THE FOUR FREEDOMS
delivered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on January 6,
Mr. Speaker, members of the 77th Congress :
I address you, the members of this new Congress, at a moment
unprecedented in the history of the union. I use the word
"unprecedented" because at no previous time has American
security been as seriously threatened from without as it is
Since the permanent formation of our government under the
Constitution in 1789, most of the periods of crisis in our
history have related to our domestic affairs. And,
fortunately, only one of these --the four-year war between
the States --ever threatened our national unity. Today,
thank God, 130,000,000 Americans in forty-eight States have
forgotten points of the compass in our national unity.
It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often has
been disturbed by events in other continents. We have even
engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of
undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and
in the Pacific, for the maintenance of American rights and
for the Principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case has
a serious threat been raised against our national safety or
our continued independence.
What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United
States as a nation has at all times maintained opposition
--clear, definite opposition-- to any attempt to lock us in
behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of
civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and
of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for
ourselves or for any other part of the Americas.
That determination of ours, extending over all these years,
was proved, for example, in the early days during the
quarter century of wars following the French Revolution.
While the Napoleonic struggle did threaten interests of the
United States because of the French foothold in the West
Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the War of
1812 to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it is
nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great Britain nor
any other nation was aiming at domination of the whole
And in like fashion, from 1815 to 1914 --ninety-nine years
--no single war in Europe or in Asia constituted a real
threat against our future or against the future of any other
Except in the Maximilian interlude in Mexico, no foreign
power sought to establish itself in this hemisphere. And
the strength of the British fleet in the Atlantic has been a
friendly strength; it is still a friendly strength.
Even when the World War broke out in 1941 it seemed to
contain only small threat of danger to our own American
future. But as time went on, as we remember, the American
people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic
nations might mean to our own democracy.
We need not overemphasize imperfections in the peace of
Versailles. We need not harp on failure of the democracies
to deal with problems of world reconstruction. We should
remember that the peace of 1919 was far less unjust than the
kind of pacification which began even before Munich, and
which is being carried on under the new order of tyranny
that seeks to spread over every continent today.
The American people have unalterably set their faces against
I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way
of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every
part of the world --assailed either by arms or by secret
spreading of poisionous propaganda by those who seek to
destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still
During sixteen long months this assault has blotted out the
whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number of
independent nations, great and small. And the assailants
are still on the march, threatening other nations, great and
Therefore, as your President, performing my constitutional
duty to "give to the Congress information of the state of
the union," I find it unhappily necessary to report that the
future and the safety of our country and of our democracy
are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our
Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly
waged in four continents. If that defense fails, all the
population and all the resources of Europe and Asia, Africa
and Australia will be dominated by conquerors. And let us
remember that the total of those populations in those four
continents, the total of those populations and their
resources greatly exceeds the sum total of the population
and the resources of the whole of the Western Hemisphere
--yes, many times over.
In times like these it is immature-- and, incidentally,
untrue-- for anybody to brag that an unprepared America,
single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can
hold off the whole world.
No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace
international generosity, or return of true independence, or
world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of
religion-- or even good business. Such a peace would bring
no security for us or for our neighbors. Those who would
give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
As a nation we may take pride in the fact that we are
soft-hearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed. We
must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a
tinkling cymbal preach the ism of appeasement. We must
especially beware of that small group of selfish men who
would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to
feather their own nests.
I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern
warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack
which we must eventually expect if the dictator nation win
There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and
direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as long as
the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists.
Even if there were no British Navy, it is not probable that
any enemy would be stupid enough to attack us by landing
troops in the United States from across thousands of miles
of ocean, until it had acquired strategic bases from which
But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in
Europe-- particularly the lesson of Norway, whose essential
seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built up
over a series of years.
The first phase of the invasion of this hemisphere would not
be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic
points would be occupied by secret agents and by their
dupes-- and great numbers of them are already here and in
As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive
they, not we, will choose the time and the place and the
method of their attack.
And that is why the future of all the American Republics is
today in serious danger. That is why this annual message to
the Congress is unique in our history. That is why every
member of the executive branch of the government and every
member of the Congress face great responsibility-- great
The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy
should be devoted primarily-- almost exclusively-- to
meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems
are now a part of the great emergency.
Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been
based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity
of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national
policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect
for the rights and the dignity of all nations, large and
small. And the justice of morality must and will win in the
Our national policy is this :
First, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to
all-inclusive national defense.
Second, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to full
support of all those resolute people everywhere who are
resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from
our hemisphere. By this support we express our
determination that the democratic cause shall prevail, and
we strengthen the defense and the security of our own
Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the
proposition that principle of morality and considerations
for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a
peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. We
know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of
other people's freedom.
In the recent national election there was no substantial
difference between the two great parties in respect to that
national policy. No issue was fought out on the line before
the American electorate. And today it is abundantly evident
that American citizens everywhere are demanding and
supporting speedy and complete action in recognition of
Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving
increase in our armament production. Leaders of industry
and labor have responded to our summons. Goals of speed
have been set. In some cases these goals are being reached
ahead of time. In some cases we are on schedule; in other
cases there are slight but not serious delays. And in some
cases-- and, I am sorry to say, very important cases-- we
are all concerned by the slowness of the accomplishment of
The Army and Navy, however, have made substantial progress
during the past year. Actual experience is improving and
speeding up our methods of production with every passing
day. And today's best is not good enough for tomorrow.
I am not satisfied with the progress thus far made. The men
in charge of the program represent the best in training, in
ability and in patriotism. They are not satisfied with the
progress thus far made. None of us will be satisfied until
the job is done.
No matter whether the original goal was set too high or too
low, our objective is quicker and better results.
To give you two illustrations :
We are behind schedule in turning out finished airplanes.
We are working day and night to solve the innumerable
problems and to catch up.
We are ahead of schedule in building warships, but we are
working to get even further ahead of that schedule.
To change a whole nation from a basis of peacetime
production of implements of peace to a basis of wartime
production of implements of war is no small task. The
greatest difficulty comes at the beginning of the program,
when new tools, new plant facilities, new assembly lines,
new shipways must first be constructed before the actual
material begins to flow steadily and speedily from them.
The Congress of course, must rightly keep itself informed at
all times of the progress of the program. However, there is
certain information, as the Congress itself will readily
recognize, which, in the interests of our own security and
those of the nations that we are supporting, must of needs
be kept in confidence.
New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for our
safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased new
appropriations and authorizations to carry on what we have
I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds
sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war
supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations
which are now in actual war with aggressor nations. Our
most useful and immediate role is to act as an arsenal for
them as well as for ourselves. They do not need manpower,
but they do need billions of dollars' worth of the weapons
The time is near when they will not be able to pay for them
all in ready cash. We cannot, and we will not, tell them
that they must surrender merely because of present inability
to pay for the weapons which we know they must have.
I do not recommend that we make them a loan of dollars with
which to pay for these weapons-- a loan to be repaid in
dollars. I recommend that we make it possible for those
nations to continue to obtain war materials in the United
States, fitting their orders into our own program. And
nearly all of their material would, if the time ever came,
be useful in our own defense.
Taking counsel of expert military and naval authorities,
considering what is best for our own security, we are free
to decide how much should be kept here and how much should
be sent abroad to our friends who, by their determined and
heroic resistance, are giving us time in which to make ready
our own defense.
For what we send abroad we shall be repaid, repaid within a
reasonable time following the close of hostilities, repaid
in similar materials, or at our option in other goods of
many kinds which they can produce and which we need.
Let us say to the democracies : "We Americans are vitally
concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth
our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to
give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world.
We shall send you in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes,
tanks, guns. That is our purpose and our pledge."
In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by
the threats of dictators that they will regard as a breach
of international law or as an act of war our aid to the
democracies which dare to resist their aggression. Such aid
is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally
proclaim it so to be.
And when the dictators --if the dictators-- are ready to
make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on
They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands
to commit an act of war. Their only interest is in a new
one-way international law which lacks mutuality in its
observance and therefore becomes an instrument of
oppression. The happiness of future generations of
Americans may well depend on how effective and how immediate
we can make our aid felt. No one can tell the exact
character of the emergency situations that we may be called
upon to meet. The nation's hands must not be tied when the
nation's life is in danger.
Yes, and we must prepare, all of us prepare, to make the
sacrifices that the emergency --almost as serious as war
itself-- demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and
efficiency in defense, in defense preparations at any time,
must give way to the national need.
A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from
all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the
leaders of business, of labor and of agriculture to take the
lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but
within their own groups.
The best way of dealing with the few slackers or
trouble-makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by
patriotic example, and if that fails, to use the sovereignty
of government to save government.
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by
armaments alone. Those who man our defenses and those
behind them who build our defenses must have the stamina and
the courage which come from unashakeable belief in the
manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action
that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of
all the things worth fighting for.
The nation takes great satisfaction and much strength from
the things which have been done to make its people conscious
of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic
life in America. Those things have toughened the fiber of
our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened their
devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect.
Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking
about the social and economic problems which are the root
cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme
factor in the world. For there is nothing mysterious about
the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.
The basic things expected by our people of their political
and economic systems are simple. They are :
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a
wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the basic things that must never be
lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of
our modern world. The inner and abiding straight of our
economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree
to which they fulfill these expectations.
Many subjects connected with our social economy call for
immediate improvement. As examples :
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age
pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or
needing gainful employment may obtain it.
I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured of
the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that
call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more
money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that
a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for
from taxation than we are paying for today. No person
should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program,
and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability
to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our
If the congress maintains these principles the voters,
putting patriotism ahead pocketbooks, will give you their
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look
forward to a world founded upon four essential human
The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere
in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his
own way-- everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world
terms, means economic understandings which will secure to
every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants
--everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into
world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to
such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation
will be in a position to commit an act of physical
aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the wold.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite
basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and
generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of
the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception --the
moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of
world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history we have been
engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a
revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself
to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the
quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is
the cooperation of free countries, working together in a
friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads and
hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith
in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the
supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to
those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our
strength is our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.