Nor can we view with indifference the destruction of civilized
values throughout the world. We seek peace, not only for our
generation but also for the generation of our children.
We seek for them the continuance of world civilization in order
that their American civilization may continue to be invigorated by
the achievements of civilized men and women in the rest of the
I want our great democracy to be wise enough to realize that
aloofness from war is not promoted by unawareness of war. In a
world of mutual suspicions, peace must be affirmatively reached
for. It cannot just be wished for. And it cannot just be waited
We have now made known our willingness to attend a conference of
the parties to the Nine Power Treaty of 1922–the Treaty of
Washington–of which we are one of the original signatories. The
purpose of this conference will be to seek by agreement a solution
of the present situation in China. In efforts to find that
solution, it is our purpose to cooperate with the other signatories
to this Treaty, including China and Japan.
Such cooperation would be an example of one of the possible paths
to follow in our search for means toward peace throughout the whole
The development of civilization and of human welfare is based on
the acceptance by individuals of certain fundamental decencies in
their relations with each other. The development of peace in the
world is dependent similarly on the acceptance by nations of
certain fundamental decencies in their relations with each other.
Ultimately, I hope _each_ nation will accept the fact that
violations of these rules of conduct are an injury to the well-
being of _all_ nations.
Meanwhile, remember that from 1913 to 1921, I personally was fairly
close to world events, and in that period, while I learned much of
what to do, I also learned much of what _not_ to do.
The common sense, the intelligence of America agree with my
statement that “America hates war. America hopes for peace.
Therefore, America actively engages in the search for peace.”
April 14, 1938.
Five months have gone by since I last spoke to the people of the
nation about the state of the nation.
I had hoped to be able to defer this talk until next week because,
as we all know, this is Holy Week. But what I want to say to you,
the people of the country, is of such immediate need and relates so
closely to the lives of human beings and the prevention of human
suffering that I have felt that there should be no delay. In this
decision I have been strengthened by the thought that by speaking
tonight there may be greater peace of mind and that the hope of
Easter may be more real at firesides everywhere, and therefore that
it is not inappropriate to encourage peace when so many of us are
thinking of the Prince of Peace.
Five years ago we faced a very serious problem of economic and
social recovery. For four and a half years that recovery proceeded
apace. It is only in the past seven months that it has received a
And it is only within the past two months, as we have waited
patiently to see whether the forces of business itself would
counteract it, that it has become apparent that government itself
can no longer safely fail to take aggressive government steps to
This recession has not returned us the disasters and suffering of
the beginning of 1933. Your money in the bank is safe; farmers are
no longer in deep distress and have greater purchasing power;
dangers of security speculation have been minimized; national
income is almost 50 percent higher than in 1932; and government has
an established and accepted responsibility for relief.
But I know that many of you have lost your jobs or have seen your
friends or members of your families lose their jobs, and I do not
propose that the government shall pretend not to see these things.
I know that the effect of our present difficulties has been uneven;
that they have affected some groups and some localities seriously,
but that they have been scarcely felt in others. But I conceive the
first duty of government is to protect the economic welfare of all
the people in all sections and in all groups. I said in my message
opening the last session of the Congress that if private enterprise
did not provide jobs this spring, government would take up the
slack–that I would not let the people down. We have all learned
the lesson that government cannot afford to wait until it has lost
the power to act.
Therefore, my friends, I have sent a message of far-reaching
importance to the Congress. I want to read to you tonight certain
passages from that message, and to talk with you about them.
In that message I analyzed the causes of the collapse of 1929 in
these words: “over-speculation in and overproduction of practically
every article or instrument used by man. . . millions of people, to
be sure, had been put to work, but the products of their hands had
exceeded the purchasing power of their pocketbooks. . . . Under the
inexorable law of supply and demand, supplies so overran demand
which would pay that production was compelled to stop. Unemployment
and closed factories resulted. Hence the tragic years from 1929 to
I pointed out to the Congress that the national income–not the
government’s income but the total of the income of all the
individual citizens and families of the United States–every
farmer, every worker, every banker, every professional man and
every person who lived on income derived from investments–that
national income had amounted, in the year 1929, to eighty-one
billion dollars. By 1932 this had fallen to thirty-eight billion
dollars. Gradually, and up to a few months ago, it had risen to a
total, an annual total; of sixty-eight billion dollars–a pretty
good come-back from the low point.
I then said this to the Congress:
“But the very vigor of the recovery in both durable goods and
consumers’ goods brought into the picture early in certain highly
undesirable practices, which were in large part responsible for the
economic decline which began in the later months of that year.
Again production outran the ability to buy.
“There were many reasons for this overproduction. One of them was
fear–fear of war abroad, fear of inflation, fear of nation-wide
strikes. None of these fears have been borne out.
“. . .Production in many important lines of goods outran the
ability of the public to purchase them. For example, through the
winter and spring of 1937 cotton factories in hundreds of cases
were running on a three-shift basis, piling up cotton goods in the
factory, and in the hands of middle men and retailers. For example,
also, automobile manufacturers not only turned out a normal
increase of finished cars, but encouraged the normal increase to
run into abnormal figures, using every known method to push their
sales. This meant, of course, that the steel mills of the nation
ran on a twenty-four hour basis, and the tire companies and cotton
factories and glass factories and others speeded up to meet the
same type of abnormally stimulated demand. The buying power of the
nation lagged behind.
“Thus by the autumn of 1937, last autumn, the nation again had
stocks on hand which the consuming public could not buy because the
purchasing power of the consuming public had not kept pace with the
“During the same period. . . the prices of many vital products had
risen faster than was warranted. . . . In the case of many
commodities the price to the consumer was raised well above the
inflationary boom prices of 1929. In many lines of goods and
materials, prices got so high that buyers and builders ceased to
buy or to build.
“. . . The economic process of getting out the raw materials,
putting them through the manufacturing and finishing processes,
selling them to the retailers, selling them to the consumer, and
finally using them, got completely out of balance.
“. . . The laying off of workers came upon us last autumn and has
been continuing at such a pace ever since that all of us,
government and banking and business and workers, and those faced
with destitution, recognize the need for action.”
All of this I said to the Congress today and I repeat it to you,
the people of the country tonight.
I went on to point out to the Senate and the House of
Representatives that all the energies of government and business
must be directed to increasing the national income, to putting more
people into private jobs, to giving security and a feeling of
security to all people in all walks of life.
I am constantly thinking of all our people–unemployed and employed
alike–of their human problems of food and clothing and homes and
education and health and old age. You and I agree that security is
our greatest need; the chance to work, the opportunity of making a
reasonable profit in our business–whether it be a very small
business or a larger one–the possibility of selling our farm
products for enough money for our families to live on decently. I
know these are the things that decide the well-being of all our
Therefore, I am determined to do all in my power to help you attain
that security and because I know that the people themselves have a
deep conviction that secure prosperity of that kind cannot be a
lasting one except on a basis of business fair dealing and a basis
where all from the top to the bottom share in the prosperity. I
repeated to the Congress today that neither it nor the Chief
Executive can afford “to weaken or destroy great reforms which,
during the past five years, have been effected on behalf of the
American people. In our rehabilitation of the banking structure and
of agriculture, in our provisions for adequate and cheaper credit
for all types of business, in our acceptance of national
responsibility for unemployment relief, in our strengthening of the
credit of state and local government, in our encouragement of
housing, and slum clearance and home ownership, in our supervision
of stock exchanges and public utility holding companies and the
issuance of new securities, in our provision for social security,
the electorate of America wants no backward steps taken.
“We have recognized the right of labor to free organization, to
collective bargaining; and machinery for the handling of labor
relations is now in existence. The principles are established even
though we can all admit that, through the evolution of time,
administration and practices can be improved. Such improvement can
come about most quickly and most peacefully through sincere efforts
to understand and assist on the part of labor leaders and employers
“The never-ceasing evolution of human society will doubtless bring
forth new problems which will require new adjustments. Our
immediate task is to consolidate and maintain the gains achieved.
“In this situation there is no reason and no occasion for any
American to allow his fears to be aroused or his energy and
enterprise to be paralyzed by doubt or uncertainty.”
I came to the conclusion that the present-day problem calls for
action both by the government and by the people, that we suffer
primarily from a failure of consumer demand because of lack of
buying power. Therefore it is up to us to create an economic
“How and where can and should the government help to start an
I went on in my message today to propose three groups of measures
and I will summarize my recommendations.
First, I asked for certain appropriations which are intended to
keep the government expenditures for work relief and similar
purposes during the coming fiscal year at the same rate of
expenditure as at present. That includes additional money for the
Works Progress Administration; additional funds for the Farm
Security Administration; additional allotments for the national
Youth Administration, and more money for the Civilian Conservation
Corps, in order that it can maintain the existing number of camps
now in operation.
These appropriations, made necessary by increased unemployment,
will cost about a billion and a quarter dollars more than the
estimates which I sent to the Congress on the third of January .
Second, I told the Congress that the administration proposes to
make additional bank reserves available for the credit needs of the
country. About one billion four hundred million dollars of gold now
in the treasury will be used to pay these additional expenses of
the government, and three-quarters of a billion dollars of
additional credit will be made available to the banks by reducing
the reserves now required by the Federal Reserve Board.
These two steps–taking care of relief needs and adding to bank
credits–are in our best judgment insufficient by themselves to
start the nation on a sustained upward movement.
Therefore, I came to the third kind of government action which I
consider to be vital. I said to the Congress:
“You and I cannot afford to equip ourselves with two rounds of
ammunition where three rounds are necessary. If we stop at relief
and credit, we may find ourselves without ammunition before the
enemy is routed. If we are fully equipped with the third round of
ammunition, we stand to win the battle against adversity.”
This third proposal is to make definite additions to the purchasing
power of the nation by providing new work over and above the
continuing of the old work.
First, to enable the United States Housing Authority to undertake
the immediate construction of about three hundred million dollars
of additional slum clearance projects.
Second, to renew a public works program by starting as quickly as
possible about one billion dollars worth of needed permanent public
improvements in our states, and their counties and cities.
Third, to add one hundred million dollars to the estimate for
federal aid highways in excess of the amount I recommended in
Fourth, to add thirty-seven million dollars over and above the
former estimate of sixty-three million for flood control and
Fifth, to add twenty-five million dollars additional for federal
buildings in various parts of the country.
In recommending this program I am thinking not only of the
immediate economic needs of the people of the nation, but also of
their personal liberties–the most precious possession of all
Americans. I am thinking of our democracy and of the recent trend
in other parts of the world away from the democratic ideal.
Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations–
disappeared not because the people of those nations disliked
democracy, but because they had grown tired of unemployment and
insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while they sat helpless
in the face of government confusion and government weakness through
lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they
chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat.
We in America know that our own democratic institutions can be
preserved and made to work. But in order to preserve them we need
to act together, to meet the problems of the nation boldly, and to
prove that the practical operation of democratic government is
equal to the task of protecting the security of the people.
Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of
our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our
government to give employment to idle men. The people of America
are in agreement in defending their liberties at any cost, and the
first line of that defense lies in the protection of economic
security. Your government, seeking to protect democracy, must prove
that government is stronger than the forces of business depression.