Courtesy Reuters

Arms Manufacturers and the Public

ON MAY 18, 1934, President Roosevelt sent a strongly worded Message to the Senate, recommending that it give generous support to the Special Committee which under the Chairmanship of Senator Nye has been charged with the investigation of the munitions industry. He further urged that the Senate give its advice and consent to the ratification of the Arms Traffic Convention of 1925, and expressed the hope that the General Disarmament Conference might find it possible to agree upon an international convention providing for more stringent regulation and control of the international traffic in arms than that agreed upon in 1925. Within an hour after the reading of this Message, Senator Pittman, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, presented to the Senate the unanimous report of the Committee in favor of the ratification of the Convention of 1925, and introduced a Joint Resolution, which he stated had the support of the Administration, authorizing the President to prohibit the sale of arms and munitions of war to Bolivia and Paraguay; and Senator Nye moved that $35,000 be added to the appropriation for the expenses of his Committee.

The events of that day served to focus public opinion upon a question in which various organizations have for years been attempting to awaken public interest, and for which opinion had been prepared by the appearance within the past few months of a number of widely-read articles and books.[i]

It would probably be impossible to determine just when it was first realized that the private manufacture of arms and the international trade in arms constituted serious dangers to the peace of the world, and that governmental supervision and control of those whom the President in his Message called "manufacturers and merchants of engines of destruction" must be a fundamental element in any program designed to restrict or abolish armed conflict among the nations. It first became a matter of world-wide discussion immediately after the Great War when men were seeking every possible means to prevent the recurrence of such a conflict.

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