quarto, two pages, typed, on the letterhead of the Metropolitan, with numerous manuscript corrections in ink by Roosevelt, signed by Roosevelt in ink. Formerly folded, else in good, clean condition. The letter was addressed to Judge Kenefick, chairman, of the Committee of Protest on Enslavement of Belgians and Poles, in Buffalo, New York.
A vivid letter by Roosevelt on the importance of bringing American ideals to bear in international affairs and the duty of America to the world, written before American involvement in World War 1.
“My dear Judge Kenefick,
I wish I could be present at the Buffalo meeting to speak on behalf of the Belgians and Poles, and against their enslavement. As that is impossible, may I, through you, express my deep sympathy with your meeting and its purpose. This nation owes it to itself to refuse to be neutral between right and wrong. Our prime duty, of course, is the duty of self-defense, the duty of protecting the honor and the interest of this country, and of guaranteeing our own people against wrong. But second only to this duty, comes the duty of making our views heard, and, if possible, our weight felt, on the side of righteousness and against iniquity in international affairs. We are false to the memory of the great Americans of the past, if we sit by with our hands folded, and fail to make an effective protest when such hideous enormities are practiced as those practiced by Germany in Belgium. I believe that similar deeds have been done in Poland, but as regards the Belgians, and as regards the men and women deported from northern France, we have not had merely ample, but minute information. These men and women in northern France have been sent into state slavery in Germany, and over 100,000 Belgians have suffered the same fate. They are sent to Germany so that by their labor they are aiding Germans in killing their fellow country-men. No such infamy has been perpetrated in any war between civilized powers for over two centuries. It is for us, as the largest neutral nation, to remember that when neutrals fail to protest against action of this kind, they become accomplices in wrong-doing. A private individual, who sees some powerful law breaker knock down a helpless woman or child, and who himself makes no protest and no effort at rescue of any kind, is rightly regarded as being tainted in some manner with the crime. Exactly the same kind of condemnation should be meted out to this nation for not having interfered to the extent of its power, in the effort to prevent the hideous iniquity that has just been perpetrated. I am very glad that this meeting of protest has been called.
Roosevelt was neutral in World War I until his old suspicions of Germany were revived, and he became an enthusiastic supporter of the Allies and denounced the diplomatic courses of President Woodrow Wilson, seeking with tongue and pen to arouse the country. Roosevelt’s passion for the cause is evident in this letter as he calls upon America to live up to its duty not only to itself as a nation founded upon honorable principles but also to the world to bring American ideals into the active promotion of justice and “righteousness”, to quote Roosevelt, in international affairs.
American National Biography, volume 18, pp. 829 - 835
Dictionary of American Biography, volume VIII, part two, pp., 135-144