Destroyers for Bases Deal
Message to the Congress informing them of the exchange of
certain over-age destroyers for British naval and air bases, September 3, 1940
To the Congress:
I transmit herewith for the information of the Congress notes exchanged
between the British Ambassador at Washington and the Secretary of State
on September 2, 1940, under which this Government has acquired the right
to lease naval and air bases in Newfoundland, and in the islands of
Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and Antigua, and in
British Guiana; also a copy of an opinion of the Attorney General dated
August 27, 1940, regarding my authority to consummate this arrangement.
The right to bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda are gifts-generously
given and gladly received. The other bases mentioned have been acquired
in exchange for 50 of our over-age destroyers.
This is not inconsistent in any sense with our status of peace. Still
less is it a threat against any nation. It is an epochal and far-
reaching act of preparation for continental defense in the face of grave
Preparation for defense is an inalienable prerogative of a sovereign
state. Under present circumstances this exercise of sovereign right is
essential to the maintenance of our peace and safety. This is the most
important action in the reinforcement of our national defense that has
been taken since the Louisiana Purchase. Then as now, considerations of
safety from overseas attack were fundamental.
The value to the Western Hemisphere of these outposts of security is
beyond calculation. Their need has long been recognized by our country,
and especially by those primarily charged with the duty of charting and
organizing our own naval and military defense. They are essential to the
protection of the Panama Canal, Central America, the northern portion of
South America, the Antilles, Canada, Mexico, and our own eastern and
Gulf seaboards. Their consequent importance in hemispheric defense is
obvious. For these reasons I have taken advantage of the present
opportunity to acquire them.
Accompanying documents will be found in the Congressional Record of
September 3, 1940.