A Divorce Waiting to Happen: Franklin Roosevelt and the Law of Neutrality, 1935-1941
Aaron Xavier Fellmeth
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Buffalo Journal of International Law, Vol. 3, pp. 413-517, 1996
Between 1934 and 1941, Congress passed several joint resolutions designed to curtail the President's powers to send aid to victims of fascist aggression. Franklin D. Roosevelt publicly supported the early Neutrality Acts. Beginning in 1939, Roosevelt began voicing his fears in public that legislation limiting his powers might have the effect of dragging the country into war rather than keeping it out.
This Article analyzes how Roosevelt violated the Neutrality Acts and the Constitution prior to the implementation of the 1941 Lend-Lease Act. This Article is the first comprehensive attempt to analyze the legality and constitutionality of Roosevelt's foreign affairs policy. The upshot of the clash between public or congressional shortsightedness on the one hand, and Roosevelt's almost clairvoyant understanding of the intentions of the fascists and his irreverence for the law on the other hand, was that Roosevelt did not consistently obey either the letter or spirit of American neutrality laws and the Constitution. The vital issues raised by Roosevelt's conduct of foreign affairs recur frequently in United States political and constitutional debates. These issues include the President's constitutional power to dispose of military arms and vessels; the relative control under the Constitution of Congress and the President over foreign relations (embracing commerce, foreign aid, recognition of foreign belligerency, neutrality, and war); the status of American neutrality legislation and policy; and the issue of proper statutory interpretation. This Article examines these issues in detail by reviewing Roosevelt's implementation of United States neutrality law from 1935 until 1941.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 105
Keywords: foreign policy, Neutrality Acts, presidential powers
Date posted: August 7, 2009
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