Neutrality Acts of 1937
The Neutrality Acts of the United States of America has been ever changing for centuries. The policies of the neutrality acts from 1794 and 1937 have needed amendments and additives over time to adjust to our ever changing world in regards to political and economical circumstances. In addition, sentiment among American academics and the voice of the common citizen have played intricate roles in forging through the amendments in the acts of neutrality.
It is also important to discuss the journalism being written and editorial opinions during the time in which the act is being enforced and revised. In 1794 the United States of America was in the infancy stages of beginning a sovereign nation and debated over the application of foreign policy with European nations. President George Washington wanted to remain neutral in foreign circumstances, but still have the opportunity to trade commercially with European nations. The French Revolutionary war promoted the United States to put themselves in a neutral position in regards to European conflicts.
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President George Washington’s Cabinet signed a set of rules regarding policies of neutrality on August 3, 1793, and these rules were formalized when Congress passed a neutrality bill on June 4, 1794. In the face of fearing a future conflict with European nations, President George Washington proclaimed the treaty in the face of popular disapproval, realizing that it was the price of peace with Great Britain and that it gave the United States valuable time to rearrange and rearm in the event of future conflict.
Washington proclaims, If any person shall within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States begin or set on foot or provide or prepare the means for any military expedition or enterprise… against the territory or dominions of any foreign prince or state of whom the United States was at peace that person would be guilty of misdemeanor. This legislation formed the basis for neutrality policy throughout the nineteenth century.
One reason for the act was to create a liability for violation of Section 8 of Article One of the United States Constitution, which reserves to the United States Congress the power to decide to go to war. The act was amended several times and remains in force. As the United States moves into the twentieth century, President Franklin D. Roosevelt is continuingly making decisions in foreign policy. In particular the neutrality act of 1937, this states.
The Congress is properly urged to declare as a permanent American policy and as a gratuitous contribution to world peace that it will not permit the shipment of arms, munitions and implements of war to belligerent nations, thereby refusing to permit the United States to become the symbol of arms and ammunitions for the sake of war profits, or the political slaughterhouse of the world. America stands alone among the great nations of the earth in proclaiming this new doctrine as a permanent policy to a war weary world.
Many in congress felt that the neutrality act of 1937 was cutting American exports off at the knees for example, The President shall by proclamation from time to time definitely the articles and materials which it shall be unlawful for American vessels to transport, is an unjustifiable delegation of the embargo powers of congress, a gross discrimination against American Ships and a pusillanimous act unworthy of a great Nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had tough adjustments to acts of neutrality that had been in place for almost two hundred years.
The Neutrality Act of 1937 made the act of 1936 permanent and included the basic provisions and of its predecessors. The provisions are as stated, The Congress by concurrent resolution, shall find that there exists a state of war between foreign states, and that it is necessary to promote the security or preserve the peace of the United States or to protect the lives of citizens of the United States, the President shall issue a proclamation hereafter be unlawful for any American vessel to carry any passengers or any article or materials to any state named in such proclamation … and] it shall be unlawful for any person to export, or attempt to export, from the United States to any other state, any arms, ammunition, or implements of war.
Between 1935 and 1939 Congress passed four neutrality acts to limit America’s involvement in foreign conflicts. The political debate surrounding the neutrality acts reflected the evolving view of America’s role in the world. Public opinion was shifting away from isolationism toward interventionism and collective security and the belief that America’s best defense lay in cooperative efforts with other nations and international organizations.
The academic critique of scholars is discussed in the Washington Post. Dr. Raymond Leslie Buell shows how sacrifice and democracy is being played out in the act itself. It is depressing to see well-intended Americans in their desire to keep this country out of war, contend that the United States is justified in injuring China through its neutrality act. Should American Liberalism take the attitude that the end justifies the means, or should it lose its sense of justice and its capacity for sacrifice, then the future of democracy in this country is indeed dark.
Every American desires to keep out of war, but means to be found to achieve this end which do not violate fundamental American conceptions of justice to weaker peoples and which do not approve, even by implication, the act of wanton terrorism which Japan is committing in China today. The acts also signify a power shift from the legislative to the executive branch in international affairs. Whereas Congress previously controlled the details of foreign policy programs, the acts increasingly granted the presidency and executive agencies leeway to implement new laws.
For example, 6]Any proclamation issued by the President under this section shall apply equally to all belligerents. You will see that this is what is ordinarily called the cash-and-carry system. Your committee has felt, however, that neither subsection (a) nor (b) should be in effect by the President unless under such conditions as he feels that is necessary to maintain our neutrality or to protect the lives or commerce of our nationals. Roosevelt declared the United States neutral and invoked the act to place a blanket ban on all weapons shipments to all countries and to prohibit Americans from traveling on ships registered in any warring nation.
The urgency of the act needing to pass immediately and its details are depicted in newspapers all across the country. The Chicago Tribune discusses, the state department tonight announced that President Roosevelt on a fishing cruise off the coast of Texas has signed the neutrality act and has proclaimed a list of articles which is prohibited to export to belligerent and manufactures of which require to regulate and obtain licenses.
This proclamation super cedes a similar issued on April 10, 1936 and has seven categories of enumerates war articles including arms of any kind, ammunition, explosives, warships, submarines, air crafts, poisonous gases, flame throwers, etc. The policy of American neutrality in 1937 included travel for American citizens during war time. The government instructed that no citizen of the United States should be traveling on any vessels bond for a warring foreign nation.
The congressional record states, 8]after such proclamation is issued by the President, and he shall find that the maintenance of peace between the United States and foreign states, or the protection of the lives of citizens of the United States or the security of the United States requires that American citizens should refrain from traveling on the vessels of the state or states named in the said proclamation, and thereafter it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to travel on any such vessels named in the proclamation and any citizen that does so travel on vessels does so at their own risk.
Another section within the Neutrality Act of 1937 consisted of specific financial transactions in regards to foreign nations. The Act of 1937 states, In order to maintain our neutrality it is very necessary to keep our citizens as neutral as possible. Of course, this amendment does not undertake to prohibit any donations made by any citizens; neither will it interfere with any collections made from the Red Cross. Your committee considers this section, which we are reenacting, a very important section because it deals with credits and the purchase and sale, and exchange, of bonds and securities, and so forth.
We feel that under this section no foreign wars can be financed in this country. The State Department drafted broader neutrality legislation to address this imbalance, giving the president authority to implement embargoes selectively. Such authority would better reflect the administration’s position toward warring countries. However, congressional isolationists rejected the measure as giving the president too much control over American trade. The Los Angeles Times reports, 10]The new act, however, it is said, contains more extensive prohibitions since the President, announced simultaneously that American vessels engaged in commerce with Spain may carry small arms and ammunition necessary for preservation of discipline aboard.
The act barred transportation of all arms. Under the new law the President may designate materials or commodities not to be transported to belligerents by American merchant vessel. Americans who sell such goods will be required to relinquish title before shipment. In the Neutrality Act of 1936, Congress simply extended the 1935 act by fourteen months and added a provision to rohibit private loans to belligerents.
There was a continuity of change with the Neutrality Act of 1937 made the 1936 act permanent and included the basic provisions of its predecessors. Whenever the President, or the Congress by concurrent resolution, shall find that there exists a state of war between foreign states, and that it is necessary to promote the security or preserve the peace of the United States or to protect the lives of citizens of the United States, the President shall issue a proclamation naming the states involved. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt asks Congress to repeal neutrality legislation, September 26, 1939. thereafter be unlawful for any American vessel to carry any passengers or any article or materials to any state named in such proclamation … [and] it shall be unlawful for any person to export, or attempt to export, from the United States to any other state, any arms, ammunition, or implements of war…. But the 1937 act also added a two-year “cash-and-carry” provision permitting Americans to trade with belligerents who paid cash and transported the goods on non-U.S. vessels following a declaration of neutrality.
It shall thereafter be unlawful to export or transport, or attempt to export or transport, or cause to be exported or transported, from the United States to any state named in such proclamation, any articles or materials (except copyrighted articles or materials) until all right, title, and interest therein shall have been transferred to some foreign government, agency, institution, association, partnership, corporation, or national.
Cash-and-carry gave the president the authority he had sought in 1935 to declare limited rather than blanket embargoes. The plan permitted the president to tailor the U. S. approach to the circumstances of unique conflicts and perhaps better reflect America’s interests. However, critics noted that cash-and-carry would unequally benefit nations like Japan, England, and France, capable of paying cash and protecting their ships with strong navies. In the next few months to come there is a shift away from being neutral towards war with belligerent nations. Dr.Buell continues to warn about the dangers of the policy in regards to trade.
This policy, however, involves the daily danger of a clash with Japan but in its present limited form has no effect in shortening the duration of the war. In failing to think in co-operative terms, the present policy of the State Department in the Far East involves all the risks of international sanctions without any its advantages. In response to the Sino-Japanese War of August 1937, Roosevelt avoided the issue of cash-and-carry altogether by not invoking the Neutrality Act.