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Encyclopedia > America First

America First was a series of 20th Century isolation movements that opposed United States involvement in international affairs.



The first appearance of the "America First" movement followed World War I in opposition to the America's potential involvement in the League of Nations. The movement was an attempt to pull the United States back to a point where North American political interests took priority over the interest of internationalism. World War I was primarily a European conflict with many facets: immense human sacrifice, stalemate trench warfare, and the use of new, devastating weapons - tanks, aircraft, machine guns, and poison gas World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the War of the Nations and... The League of Nations was an international organization founded after the First World War at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. ...

This first emergence of movement was strongest during the U.S. presidential election, 1920 - but began to fade once the administration of President Warren G. Harding made it known that it would not pursue American membership in the League. So singularly associated with the defeat of U.S. participation in the League, that movement had begun to fade by the time the Washington Naval Conference was called in the fall of 1921. Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was an American politician and the 29th President of the United States, serving from 1921 to 1923, when he became the sixth president to die in office. ... The Washington Naval Conference was a diplomatic conference held in Washington, D.C. in 1921 and 1922. ... 1921 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...


The America First movement was an isolationist group that opposed United States involvement in World War II. Many prominent Americans were members, including aviator Charles Lindbergh. At its peak, America First had 800,000 members. World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons like the atom bomb World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a mid-20th-century conflict that engulfed much of the globe... ... Charles Lindbergh Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974) was a pioneering United States aviator famous for piloting the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. ...

The organization disbanded shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Satellite image of Pearl Harbor. ...

The America First Committee (AFC) was founded in September of 1939 not long after Germany's invasion of Poland. In the spring of 1940, Yale law student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., along with other students including future President Gerald Ford, Sargent Shriver and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, launched a petition aimed at enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act. The America First Committee was the foremost pressure group against American entry into the Second World War, and was established September 4, 1940. ... 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... Yale can refer to: Yale University, one of the United States oldest and most famous universities. ... Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. ... Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. ... Justice Potter Stewart Potter Stewart (January 23, 1915 - December 7, 1985) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. ...

More serious organizing of the America First Committee took place in Chicago, Illinois, not long after. Chicago was to remain the national headquarters of the committee. Chicago (officially named the City of Chicago) is the third largest city in the United States (after New York City and Los Angeles), with an official population of 2,896,016, as of the 2000 census. ... State nickname: Land of Lincoln, The Prairie State Other U.S. States Capital Springfield Largest city Chicago Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) Senators Richard Durbin (D) Barack Obama (D) Official language(s) English Area 149,998 km² (25th)  - Land 143,968 km²  - Water 6,030 km² (4. ...

To preside over their committee, America First chose General Robert E. Wood, the 61 year-old chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co.. While Wood would accept only an interim position, he remained at the head of the committee until it was disbanded in the days after Pearl Harbor. On the day after Franklin D. Roosevelt's lend-lease bill was submitted to Congress, Wood promised AFC opposition "with all the vigor it can exert." America First staunchly opposed the convoying of ships, the Atlantic Charter, and the placing of economic pressure on Japan. In order to achieve the defeat of lend-lease and the perpetuation of American neutrality, the AFC advocated four basic principles: Sears, Roebuck and Company (NYSE: S) was founded in Chicago, Illinois as a catalog merchandiser in 1886 by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck. ... Satellite image of Pearl Harbor. ... Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945), the longest-serving holder of the office and the only person to be elected President more than twice (he was elected four times, and served just over 12 years), was one of the... The Lend-Lease program was a program of the United States during World War II that allowed the United States to provide the Allied Powers with war material without becoming directly involved in the war. ... Churchill meets FDR aboard the USS Augusta (CA-31) at their 1941 secret meeting at Argentia Bay, Newfoundland, lasting August 9th through the 12th. ...

1. The United States must build an impregnable defense for America.

2. No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America.

3. American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European war.

4. "Aid short of war" weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.

While the America First Committee had its share of prominent businessmen as well as the sympathies of political figures like Senator Burton K. Wheeler or Senator Gerald P. Nye, no one figure was more representative of the movement than Charles A. Lindbergh. However, Lindbergh had been actively involved in questioning the motives of the Roosevelt administration well before the formation of the AFC. Lindbergh adopted an anti-war stance even before the Battle of Britain and before the advent of the lend-lease bill. His first radio speech was broadcast on September 15, 1939 over all three of the major radio networks (Mutual, National, and Columbia). Lindbergh urged listeners to look beyond the speeches and propaganda they were being fed and instead look at who was writing the speeches and reports, who owned the papers and who influenced the speakers. Time magazine, June 18, 1923 Burton Kendall Wheeler (February 27, 1882–January 6, 1975) was an American politician. ... Gerald Prentice Nye (1892-1971) was an United States legislator and political activist, serving in the U.S. Senate from the 1920s to the 1940s Nye worked in journalism as a young man, serving as first editor and later owner of several newspapers. ... Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. ... A major campaign of World War II, the Battle of Britain is the name for the attempt by Germanys Luftwaffe the german airforce to gain air superiority of British airspace and destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF). ... September 15 is the 258th day of the year (259th in leap years). ... 1939 was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ...

The heart of Lindbergh's arguments, as it would be in his America First speeches, was his advocacy of a hemispheric defense. He was convinced that the barriers posed by the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans would keep any potential attacker at bay. He urged the strengthening of American air power and the establishment of coastal defenses for good measure. The best hope for preserving America's peace was a strong American defense in its own hemisphere. He also routinely pointed out that Americans had not been able to vote on the issues at hand and that they were being asked to become involved in issues that were not their own but Europe's.

Throughout 1940 and 1941 Lindbergh emerged as the most recognizable of America First's spokesmen. However, while his personal fame brought a measure of potency to the movement, there were shadows of his past that served, along with other elements, to marginalize the movement's message. On June 20, 1940 Lindbergh spoke to a rally at Los Angeles's Hollywood Bowl, a rally billed as "Peace and Preparedness Mass Meeting". In his speech of that day, Lindbergh criticized those movements he perceived as leading America into the war. He proclaimed that the United States was in a position that made it virtually impregnable and he pointed out that when interventionists said "the defense of England" they really meant "defeat of Germany." Lindbergh's presence at the Hollywood Bowl rally was overshadowed, however, by the presence of fringe elements in the crowd. Members of Congress noted the newspaper headlines stating "L.A. NAZI'S PREPARE FOR LINDBERGH RALLY." It was the Achilles heel of the America First Committee that they were unable to disassociate themselves from such fringe elements as pro-German American Nazis and the radical Catholic followers of Father Coughlin. The City of Los Angeles (from Spanish; Los Ángeles, ) also known simply as L.A., is the second-largest city in the United States in terms of population, as well as one of the worlds most important economic, cultural, and entertainment centers. ... The Hollywood Bowl is a modern amphitheatre in Hollywood, California, USA, that is used primarily for music performances. ... A planned economy is an economic system in which economic decisions are made by centralized planners, who determine what sorts of goods and services to produce, and how they are to be priced and allocated. ... Father Charles Edward Coughlin (October 25, 1891 - October 27, 1979) was a Roman Catholic priest from Royal Oak, Michigan, a priest from Shrine Catholic Church, and one of the first evangelists to preach to a widespread listening audience over the medium of radio during the Great Depression. ...

Perhaps more important than perceptions of the committee at large were perceptions of Lindbergh. As the most prominent spokesman of the committee, Lindbergh held unfortunate ties to the Nazi regime in Germany in the form of an medal awarded by Hermann Göring, ties that he obstinately refused to disavow. Hermann Göring Hermann Wilhelm Göring (also Goering or Goring in English) (January 12, 1893 – October 15, 1946) was an early member of the Nazi party, founder of the Gestapo, and one of the main leaders of Nazi Germany. ...

However, no one speech - and no possession of medals - did more to tarnish Lindbergh's reputation or that of America First than the speech he delivered to a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941. In that speech he blamed the British, the Roosevelt administration, and the Jews for drawing America into the war, proclaiming that they were all agitators. While he admitted sympathy for the plight of the Jews in Germany, he pointed out that America's entry into the war would serve them little better. An outcry quickly arose after the speech. Des Moines skyline Des Moines (pronounced in English, in French) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Iowa. ... State nickname: The Hawkeye State Other U.S. States Capital Des Moines Largest city Des Moines Governor Thomas Vilsack (D) Senators Chuck Grassley (R) Tom Harkin (D) Official languages English Area 145,743 km² (26th)  - Land 144,701 km²  - Water 1,042 km² (0. ... September 11 is the 254th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (255th in leap years). ... 1941 was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

For a group that had relied on Lindbergh's appeal to offset its perceived association with fringe elements, the Des Moines speech was devastating to America First. While Lindbergh was forced onto the defensive, claiming that his words had been misunderstood and that he was not anti-Semitic, the AFC was rendered largely ineffective because it had never really moved beyond the radio and rally format in getting its message across. Still, despite their ultimate ineffectiveness, the America First committee had been potent enough to delay the passage of lend-lease and keep the Roosevelt administration from obtaining its goals without opposition for almost two years.

With the formal declaration of war against Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Committee chose to disband. On December 11 the committee leaders met and voted for dissolution. In the statement they released to the press was the following:

Our principles were right. Had they been followed, war could have been avoided. No good purpose can now be served by considering what might have been, had our objectives been attained...

Other individuals associated with America First were novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E. E. Cummings, author Gore Vidal (as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy), Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and actress Lillian Gish. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright attempted to join, but the board thought he had a "reputation for immorality". Sinclair Lewis Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885–January 10, 1951) was an American novelist and playwright. ... E. E. Cummings Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), typically abbreviated E. E. Cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, and playwright. ... Gore Vidal, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1948 Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, known better simply as Gore Vidal, (born October 3, 1925) is a well-known American writer of novels, plays and essays, and a public figure for over fifty years. ... Phillips Exeter Academy (also called Exeter or PEA) is a co-educational independent boarding school located on 471 acres (1. ... Alice Roosevelt, taken about 1900. ... Lillian Gish Lillian Diana de Guiche (October 14, 1893 - February 27, 1993), was an American actress known as Lillian Gish. ... Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) was one of the most prominent architects of the first half of the 20th century. ...

See also

Isolationism is a diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations. ...

Further reading

  • Roth, Philip, The Plot Against America: A Novel, Houghton Mifflin 2004. ISBN 0618509283. A fictional "alternate history" hypothesizing the events following an election victory by America First in 1940, told from the perspective of a Jewish American family.

  Results from FactBites:
America First - definition of America First in Encyclopedia (1115 words)
The America First Committee (AFC) was founded in September of 1940 not long after Germany's invasion of Poland.
While the America First Committee had its share of prominent businessmen as well as the sympathies of political figures like Senator Burton K. Wheeler or Senator Gerald P. Nye, no one figure was more representative of the movement than Charles A. Lindbergh.
His first radio speech was broadcast on September 15, 1939 over all three of the major radio networks (Mutual, National, and Columbia).
Encyclopedia: America First Party (2002) (1486 words)
The America First party opposed the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, which they saw it as an act of imperialism by the United States and an unconstitutional war.
On 30 March 2004, America First Party candidate Jeffrey W.T. Buck was elected to the Representative Town Meeting Assembly of Framingham, Massachusetts representing the 13th Precinct; thus becoming the party's first elected official.
On October 12, 2004, the America First Party endorsed Constitution Party candidate Michael A. Peroutka for President of the United States.
  More results at FactBites »



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