Neutrality Policy of the United States

January 16, 1935

Report Outline
Impending Revision of American Neutrality Policy
Neutral Rights and Obligations in Time of War
League Sanctions and the Status of Neutrals
Changing Position of United States on Neutrality

Impending Revision of American Neutrality Policy

Revision of the neutrality policy and neutrality laws of the United States was forecast in mid-December, 1934, when it became known that the State Department was conducting a study of the question preliminary to an official pronouncement outlining the course this country would follow as a neutral in the event of any future “war between foreign nations. Certain developments of foreign policy under the Roosevelt administration indicate that the new policy may include a modification of the traditional American insistence upon freedom of the seas for neutral commerce in time of war. Partial abandonment of its neutral rights by the United States, to the extent of obliging its citizens to carry on at, their own risk foreign trade in non-contraband as well as contraband goods, would doubtless be dictated primarily by the belief that denial of governmental protection would assist in keeping this country out of war.

Adoption of that policy would also remove a potential obstacle to application of sanctions by members of the League of Nations against a state which had resorted to war in violation of its covenants, since there would then be less likelihood that differences would arise between the United States and League powers over the enforcement of punitive measures that might affect American trade with, the aggressor. Whether the impending pronouncement of a new neutrality policy may be extended to include an offer of full acquiescence in the collective action of other nations against a country which the United States, after consultation, agreed was guilty of aggression—an offer such as was tentatively made by Ambassador Davis at the Disarmament Conference in May, 1933—is a matter of speculation. Opinions differ sharply as to whether an agreement of that sort would promote the maintenance of peace or would subject this country to grave risk of becoming involved in international conflict.

Place of Neutrality in Post-War Peace Machinery

The question of neutral rights and duties, always a matter of dispute between participants and non-participants in wars involving maritime powers, became further confused by the stablishment of the League of Nations under a constitution which declared that any war or threat of war should be a matter of concern to the whole League, and which made provision for collective action by the members to restrain a state resorting to war in violation of its pledges under the League Covenant. In the second of his Fourteen Points President Wilson called for:

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
World WarII Catalysts
Oct. 17, 1939  Coalition Government and National Unity
Oct. 03, 1939  Present and Proposed Neutrality Legislation
May 10, 1939  Demands of the European Dictators
Apr. 01, 1939  American Neutrality Policy and the Balance of Power
Jan. 10, 1939  Nazi Objectives in Eastern Europe
Oct. 18, 1938  Changing European Political Alignments
Jan. 27, 1938  The Spread of Dictatorship
Oct. 21, 1937  Neutrality vs. Sanctions
Feb. 05, 1937  Germany's Demand for Colonies
Dec. 04, 1935  Revision of American Neutrality Policy
May 06, 1935  The Great Powers and the Danubian Problem
Jan. 16, 1935  Neutrality Policy of the United States
Jun. 04, 1928  The International Cartel Movement
International Law and Agreements