Present and Proposed Neutrality Legislation

October 3, 1939

Report Outline
Rooseevelt and Neutrally Law Revision
Executive Discretion and the Arms Embargo
Cash-And-Carry; Combat Areas; Travel Ban
Loans and Credits; Armed Merchantmen
Plans for Guarding Hemisphere Neutrality
Special Focus

Rooseevelt and Neutrally Law Revision

After the White House conference of last July 18, at A which President Roosevelt reluctantly agreed to forego further efforts to obtain immediate revision of the Neutrality Act, it was stated that Congress would be called into special session for that purpose in the event of an outbreak of war in Europe before the next regular session. Congress adjourned August 5. Germany invaded Poland September 1, and France and England declared war on Germany two days later. On September 13 the President issued his call for an extraordinary session of the Seventy-sixth Congress. Addressing the legislators when they convened September 21, Roosevelt asked for repeal of the arms-embargo provisions of existing law on the ground that they were “most vitally dangerous to American neutrality, American security, and American peace.” He declared that “the age-old and time-honored doctrine of international law,” coupled with certain positive safeguards which he enumerated, was “better calculated than any other means to keep us out of this war.”

Administration's Program; House and Senate Bills

The administration's program for revision of the Neutrality Act, repeated by the President in his message of September 21, was set forth by Secretary of State Hull, May 27, 1939, in letters to Chairman Pittman (D., Nev.). of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Acting Chairman Bloom (D., N. Y.) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hull advanced seven proposals for incorporation in legislation revising the present law: (1) Abolition of the arms embargo; (2) prohibition against entrance of American vessels into combat areas; (3) restriction of travel by American citizens in combat areas or on belligerent vessels; (4) placing of all exports to belligerents on a cash basis; (5) prohibition of loans and credits to belligerents; (6) control over solicitation of funds for belligerents; and (7) continued regulation of the arms traffic by the Munitions Control Board.

A joint resolution (H. J. Res. 306) embodying the Hull recommendations was introduced by Rep. Bloom and adopted by the House, June 30, by a vote of 201 to 187, after failure, 1*94 yeas to 196 nays, of a motion to recommit. In its final form, however, the Bloom bill failed to carry out the first two points of the Hull program. An amendment of Rep. Vorys (R., O.), adopted by a record vote of 214 to 173 had restored arms-embargo provisions only slightly modified from those of existing law, and a committee amendment had eliminated the prohibition respecting passage of American citizens and vessels through combat areas. Consideration of the House bill or of a substitute in the Senate at the last session foundered on the threat of a filibuster by a large group of isolationist senators. On July 11 the Foreign Relations Committee voted, 12 to 11, to defer taking up the question until the next session. A special message from the President, July 14, reiterating the advisability of prompt action “in the light of present world conditions,” was unavailing.

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
Congress Actions
International Law and Agreements
War and Conflict
World War II