THE PRESIDENCY: Preface to War

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Earlier in the week, acting under orders specifically approved by the President, 37 U. S. Customs and Marine Bureau inspectors prevented the German liner Bremen from clearing out of New York City hastily, to get home before war began. Explaining that they must be sure the Bremen carried no war contraband, no arms with which she might prey on other ships on the way home, the inspectors poked and peered everywhere through the ship and took their sweet time, two days. One of them, amid much merriment, even managed to fall overboard (see cut p. 14). They even made the Bremen's crew go through lifeboat drill. Furious, an official of the line said: "Now they are searching an empty swimming pool." The delay cost Germany some $6,000. Worse, it gave the British cruiser Berwick ample time to slip out of Bar Harbor, Me. and tag the Bremen across the Atlantic.

In Washington, Mr. Roosevelt denied that there was any discrimination against the Bremen.* The British Aquitania, French Normandie, Italian Roma and other ships at other ports were similarly searched (but none so thoroughly). The President, with a perfectly straight face, referred to the distant cases of the British-built privateers Alabama and Shenandoah in Civil War days, which fitted out at sea after leaving England and preyed on Union shipping, thus establishing U. S. claims against England. But the Washington Post, with delicious euphemism, seemed to state the President's purpose more exactly when it editorialized: "... This inconvenience and danger [to the Bremen] was merely a by-product of the far greater inconvenience and danger produced for the world by the policies of the German Government." >Grey Friday passed. A huge war map of Europe was hung on the wall in the White House executive office and Army & Navy intelligence officers stuck pins in it to keep the President up to the hour on the fighting. Black Sunday came, putting Great Britain and France formally into World War II. That evening Franklin Roosevelt went on the world's airwaves to state and define historically the U. S. position, to read his preface to a giant human tragedy from which the U. S. people could not possibly be entirely immune. Said he:

"In spite of spreading wars I think that we have every right and every reason to maintain as a national policy the fundamental moralities, the teachings of religion and the continuation of efforts to restore peace—for some day, though the time may be distant, we can be of even greater help to a crippled humanity. . . . It seems to me clear, even at the outbreak of this great war, that the influence of America should be consistent in seeking for humanity a final peace which will eliminate, as far as it is possible to do so, the continued use of force between nations.

"It is, of course, impossible to predict the future. . . . You are, I believe, the most enlightened and the best-informed people in all the world at this moment. You are subjected to no censorship of news, and I want to add that your Government has no information which it has any thought of withholding from you. . . .

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