2-382 To Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., March 4, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 4, 1941

To Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.1

March 4, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Senator:

I have received your note of March 3d, requesting my advice as to the importance and value of Bill HR-1776 “insofar as up building of our National Defense is concerned.”2

In my opinion the prompt enactment of this bill into law is a matter of great importance to the proper and expeditious development of our measures for national security. The munitions program in prospect presents a colossal task which can only be accomplished under most favorable circumstances, meaning absence of confusion and simplicity of procedure. The bill has been drawn with this in mind.

Furthermore, in view of the world situation with the probable rapidity of new developments, it is my personal opinion and that of the staff, that the legal terms should be so drawn as to permit a maximum of flexibility in the allocation of the products of our production program. In a contest with an arbitrary and ruthless opponent who can take any measures he sees fit and strike where and when he wills with sudden and terrific violence, we must be prepared to act with rapidity if the British fleet is to continue to contribute to our security in the Atlantic. HR-1776 would afford this latitude as to munitions.3

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Lodge, a Republican, was the junior senator from Massachusetts.

2. Major William T. Sexton, an assistant secretary of the General Staff, noted: “It appears that Senator Lodge called on the Chief of Staff and stated that he did not intend to further oppose the passage of the Lease Lend Bill; however, in order to justify this change before his constituents, he was addressing a letter to the Chief of Staff asking for a frank expression of opinion as to the effect of the Lease Lend Bill on the National Defense of the United States.” Marshall then asked John J. McCloy, special assistant to the Secretary of War, to assist him in preparing a statement. (William T. Sexton notes on Conference in the Office of the Chief of Staff Between the Chief of Staff and Mr. McCloy, March 4, 1941, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, Chief of Staff Conferences File]; Lodge’s letter of March 3 is in GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)

Lodge initially opposed the lend-lease bill because he believed that it would grant excessive powers to the president, creating an “internal dictatorship” and weakening the nation’s ability to defend itself in a period of crisis. This position received important Republican support in the hearings on the bill. (New York Times, February 11, 1941, pp. 1, 12.)

3. Lodge broke ranks with his Republican colleagues on March 8, as the Senate voted sixty to thirty-one in favor of lend-lease. A vote along partisan political lines, it paralleled the February 8 House of Representatives vote. Roosevelt signed the act into law on March 11, 1941. Lodge, quoting the chief of staff’s letter, explained in a prepared statement that Marshall’s beliefs accounted for his shift of position. (New York Times, March 9, 1941, p. 21.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 435-436,

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-382

Rights: Public Information