The Charlotte News
Wednesday, May 28, 1941
Site Ed. Note: The full text of FDR's key speech from the East Room of the White House may be read here and its elocution heard here. It was as Cash, obviously enthusiastic at finally the full course of the then present crisis being thus sharply delineated, describes it below. Indeed, it was as if the President had been reading The News since the previous summer.
In her syndicated newspaper column "My Day", Eleanor Roosevelt recounted her subjective impressions of this critical speech to the nation and to the diplomats of the world assembled at the White House:
Washington, May 29--The flags of all the Americas decorated one end of the East Room of the White House and were draped over the room's main door. It gave me a curious feeling to sit there and watch the President at his desk, faced by all the microphones. I felt as though all the newspaper photographers in the world were grinding and clicking in front of him. Diplomats are trained to observe the amenities, no matter what they feel, but last night everybody's face showed some emotion as the evening progressed.
I felt strangely detached, as though I were outside, a part of the general public. I represented no nation, and carried no responsibility except the responsibility of being a citizen of the United States of America. Then I looked at the President, facing representatives of all the Central and South American countries, Mexico and Canada. Like an oncoming wave, the thought rolled over me: "What a weight of responsibility this one man at the desk, facing the rest of the world, has to carry. Not just for this hemisphere alone, but for the world as a whole! Great Britain can be gallant beyond belief, China can suffer and defend herself in equally heroic fashion, but in the end, the decisive factor in this whole business may perhaps be the solidarity of the hemisphere and, of necessity, the President of the United States must give that solidarity its leadership."
Then the President began to speak. For three-quarters of an hour he told us what conditions existed, what obligations lay before us and, finally, what his present step to meet those obligations was to be. More must follow, and day by day each one of us is going to realize that his life is changing, that he has an obligation to perform.
In my capacity of objective citizen, sitting in the gathering last night, I felt that I wanted to accept my responsibility and do my particular job, whatever it might be, to the extent of my ability. I think that will be the answer of every individual citizen of the United States, for when all is said and done, it is our freedom to progress that makes us all want to live and to go on.
After our guests had departed, we went into the Monroe Room to listen to Mr. Irving Berlin sing two new songs, as well as some old songs.
Meanwhile, on May 4, Hitler had spoken to the Reichstag in terms which made so much sense in both logic and the experience of practice as these:
If any two national economic systems ever effectively complemented one another, that is especially the case regarding the Balkan States and Germany. Germany is an industrial country and requires foodstuffs and raw materials. The Balkan States are agrarian countries and are short of these raw materials. At the same time, they require industrial products. It was therefore hardly surprising when Germany thus became the main business partner of the Balkan States. Nor was this in Germany's interest alone, but also in that of the Balkan peoples themselves.
And none but our Jew-ridden democracies, which can think only in terms of capitalism, can maintain that if one state delivers machinery to another state it thereby dominates that other state. In actual fact such domination, if it occurs, can be only a reciprocal domination. It is presumably easier to be without machinery than without food and raw materials. Consequently, the partner in need of raw material and foodstuffs would appear to be more tied down than the recipient of industrial products. In this transaction there was neither conqueror nor conquered. There were only partners.
The German Reich of the National Socialist revolution has prided itself on being a fair and decent partner, offering in exchange high-quality products instead of worthless democratic paper money. For these reasons the Reich was interested in only one thing if, indeed, there was any question of political interest, namely, in seeing that internally the business partner was firmly established on a sound and healthy basis. The application of this idea led in fact not only to increasing prosperity in these countries but also to the beginning of mutual confidence.
All the greater, however, became the endeavor of that world incendiary, Churchill, to put an end to this peaceful development and by shamelessly imposing upon these States utterly worthless British guarantees and promises of assistance to introduce into this peaceable European territory elements of unrest, uncertainty, distrust and, finally, conflict.
So, it was simply business in which the Nazis were engaged, which is why they had to have divisions of Panzers, wolfpacks of submarines, and squadrons of Luftwaffe Messerschmitts to instill order in their business and eliminate all competitors, especially the Jew. Just simple business.
Whether, incidentally, the mounting threat of increased Fifth Column activities in Latin America including Mexico, of which the President himself warned in the speech, bothered Cash at all, now less than 48 hours to departure for the year in Mexico, is nowhere told, either in his editorial print below or in extant private correspondence--of which there is little, as Cash was not a prolific letter writer. It is doubtful, however, that such increasing tension in the world did any more than to heighten his sense of duty to ferret out the fanger: he had, after all, sought in 1936, in his second attempt to acquire a Guggenheim Fellowship, to spend a year in Germany studying the Nazi system, while writing a novel on the South. While that application was rejected, perhaps now, five years later, Mexico, with its key outpost in North America for the Nazi saboteurs and Fifth Columnists, would afford some fodder for closer study of the situation at hand, at least closer by far than had been afforded by the relative comfort of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, than Shelby or Boiling Springs before it--even if some groups in those places bore little less than enough similarity to the Nazi to afford more than casual study of the social forces giving shape to the same chimera which stalked Europe.
Now with all at stake and the thrusts of world war fully a-tilt, the time to make such a closer study was nigh; the time to do so with impunity, perhaps short. For the world itself, it appeared this May afternoon of 1941, the one which Cash described as resemblant to one cleansed after a mighty day of storm, appeared nevertheless, in any objective sense of the times, ominously destined, with little time left for the enjoyment of any theretofore known semblance of freedom at all.
But, ah no. The spirit which is the revolutionary spirit, the spirit which freedom endues to the human soul, the spirit and instinct to survive and protect home against invasion, all these would not long linger in respite from their duty to oblige the nobler instincts in defense of the house which provides them succour.
The rest of the page is here.
President Abandons Vagueness and Tells People Facts
The speech Mr. Roosevelt made last night was certainly the greatest he has made since the first hundred days of his first Administration--probably the greatest of his career.
He has been accused--with considerable justice--of lacking candor in his recent addresses. Vague diplomatic language has swathed all his meanings, and the simple people who make up the great majority of the population have been left puzzled and bewildered, unable to quite make up their minds about what it is we face.
But last night he dealt in candor itself. The enemy was named over and over--Adolf Hitler and Nazism. The purpose of that enemy--to conquer not only Europe but this hemisphere as well--was bluntly stated.
And far beyond that he went. He said flatly that Hitler's prime objective is to gain control of the Atlantic Ocean. He named Dakar, the Canaries, the Azores, the Cape Verdes, and warned that Hitler's possession of any of them would mean that we were directly menaced, and that the Nazis would be well on their way toward gaining the mastery of the Atlantic, since it would enable them to cut off the supply line from the United States to Great Britain. And if Britain fell, he said, the control of the Atlantic would be irrevocably lost, because Hitler would then inevitably fall heir to the British navy and to ship-building facilities which we cannot match.
He warned that the Nazis are already busy in Latin America, that they plan to get control of nations there by "revolution" from "within", in order to give themselves bases from which to operate against the United States.
Gone were the weasel words about "short of war" and "foreign wars" and "we shall not send American boys to die in foreign fields." This, he said plainly, is our war quite as much as it is Britain's. Our destiny is as much at stake as any other nation's. And--we are going to do whatever is necessary to insure that England wins and thereby preserve our own freedom.
That was a tremendous statement. It disposes of the convoy controversy at a stroke. And he goes on to say we will, if necessary, fight, to the last ship and gun and man rather than see humanity, ourselves included, reduced to slavery to a brutal so-called Master Race.
The Nyes and Wheelers can tear their hair and cackle, but Adolf Hitler today in Berlin feels the approach of the storm. As the news leaks through to his people they will begin to remember the doom that appeared before them in April, 1917.
Finally, as the master stroke, the President took fate in hand and proclaimed the full national emergency. Let him look to his powers and use them. At last, there is no more excuse for the defense program remaining in a muddle. And he has explicitly put both capital and labor on notice that obstruction, the desire to line their pockets at the expense of the nation, will not be tolerated.
The atmosphere in this country Tuesday was like that on a sultry August day. Today it is clear and clean as after a great thunderstorm. There is no more excuse for anyone to doubt where we stand, and the people will back the President to the ultimate limit, certain of the rightness of his decision.
Which No Longer Has Point It Had Last Summer
Last Summer the Nazis were very indignant about the French. They themselves systematically and mercilessly murdered French women and babies along the roads of France. But when the French captured some parachute troops disguised as Belgians and prepared to execute them, the Nazi spokesmen screamed about international law and promised to murder ten French prisoners for every man thus executed.
Presently they are very indignant about the English. Prime Minister Churchill has told the House of Commons that many of the German parachutists landing in Crete were wearing the battle dress of Anzacs. The British radio promises them execution. It is against international law immediately bawl the Nazi spokesmen and any such executions will be paid for at the rate of ten to one by British prisoners.
A strange sound, that phrase, "International law" in the mouths of the people who invented unrestricted submarine warfare and the systematic murder of civilians.
And of course it has no validity. Donning the uniform of an opposing army has always automatically given a man the status of a spy and made him subject to execution without trial.
Fortunately, the British are in better position to claim their rights here than were the French. Not a great many British prisoners are in German hands. And for a while at least the British can retaliate man for man in the execution of prisoners.
On Your Own
In This City Traffic Has To Take Care of Itself
We know a city, on the whole a progressive city, where traffic conditions are abominable. Where an ever-growing horde of automobiles, busses, taxicabs and trucks are turned loose upon its streets to make their way under the most haphazard regulation, each vehicle for itself.
Where the authority over traffic resides not in a trained specialist but, indifferently, in a building inspector--and a good building inspector he is said to be. Where the City Council votes to put up or not to put up traffic lights, as though this were a legislative function.
Where traffic bottlenecks are allowed to exist with no apparent effort to eliminate them by the exercise of a little thought and some study. Where the rate of traffic deaths is alarmingly high in comparison with far larger, more crowded cities.
Where the lethal custom has grown up of running through the tail end of the yellow signal or even the first rays of the red, and likewise of beating the green. Where the police accept such driving habits as though they were strictly orthodox and never deign to notice any but the most flagrant violations.
Where safety and convenience are at a discount, recklessness at a premium, improvement at a standstill, and where nothing at all is done about a vexation that everybody talks about.
The site of all these "wheres" is, of course, Charlotte. If ever a city needed a trained traffic specialist and instruction for its traffic police, this is it.
Expansive Tobacco Magnate Overlooks Trifling Detail
George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, and several other officers of the corporation have been ordered by the New York Supreme Court to pay back $2,168,033.44 paid to them over a period of years in company bonuses. Included in the sum was an item of $150,000 spent by the tobacco company, at Mr. Hill's direction, for the defense of a suit filed by minority stockholders over $250,000 alleged to have been paid former Judge (now convicted) Manton as a bribe.
Mr. Hill is an expansive gentleman who has been making somewhat over $400,000 a year through the bonus system. Two years ago he threatened to resign if minority stockholders forced a reduction in his bonuses. His self-respect, he said, couldn't stand it.
But the court admitted that Mr. Hill was pretty good, and in effect said that from the stockholders' standpoint he deserved all he got.
"Able, astute, aggressive executive... business acumen is conceded... vast and peculiar experience... president of the corporation since 1926... gross sales increased from ... $153,000,000 to $267,000,000 annually... Over one billion dollars has been paid in taxes; $358,000,000 has been paid out in dividends..."
The fight seems to be mainly one over the division of the melon. But on one point the testimony of Mr. Hill at the hearing was curious. He said that he knew nothing about the way in which the bonus was computed--that the job was done by the treasurer.
It seems a little odd for the Boss not to know about such things, especially as it warmed his own pockets. But maybe Mr. Hill was too busy thinking and nursing his self-respect.
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