Roosevelt, Franklin Delano - Four Freedom Speech, 1941
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Annual Message to Congress (1941)
Four Freedom Speech
I address you, the members of the 77th Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history
of the Union. I use the word "unprecedented," because at no previous time has American
security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.
Since the permanent formation of our government under the Constitution, in 1789, most of
the periods of crisis in our history have related to our domestic affairs. Fortunately, only one of
these-the four-year War Between the States-ever threatened our national unity. Today, thank
God, 130 million Americans, in 48 states, have forgotten points of the compass in our national
It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often had been disturbed by events in other
continents. We had even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of
undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the
maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case had
a serious threat been raised against our national safety or our continued independence.
What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times
maintained clear, definite opposition, to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese
wall while the procession of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and of their
children, we oppose enforced isolation for ourselves or for any other part of
That determination of ours, extending over all these years, was proved, for example, during
the quarter century of wars following the French Revolution.
While the Napoleonic struggles did threaten interests of the United States because of the
French foothold in the West Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the War of 1812
to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it is nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great
Britain, nor any other nation, was aiming at domination of the whole world.
In like fashion from 1815 to 1914-99 years-no single war in Europe or in Asia constituted a
real threat against our future or against the future of any other American nation.
Except in the Maximilian interlude in Mexico, no foreign power sought to establish itself in
this Hemisphere; and the strength of the British fleet in the Atlantic has been a friendly
strength. It is still a friendly strength.
Even when the World War broke out in 1914, it seemed to contain only small threat of
danger to our own American future. But, as time went on, the American people began to
visualize what the downfall of democratic nations might mean to our own democracy.
We need not overemphasize imperfections in the Peace of Versailles. We need not harp on
failure of the democracies to deal with problems of world reconstruction. We should remember
that the Peace of 1919 was far less unjust than the kind of "pacification" which began even
before Munich, and which is being carried on under the new order of tyranny that seeks to
spread over every continent today. The American people have unalterably set their faces
against that tyranny.
Every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed
in every part of the world-assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous
propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at
During 16 long months this assault has blotted out the whole pattern of democratic life in an
appalling number of independent nations, great and small. The assailants are still on the march,
threatening other nations, great and small.
Therefore, as your President, performing my constitutional duty to "give to the Congress
information of the state of the Union," I find it, unhappily, necessary to report that the future
and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far
beyond our borders.
Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly waged in four continents. If
that defense fails, all the population and all the resources of Europe, Asia, Africa, and
Australasia will be dominated by the conquerors. Let us remember that the total of those
populations and their resources in those four continents greatly exceeds the sum total of the
population and the resources of the whole of the Western Hemisphere-many times over.
In times like these it is immature-and incidentally, untrue-for anybody to brag that an
unprepared America, single-handed, and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the
No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return
of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion,
or even good business.
Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. "Those, who would give
up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
As a nation, we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be
We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the
"ism" of appeasement.
We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of
the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.
I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern warfare could bring into our
very midst the physical attack which we must eventually expect if the dictator nations win this
There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and direct invasion from across
the seas. Obviously, as long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists. Even
if there were no British Navy, it is not probable that any enemy would be stupid enough to
attack us by landing troops in the United States from across thousands of miles of ocean, until
it had acquired strategic bases from which to operate.
But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in Europe-particularly the lesson of
Norway, whose essential seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built up over a
series of years.
The first phase of the invasion of this Hemisphere would not be the landing of regular
troops. The necessary strategic points would be occupied by secret agents and their dupes-and
great numbers of them are already here, and in Latin America.
As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive, they-not we-will choose the time
and the place and the method of their attack.
That is why the future of all the American republics is today in serious danger.
That is why this annual message to the Congress is unique in our history.
That is why every member of the executive branch of the government and every member of
the Congress faces great responsibility and great accountability.
The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily-
almost exclusively-to meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part
of the great emergency.
Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the
rights and the dignity of all our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign
affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and dignity of all nations, large and
small. And the justice of morality must and will win in the end.
Our national policy is this:
First, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we
are committed to all-inclusive national defense.
Second, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship,
we are committed to full support of all those resolute peoples, everywhere, who are resisting
aggression and are thereby keeping war away from our hemisphere. By this support, we
express our determination that the democratic cause shall prevail; and we strengthen the
defense and the security of our own nation.
+1 anno fa
Dispensa al corso di "Gli Stati Uniti nel XX secolo" del Prof. Daniele Fiorentino. Trattasi del celebre discorso al Congresso del 1941 del presidente degli Stati Uniti Franklin Delano Roosevelt sulle "quattro libertà". Al suo interno egli proclamava il diritto di ogni uomo alla libertà di parola ed espressione, alla libertà di religione, alla libertà dal bisogno e alla libertà dalla paura.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher vipviper di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Gli Stati Uniti nel XX secolo e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Fiorentino Daniele.
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