America First Committee | History Lessons

America First Committee | History Lessons


A war is being waged overseas. The suffering
is immense. The consequences for American interests are contested. Should the United
States intervene? Or stand on the sidelines? I’m Jim Lindsay, and this is History Lessons.
Our topic today is the creation of the America First Committee on September 4th, 1940. As Americans celebrated Labor Day in 1940,
Europe had been at war for a year. France and much of the rest of Europe had fallen
to German troops that May. Britain’s future hung in the balance as the “Battle of Britain”
ended its second month. Across the Atlantic, the United States was
at peace. But for how long? Americans remembered that Woodrow Wilson had run for reelection
in 1916 pledging to keep America neutral, and then six months later took the country
into World War I. Some feared that President Franklin Roosevelt was intent on doing the
same thing. That fear was the driving force behind the
formation of the America First Committee. The committee had its roots at Yale Law School,
where its early supporters included future president Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court
justice Potter Stewart. The Committee announced itself to the world
on September 4, 1940, the day after FDR announced he had ordered the U.S. Navy to give Britain
50 old destroyers in exchange for extended leases on eight British bases. This was just
the sort of the move the Committee feared would drag the United States into war. The America First Committee argued for four
basic principles: 1. The United States must build an impregnable
defense for America. 2. No foreign powers, nor group of powers,
can successfully attack a prepared America. 3. American democracy can be preserved only
by keeping out of the European war. 4. “Aid short of war” weakens national
defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad. At the height of its popularity, the America
First Committee claimed more than 750,000 dues-paying members. Although the Committee
originated on the East Coast, it was most popular in the upper Midwest. Its members
included senators and representatives from both political parties, powerful business
leaders, and perhaps the country’s greatest hero, Charles Lindbergh, the first person
to fly solo across the Atlantic. Americans joined the America First Committee
for many different reasons: a principled opposition to war; the conviction that Europe’s war
didn’t affect U.S. interests; hatred of FDR and the British; and regrettably in some
instances, admiration for Nazi Germany and rank anti-Semitism. The America First Committee lobbied against
efforts it believed would drag the country into war. It largely failed, and with steps
like the Lend-Lease Act the United States slowly drew closer to Great Britain. While
most Americans shared the Committee’s desire to avoid war, they agreed with FDR that the
United States could not sit idly by while the last European democracy was crushed. The debate over the war in Europe became moot
on the December 7, 1941. Four days after Pearl Harbor, the Committee’s leaders voted to
disband. They insisted that the United States could have avoided war had their principles
been followed. But they agreed that “the time for military action is here.” What is the lesson of the America First Committee?
Just this: Non-interventionist sentiment strikes a deep chord in American political life. The
Committee’s arguments appealed to so many Americans on the eve of World War II because
of legitimate disagreement about how best to protect the national interest and because
they reflected warnings dating back to the country’s founding about the perils of foreign
entanglements. We fortunately do not face the threat of a
world war as Americans did some seven decades ago. But we can hear echoes of the debate
they had in the discussions we are having today about how the United States should respond
to fighting in places like Libya and Syria. Americans disagree about the consequences
of acting versus not acting in these conflicts, dispute the merits of contending courses of
action, and debate what obligations they have to the citizens of other nations. So here’s a question to consider: When should
the United States intervene in wars overseas? I encourage you to weigh in with your answers
on my blog, The Water’s Edge. You can find it at CFR.org. I’m Jim Lindsay. Thank you for watching
this installment of History Lessons.

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7 Replies to “America First Committee | History Lessons”

  1. If the America First Committee would have had the internet then they would have seen through the war propaganda and might still be in existence today

  2. No doubt … the internet control grid's bitten them in the ass hasn't it. LMAO! Major strategy miscalculation on their part!! and now they're having to escalate time table for their agenda of wiping out the middle class and enslaving the masses completely they're bound to create a massive revolt soon as the hammer comes down. So much for their "all knowing occult wisdom" making them so much smarter than the common man. pfft! They're gonna lose and I think they're beginning to realize it. 🙂

  3. Well, there isn't much America could do; after all, FDR wanted the attacks on Pearl Harbor and set the stage for America's entry into WWII. Therefore, I think the real question is what does a nation do when her leaders want to create a war? Also, at a press conference, a member of the Council affirmed that the Council not only supported and fed the hungry but also at times, supported the oppressors as well.

    This leads us to the big question; why do we sometimes support both sides of a war?

  4. America was robbed blind during WWII by the same vermin screwing us over today. Lindbergh was right, we never should have gotten involved in the european war.

  5. Wrong lesson to be learned, non intervention is an excellent policy. Americans natural penchant for misanthropy would lead them always to the wrong conclusion. What was wrong with America first was what is wrong with Trumps America first movement today. Its true driving force is the pathology of race hatred that is so abundant and endemic in westerners today. It is incontrovertible that no measure of re-socialization can alter that attribute.

  6. When Americans don't want to fight jews' wars, it's called antisemitism and racial bigotry. Chutzpah, I tell ya

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