign affairs. A living link with the senatorial "battalion of death" that shamed the United States before the civilized world in 1919 by trampling under international co‑operation, Johnson accused the President of violating the Constitution by entering into "an offensive and defensive alliance" with Churchill in disregard of the Senate. To the Californian the Atlantic Declaration was, moreover, a warlike document, Article Six seeming to him especially bristling. That article expresses the hope of the conferees that "after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny" there may be "established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries and which will afford assurance that all men may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want." Johnson preferred to phrase the article in his own verbiage as follows: "That means — and no other construction or interpretation can be put upon the language — that after the destruction of the Nazi tyranny the two nations entering into this particular document and this particular commitment will have a new order based on righteousness and decency and  p309 good government. And headed, I assume, though they do not say so, by Mr. Joseph Stalin."

A long Senate career had versed Johnson in the potentialities of debate. His introduction of Stalin into a discussion of Article Six exhibited that aptitude at its most cunning. The Senator concluded, not surprisingly, that Article Six could only be effectuated "by war." Among those who heard and read Johnson's words were some who were reminded of a passage in the late Clarence W. Barron's published diaries quoting from a talk purportedly given by Johnson to his intimate supporters during the 1920 Republican National Convention at Chicago. Johnson, fresh from his triumph in the Senate over such "righteousness and justice and decency and good government" as was represented by the League of Nations, was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In the talk Johnson, according to Barron's informant, bade his workers remember that among his political assets was "the Irish and German vote."

Robert A. Taft of Ohio, Republican, and Bennett Champ Clark of Missouri, Democrat, joined Johnson in attacking the Atlantic Declaration. Clark wished the world to know that the President had "no authority" to commit the United States Government to anything without the consent of Congress. He condemned the President for boarding a belligerent warship, speculating with pious dread on the consequences had the Prince of Wales been sunk by a Nazi bomb at that moment. He supposed such an event "would have been an act of war against the United States." As for Senator Taft, he detected a "new commitment" in Article Four, pledging a joint "endeavor" and with "due respect for their existing obligations . . . to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity." Senator Barkley thought this only a general statement of a desirable policy, committing the United States to no departure from accepted practices. "I am sorry to say," said Taft, "that I cannot understand from the Senator's statement whether this  p310 is, or is not, an agreement. In reply to which Barkley disclaimed responsibility "for the Senator's lack of understanding."

It was on such a plane that the debate ended. A minor skirmish, a pedestrian exchange of parliamentary points totally irrelevant to the overshadowing issue of 1941 — war or submission. The heavy malevolence of Senator Wheeler was missing from this discussion, the leader of the American appeasement forces being absent from the chamber. Although willing enough, neither Taft nor Clark could place the debate on the foreboding level of Wheeler, with his monotonous and chilling delivery, his inspired talent for distortion. Neither of the younger Senators would be quite capable of the raffish wit that gave rise to the quip about "plowing under every third American boy." Clark is a product of Missouri frontier politics, a school in which, as with the keelboat men of early Mississippi River days, no holds are barred — a primitive and personal politician, but not fundamentally a man to appease a foreign enemy. Like Wheeler and other isolationists, Clark is in part victim of his hatred for Roosevelt, an aversion which has been known to reach the proportions of a pathology.

Taft, a man of rigorous personal integrity, of courage and ability of a high order within the limitations of a rigid imagination, seems somehow not to belong with the irreconcilables of 1941, either by breeding or by character. Unlike Clark, who faithfully reflects the parochial record of his father, the late Speaker, in dealing with foreign affairs, Taft repudiates the course of his own father, the late President. Although deeply mistrustful of Wilson, the elder Taft was able to suppress his partisan­ship before, during, and after the First World War. The son is unable to concede as much to Roosevelt. The attitude of too many of the Senate isolationists seems not dissimilar to that of the French captain quoted in the book by Hans Habe about the French debacle, A Thousand Shall Fall. The captain "loved France more than he loved Hitler, but loved Hitler more than he loved Léon Blum."

 p311  The case of all the congressional isolationists, with their egotistical reliance on their own infallibility in opposition to the plain lessons of recent history, reflects on the utility of the parliamentary institution in time of emergency. As with the European parliaments of the Hitler period, Congress has proved unequal to the crisis. A history of the failure of Congress to grasp the national interest has yet to be written. It will make melancholy reading for those of us who have faith in the representative principle in American democracy.

Wheeler has stood apart from the ruck of the sentinel isolationists by reason of his superior force and his cynicism. Were the issues not as grave as national survival, one might admire the recklessness with which he has deployed his wilfulness against the strength and the integrity of his country. His unconscionable invitation to the armed forces to question the authority of the Commander in Chief, his willingness to see the country enfeebled in morale as well as materials of defense, his guarded appeal to anti-Semitism in the spring of 1941, and the loan of his frank to suspect or subversive agencies — all these indicate a deep opposition within Wheeler against the forces enrolled on the side of the democracies. Increasingly his behavior has approximated Hitler's description of the disgruntled members of the elite upon whom he counts to soften the countries marked for conquest from within. Wheeler's speeches in 1941, like those of Charles A. Lindbergh, were barren of any suggestion that he viewed the triumph of Nazism with repugnance. Should the United States forget its destiny and allow such an outcome, Wheeler's place in the history of this time will be unquestionably conspicuous.

Apart from the stormy isolationists in Congress and the Anglophobic utterances of the "keep-out‑of‑war" groups, the "Atlantic charter" met with a generally favorable public response in America. The Eight Articles conformed to American idealism and experience. There was warrant for believing, with Richard B. Scandrett, Jr., in his book Divided They Fall, that "the spirit of the American people" had not, since  p312 the Gettysburg Address, been "more adequately expressed than in that joint pronouncement of the British and American people for which their Prime Minister and our President were but mediums of expression." The stark proposal that the English-speaking Powers shall reorganize the world and police the peace elicited surprisingly little dissent from a public instructed more widely than ever before in the realities of world power relation­ships.


A rather grim disappointment that the Atlantic conference had not produced a definite pledge of belligerent action from the President served to obscure its larger meanings in England. Although the London Daily Mail characterized the meeting as the "event of the century," suggesting that "the fate of mankind for good or evil" now depended upon Anglo-American decision, the British press made little attempt to bring the sea conference into historical perspective. In that beleaguered country there was a feeling, no doubt, that such interpretations might await the end of the battle. Nor was there much dwelling in the United States on the place of the conference in the living stream of Anglo-American relations. Few editors or public men thought to take note with the New York Times that the "joint declaration was without precedent in Anglo-American history."

Yet so it was. Never before had the responsible head of the United States Government committed his country to a long-range course with the British Government (or any other government) in affairs outside their immediate, mutual interest. In 1823, as we recall, John Quincy Adams interposed his thorny will against the Canning proposal for an Anglo-American pledge of Latin America's security, arguing that to do so would make the young republic merely a "cock-boat [a tender] in the wake of the British man-of‑war." That situation, giving rise to the Monroe Doctrine, developed in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In all the years until the next general war in the West there was no full-dress occasion  p313 for an alliance. Although America joined with England and her Allies in the First World War, President Wilson held himself studiously aloof from even the name of alliance, calling the American relation­ship to the Allies an "association." Contrary to a widely prevalent opinion, as we have seen, Wilson shunned close quarters with the British after the war was well under way, and at its close placed no value on the accord between the English-speaking Powers.

A suspicion that those Powers were joined in formal undertakings persisted throughout the last half-century, as we have noted. In 1897 the Kaiser thought that England, America, and France were in league against Pan‑German aggressiveness. Thereafter the sleep of German statesmen was periodically troubled — in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, at the time of the Samoan incident in 1899, and on several subsequent occasions — by dreams of a hostile Anglo-American combination. At both the Paris and the Washington conferences the French charged the Anglo-Saxons with concerting against them. That was so likewise at the London Naval Conference of 1930. In the United States, notably in the 1900 Presidential campaign and after the Washington Conference, opposition politicians sought to make political capital out of similar intimations. In none of these instances was there evidence of a genuine alliance. That remained for 1941.

The collaborations inspiring these reports and rumors served, nevertheless, to break ground for the Atlantic Declaration. Since the 1890's, as has been traced in preceding chapters, the drawing-together of America and Britain has followed a steadily progressive and rational course. That they should cohere in 1941 in the presence of the most affrighting crisis in history seems according to the terms of what Bismarck meant by the "logic of history." It was in 1894 that Mahan prophesied the alliance of the English-speaking Powers when once they had identified their common interest in the sea. His prophecy gained vindication on the pitching decks of H. M. S. Prince of Wales and U. S. S. Augusta in August, 1941.

 p314  There were many progenitors of the Atlantic Declaration on both sides of the Atlantic. In the beginning Jefferson and Canning, Madison and Monroe, and in a wholly negative way John Quincy Adams prefigured such a démarche. A span of two generations and there were Salisbury and Cleveland, Richard Olney and Joseph Chamberlain, the rough-timbered antagonists over Venezuela. Then John Hay and Henry White, the tentative Balfour and Lord Bryce; and Carnegie and Cecil Rhodes, dreaming of English-speaking federation a half-century before Clarence K. Streit. On to Theodore Roosevelt, placing props under the Anglo-American accord while professing to be doing something else, and his devoted Spring-Rice. Finally Walter Hines Page and Lord Robert Cecil, with the accented and architectural prose of Henry Adams condensing the whole pattern of strategy, civilization, language, and a like respect for the sea into a phrase — the Atlantic System.

Of all the progenitors, Mahan's grasp of the realities underlying the Atlantic power concert was the surest. To him sentiment was the decorative design, self-interest the cement that held the structure together. To the austere Admiral the republic and the empire were "natural allies" because their interests touched without necessarily colliding, because England and the Dominions complemented this country strategically at so many points, and lastly because together — but not singly — they might rule the seas and thus help to assure survival in a world of enlarging power magnitudes. More than that, Mahan knew that if the two giants with the one language were not friends, they might become enemies. From 1890, when Mahan's star rose into Salisbury's sky, until his death in 1914 the historian propagated that doctrine ceaselessly, confident that the day would come when the peoples of both countries were to accept its verity.

A half-century ago, it will be remembered, Mahan counseled Americans to abandon the isolationist habit of mind, describing it as one befitting only the "infancy" of the United States. He miscalculated under the blind strength of isolationism, setting too early a date for the relaxation of its down pull on  p315 American politics. The dead weight of isolationism was to retard the coming of age of the United States, subject it to danger from abroad, and injure the national spirit for more years than Mahan could contemplate. He did not foresee the sordid withdrawal from responsibility after the war of 1914‑18 which helped to bring the United States in the 1940's face to face with war on all oceans and all continents, a war of probable exhaustion and not one for conquest or glory but one to be fought out of sheer necessity.

The doctrines of Mahan, it may be assumed, entered the calculations in the "Atlantic bay" of which Churchill spoke. Both the statesmen were bred to his rationalizations. No authority on the problems before them conformed more closely to their intellectual background, their predilections, and their concentration on sea power — surface, subsurface, and in the air. The principal weapon at their disposal was sea power. Without command of the seas, according to the Mahan thesis, they could not hope to win the war. With it, their churches were better than even. The conferees — Roosevelt, with his lively realization of history and his deep insight into the American story, and the historian Churchill — must have levied on the Anglo-American past and the evolution of the Atlantic System in attempting to map the future. Mahan would have been a mainstay there. In another aspect, the point of national interest, neither the Prime Minister nor the President needed a reminder from the Admiral.

It is one of the minor ironies of these times that the English-speaking countries should be brought into their closest connection since 1775 by statesmen who have never been prone to hands-across-the‑sea sentimentalizing. One of the fallacies of the Anglophobe is that since he hates England, anyone who seeks a closer tie with that country loves England with a passion as unreasoning as his own. Such is not the case. Both Churchill and Roosevelt are confirmed nationalists. The Prime Minister, a round, bent, compact John Bull with a pink, shaven face and no side whiskers, was not on the Atlantic at personal risk and inconvenience to discuss the mutual heritage of Shakespeare. Nor was he there to surrender  p316 an imperial interest. The British Empire, it has been said, is a living religion to Churchill. In its service he will do battle with Turk or Christian, or make a league with the Devil. Forty years ago Churchill, fresh from the Boer War, delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons. In it he avowed a sort of Churchillian imperial creed. If the far‑flung dominions and colonies of the Crown were justly governed, prosperous, and healthy, then, said Churchill, "the cause of the poor and the weak all over the world will have been sustained; and everywhere small peoples will have more room to breathe; and everywhere great empires will be encouraged by our example to step forward into the sunshine of a more gentle and more generous age."

A Tory in his latter years, belonging to the same party with Chamberlain, unlike Chamberlain, Churchill placed the British Empire above the considerations of any class, and appeasement did not run in his veins. The son of an American mother, Churchill has not been inclined to an excess of tenderness toward her country. Freely employing his King James-version phraseology in the House of Commons and in his writings, Churchill has not spared criticism of American policy, especially the train of Wilsonian assumptions. His zeal for British naval ascendancy, moreover, impaired good relations with America in 1927 when in the Ministry he backed the intransigeance of the British admirals at Geneva.

As a candid nationalist, Churchill met his counterpart on the Atlantic. If Churchill resembles a shorter, clean-shaven but immensely shrewd John Bull, Roosevelt, tall, affable, and likewise shrewd, would — given a goatee — bear a fair likeness to the traditional image of Brother Jonathan. If Churchill took a narrowly British attitude over the Geneva naval dispute, Roosevelt derricked the London Economic Conference of 1933, on which the hearts of the British were set. It was also Roosevelt who took America off gold, Hoover having declined to do so, to the detriment of the world trading position of the sterling bloc. No more than Churchill has Roosevelt been given to meaningless fraternizing with the transatlantic neighbor. On the other hand, neither brought  p317 prejudice or suspicion to the conference table. The platform on which they met was not sentiment, but fused national interest.


The good fortune which brought Churchill and Roosevelt to the chief places in the English-speaking countries at this time of world crisis cannot be exaggerated. Men with bold and far‑ranging minds, they not only comprehend the tremendous forces engaged in the present struggle but they also face up to the implications. The presence of these sea‑power authorities at Westminster and Washington in 1941 testified anew to the sound public sense of the English-speaking peoples. Lesser leaders, men unfamiliar with the grand outlines of spatial strategy, might ignore or seek to evade the thrust of Germany's global aspiration. Roosevelt and Churchill understand that the "crucial question of the century," in the words of Dr. H. W. Weigert, a German émigré professor now at Hiram college in Ohio, is "whether domination of the oceans or the continents will prevail."

To Weigert, writing in Harper's for November, 1941, of Dr. Karl Haushofer's school of geopolitics, the Nazi invasion of Russia plus German-Japanese collaboration discloses

the tremendous goal of Hitler's armies: to develop a gigantic world pincers movement with the aim of outflanking the oceans, and, by the control of the continental spaces and their ports, strangle sea power.

According to the Haushofer synthesis, painstakingly elaborated during the last twenty years at the Institute for Geopolitics, Munich, the Land Powers under Germany, and with Japan as a satellite, must necessarily vanquish the great Sea Powers to gain world leader­ship. Only then will the Anglo-American imperium give way to a Germanic New Order. To Haushofer, a geographer and a major general in the First World War, the task of overpowering the English-speaking nations on their chosen element is too formidable. His methodical talents have therefore been employed on a formula  p318 which might enable a master of Central and Eastern Europe to gain world hegemony without actually meeting and destroying the overwhelming force of the English-speaking Powers at sea.

That is the inner meaning of geopolitics. Only when Haushofer's dialectic is seen in relation­ship to the broad lessons of Mahan does it take on reality to the Anglo-Saxon mind.

Underneath the Alexandrine metapolitics of the German power theorist, his inflated space concepts, and their grandiose application, may be seen the familiar outlines of the struggle between a Continental System and the Atlantic System. The aim of Haushofer is to circumvent Mahan, not to overthrow him by frontal attack. Hence he proposes a detour into land conquest, a vast project bringing Europe, Asia, and Africa under German domination; an attempt to offset sea power by weight of land mass, man power, and raw‑material stocks needing little or no ocean transport.

In the light of Haushofer's rationalizations, the invasion of Russia in June, 1941, takes on larger meanings. Hitler struck not so much to remove the threat of the Red Army in his rear, or to obtain wheat and oil, as in order to gain ascendancy over the huge land bridge between West and East. The Führer sought, fulfilling Clausewitz's classic definition of the purpose of war, to impose his will on Russia. His objective was command of the "Heartland" of the "World-Island" charted by Haushofer — the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa — the heart of that island being the region from the Volga to the Yangtze north of the Himalayas. The "Heartland", by Haushofer's definition, is essential to the grand strategy of the Land Powers because of its supposed immunity from the far‑reaching tentacles of sea power.

If we accept this interpretation of Hitler's march into Russia, the war in the East far transcends ideological conflict. Under such circumstances the political creed professed at the Kremlin became immaterial to the Atlantic world. In going to the defense of the Soviet Union the Sea Powers were  p319 not only helping to enfeeble Nazi strength; they were also protecting a flank. Both Roosevelt and Churchill, it must be assumed, gathered the full intimations of Hitler's march to the East. That insight no doubt accounted for the promptitude with which they dared domestic complications by pledging assistance to the Soviet Union.

The Haushofer concepts of the "World-Island" and "Heartland," it should be noted, did not originate in Germany. Haushofer borrowed them from an inimical source, from Sir Halford Mackinder, a Scottish theoretician. In 1919 Sir Halford warned the Allied statesmen at Paris against German domination of Russia and Eastern Europe. "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland," he wrote in a book, Democratic Ideals and Reality; "who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the world-Island commands the world." It was Haushofer's self-chosen task to adapt this warning out of the Atlantic world to a technique for the potential conquest of that world.

To what degree Hitler's course has been directed by Haushofer seems still speculative. Until the flight of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's disciple­ship was widely assumed. Legend ascribed to the Munich geographer the place of reigning strategist in the highest Nazi circles. The Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 bore Haushofer's approval, his monthly organ Zeitschrift für Geopolitik blessing the rapprochement as a step toward the absorption of the Slavic world into the Germanic orbit. Haushofer is understood to have opposed the substitution of conquest for accord as a long-range policy. If a difference existed, it seems to have been over method rather than objective. The invasion of Russia might be considered as a Nazi short cut rather than a repudiation of Haushofer's premises. It may be doubted, however, that the Eastern adventure represented a general policy of withdrawal in the West. The direct pressure on the Sea Powers was perhaps only momentarily relaxed. Hitler and his counselors would, quite naturally, prefer a quick decision in the Atlantic to the circuitous, long, and possibly exhausting flank movement across Asia and down into Africa.

 p320  The war, as of September, 1941, seemed still to hang on the issue in the Atlantic. Russia, for all the magnitude of the military operations there, was still a sideshow. In spite of Haushofer, sea power had still to be reckoned with by the master of the Continental System.

Roosevelt and Churchill, meeting at sea, manifestly found themselves in agreement on these matters: the strength of the liberal tradition, the value of Atlantic civilization, the virility of the English-speaking peoples, and the necessity to the well-being, peace, and order of the Western world of the utter extirpation of Nazi reaction. Though they agreed as to aims, there was a practical divergence between the English-speaking Powers on the means. Churchill, the leader of a people at war, brought the sound and fury of battle to the conference cabin. Roosevelt and his people were half in, half out of the war. America, as the London News-Chronicle put it, "is in the peace, although she is not yet in the war." That was, of course, a half-truth.


Throughout the summer of 1941 this country waited edgily on circumstance. To acute observers, the balance between quasi-peace and shooting war seemed so delicate that the slightest jar might tip us into war. As Churchill observed in the broadcast to which reference has been made, "one man," Hitler, had the answer to the question "When will the United States enter the war?" The President stood steadfastly by his determination that when hostilities came, they should come as the result of enemy action. He did not propose to fire the first shot.

On the night of September 11, the President broke the spell of indecision. In a broadcast commanding the largest audience yet granted a public utterance in America, Roosevelt informed the people that he had ordered the United States Navy to clear a large and undefined area of the Atlantic of enemy warcraft. The U. S. S. Greer, a destroyer, had been attacked by a German submarine at a point southeast  p321 of Greenland. To the President "this was piracy." The attack on the Greer brought to a head a series of German depredations on American shipping in the South and the North Atlantic, the Red Sea, and the Pacific. These were the acts of "rattlesnakes." The Nazis, it was apparent to the President, had evidenced a desire to seize command of the seas. Hence, the time had come for "Americans of all the Americas"

to stop being deluded by the romantic notion that the Americans can go on living happily and peacefully in a Nazi-dominated world. There has now come a time when you and I must see the cold inexorable necessity of saying to these inhuman, unrestrained seekers of world conquest . . . "You shall go no further!"

In defense of the Atlantic world, Roosevelt had ordered the navy to shoot at enemy vessels at sight. However palliated or attenuated, that was a warlike act. The response of the country was heartening. Not long thereafter the American Legion national convention, which in 1939 had adopted isolationist resolutions, declared for all steps necessary to defeat Nazism. As in the past, whenever the issue was plainly presented as defense of the Atlantic world, the nation rallied. The isolationists, driven by events, resorted to extreme and self-defeating methods. At Des Moines, Lindbergh disclosed his affinity with Nazi methodology by raising the anti-Semitic cry. The Jews, the British, and the Roosevelt Administration he charged with hustling the United States into war, forgetting that the Jewish minority had been divided, as have other racial groups in America, that the British are a negligible bloc among us, and that less than a year ago Roosevelt's policies had been decisively endorsed by the public. In Washington, Senators Nye and Bennett Clark likewise aped the propaganda methods of the Nazis by seeking to raise an anti-Semitic clamor against Hollywood. That was a measure of desperation, gaining the countenance of no responsible leader of American thought.

The President's bold words resolved many doubts. It was  p322 time. The midsummer of 1941 had been a season of despair for those Americans solicitous for their country's honor and survival. Subversive forces had been encouraged, the agents of disunion had gone unchecked until it seemed to one observer that the war was being lost in the confused and uncomprehending hearts of the American people. Congress, a not wholly responsible organ of national policy, was showing signs of disintegration. The unexpectedly dogged resistance of the Soviet Union, which lessened the sense of urgency in this country, emboldened the Republicans in Congress to play with the national safety, and the House of Representatives, exhibiting an excess of partisan­ship and a minimum of patriotism, came within one vote of disbanding the army. The fact that such a vote failed to alarm the country more generally reflects no credit on the House. The lack of alarm was due to the fact that the country took it for granted that minority members were merely angling for votes in their districts.

A group of Republican leaders, including Hoover and Alfred M. Landon, a former Governor of Kansas who ran for the Presidency on the Republican ticket in 19436, were also encouraged in midsummer of 1941 to try out isolationism as a party issue. They no doubt believed it possible to take such a line because for the moment the emphasis in the war had shifted from the Atlantic to Russia. And with the disregard for objective logic characterizing the partisan mind, they chose to take their stand against military aid to Russia at a time when Russia's resistance made it possible for them to venture into the open with an attack on the foreign policy of their own Government.

It has been suggested that these Republican leaders, together with those in Congress who have been opposing the defense program, hope for a reaction similar to that which overcame Wilson in 1920. They should remember that the Republican party has never thrived except as a nationalist party. In the prelude to the First World War it was the Republican party, led by Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Root, Hughes, and other stalwarts, which most clearly saw the  p323 national interest. The record of the party at the end of that war was unexceptional. It is only fair to point out that there is another type of leader­ship in the Republican party in 1941, exemplified by Wendell Willkie, whose insight into the problem of America's relation­ship to the world crisis has been deep and steady, and whose utterance of his views has been unfailingly forthright.

In the fall of 1941 the country was of three minds. First, there was the vast middle body of citizens, hating war and its impact on their personal lives, confused about America's precise responsibilities and her peril, but willing to defend her and their civilization whenever persuaded of the necessity. Inarticulate and undemonstrative, these were people who joined no peace or war societies and stayed home from the meetings of the opposed groups, who voted uniformly in the public-opinion polls against the abstraction war as they would have voted against the abstraction death or poverty, yet endorsed each separate step of the Administration toward defense, against Hitler, and in support of Britain. In general this middle group, which might be called the neutrals, trusted Roosevelt's leader­ship.

Next, on both sides, bidding for the favor of the neutrals were bodies of citizens known loosely as interventionists and isolationists. At the risk of oversimplification it may be said that those parties differed broadly along these lines: The interventionists preferred war to submission, the isolationists preferred anything, including submission, to war. Whereas the interventionist was unwilling to gamble his country's security, its independence, and its proud place in the world on the resistance of other peoples, the width of the oceans, or an internal collapse in Germany, the isolationist, closing his eyes to danger, was willing to gamble on any factor that supplied him with an argument. Another broad difference was that in general the interventionists believed in the liberal tradition, believed in their country and its mission, and were willing to sink party politics for the duration, while the isolationists were more influenced by personal or group than by national  p324 interest. These considerations apply, of course, only to the sincere isolationist who actually prefers the American way of life to that of the Nazis — the antiwar man whose ground is not merely hatred for Roosevelt or England, or both, or a sympathy, conscious or unconscious, for the "wave of the future."

The isolationist tent was wider than the interventionist, and it sheltered along with sincere Americans opposed to war and those optimists who relied on Hitler's benevolence a heterogeneous collection of persons and groups at heart inimical to the American tradition. Among these were to be found unassimilated Germans and Italians of the immigration during the long truce, aliens repaying the privilege of free speech by advocating the cause of the tyrants who suppressed it in their homelands. There were also the Communists, taking political instructions from Moscow, supporting the American war effort only because the "workers' homeland" lay in the path of the common enemy. There were the small, subversive, pro‑Fascist movements typified by the Christian Front, which draws its doctrine from Father Coughlin's propaganda organ Social Justice. The street fighters of that anti-Semitic band went into action in New York City in the spring of 1941, according to the press, shouting "We want Hitler!" and "We want Lindbergh!" — cries ringing ominously in the ears of those who recall the street brawling that accompanied the Nazi rise to power. It is one of the most serious counts against Senator Wheeler and that ill‑starred young man, Lindbergh, that they have so recklessly evoked the dark forces that lie under the surface of any society.

As for the sincere isolationists, they are as familiar a phenomenon of these days as the Nazism which has overrun their counterparts in countries from Austria to heroic Greece. They were the Englishmen who said: "Where is Czechoslovakia?" and the Frenchmen who saw no point in dying for Danzig. They were the Dutch and Belgians who declined to consult with England and France about a common defense. They were the well-meaning, timid people all over Europe  p325 who thought Hitler didn't mean them. In France they relied on the Maginot Line. In other European countries they counted on their own peaceable intentions. In America they rely on the Atlantic Ocean and their own wish to be let alone. The fact that they have misread the signs will not spare them in the United States should it resist too late, or too little. Nor does the fact that sincere isolationists belong to an ancient tradition recommend them to those Americans who believe that the national interest demands all‑out and immediate participation in this war.

The tradition to which the isolationists belong is negative and antinational. In the time of Washington their spiritual forebears were Tories, or worse, those pliant souls who managed to avoid being identified with either side. They condemned Jefferson for wasting good money on the Louisiana wilderness. They thought that in warning the Old World away from the New World Monroe was taking in too much territory. They opposed settling or claiming the Oregon Territory. As United States Senators they blocked the annexation of Texas so that it had to be accomplished (as later also in the case of Hawaii) by a majority vote of both houses. In the North during the Civil War they were, of course, Copperheads. In 1919 they opposed Wilson not on the legitimate grounds that lay open to them but on the general ground of Hiram Johnson and his band that they wanted no truck with foreigners, and that the President was carrying America beyond her depth.

America never would have been carried anywhere by the gentlemen of this tradition. It should be cold comfort to those statesmen who are playing politics with the destiny of the United States that the leaders of this tradition are so uniformly anonymous. Who except historians remembers individual Tories? The fame of the Founding Fathers, of Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln, and Wilson, is secure; not so with those who sought to block their endeavors.

 p326  6

The attitude of the sincere isolationists has varied little from generation to generation. They fear risk, responsibility, hardship, and defeat — but principally defeat. Fortunately it is not necessary to theorize about the attitude of the gentlemen of that tradition in this crisis. A complete specimen is at hand in an address made by Henry Noble MacCracken, president of Vassar College, a week after the announcement of the Atlantic conference. Dr. MacCracken spoke in Carnegie Hall, New York City, before a mass meeting of the America First Committee, an antiwar organization which seems intent on persuading the people that England, not Germany, is the enemy of this country.

MacCracken spoke against war. In common for the spokesmen of the isolationist party generally he did not deal adversely with Nazi Germany. Owing to the necessity of minimizing the danger from that quarter, such speakers cannot stress the vicious dynamism of the conquerors of Europe. They are under no such inhibitions regarding England. So the president of Vassar warned his hearers against the evils of association with the British Empire. He intimated that that empire had not led a blameless existence. Ignoring the unmistakable implication in American national policy that England is fighting the war for the United States also, MacCracken hinted that the English were again striving to use America for their own purposes. He accomplished this innuendo by describing the Atlantic Declaration as the "Churchill treaty," although it is generally understood on both sides of the water that Roosevelt initiated the conference.

A commitment to the "final destruction of Nazi tyranny," said the speaker, means war. The "war party" and the "peace party" agree on that, but whereas the war party wants to get on with the job, the peace party "has no hope of crushing the Nazi rule at this time." What then was the peace hope of the peace party? "It looks for the democratic regeneration of Europe from within, after the fury of war shall have spent itself."  p327 The same hope no doubt would be extended to the United States when, after a Nazi triumph, its appeasers and defeatists shall have turned America into a satellite of the Nazi New Order.

MacCracken, accepting defeat in advance, doubted that the United States Army could vanquish the enemy. He questioned also the ability to sustain the home morale in a war which he contemplates would be "fought in the East Indies, in Egypt, in Morocco and Iran as well as in Europe." A fixed idea ran through isolationist thought in 1941 that war in America would be preferable to war elsewhere, and that nothing would so sustain morale as feeling the blows of the enemy in Boston, New York, or Pittsburgh. "We do not know," said MacCracken, "of any authoritative military man who has told us how Germany can land in America." That curiously fatalistic notion likewise pervaded isolationist thought in 1941. From Lindbergh to MacCracken to the unidentified spokesmen for Dr. Goebbels in our midst there came the refrain of American invincibility to direct Nazi attack. That theory, when honestly held, grew out of unfamiliarity with the monstrously effective creeping tactics of the enemy as well as the lessons and the strategy of sea power.

Had Dr. MacCracken ever thoughtfully considered the military situation of this country should Hitler be master of Europe and Africa and Japan in undisputed command of Asia, with the oceans flanking the United States under the control, outside our immediate waters, of those Powers? Had he thought of the probable allegiance of South America under those conditions, of the prospect of a Quisling Canada and a British Empire co‑ordinated into the Nazi New Order through the weapons of military defeat, potential starvation, and the frustration that would come from the knowledge that further resistance was useless? Would we undertake the conquest of Canada when we had failed to stand with Canada in defense of the Atlantic world? Is America prepared to fight her way to the south, taking and occupying the lands of her neighbors, with the man power and resources of Europe and Asia arrayed against her? How many years does  p328 Dr. MacCracken think the United States could stand the strain of standing in arms against the whole world outside its own borders? And which party is to defend it then — the war party, which wishes to fight now that America may have resourceful allies, command of the seas, and access to all the world outside Europe, or on the peace party, which prefers to wait until America has none of those factors in her favor?

Dr. MacCracken should be let in on a secret. A great many Americans fear his associates of the peace party more than they fear the Nazis in battle. A great many Americans believe, rightly or wrongly, that the appeasement forces which have systematically sought to destroy this country's will to resist, have tampered with the morale of the United States Army, opposed in Congress every measure of defense, and irresponsibly sought to divide the country on racial and religious lines do not intend now, or ever, to resist. Dr. MacCracken should know that many Americans are confident that Hitler would not need to land troops on American shores to subdue our country should England fall. The appeasers would invite him in. A good many of the appeasers know that also. It is too bad that Dr. MacCracken does not.

The question goes beyond men's intentions. It comes down to simple equations of power. Dr. MacCracken, speculating for the moment on the consequences should the United States win the war, supposed: "We should have garrisons in Germany, Japan and Italy, commissars of raw materials all over the world imposing an Anglo-American peace on the world, with one indispensable condition as its basis, the integrity of the British Empire." Without our pausing to wonder where in the Atlantic Declaration that outline of an Anglo-American peace appears, the question arises and should be propounded to Dr. MacCracken and his peace party: Would he prefer German, Japanese, and Italian garrisons in the United States, with Axis commissars of raw materials ordering our economy? Would he rather see the "integrity" of the Nazi New Order or that of the British Empire maintained? Fair questions, those are by no means rhetorical ones.

 p329  7

Whoever wins this war will reorganize the world. That is what Willkie means by his compact and summarizing observation that "after this war the capital of the world will be either Washington or Berlin — I want it to be Washington." The choice is limited, on any foreseeable basis. Either the peace will be made in Washington and London, or it will be made in Berlin. The New Order will be either Anglo-American or Nazi. After first reading his own construction into the "Atlantic Charter" the sincere isolationist Dr. MacCracken indicated his disapproval. Does he prefer a peace made in Germany? That is the alternative.

Since the Atlantic conference no one need be in doubt about the choice. It lies clear before Americans. They may visualize the Nazi New Order from the writings of Hitler and his adjutants, from the Nazi record in governing their own people and conquered nations, and from the history of the German tribes. The Nazi regime is an escape into the primitive barbarism of the German tribes as noted by Julius Caesar and Tacitus. Opposed to this archaic movement, the spokesmen of the Atlantic world promise a continuation and a betterment of classical, liberal, Christian civilization. Behind the promise stand the political stability, the steady progress under law, the respect for individual rights, the civil liberties, the religious and racial tolerance, the rise in well-being, in the mature English-speaking democracies.

A Nazi order means the organization of human society on a hierarchy of races, against all the lessons of history and reason, with the Herrenvolk as masters, all others in varying degrees of slavery. The persecution of the Jews and the Poles and the assassination of hostages in France and other occupied countries have demonstrated to the world the savagery of the Nazis. Tacitus observed this same sadistic cruelty of the Germanic tribes toward their slaves and caravans. "They often kill them," he wrote, "not from motives of systematic discipline but in the rage of passion."​b Caesar found what we now perceive as a spring of Nazi morality in the customs of  p330 the tribes toward foreigners. "Robbery," he wrote in the Commentaries,​c "has nothing infamous in it when committed outside the territories of the state to which they belong. They even pretend that it serves to exercise their youth and prevent the growth of sloth." In a Nazi world no human rights would stand against the arbitrary will of the Führer, the party, or the state. In the democratic state the state itself moderates as between the rights and privileges of citizens, even protecting the citizen from the state itself.

What does the "Atlantic Charter," with the Roosevelt corollary, offer in contrast to the reign of force, persecution, oppression, and atavistic during which will be the lot of humanity if the Nazis and their allies prevail? The Eight Articles may be condensed as follows:

1. The dominant Sea Powers renounce any desire for territorial or other gain from the war.
2. They promise not to alter national boundaries (specifically, it must be supposed, not to dismember Germany) without the "freely expressed wishes of the people concerned."
3. Self-government, self-determination, and restoration of sovereignty and territories to the nations who are victims of the Nazis.
4. Equal access to trade and raw materials by all nations, including the vanquished. This is in reality a pledge of a world-wide Open Door.
5. Collaboration toward the freest exchange of goods to secure "for all improved labor standards, economic advancement, and social security." This is a declaration against autarchy.
6. Permanent peace.
7. Free access to the seas.
8. Abandonment of "the use of force" as an instrument of national policy, with a pledge on the part of the Sea Powers to disarm and keep disarmed the notorious lawbreakers and bullies in the society of nations.
And the Roosevelt corollary, emphasizing the desirability of freedom of religion, communication, and information.

Those are broad generalizations — "a simple, rough-and‑ready wartime statement of the goal toward which the British Commonwealth and the United States mean to make  p331 their way," in Churchill's phrase — covering a scheme for world-wide reorganization. What credentials do the English-speaking Powers submit as evidence of good faith? Just this. While the Nazi cult has been perverting Germany and preparing to engulf the world under a tide of totalitarian imperialism, the English-speaking Powers have been relaxing their hold on Dominions, colonies, and protectorates. During the long truce the British Commonwealth was given legal form as an association of self-governing nations under the Crown. Ireland was allowed virtually to demit from the British Empire and reclaim complete freedom over her ports, to the present embarrassment of the British. The ties with Egypt were rendered easier to Egypt, and long strides were taken toward the goal of self-government for India within the British Commonwealth. In those years the United States beat a steady retreat from imperialism, both political and economic. Under Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor policy" America relinquished protectorates over Cuba and Panama and arranged to retire from the Philippines in 1946. Both England and the United States will carry better credentials to the peace table this time than they did in 1919.

A victory for the English-speaking Powers would strengthen the growing Pan‑American solidarity. Since 1936 the relations among the three Americas — North, Central, and South — have been undergoing a steady maturing. A co‑operative policy for the twenty‑one American republics has taken satisfactory form. The Declaration of Lima in 1938 outlined a "common policy," which A. A. Berle, Jr., writing in the Survey Graphic of March, 1941, hailed as a transmutation of the Monroe Doctrine into a multilateral declaration. Since then the American republics have formulated and implemented a program for hemisphere defense under which one or more Powers would act for all. The growth of genuine peace and understanding in the Americas is a tribute to the patience and spirit of accommodation of Franklin Roosevelt and his universally respected Secretary of State, Cordell Hull.

On the other hand, no thoughtful observer can doubt that a Nazi New Order spells the end of the Atlantic System. The  p332 Monroe Doctrine, which has been withering away under the co‑operative policy, would be struck down by the Nazis. For forty years German publicists have been ringing the knell on the Monroe Doctrine. The ties binding the Americas into one world entity are not cultural; they are only incidentally economic. Until recent years the factor of cohesion was political similarity and a common reliance on Anglo-American sea power. Remove that command of the Atlantic, substitute for it Nazi command, and the pressure of trade would perhaps soon carry South America into the German orbit.

Americans may confidently predict America's status in a world organized under terms of the Atlantic Declaration. What might they expect in the event that the Nazis remodel the world system? They have had clues in the propagandistic writings of the Axis Powers to the projected role of the United States in a Nazified world. They know also from his own words and the testimony of Nazi deserters and others in what low esteem Hitler holds America. To Hitler the United States is the most decadent of the democracies, undisciplined, incapable of co‑operative action, allowing indecent privileges to Jewish and Slavic immigrants and its native Negroes. The Führer, counting upon American disunity, "did not consider North America a decisive factor" at the outbreak of this war, according to Hermann Rauschning. Rauschning, a Junker intellectual and agrarian who embraced then rejected Nazism, reported in his book The Redemption of Democracy that Hitler "has repeatedly told his intimates that he was not afraid of the United States as a Power because it was his purpose to unloose upon the American Continent a revolution of unprecedented dimensions. . . . Sooner or later, America's hour would strike, to create a new future through breakdowns and turmoil on a gigantic scale."

The United States, we may gather from the speculations of Nazi theorists, would be allowed to retain its sovereignty, to exist in a restricted way, partly disarmed and having surrendered its Pacific and Atlantic bases and control of the Panama Canal — provided it installed a regime satisfactory  p333 to the Nazi high command and took its respectful place in the New Order. That would of course mean the introduction of racial laws; suppression of the freedom to comment on the Nazi regime except in complimentary terms; and acceptance of an economy, a currency, and a credit system linked to that of the Nazis. This would, quite naturally, bring about the end of the American nation as Americans have known it since 1789, bringing on a black night of terror, hatred, and suspicion such as the American people never have known. No one, whether worker, farmer, employer, professional man, student, or religious communicant, would be immune. The only gainers would be a few callously selfish businessmen and certain political adventurers capable of being quislings.

Should the United States resist incorporation into a totalitarian world, the Nazis might elect merely to segregate it economically. A Nazi Europe, holding Africa as tributary and in close association with a Japan dominating Asia, the East Indies, and Oceania, would have little or no need for the products of North America — none whatever if Canada had been incorporated and South America had been drawn into the Nazi order. American surpluses could be denied access to world markets except on ruinous terms, American industrial products be excluded altogether, and the whole American tariff system be destroyed overnight. Does that seem a lurid prognosis of the economic and political fate of America should Russia and the British fall? There is a growing and definitive literature on the subject of Nazi world aims and methods waiting to be consulted by doubters.

The isolationists offer Americans that dim and dreary world. In their hearts the appeasers (not all isolationists are appeasers, but all appeasers are isolationists) are indifferent to the question of who reorganizes the world so long as their corner is left untouched. From Lindbergh, fatefully attracted to an alien primitivism, to such representatives of the negative tradition in American life as MacCracken the message is of defeat, despair, and submission. As the New York Post, commenting on the MacCracken address we have discussed,  p334 summed it up: "If the American nation today carries on with no more pride and stamina than he pictured, then indeed his voice of defeat spoke a timely warning." The Post rejected the MacCracken doctrine, characterizing it as "an unblushing proclamation of sterility and decline. . . . Dr. MacCracken wrapped himself in the bloodstained tatters of defeat as in the banner of his cause. It was, in fact, a shroud. The people of this country, we say quietly, will take the Stars and Stripes."


The Post's assumption has historical sanction. The American people have never preferred submission to victory. As a nation they do not know the experience of defeat. On the other hand, they have never — except perhaps in 1898 — gone eagerly to war. From the 1770's until the 1940's the road to war has been rutted, winding, filled with obstructions. Though Americans are always unwilling to take up the sword, it is yet a terrible and decisive weapon in their hands. They have never halted or turned back on the road. The American will to prevail has been tested through the generations — in the seven years' war for independence, a war that seemed a dozen times lost; in the terrible battles of the Civil War, the most extensive and bloody war in history until the First World War, a war of brothers won only when the South found itself at last without food, clothing, and weapons. Nor should it be forgotten also that 2,000,000 soldiers from this peaceable land stood at arms in France when the last war ended. They would not have been denied victory.

Moreover, the United States is more united today than in the presence of any great war in its history. National unity, the sense of nationhood, has followed a rising curve. Trace out the story of faction and dissent in all the prewar phases of the American past and see for yourself if this is not true. All Americans are familiar with the division in the colonies before — and during — the civil war we term the American Revolution. Recall the resistance of New England, the lukewarmness of New York before — and during — the remote chapter  p335 of the Napoleonic Wars that Americans call the War of 1812. Lincoln's Cabinet was appeasement-minded; the draft caused riots lasting for days and costing hundreds of lives in New York; and the Union forces attained true unity and a tempered will to win only in the third year of the War of Secession. In the thirty‑one months of the First World War before our entrance Wilson's Cabinet was twice shaken by resignations. But once in that war (as unsought and undesired as this, its sequel), the united will of the American people showed an unbroken front.

Happily, in the early autumn of 1941 victory was still within the grasp of the Atlantic Powers. The forces mustered against a Nazi New Order were on the rise. In man power, in command of the seas, in production of the weapons of war, the Atlantic Powers together with China and the Soviet Union exceeded the Axis Powers. Once they were co‑ordinated, once organized for victory, there could be no doubt of the outcome. That meant war for America. To the isolationist that seems an unthinkable choice. It is dreadful, but not unthinkable. Americans have fought in the past on foreign soil. In the span of the nation Americans have fought in colonial Canada; in Cuba (twice); in Tripoli and Libya; in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Samoa; in China, Siberia, and Russia; in France, Belgium and Italy. They have fought for independence, for the right to sail the seas unmolested, for national unity, for territorial and strategical expansion, for the national honor and prestige, and for the security of the Atlantic world. Is it possible that Americans would refuse to fight in 1941 when all these issues save expansion are involved and the alternative is slavery? The interventionist, unwilling either to gamble or to treat with the powerful forces contesting for domination over his country, regards war, with all its personal terror, death, and destruction, as the lesser evil.

In September, 1941, the forces of military concentration favored the Atlantic cause. In its favor likewise were the imponderables, the moral factors upon which the great commanders of history have dwelt. Mahan, writing of the initial  p336 disadvantage suffered by peaceable nations of loose, democratic organization when attacked by aggressors, held no doubt that

in the end, the many will prevail. The immediate result [of such bursts of warlike fury as the Nazis employ] is that the preponderant, concentrated force has its way for a period which may thus be one of great and needless distress; and it not only has its way, but it takes its way, because, whatever progress the world has made, the stage has not been reached when men or States willingly subordinate their own interests to even a reasonable regard for that of others.

This was written in 1910. Since then the world has been twice ravaged by the "preponderant, concentrated force" of a German nation organized for the imposition of the will of its rulers on other peoples. In his memoirs Bismarck declared the people known as Germans to be so heterogeneous that they could be integrated only by dynasty or anger. Bismarck united them around the Hohenzollern dynasty, Hitler by arousing their anger — their hatreds, their prejudices, and the underlying brutality of man. Both were ancient and regressive rallying-points. Both ran counter to their age. Both Germanys were in reaction against the liberal, progressive civilization of the West. A victory for Germany in 1918 would have carried the Atlantic world back along the road to the Stuarts and Louis XIV. A victory for the Germany of today would plunge the Western world back into its pre‑Christian instance.

There can be no compromise between the Atlantic world and German reaction. The true wave of the future bears westward — if America does her share. A powerful Anglo-American offensive, by the sea which the English-speaking peoples providentially command, from the air and by land once the English-speaking armies are forged, should bring the "final destruction of the Nazi tyranny," preserve the Atlantic world, and return Western Europe to its traditional allegiance to Western civilization. But victory may not restore to Europe its leader­ship of the Western world. Whatever the outcome of this war, France has been dealt  p337 a staggering blow. Her decline from leader­ship in the West, apparent before the war, has been only dramatized by defeat. Unstable politically, France has, in any case, oscillated between the Atlantic and the Continental systems throughout recent history. Since 1789, it will be recalled, the French have been governed by two monarchies, two empires, and three republics. Neither France nor Germany can be counted on for leader­ship in a liberal postwar world.

The Europe emerging from this war, should it last another year or more, will be literally a shambles, starving, its cities shattered, its moral force demoralized, its will beaten and diffused. Only from the Atlantic world, from the Americas and the British Commonwealth, from that half of the white race which had learned to live in peace, can the regenerative factors spring. Rauschning's book, an apologia for his apostasy from Western culture, bore a subtitle, The Coming Atlantic Empire. Representative of a despairing mood that afflicts European intellectuals increasingly, his theme was the decline of the Old World, the rise of the New. To Rauschning it seems that "The centre of gravity is shifting westward. Around the Atlantic Ocean some new sort of empire of peace may grow up. The power nucleus of the new order is springing from a union of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Europe will become a hinterland."

In such a New Order the English-speaking peoples must bear responsibility jointly. Jointly they can assure their survival, the health of the liberal tradition, revitalized by this ordeal, and peace. China may be helped to a unity and a strength equipping her for her rightful share in a new Asia. The Soviet Union, relieved of the fear of aggression and with the most convulsive phases of her experiment past, may be encouraged and tutored by the Powers committed to political liberty and progress by evolution. The German people, left territorially whole and granted economic equality, may find some other integrating core than dynasty or anger. The end of the last war did not bring Germany abreast of the modern liberal states. This war may achieve that. All these assurances are implicit, some of  p338 them explicit, in the Atlantic Declaration. To make doubly sure, Churchill in his explanatory broadcast stipulated further that "instead of trying to ruin German trade by all kinds of additional trade barriers and hindrances as was the mood of 1917, we have definitely adopted view that it is not in the interests of the world and of our two countries that any large nation should be unprosperous or shut off from means of making a decent living for itself and its people by its industry and enterprise."

The joining of British and American power in the postwar world need not, probably should not, be expressed in organic union. Many years ago, we remember, Mahan warned against the danger of formulating permanent arrangements between nations on the basis of temporary need or wartime sentiment. A general treaty of alliance, with subsidiary treaties covering matters of trade, tariffs, custody, immigration, and such points of possible conflict or co‑operation, would provide a realistic framework for collaboration within the terms of the Atlantic Declaration. It should be borne in mind that while geography and other familiar factors dictate the general necessity of accord, Americans are not Englishmen, and vice versa. In detail, our customs and habits differ; an attempt to bring political union might easily be in itself divisive. The "ultra-American," the Anglophobe, and the sincere isolationist will not relish even so informal a linking as is proposed here. They must be convinced. Nor should it be supposed that the Anglo-American power concert will in future suppress or mitigate commercial rivalry between Americans and Englishmen. It has not done so in the past. The central fact to be kept in mind is that, in spite of such abrasive competition, the Powers have steadily grown nearer to each other politically since 1896 — the year of their last quarrel.

The Anglo-American entente, symbolized by the Atlantic conference, as has been suggested in this book, is a product of organic growth. The result of natural cohesive forces, it has been conditioned little either way by the goodwill of the English-Speaking Union or the invidious provincialism of  p339 the America First Committee. Its time of maturing has been the last half-century, roughly since the United States signified an intention to return in force to the sea and to take a hand in affairs beyond its shores. Before the 1890's the Atlantic was an English inland sea; thereafter it became pre‑eminently the sea of the English-speaking Powers. We have told the story of Anglo-American relations during these years with special reference to the Atlantic, to sea power, and to the persisting enemy of the peace and well-being of the Atlantic world — Germany. We have seen the English-speaking countries converge along lines of mutual interest in each time of crisis. We have seen a growing recognition of the essential solidarity of the great Sea Powers, but a recognition unexpressed in treaty or national declarations until the Atlantic meeting.

More is needed. The time has come to study the history, the structure, and the cohering factors in Anglo-American relations so that the reasons for alliance may be recognized frankly and defined in national policy in both the United States and Great Britain. The future of the Atlantic world depends upon that sort of recognition and definition.

For the immediate future America's course is plainly charted. An all‑out military partner­ship with Great Britain and her Allies is a minimum condition of our survival as a great, liberal Power. Should ignorance, indifference, or factionalism in this country contribute to an Axis victory, the United States — the most advanced and powerful of nations — will almost certainly be reduced to a subordinate status, a position of tutelage in a world gripped by implacable reaction. Under "the law of the opposite shores," the United States cannot tolerate the establishment of a hostile Sea Power on the European side of the Atlantic. In the fall of 1941 it was apparent that our Government did not propose to tolerate it. The clock had struck with the fall of France. The exact hour in which our full force would be engaged in the struggle could not be foretold. That it would be so engaged could not be doubted.

The Author's Notes:

1 It should be recalled that from the discovery of America until the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine, European Powers invaded the New World repeatedly and at will. Thereafter only the French in support of Maximilian actually occupied a part of the hemisphere; with the rise of American naval power and the growth of the Anglo-American accord, only Germany looked threateningly toward these shores.

[decorative delimiter]

2 The text of the Atlantic Declaration will be found in the Appendix.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Life, April 7, 1941.

Thayer's Notes:

a For the Pan American Airways involvement in similar bases in Brazil — the other transatlantic terminus — see A. R. Buchanan, ed., The Navy's Air War, pp70‑76.

[decorative delimiter]

b Germania, 25: Latin English.

[decorative delimiter]

c de Bello Gallico, VI.23.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 24 Oct 14