Thomas Graham’s Diary – 17th and 18th April 1939

This short entry in Thomas Graham’s diary again refers to the attitude of the United States of America to the growing threat of war in Europe. Many of the people and politicians in the US favoured an isolationist stance to affairs in Europe, believing that the country should concentrate on its own internal issues at a time of economic recession.

Throughout the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt focused his energies on improving the lot of the American people with his series of New Deal initiatives at home, and followed a conciliatory foreign policy . However, he did take an interest in what was happening in Europe as this and a previous diary entry shows.

The ‘solemn appeal’ that Thomas refers to in this entry was a letter, written to both Hitler and Mussolini on the 14th April referring to the rising tensions in Europe after Mussolini’s invasion of Albania¬†and asking both leaders to give assurances that they would not invade other free nations within Europe – “Are you willing to give assurance that your armed forces will not attack or invade the territory or possessions of the following independent nations?” Thirty-one countries were then listed. The full text of this letter may be read here. As Thomas comments the following day, this letter was condemned by both fascist leaders immediately. Neither responded to the letter and Mussolini was noted as referring to it in private as ‘absurd’. It is likely that Roosevelt did not expect any such assurances from either man but wished to make a point about the differences between democracies and dictatorships at this time of rising international tension.