Neutrality Acts of 1937

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Aimee Hare

March 24, 2012

Dr. Rubenstein

History 528

The Neutrality Act of 1937 and beginnings in 1794

The Neutrality Acts of the United States of America has been ever changing for centuries. The policies of the neutrality acts from 1794 and 1937 have needed amendments and additives over time to adjust to our ever changing world in regards to political and economical circumstances. In addition, sentiment among American academics and the voice of the common citizen have played intricate roles in forging through the amendments in the acts of neutrality. It is also important to discuss the journalism being written and editorial opinions during the time in which the act is being enforced and revised.

In 1794 the United States of America was in the infancy stages of beginning a sovereign nation and debated over the application of foreign policy with European nations. President George Washington wanted to remain neutral in foreign circumstances, but still have the opportunity to trade commercially with European nations. The French Revolutionary war promoted the United States to put themselves in a neutral position in regards to European conflicts. President George Washington’s Cabinet signed a set of rules regarding policies of neutrality on August 3, 1793, and these rules were formalized when Congress passed a neutrality bill on June 4, 1794. In the face of fearing a future conflict with European nations, President George Washington proclaimed the treaty in the face of popular disapproval, realizing that it was the price of peace with Great Britain and that it gave the United States valuable time to rearrange and rearm in the event of future conflict. Washington proclaims,

[1]If any person shall within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States begin or set on foot or provide or prepare the means for any military expedition or enterprise...against the territory or dominions of any foreign prince or state of whom the United States was at peace that person would be guilty of misdemeanor.

This legislation formed the basis for neutrality policy throughout the nineteenth century. One reason for the act was to create a liability for violation of Section 8 of Article One of the United States Constitution, which reserves to the United States Congress the power to decide to go to war. The act was amended several times and remains in force.

As the United States moves into the twentieth century, President Franklin D. Roosevelt is continuingly making decisions in foreign policy. In particular the neutrality act of 1937, this states,

[2]The Congress is properly urged to declare as a permanent American policy and as a gratuitous contribution to world peace that it will not permit the shipment of arms, munitions and implements of war to belligerent nations, thereby refusing to permit the United States to become the symbol of arms and ammunitions for the sake of war profits, or the political slaughterhouse of the world. America stands alone among the great nations of the earth in proclaiming this new doctrine as a permanent policy to a war weary world.

Many in congress felt that the neutrality act of 1937 was cutting American exports off at the knees for example,

[3]The President shall by proclamation from time to time definitely the articles and materials which it shall be unlawful for American vessels to transport, is an unjustifiable delegation of the embargo powers of congress, a gross discrimination against American Ships and a pusillanimous act unworthy of a great Nation.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had tough adjustments to acts of neutrality that had been in place for almost two hundred years. The Neutrality Act of 1937 made the act of 1936 permanent and included the basic provisions and of its predecessors. The provisions are as stated,

[4]The Congress by concurrent resolution, shall find that there exists a...
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