CP Note: October 1940 found President Franklin Roosevelt campaigning for another term as president of the United States.
At the time, battles in Europe were raging, the president had approved the lend-lease program for Britain (which they completed repayment on in 2006) and the Soviet Union, and the Selective Service Act of 1940 had been passed and the first person selected for service had been chosen. Just over a year later, the United States entered the war.
President Roosevelt’s Campaign Speech in Boston, October 30, 1940:
Mr. Mayor, my friends of New England:
I’ve had a glorious day here in New England. And I do not need to tell you that I have been glad to come back to my old stamping ground in Boston. There’s one thing about this trip that I regret. I have to return to Washington tonight, without getting a chance to go into my two favorite States of Maine and Vermont.
In New York City two nights ago, I showed by the cold print of the Congressional Record how Republican leaders, with their votes and in their speeches, have been playing, and still are playing politics with national defense.
Even during the past three years, when the dangers to all forms of democracy throughout the world have been obvious, the Republican team in the Congress has been acting only as a Party team.
Time after time, Republican leadership refused to see that what this country needs is an all-American team.
Those side-line critics are now saying that we are not doing enough for our national defense. I say to you that we are going full speed ahead!
Our Navy is our outer line of defense.
Almost the very minute that this Administration came into office seven and a half years ago, we began to build the Navy up- to build a bigger Navy.
In those seven years we have raised the total of 193 ships in commission to 337 ships in commission today.
And, in addition to that, we have 19 more ships that are actually under construction today.
In those seven years we raised the personnel of our Navy from 106,000 to 210,000 today.
You good people here in Boston know of the enormous increase of productive work in your Boston Navy Yard. And that is only one of many Navy yards—one of the best. There are now six times as many men employed in our Navy yards as there were in 1933. The private ship-building yards are also humming with activity—building ships for our Navy and for our expanding merchant marine.
The construction of this Navy has been a monumental job. In spite of what some campaign orators may tell you, you cannot buy a battleship from a mail-order catalogue.
We have not only added ships and men to the Navy, we have enormously increased the effectiveness of Naval bases in those outlying territories of ours in the Atlantic and Pacific.
For our objective is to keep any potential attacker as far from our continental shores as we possibly can.
You here in New England know that well, and can well visualize it.
And within the past two months your Government has acquired new naval and air bases in British territory in the Atlantic Ocean; extending all the way from Newfoundland in the north to that part of South America where the Atlantic Ocean begins to get narrow, with Africa not far away.
I repeat: Our objective is to keep any potential attacker as far from our continental shores as we possibly can.
That is the record of the growth of our Navy. In 1933 a weak Navy; in 1940 a strong Navy. Side-line critics may carp in a political campaign. But Americans are mighty proud of that record and Americans will put their country first and partisanship second.
Speaking of partisanship, I remind you—when the Naval Expansion Bill came up in 1938 the vast majority of Republican members of the Congress voted against building any more battleships.
What kind of political shenanigans are these?
Can we trust those people with national defense?
Next, take up the Army: Under normal conditions we have no need for a vast Army in this country. But you and I know that unprecedented dangers require unprecedented action to guard the peace of America against unprecedented threats.
Since that day, a little over a year ago, when Poland was invaded, we have more than doubled the size of our regular Army. Adding to this, the Federalized National Guardsmen, our armed land forces now equal more than 436,000 enlisted men. And yet there are armies overseas that run four and five and six million men.
The officers and men of our Army and National Guard are the finest in the world.
They will be, as you know, the nucleus for the training of the young men who are being called under the Selective Service Act, 800,000 of them in the course of this year out of nearly 17,000,000 registered—in other words, a little less than 5 per cent of the total registration.
General Marshall said to me the other day that the task of training those young men is, for the Army, a “profound privilege.”
Campaign orators seek to tear down the morale of the American people when they make false statements about the Army’s equipment. I say to you that we are supplying our Army with the best fighting equipment in all the world.
Yes, the Army and the Defense Commission are getting things done with speed and efficiency. More than eight billion dollars of contracts for defense have been let in the past few months.
I am afraid that those campaign orators will pretty soon be under the painful necessity of coming down to Washington later on and eating their words.
I cannot help but feel that the most inexcusable, most unpatriotic misstatement of fact about our Army—a misstatement calculated to worry the mothers of the Nation—is the brazen charge that the men called to training will not be properly housed.
The plain fact is that construction on Army housing is far ahead of schedule to meet all needs, and that by January fifth, next, there will be complete and adequate housing in this Nation for nine hundred and thirty thousand soldiers.
And so I feel that, very simply and very honestly, I can give assurance to the mothers and fathers of America that each and every one of their boys in training will be well housed and well fed.
Throughout that year of training, there will be constant promotion of their health and their well-being.
And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance.
I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again:
Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
They are going into training to form a force so strong that, by its very existence, it will keep the threat of war far away from our shores.
The purpose of our defense is defense.
The Republican campaign orators who moan and groan (laughter) about our Army and Navy are even more mournful about our strength in the air. But only last year, 1939, the Republicans in, the Congress were voting in favor of reducing appropriations for the Army Air Corps.
What kind of political shenanigans are these?
Can such people be trusted with national defense?
I stress particularly what every Army and Navy flier tells us-that what counts most in sustained air power is the productive capacity of our airplane and engine factories. That ought to be almost a first-grade lesson.
We are determined to attain a production capacity of 50,000 planes a year in the United States. And day by day we are working and making very rapid progress toward that goal.
You citizens of Seattle who are listening tonight—you have watched the Boeing plant out there grow. It is now producing four times as many planes each month as it was producing a year ago.
You citizens of Southern California can see the great Douglas factories. They have doubled their output in less than a year.
You citizens of Buffalo and St. Louis can see the Curtiss plants in your cities. Their output has jumped to twelve times its level of a year ago.
And, of course, we are training our young men, and training them successfully in sufficient numbers, to fly these planes as soon as they come off the lines.
But planes won’t fly without engines. You citizens of Hartford, who hear my words: look across the Connecticut River at the whirring wheels and the beehive of activity which is the Pratt and Whitney plant which I saw today. A year ago that plant was producing airplane engines totaling one hundred thousand horsepower a month. Today that production has been stepped up tenfold, stepped up to one million horsepower a month.
And you citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, you can see the Curtiss-Wright plant which a year ago produced two hundred seventy thousand horsepower a month and this October is producing 859,000 horsepower.
In ten months this Nation has increased our engine output for planes 240 per cent; and I am proud of it.
Remember, too, that we are scattering them all over the country. We are building brand new plants for airplanes and airplane engines in places besides the Pacific Coast and this coast. We are also building them in centers in the Middle West.
Last spring and last winter this great production capacity program was stepped up by orders from overseas. In taking these orders for planes from overseas, we are following and were following hard-headed self-interest.
Building on the foundation provided by these orders, the British on the other side of the ocean are receiving a steady stream of airplanes. After three months of blitzkrieg in the air over there, the strength of the Royal Air Force is actually greater now than when the attack began. And they know and we know that that increase in strength despite battle losses is due in part to the purchases made from American airplane industries.
Tonight I am privileged to make an announcement, using Boston instead of the White House: The British within the past few days have asked for permission to negotiate again with American manufacturers for 12,000 additional planes. I have asked that the request be given most sympathetic consideration by the Priorities Board. I have asked the Priorities Board to give it that consideration—the Board made up of William S. Knudsen, Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., and Leon Henderson. When those additional orders are approved, as I hope they will be, they will bring Britain’s present orders for military planes from the United States to more than 26,000. They will require still more new plant facilities so that the present program of building planes for military purposes both for the United States and Great Britain will not be interrupted.
Also large additional orders are being negotiated for artillery, for machine guns, for rifles, for tanks with equipment and ammunition. The plant capacity necessary to produce all this military equipment is and will be available to serve the needs of the United States in any emergency.
The productive capacity of the United States which has made it the greatest industrial country in the world, is not failing now. It will make us the strongest air power in the world. And that is not just a campaign promise!
I have been glad in the past two or three days to welcome back to the shores of America that Boston boy, beloved by all of Boston and a lot of other places, my Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Joe Kennedy.
Actually on the scene where planes were fighting and bombs were dropping day and night for many months, he has been telling me just what you and I have visualized from afar—that all the smaller independent nations of Europe—Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, Ireland and the others—have lived in terror of the destruction of their independence by Nazi military might.
And so, my friends, we are building up our armed defenses to their highest peak of efficiency for a very good reason, the reason of the possibility of real national danger to us; but these defenses will be inadequate unless we support them with a strong national morale, a sound economy, a sense of solidarity and economic and social justice.
When this Administration first came to office, the foundation of that national morale was crumbling. In the panic and misery of those days no democracy could have built up an adequate armed defense.
What we have done since 1933 has been written in terms of improvement in the daily life and work of the common man.
I have discussed the falsifications which Republican campaign orators have been making about the economic condition of the Nation—the condition of labor and the condition of business.
They are even more ridiculous when they shed those old crocodile tears over the plight of the American farmer.
Now, if there is anyone that a Republican candidate loves more than the laboring man in October and up to Election Day, it is the farmer.
And the first one that he forgets after Election Day is the farmer.
Do I have to remind you of the plight of the farmer—not just the Western farmer, but the New England farmer—during the period between 1920 and 1933—declining income, accumulating surpluses, rising farm debts—ten-cent corn, twenty-cent wheat, five-cent cotton and three-cent hogs?
But before 1933 the Administration did nothing to stop that slide. But, of course, before every Election Day they always uncork the old bottle of soothing syrup and spread it thick. (Laughter)
The farmers of America know from the record what the state of American agriculture is today.
Farm income this year is just about double what it was in 1932. Farm buying power this year is greater than it was even in 1929.
Tens of thousands of farmers have had their farms saved from foreclosure.
More than 800,000 low income farmers have been able to obtain credit from the Government which they could get nowhere else. And, incidentally, credit which they are repaying.
Over a million farms have been electrified since 1933.
Over 6,000,000 farmers have received benefit payments of more than three and a half million dollars.
What does it all add up to? It means an agriculture that is strong and vigorous.
And we all know how much this is due to the patient efforts and practical vision of Henry Wallace.
The people of New England, whether they live in the city or out in the country, know that if the farmers’ income in this Nation had remained what it was in 1932, they would be buying fewer shoes, fewer watches and ice boxes, less woolen goods and cotton goods, than they are buying now. Prosperous farmers mean more employment, more prosperity for the workers and businessmen of New England, and of every industrial area in the whole country.
Parity—the proper relationship between agriculture and the rest of our economy—will continue to be our guiding principle.
We now have great stocks of wheat, corn and cotton—in a sense really strategic materials in a world that is threatened by war.
Surpluses not needed for reserves are now being used to feed the hungry and the ill-nourished and that is a fact that is difficult for the old Republican orators to deny.
Our school luncheon program will this year reach three million children with milk and other foods. And milk does those children more good than political soothing syrup.
While this was being done, what were the Republican leaders doing? Here is the record:
In 1933, Republicans in the Congress, in both houses, voted against the first Agricultural Adjustment Act, 88 to 52.
In 1936 they voted against the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, 75 to 25.
In 1938, they voted against the second Agricultural Adjustment Act, 84 to 15.
And even in 1940, this year, they voted against parity payments to farmers by 143 to 32.
In the spring of this year, they voted overwhelmingly against the Stamp Plan to distribute food to needy people through private grocery stores.
The American farmers will not be deceived by pictures of Old Guard candidates, patting cows and pitching hay in front of moving picture cameras.
And even since the Convention in Philadelphia, all the sweet words of the Republican leaders in that Convention have not been worth the paper they were written on.
For listen to this: Last summer, only a few weeks after the Republican National Platform had been adopted endorsing commodity loans for the farmers, the Republican members of the House marched right back into the Halls of Congress and voted against commodity loans for the farmers, 106 to 37.
Among the Republican leaders who voted against that bill and against practically every other farm bill was the present Chairman of the Republican National Committee, that “peerless leader,” that “farmers’ friend”—Congressman Joe Martin of Massachusetts.
I would not single him out except that he is of national interest now, because at the time of his appointment as Republican National Chairman this handsome verbal bouquet, this expensive orchid, was pinned upon him: “In public life for many years Joe Martin has represented all that is finest in American public life.”
Considering the source of that orchid, Martin must be slated for some Cabinet post. So let’s look for a minute at the voting record of this representative of what they call, “all that is finest in American public life.”
Martin voted against the Public Utility Holding Company Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, the National Securities Exchange Act, and the extension of the Civilian Conservation Corps Act. He voted against practically all relief and work relief measures, and against the appropriation for rural electrification.
Martin voted against the Civil Service Extension Act and against the United States Housing Act.
What I particularly want to say on the radio to the farmers of the Nation, and to you here in this hall, is that Republican National Chairman Martin voted against every single one of the farm measures that were recommended by this Administration. Perhaps Brother Martin will be rewarded for this loyal service to the principles of his party by being appointed Secretary of Agriculture.
He is one of that great historic trio which has voted consistently against every measure for the relief of agriculture-Martin, Barton and Fish.
I have to let you in on a secret. It will come as a great surprise to you. And it’s this:
I’m enjoying this campaign. I’m really having a fine time.
I think you know that the office of President has not been an easy one during the past years.
The tragedies of this distracted world have weighed heavily on all of us.
But—there is revival for every one of us in the sight of our own national community.
In our own American community we have sought to submerge all the old hatreds, all the old fears, of the old world.
We are Anglo-Saxon and Latin, we are Irish and Teuton and Jewish and Scandinavian and Slav—we are American. We belong to many races and colors and creeds—we are American.
And it seems to me that we are most completely, most loudly, most proudly American around Election Day.
Because it is then that we can assert ourselves—voters and candidates alike. We can assert the most glorious, the most encouraging fact in all the world today—the fact that democracy is alive- and going strong.
We are telling the world that we are free—and we intend to remain free and at peace.
We are free to live and love and laugh.
We face the future with confidence and courage. We are American.