740.0011 European War 1939/3004a: Telegram

President Roosevelt to the Chief of the Italian Government (Mussolini)36

I do not know what Your Excellency plans or proposes but reports reaching me from many sources, to the effect that you may be contemplating early entry into the war, have given me great concern.

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I send you this appeal as the head of a peaceful nation and as a close friend of twenty other American Republics. All of us in the Americas feel in our hearts that tonight the whole world faces a threat which opposes every teaching of Christ, every philosophy of all the great teachers of mankind over thousands of years.

Forces of slaughter, forces which deny God, forces which seek to dominate mankind by fear rather than by reason seem at this moment to be extending their conquest against a hundred million human beings who have no desire but peace.

You whom the great Italian people call their leader have it in your own hands to stay the spread of this war to another group of 200,000,000 human souls in the Mediterranean Area.

I have sent word to Your Excellency before that I am a realist. As a realist you also will, I know, recognize that if this war should extend throughout the world it would pass beyond the control of heads of States, would encompass the destruction of millions of lives and the best of what we call the liberty and culture of civilization. And no man, no matter how omniscient, how powerful, can foretell the result either to himself or his own people.

Therefore, I make the simple plea that you, responsible for Italy, withhold your hand, stay wholly apart from any war and refrain from any threat of attack. So only can you help mankind tonight and tomorrow and in the pages of history.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
  1. Transmitted in telegram No. 116, May 15, 1940, from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy.