Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Spirit of Aggression

Gerard N. Magliocca

The article that I'm now working on is about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Constitution Day Address in 1937.  In that speech, FDR talked about the threat to constitutional democracy posed by the advance of dictatorship abroad. This passage from the speech is particularly apt today:

[O]ur generation has watched democracies replace monarchies which had failed their people, and dictatorships displace democracies which had failed to function. And of late we have heard a clear challenge to the democratic idea of representative government.

We do not deny that the methods of the challengers—whether they be called "communistic" or "dictatorial" or "military," have obtained for many who live under them material things they did not obtain under democracies which they had failed to make function. Unemployment has been lessened, even though the cause is a mad manufacturing of armaments. Order prevails, even though maintained by fear, at the expense of liberty and individual rights.

So their leaders laugh at all constitutions, predict the copying of their own methods, and prophesy the early end of democracy·-throughout the world.

Both that attitude and that prediction are denied by those of us who still believe in democracy—that is, by the overwhelming majority of the nations of the world and by the overwhelming majority of the people of the world.

And the denial is based on two reasons eternally right.

The first reason is that modern men and women will not tamely commit to one man or one group the permanent conduct of their government. Eventually they will insist not only on the right to choose who shall govern them, but also upon the periodic reconsideration of that choice by the free exercise of the ballot.

And the second reason is that the state of world affairs brought about by those new forms of government threatens civilization. Armaments and deficits pile up together. Trade barriers multiply and merchant ships are threatened on the high seas. Fear spreads throughout the world, fear of aggression, fear of invasion, fear of revolution, fear of death.

The people of America are rightly determined to keep that growing menace from our shores.


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