« PreviousContinue »
FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 1941
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 10 a. m., Hon. Sol Bloom (chairman) presiding
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will kindly come to order. We will resume with Secretary Stimson.
STATEMENT OF HON. HENRY L. STIMSON-Resumed
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Tinkham is recognized.
Mr. TINKHAM. Mr. Secretary, before proceeding to cross-examination, I would like to read a statement on the front page of the Washington Post this morning, and ask you to comment upon it. The article says:
Two clauses in the administration's "lend-lease” bill were written with the express purpose of giving the President power, if England falls, to buy the British Navy, to allow the British warships to operate from American ports, and to place orders for war materials in Canada, the Washington Post learned yesterday.
Further, the clauses were so written that the United States could acquire the l'emnants of the French Navy, if the Vichy government could ever be persuaded to risk the possible consequences of such a transaction.
The language of the bill was intentionally drafted so that the President, providing the Vichy government cooperates, could remove a threat from the Caribbean by buying the French aircraft carrier Bearn and light cruiser Emile Bertin, now lying in the harbor of Fort de France, Martinique.
And it is suggested that officials provided that information. What have you to say upon that!
Secretary Stimson. I have only this to say, that I never heard of such a suggestion until I read it in the Post this morning.
Mr. TINKHAM. Do you consider that under the very broad wording of the bill, those things could be done?
Secretary STIMSON. I have not considered it in that light. I consider that suggestion as one of those rather fantastic and preposterous suggestions, such as the one that the President might, under this bill, give away the Navy.
Mr. TINKHAM. Is there anything that is fantastic under present conditions ?
Secretary Stimson. I do not understand the question.
Mr. TINKHAM. I say, is not everything fantastic under present conditions as you see them-
Secretary STIMSON. No-
Secretary STIMSON. No. I certainly think that everything is not fantastic. I tried to point out yesterday some dangers that I think are very real.
Mr. TINKHAM. Those who want to see, of course, anything, can usually see it, if their mind is looking in the direction of fear. Now I would like to know whether you helped to draw this bill?
Secretary Stimson. No, sir.
Mr. TINKHAM. Was it entirely and completely drawn when it was submitted to you?
Secretary STIMSON. I think I saw it before—well, a few days before the bill was introduced; but that was all. I think I saw a draft; I am not sure it was the same bill.
Mr. TINKHAM. Were there any changes made after you first saw it?
Secretary STIMSON. I did not consider the bill critically enough, to answer your question.
Mr. TINKHAM. May I ask you what you think of the policy of the United States putting all of its resources, short of manpower, behind any country in the world which is attacked-what you think of that general policy?
Secretary STIMSON. I think that is another one of those questions which is so wide that for me to try to answer it would not help in the discussion of this bill. I think I have expressed my approval of putting the power of the United States, or the resources of the United States enough behind Great Britain to try to preserve the British Navy.
Mr. TINKHAM. What I would like to know is this. With the President's address to Congress, and the wording of this bill, it seems to me the policy implicit
in that address and in the very broad wording of this bill is that we are to put our resources behind any country that is attacked; and if that is true, I am asking you whether you think that is a sound American policy
Secretary STIMSON. I never heard him state any proposition as broad as to put the resources of this country behind any country that was attacked.
Mr. TINKHAM. I think that is implicit in the President's address to the Congress, but, if you think not, let me put it this way.
Secretary STIMSON. I think you misunderstand me. I have never heard of his attempting to put the resources of this country behind any country that was attacked, but only behind those countries, as this bill states, whose defense is vital to the defense of the United States. Now, that is not "any” country.
Mr. TINKHAM. That means that any country the President wants to say, or with reference to which the President wants to say, its defense is vital to the defense of the United States.
Secretary STIMSON. I do not think that is a fair statement, Mr. Tinkham.
Mr. TINKHAM. Well, if you think China is included, of course, as a country whose defense is vital to our defense, we have got to put all of our resources behind her except manpower.
Secretary STIMSON. There again you have introduced a word which I have not heard used by the President or by anyone else who was speaking on that subject, when you said all the resources of the United States.
Mr. TINKHAM. Except manpower.
Secretary STIMson. Not only excepting manpower. Whatever resources have been put behind China, for instance, have been very far from being all the resources of the United States, even its material resources.
Mr. TINKHAM. But that is only the beginning, I assume, and the bill makes no limitation whatsoever. We are called on to pass a bill which gives authority to the President
Secretary STIMSON. No limitations except the limitation of the President's discretion which is a very broad and serious thing.
Mr. TINKHAM. It certainly is. I would like to say, Mr. Secretary, without being repetitious, I hope, that with what the President said in his address, plus this bill, it would seem to me that unless there were limitations put in the bill, the policy of the United States would be to put its resources short of manpower of any character or kind behind any country that was attacked anywhere in the world. And what I wanted to know from you was whether you thoughtand I might say, let us assume that that is so would you think that was a sound policy for America?
Secretary STIMSON. I do not think I can answer that question as broadly as you have stated it.
Mr. TINKHAM. I am sorry, I did not hear what you said.
Secretary STIMSON. I do not think that your question as stated is quite a fair question. It does not reflect anything that I have said.
Mr. TINKHAM. Mr. Secretary, I am asking you, not basing my question on what you have said, but asking a hypothetical question; would you be in favor of a policy of that character, putting the resources of the United States, short of manpower, behind any country in the world which the President desired to select ?
Secretary STIMSON. I do not think that question is germane to this bill at all, because I do not think this bill does it. If you want to know my opinion, I can give it to you.
Mr. TINKHAM. Yes; I would like it. That is what I want.
Secretary STIMSON. I think that the powers granted in this bill are about as clearly and as sharply defined as they could possibly be, and still leave it possible to take prompt action, the prompt action which is necessary to meet the danger of war.
Mr. TINKHAM. But there is no limitation as to the countries that may be assisted on the mere say-so of the President that it is necessary for our national defense?
Secretary STIMSON. No; you are mistaken on that, Mr. Tinkham. Mr. TINKHAM. Well, I have the bill here.
Secretary STIMSON. In section 3, subdivision 1, the bill gives the definition that it shall be a country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States. That is a very different proposition from what you stated.
Mr. TINKHAM. Well, am I not correct in saying that he might regard today China as vital to our national defense, and tomorrow
Greece as vital to our national defense, and the following day Afghanistan as vital to our national defense; and then if arrangements could be made with Russia, he might regard Russia as vital to American defense, so far as the wording of that section is concerned !
Secretary STIMSON. Possibly, yes, Mr. Tinkham. That I think is perfectly safe provision in the bill as it is now. But I am not dogmatic, and it is in the hands of the Congress to decide whether it wishes to define the countries whose safety today is vital to the United States, in their opinion. But if they should do that, you would have a bill which might require amendment at almost any time, in the rapid changes of a very dangerous situation.
I might as well state right now, because you have opened the question, that my opinion—and it is one of long standing, and it has come from observation of various men who have held the Presidency during the period of my lifetime, whom I have had the privilege and the honor of observing at close range-my opinion is this: I have been impressed always with the tremendously sobering influence that the terrific responsibility of the Presidency will impose upon any man, and particularly in foreign relations.
Mr. TINKHAM. Does that applySecretary STIMSON. Please let me finish. That has applied to all of the gentlemen whom, as I have said, I have had the opportunity of observing closely. As a result of that observation, I feel that there is no one else, no other possible person in any official position who can be trusted to make conservatively and cautiously such a tremendous decision as the decisions which would have to be made in a great emergency involving a possible war with which this country is concerned. And I can say that not only with reference to the temperament of those with whom I have had close association but I think, if you will look at history, you will find that there has been no President who rushed this country into war, while there have been many Presidents who held the country back when the people and the Congress were pushing the country into war.
So in the light of that, I say that while the Congress could, if it desired, take the risk of naming the countries, and limiting the bill in that way, they could likewise safely rest that responsibility with the present President of the United States, and I have had him under close observation for 6 months. And, as you know, Mr. Tinkham, I belong to your party.
Mr. TINKHAM. You did.
Secretary STIMSON. I did, yes, and I think perhaps I do still. I do not know that you have read me out of it.
Mr. Tinkham. Mr. Secretary, in contrast to your short period of observation of the present President, of 6 months, I have had him under observation for nearly 8 years, and I have found
Mr. Johnson. Mr. Chairman, if my colleague will allow, I would like to suggest in the interest of the conservation of time, that the gentleman ask the witness questions instead of stating his own opinions.
Mr. TINKHAM. I want to be as direct as possible in order to get responsive answers from the witness. I shall try not to waste any time.
The CHAIRMAN. Proceed.
Mrs. ROGERS. Mr. Chairman, as you know, it was agreed yesterday in committee
The CHAIRMAN. We were in executive session yesterday and what we agreed to is not to be divulged.
Mrs. ROGERS. I should like to state, Mr. Chairman, that I for one will insist, so far as I can, that we be given complete and full time to interrogate the witnesses.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair has ruled.
Mrs. ROGERS. It is quite important for us to get the facts. We are searching for the truth, and in order to act intelligently and fairly to everyone, I think we must be given complete time.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair has already ruled on that and you may proceed, Mr. Tinkham. There is no objection to your question.
Mr. TINKHAM. So, Mr. Secretary, you would be in favor of giving this complete authority that we have been discussing to the present President, so that he might put all the resources short of manpower behind Russia, if he thought that was an adroit thing to do?
Secretary STIMSON. There again, Mr. Tinkham, you have introduced a word which is quite contrary to what I have just said to you, when you used the word "adroit.”
Mr. TINKHAM. Let us remove the word "adroit" and then I ask the question; in other words, if he thought it was good judgment !
Secretary STIMSON. The bill states the conditions which must govern his discretion when it states that it must be vital to the defense of the United States, and under that limitation, and with that provision, I think the power could safely be entrusted to the discretion of the President.
Mr. TINKHAM. In other words, his complete discretion as to what countries he would select to say that their defense was vital to our defense.
Mr. STIMSON. Again you have introduced the word "complete.” I said subject to the conditions which I just stated.
Mr. TINKHAM. Well, I will leave the record in the condition in which it is now.
Now, you contrast our present situation, Mr. Secretary, today, with the situation that existed in 1917 when we entered the last war. We did not enter that war until an overt act had been committed, namely our vessels sunk and we had been challenged as to our right to sail the seas. Let me ask you if any overt act, in your opinion, has been committed by any of the belligerent powers against us so far in this war, and if so, what overt act?
Secretary STIMSON. Well, sir, that is a question that is so broad, and so many incidents could be described, that I would like not to be limited. But I do happen to remember that one of the belligerents sank one of our warships, without any excuse for it whatever.
Mr. TINKHAM. You are referring to the incident in China, on the Yangtse River, the Panay incident?
Secretary STIMSON. I am referring to the Panay incident.
Mr. TINKHAM. Was not that explained as a mistake, and have not reparations been made?
Secretary STIMSON. I do not think that I should consider that reparations have been satisfactorily made or explanations satisfactorily made.