Adjournment of Partisanship in War Crisis
President Roosevelt's Appeal for National Unity
In A Radio Address to the nation on the night of September 3, 1939, a few hours after Great Britain and France had declared war, President Roosevelt asked that “partisanship and selfishness be adjourned” in the United States during the war emergency and that “national unity be the thought that underlies all others.” In his message to the special session of Congress, September 21, the President said; “These perilous days demand cooperation between us without trace of partisanship. Our acts must be guided by one single hard-headed thought—keeping America out of this war.”
The day before the special session met, the President held a “national unity conference” at the White House, attended by leaders of both the Democratic and the Republican parties in Congress and by Alfred M. Landon and Frank Knox, Republican candidates for President and Vice President in 1936. According to a joint statement: “The conference with unanimous thought discussed the primary objective of keeping the United States neutral and at peace. There was complete accord that in congressional and executive action the whole subject and its many ramifications be dealt with in a wholly nonpartisan spirit.”
President Roosevelt's action in consulting leaders of both parties on methods of maintaining American neutrality, together with his appeal for an “adjournment of partisanship” on this issue and related questions, signify his belief that during a period of national emergency the normal processes of government stand in need of modification through (1) an abatement of interparty politics and (2)closer cooperation between the legislative and executive branches. In Roosevelt's view, the national interest requires that methods of maintaining American neutrality be considered on their merits, without regard to possible party advantage, and that conflicts between the legislature and the executive be reduced to a minimum, in order that the nation's foreign policy may be clear, consistent, and forceful.