A large majority of the American people at the time of 1940 Presidential election was against the American involvement of war in Europe or Asia, and FDR promised “We will not participate in foreign wars, and we will not send our Army, naval, or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas, except in case of attack..” (p. 3) FDR was careful by attaching a condition at the end of the statement.
Despite such promise, President Roosevelt had the Congress pass the Lend-Lease Law successfully in January 1941. The law enabled President to lend or lease munitions for assisting any of the nations in their effort in fighting for the interest of the U.S. This was an extraordinary legislation because this legislation gave an extraordinary authority to the President and was apparently in violation of international law which prohibited neutral nations from providing aid to belligerent nations.
President attempted to use the case of the presumed attack on U.S.S. Greer by a German submarine for declaration of war with Germany in September 1941, but the Congress refused to go along with it due to the ambiguity of the attack.
President Roosevelt undertook the following measures toward Japan; denunciation of the Japanese trade treaty of 1911 to go into effect in 6 months on July 26, 1939, thus enabling the Administration imposing unilateral restrictions on commerce between the U.S. and Japan on January 26, 1940, U.S. loan to China of $20 million authorized on March 7, 1940, embargo on export of numerous strategic products except under official license on July 5, 1940, additional loan to China on September 25, 1940, embargo on shipment of iron scrap outside of this hemisphere except Great Britain on September 16, 1940, and freezing the Japanese assets in the U.S. on July 25, 1941 before the Allied nations’ coordinated oil embargo to Japan in August 1941.
“By August 29 (1941) it was known that Ambassador Nomura had delivered to President Roosevelt a personal letter from the Japanese Prime Minister, Prince Konoye. This information was interpreted by journalists to mean that Japan, now in desperate economic straits, was striving to achieve a settlement with the United States by negotiations between the two highest authorities in their respective governments.” (p.188-189) However, the White House denied the receipt of such a letter on September 3. (p.189)
The author quotes extracts from the Diary of the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, which were placed in the records of the Congressional Committee on Pearl Harbor. They indicate as follows:
November 6, 1941, Stimson rejected President’s suggestion to have a truce with the Japanese for six months. (p.418)
November 7. President took a vote of his full cabinet on the proposition whether the country would back up the Administration if it struck at the Japanese in the southeastern Pacific. The cabinet was unanimous in the affirmative. (p.418)
November 25. Conference of the President, Secretaries Hull, Stimson, and Knox, General Marshall, and Admiral Stark (the “War Cabinet”) at the White House. President Roosevelt brought up the idea that the United States was likely to be attacked by the Japanese perhaps as soon as next Monday, December 1. Then the question before the conference was “how we should maneuver them (the Japanese) into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” (p.418)
November 26. Secretary Stimson called up Secretary Hull with regard to truce with Japan then pending and Mr. Hull ”replied……that he had about made up his mind to give up the whole thing in respect to a truce and to simply tell the Japanese that he had no further action to propose.” (p.419)
November 27. “Secretary Hull told Secretary Stimson that he had broken off the whole matter of the truce or modus vivendi with the Japanese. He said to Mr. Stimson: “I have washed my hands of it and it is now in the hands of you and Knox—the Army and the Navy.” (p.419)
December 7. After hearing from the President about the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Mr. Stimson wrote in his Diary: “Now the Japs have solved the whole thing by attacking us directly in Hawaii….My first feeling was of relief that the indecision was over and that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.” (p.419)
Then, Charles Beard concludes: “by the middle of November, 1941, he (President Roosevelt) was making statements to his official entourage which were pointed in one direction---war. And it is equally certain that President Roosevelt, Secretary Hull, Secretary Stimson, Secretary Know, and Undersecretary Welles, in their war danger speeches in previous months of 1941, never said to the American people anything equivalent to what was being said in the White House behind the curtain of secrecy in November, 1941.” (p.419-420)