Roosevelt declares the Four Freedoms

A pre war portrait of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt recognised the need to support Britain and other countries in the war. At this time he sought to persuade many Americans that it was in their interests to align themselves against Nazism and dictatorship. Earlier he had argued the case for Lend Lease, which would allow military aid to foreign nations. In his fireside chat of the 29th December 1940 he had declared that America would become the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’.

Now he went further with his vision of what America stood for. The Four Freedoms include two values that went beyond the United States’ constitution – freedom from want and freedom from fear. The ideas expressed here were to become the cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the establishment of the United Nations. They assert a moral purpose that was in direct contradiction Hitler's rambling war aims:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

From Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

This was not a call to war but it was an unmistakeable declaration of which side the United States stood by.

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