Council for the Prevention of War. Founded in 1921 bynQuaker educator Frederick J. Libby as a clearinghouse forndisarmament efforts, the NCPW served as an umbrellanorganization for a host of leading religious and peace groupsnthat ranged from the National League of Women Voters tonthe Veterans of Foreign Wars. It reached the peak of itsninfluence in the mid-1930’s, when it promoted both thenneutrality acts (successfully) and a constitutional amendmentnto conduct a popular referendum before the UnitednStates entered any war (unsuccessfully). By the hme Hitler’snpanzers were crossing Poland, it had lost much ground tonRoosevelt’s interventionist policies and a host of affiliatednbodies had withdrawn, including the American Associationnof University Women.nIn September 1939, Roosevelt asked Congress to revisenthe existing neutrality law, one that prohibited all sales ofnmunitions overseas. Belligerents, said the President, shouldnbe permitted to purchase arms manufactured in the UnitednStates provided that they pay cash and carried them in theirnforeign vessels. Roosevelt’s critics, fully aware that suchnlegislation benefited Europe’s two leading maritime powersn— France and Britain — protested strongly against what wasnpopularly called “cash-and-carry.” But such anti-interventionistsncould carry neither public opinion (if the polls benaccurate) nor the Congress with them. The only pressurengroup of any strength was an interventionist one, headed bynKansas editor William Allen White and named the NonpartisannCommittee for Peace through the Revision of thenNeutrality Law.nBy the summer of 1940, France, the Low Countries, andntwo Scandinavian nations — Denmark and Norway — hadnfallen to Cermany. A huge air battle was being waged overnEnglish skies, which has gone down in history as “the Battlenof Britain,” and there was much talk that Hitler would soonnlaunch a ground invasion of that embattled isle.nMoreover, the interventionists had established anothernpressure group, this one even better organized and financed.nAgain headed by editor White, it was called the Committeento Defend America by Aiding the Allies. The CDAAAnendorsed the destroyer-bases deal of September 1940, annexecutive agreement by which Roosevelt exchanged 50ndestroyers for 90-year leases on British bases in NorthnAmerica and the Caribbean. More militant voices within thenCDAAA, who were soon to form the Fight for FreedomnCommittee, were proposing the sending of major Americannweapons to Britain, including pursuit planes, tanks, the topnsecret Norden bomb sight, high-speed torpedo craft (callednmosquito boats), and four-engine bombers (called FlyingnFortresses).nOnly as these events were in the offing did critics ofnFranklin D. Roosevelt’s foreign policy undertake a concertednopposition, one that would soon center on the establishmentnof the America First Committee. Late in the spring ofn1940, Yale law student R. Douglas Stuart and four of hisncolleagues launched a petition aimed at organizing collegenstudents into a nationwide anti-interventionist organization.nAmong the petition’s five drafters were Cerald S. Ford andnPotter Stewart, later President of the United States andnassociate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, respectively.nTheir efforts centered on enforcing the key provisions of then”cash-and-carry” law, officially called the Neutrality Act ofn1939: banning loans to belligerents and blocking Americannshipment of war goods abroad. Insisting on the retention ofn”cash-and-carry,” the law students said, “We demand thatnCongress refrain from war, even if England is on the vergenof defeat.” America’s very survival, so the Yale law studentsnbelieved, could only be jeopardized if valuable weaponsnwere sent overseas.nThe law students soon enlarged their focus, seekingnsupporters not only in university ranks but in all areas ofnnational life. Ceneral Robert E. Wood, 61-year-old boardnchairman of Sears, Roebuck, volunteered to lead a nationalnorganization and immediately became its acting chairman.nOne of America’s leading businessmen. Wood had originallynbacked the New Deal, supporting in particular federalnrelief to agriculture and the abandonment of the goldnstandard. He started to veer away from Roosevelt with thenadvent of the Wagner Labor Relations Act of 1935, whichnencouraged the formation of trade unions in major industries;nFDR’s Supreme Court “packing” proposal of 1937;nand the wages-and-hours bill of 1938. Less “isolationist”nthan many of Roosevelt’s critics. Wood supported “cashand-carry,”nconscription, and massive rearmament in thenThe group originally called itself the Emergency Committeento Defend America First, but by late August itnhad renamed itself the America First Committee. Thencommittee, formally organized that September, immediatelyntook preeminence as America’s leading anti-interventionistnbody. In its brief history, it centered its activity on two ofnRoosevelt’s major foreign policy proposals: the passing of thenLend-Lease bill early in 1941 and the arming of merchantnships and escorting of war supplies to Allied ports in the latenautumn of that year. The AFC also criticized othernadministration moves, such as the occupation of Iceland innJuly 1941, the drafting of the Atlantic Charter in August,nand the placing of economic pressures on Japan throughoutn1940 and 1941. Although it took no stand on extending thenterm of military service for draftees beyond the originalnone-year limit, something proposed by Roosevelt in Julyn1941, its research bureau argued that such a conscriptionnpolicy was not needed for U.S. defense. The AFC remainednin existence until Cermany declared war on thenUnited States, which was four days after the Japanesenbombed Pearl Harbor, and it formally disbanded on Decembern11, I94I.nBy the time it folded, the AFC had 450 units and at leastna quarter of a million members. During the 15 months of itsnexistence, it had held massive rallies, distributed tons ofnliterature, sponsored national radio speakers, and suppliednresearch data to members of Congress. Unquestionably, fornmost of its life, it had mobilized the maximum amount ofnopposition possible to Roosevelt’s policies.nProminent supporters included retired diplomat WilliamnR. Castle, once U.S. ambassador to Japan; Hugh Johnson,nScripps-Howard columnist and reserve general, who hadndirected Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration; attorneynClay Judson, who had headed the Chicago Councilnof Foreign Relations; Kathryn Lewis, who undoubtedlynrepresented her father John L. Lewis, by far the mostnpowerful labor leader in America; Al Williams, anothernnnDECEMBER 1991/17n