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Notes on The Memoirs of Cordell Hull
by William P. Meyers

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Page 13
Neutrality Act, Spanish Civil War, Japan and U.S. Troops in China

The Neutrality Act of 1935 imposed arms embargos "against all belligerents, aggressor and victim alike." Cordell Hull and President Roosevelt hoped to modify it to apply only to aggressors. They would also at times evade it by refusing to recognize a state of war. At the time its only application would have been to the conflicts between Ethiopia and Italy and between Japan and China, but it would soon be applied to the Spanish Civil War. [460]

Hull rationalizes the U.S. embargo of arms to the democratically elected Republican government of Spain during the Civil War as supporting the British and French policy of non-intervention. He believed to export arms to Spain would require naval support, else the arms would simply be seized by General Franco's fascist forces. He notes that there were vociferous groups in America that wanted the U.S. to arm the Republic. [He fails to note pressure brought be the Catholic Church on Roosevelt in favor of Franco.] He claims arming the Republic would have merely to "lengthen the war." He feared Italy or Germany might fight the U.S. if we tried to run Franco's blockade, causing a general war in Europe. "Our policy had nothing to do with our views on the right or the wrong in the Spanish Civil War. We were not judging between the two sides." [483]

Fighting broke out between the Japanese and Chinese at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing on July 7, 1937. In response on July 13 Hull issued a formal statement calling on all nations to exercise restraint, use only peaceful methods, allow for "equality of commercial opportunity and treatment," and lower barriers to trade. [535-536] The Japanese soon seized Beijing and Tientsin (Tianjin), railroads to the south, and set up a government in Hopei (Hebei). In August they attacked Shanghai. The U.S. refused to join in a joint action with Britain and France against Japan. [538] "I cabled Ambassador Nelson T. Johnson at Nanking to say to Chiang Kai-shek that we had repeatedly urged upon both the Japanese and the Chinese governments ... that hostilities be avoided and peace maintained." [539]

"On August 16, 1937, Admiral Yarnell, in command of the United States Asiatic Fleet, requested that 1,200 marines at San Diego be sent to Shanghai, and the president and I agreed they should go. Simultaneously, we began receiving widespread demands from American citizens and organizations to withdraw all armed forces and all Americans from China. We had about 2,500 marines and infantrymen in China by virtue of our treaties with China giving us the right to station them there to protect Americans. For the same purpose we also had a small fleet of gunboats on the Yangtze River by virtue of a treaty with China signed in 1858." [540, my bold]

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