we repeal it, we are helping England and France. If we fail to repeal
it, we will be helping Hitler and his allies. Absolute neutrality
is an impossibility.
George W. Norris on the repeal of the
Neutrality Acts, 1939
and 1937 Congress passed three "Neutrality Acts" that
tried to keep the United States out of war, by making it illegal
for Americans to sell or transport arms, or other war materials
to belligerent nations. Supporters of neutrality, called "isolationists"
by their critics, argued that America should avoid entangling itself
in European wars. "Internationalists" rejected the idea
that the United States could remain aloof from Europe and held that
the nation should aid countries threatened with aggression.
In the spring
of 1939, as Germany, Japan, and Italy pursued militaristic policies,
President Roosevelt wanted more flexibility to meet the Fascist
challenge. FDR suggested amending the act to allow warring nations
to purchase munitions if they paid cash and transported the goods
on non-American ships, a policy that favored Britain and France.
Initially, this proposal failed, but after Germany invaded Poland
in September, Congress passed the Neutrality Act of 1939 ending
the munitions embargo on a "cash and carry" basis.
of the 1939 Neutrality Act marked the beginning of a congressional
shift away from isolationism. Over the next 2 years, Congress took
further steps to oppose fascism. One of the most important was the
1941 approval of Lend-Lease, which allowed the United States to
transfer arms to nations vital to the national defense.