Courtesy Reuters

What Is the Western Hemisphere?

THERE is considerable confusion in the minds of the American people as to just what area of land and water they may be called upon to defend. This confusion is due in no small part to the lack of uniformity and definiteness which has characterized official statements of policy made on behalf of the United States Government.

Thus in his historic address to Congress on December 2, 1823, President Monroe warned the European Powers against trying "to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere." The terms of the Convention for the Maintenance, Preservation and Rehabilitation, and Reëstablishment of Peace, adopted at the Inter-American Conference of Buenos Aires in 1936, were to apply to the "American Continent." Secretary Hull, in a letter of June 4, 1940, to Representative Bloom discussing a joint resolution then before Congress, used the expressions "Western Hemisphere" and "the Americas" interchangeably.

Numerous other examples could be cited. Many of them were recalled in the House and Senate during the debates last June on the joint resolution, mentioned above, in which Congress affirmed the principle that this country would not recognize the transfer of territories in the "Western Hemisphere" from one non-American Power to another -- a principle implemented in the Act and Convention of Havana, adopted by the American Republics on July 29, 1940. Perhaps it was this extended discussion in Congress that has caused American official usage to crystallize on the term "Western Hemisphere." For example, the National Guard and Reserve Officers Mobilization Act of August 27, 1940, provides that those men and units "ordered into active Federal service . . . shall not be employed beyond the limits of the Western Hemisphere except in the territories and possessions of the United States, including the Philippines."

But just what is the Western Hemisphere and just where is the line that divides Europe from the Americas? The people of the United States are energetically building a system of "hemisphere defense." But until they know precisely where their hemisphere begins and ends they cannot give full effect to

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