Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms
Speech Inscribed and Signed to “M.A.L."
(part of FDR-Missy LeHand Archive)
As the world responds to COVID-19, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" take on increased importance. Today, more than ever, we are all effected by people and events all around the planet. As FDR acknowledged, the safety of America depends on the freedom and security of people throughout the world. Then, as now, “America First” would turn us into the leader in a race to the bottom. Especially now, constructive engagement is the only real solution. Perhaps the Four Freedoms can become the rallying cry that we so desperately need.
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Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Message made his case to a wary nation that the security of America depended on the economic and political freedom not only of its own citizens, but of all people:
“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...
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
“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 peace time 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 world.
“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.” (p7)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT. Printed Press Release, January 6, 1941, signed and inscribed by FDR: “Franklin D. Roosevelt. ‘Another’ for M.A.L.” 7 pp.
This document is part of the FDR-Missy LeHand Archive, comprising some 1,400 pieces - the most important grouping of original documents still in private hands from such a central figure in FDR’s life. (While her official papers long ago moved to the FDR Library in Hyde Park, this archive consists of LeHand’s own letters, photos, books, and ephemera, and letters and documents she received personally from FDR.) Highlights include more than forty signed Presidential Addresses, mainly rare press releases printed in very small quantities on the day the speeches were delivered, including his December 1940 “Arsenal of Democracy” speech, other Inaugural Addresses, fireside chats, and more.
Seth Kaller, Inc. and Glenn Horowitz Booksellers, Inc. are together offering the archive, intact, directly from Ms. LeHand’s heirs. Catalog and Price on Request.
Two weeks before his inauguration for a historic third term, Roosevelt hoped to inspire a skeptical nation to support deeper involvement in preventing Nazi domination of Europe. He concluded his historic 1941 State of the Union Message with a vision for a just world sustained by four “essential human freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Just as Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal” did not make it so, Roosevelt’s message was more inspirational than descriptive.
However, his assertion that isolationism was not a real defense, and that the security of our nation depended on human rights of all nations, is as relevant today as it was in 1941.
Looking back, FDR quotes Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety...”
Looking ahead, FDR presciently stated, “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.”
Excerpts from other signed Speeches in the FDR – Missy LeHand Archive
(While the FDR Library in Hyde Park has working drafts of a number of these speeches, and official printed copies, it does not have signed copies of most. For many of the addresses in the archive, it is literally impossible for a better FDR association copy to come on the market, ever.)
Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937
“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope— because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern.... The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.... Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well. They will insist that every agency of popular government use effective instruments to carry out their will. Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people.”
(LH-FDR signed speech #1)
Fireside Chat Address Discussing Plans to combat the Depression, April 14, 1938
“Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations— disappeared not because the people of those nations disliked democracy, but because they had grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while they sat helpless in the face of...weakness through lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat. We in America know that our own democratic institutions can be preserved and made to work. But in order to preserve them we need to act together, to meet the problems of the Nation boldly, and to prove that the practical operation of democratic government is equal to the task of protecting the security of the people. Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our Government to give employment to idle men. The people of America are in agreement in defending their liberties at any cost, and the first line of that defense lies in the protection of economic security. Your Government, seeking to protect democracy, must prove that Government is stronger than the forces of business depression.” (LH-FDR signed speech #13)
State of the Union Address, January 3, 1940
“We do not have to go to war with other nations, but at least we can strive with other nations to encourage the kind of peace that will lighten the troubles of the world, and by so doing help our own nation as well.... But there is a vast difference between keeping out of war and pretending that this war is none of our business.” (LH-FDR signed speech #24)
University of Virginia Speech Denouncing Italy’s Attack on France, inscribed “Spades is Spades,” June 10, 1940
“Perception of danger to our institutions may come slowly or it may come with a rush and a shock as it has to the people of the United States in the past few months. This perception of danger has come to us clearly and overwhelmingly; and we perceive the peril in a world-wide arena.... Some indeed still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.... The Government of Italy has now chosen to preserve what it terms its ‘freedom of action’ and to fulfill what it states are its promises to Germany. In so doing it has manifested disregard for the rights and security of other nations.... On this tenth day of June, 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.” (LH-FDR signed speech #28)
Fireside Chat Explaining Proclamation of an Unlimited National Emergency, May 27, 1941
“Adolf Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that, unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western Hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction.... The Nazi world does not recognize any God except Hitler; for the Nazis are as ruthless as the Communists in the denial of God. What place has religion which preaches the dignity of the human being, the majesty of the human soul, in a world where moral standards are measured by treachery and bribery and fifth columnists? Will our children, too, wander off, goose-stepping in search of new gods?” (LH-FDR signed speech #37)
300 photos of FDR, LeHand, and their circle, many of them otherwise unknown, candid shots of FDR relaxing at Warm Springs in his bathing trunks, exposing his normally concealed legs;
30 signed and inscribed photos of FDR to LeHand;
a small archive relating to the crucial visit of Britain’s King and Queen of Great Britain to America in June 1939, just before the War;
fourteen FDR letters to LeHand after she left the White House following her 1941 stroke, displaying a rare and remarkable example of concern which he showed for few other people;
Missy’s own letters to her family;
correspondence to Missy, and later to her family, from key members of Roosevelt’s circle, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes (providing information about FDR’s decline in health in mid-1944), and Ambassador to the Soviet Union and France William C. Bullitt (with whom LeHand was romantically involved for many years);
over 700 invitations to LeHand for Inaugural ceremonies, White House functions, and diplomatic receptions;
Additional signed speeches not mentioned above: Roosevelt’s “The Happy Warrior” speech nominating Governor Al Smith at the Democratic National Convention in Houston; and
Memorandum of Joseph Kennedy to FDR, February 18, 1935, describing his plans to close the stock exchanges if necessary following the Supreme Court’s gold case rulings.
Additional Historical Background: a New York Precursor to FDR’s Four Freedoms
In 1935, in the depths of the Depression, the next World’s Fair was planned with the hope that it would lift spirits and businesses. The New York World’s Fair opened on April 30, 1939, the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s first inauguration as President. The biggest consumer revolution sparked by the fair was the introduction of television. With the looming threat of war in Europe, the Fair also had a particular interest in showcasing Latin American nations, to combat American prejudice. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Pan American Union were among the 60 countries represented. The fair, running through October 1940, celebrated Four Freedoms—religion, speech, press, and assembly—a prescient focus on many fronts.
Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings are now on international exhibit, after a recent tour in several major American cities.
Why did we to lend FDR’s speech to the National Museum of American Jewish History for its first institutional exhibit?
The roots of all of FDR's “Four Freedoms” can be found in other original documents currently on exhibit at NMAJH.
George Washington’s First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
As the Declaration of Independence had done during the Revolutionary War, this often-overlooked Founding Era document set forth a statement of purpose for the new republic.
Washington prayed that the government would encourage “all Sovereigns and Nations… to have... good government, peace, and concord,” and that our nation would “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us,” and the United States would seek “a degree of temporal prosperity,” not only for America but for “all mankind.”
Washington’s belief in a God who superintended the universe, and to whom people owed devotion, was consistent with his view that morality, religion, and government all suffered when any denomination claimed sway over others. Recognizing that ours was a government of citizens, he calls for thanks:
“for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge… And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations … to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—”
Seth Kaller, Inc. is honored to have previously sold this historic document, and to have arranged the loan to NMAJH on behalf of the new owner.
Washington’s famous “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” letter to the Jewish community of Newport, R.I.
“All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
He closes by assuring “the Children of the Stock of Abraham” that in America they can fulfill the biblical blessing and wish for anyone to “sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Seth Kaller, Inc. has acquired, sold and exhibited several original 1790 printings of Moses Seixas’ letter to George Washington, and the president’s now famous response. We are also honored to have appraised for and be an adviser to the Morris Morgenstern Foundation, the owner of the original letters on long-term loan to NMAJH. More information on Washington's famous “to Bigotry no Sanction” letter to the Jewish Congregation of Newport, R.I. (Seth Kaller, Inc./ Documents of Freedom)
The Bill of Rights
After the amendments passed in the Senate with slight variations, on September 25, 1789, a conference committee agreed to go back to wording that was closer to the House’s version, finalizing the text of what became the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This Providence, Rhode Island newspaper, The United States Chronicle, October 22, 1789, publishes the full text of the 12 proposed amendments, along with Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation, as well as the act establishing the Treasury Department and a report from North Carolina supporting ratification of the Constitution now that a bill of rights seemed likely, providing “an almost unparalleled instance of a public body possessed of power abridging it, and fully contradicts the grand argument of the opponents of the Constitution, that, ‘if Congress are once possessed of the power vested in the Constitution, they never will relinquish or amend it conformable to our wishes’.” [p2/c1].
Seth Kaller, Inc is honored to have acquired this document for, and arranged the loan to NMAJH on behalf of David M. Rubenstein. Other Bill of Rights printings we have handled are currently on exhibit at the National Constitution Center. We’ll have to tell the story of our involvement in North Carolina’s recovery of her original engrossed signed manuscript of the Bill of Rights another day. #23813
The Declaration of Independence - 1819 John Binns Facsimile
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
Only a year earlier, the vast majority of Americans sought reconciliation with Britain, regarding the British government as the apex of centuries of Western political thought - and also fearing war against the best trained and equipped military in the world. By July of 1776, however, British missteps, and successful anti-British treatises - especially Thomas Paine’s Common Sense - had caused a major shift in public opinion. The British government was now seen as corrupt and beyond repair, and hopes of reconciliation were drowned out. According to historian Pauline Maier, In drafting a Declaration of Independence, Americans had to do more than declare that the British government had forced them to this point. “They needed to overcome fear and the sense of loss, to link their cause with a purpose beyond survival alone, to raise the vision of a better future so compelling that in its name men would sacrifice even life itself.” Though independence was actually declared on July 2, it took another two days for Congress to edit the document and produce the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Today, the Founders' blind spots, particularly on slavery and the lack of rights for women and Native Americans, are so glaring that they can be hard for us to look away. Knowing what we know now, can we forgive his damning obliviousness to the irony of a slave-owner’s declamations on freedom? By stating that "all men are created equal," we know that Jefferson was stating an ideal, not describing a reality. Still, it is appropriate to credit the Declaration for the pivotal role that it played in establishing those ideals among America’s first principles, and inspiring progress on the continuing journey towards those ideals.
This printing: In the period following the War of 1812, Americans began to look back on the nation’s founding; the Republic was forty years old, and the generation that had signed the Declaration of Independence was passing away. Many founding documents, such as the debates of the Constitutional Convention, had not been widely published, if at all. Even the Declaration of Independence had not been seen by most Americans. In 1816, John Binns announced plans to publish the first decorative Declaration broadside, to be sold by subscription for $10 each. Gathering copies of the 13 state seals along with engravings of Washington (after Gilbert Stuart, 1795), Jefferson (after Otis, 1816), and Hancock (after Copley, 1765) took longer than expected. By the time his project was completed in 1819, four less ornate and less expensive copies had already come out. But Binns' artistic production of a Declaration facsimile has not been eclipsed.
John Binns, 1819. Text engraved by C. H. Parker, signatures engraved by Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. #25702 $25,000
Seth Kaller, Inc is proud to be the leading dealer/expert in important printings of the Declaration of Independence, and is honored to have arranged this loan to NMAJH.
More FDR Signed Speeches - Additional Highlights in the FDR- Missy LeHand Archive
FDR’s letter to Adolf Hitler urging a peaceful resolution of German-Polish tensions, August 24, 1939
“The people of the United States are as one in their opposition to policies of military conquest and domination. They are as one in rejecting the thesis that any ruler, or any people, possess the right to achieve their ends or objectives through the taking of action which will plunge countless millions of people into war and which will bring distress and suffering to every nation of the world, belligerent and neutral, when such ends and objectives, so far as they are just and reasonable, can be satisfied through processes of peaceful negotiation or by resort to judicial arbitration.” (LH-FDR signed speech #19)
Address on the outbreak of war in Europe, September 3, 1939
“You must master at the outset a simple but unalterable fact in modern foreign relations between nations. When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.... and we must act to preserve that safety today, and to preserve the safety of our children in future years.... I cannot ask that every American remain neutral in thought as well.... I hope the United States will keep out of this war. I believe that it will. And I give you assurance and reassurance that every effort of your Government will be directed toward that end.” (LH-FDR signed speech #20)
FDR’s Christmas letter to Pope Pius XII, likening the world war to the “Dark Ages,” December 23, 1939
When “the flame and sword of barbarians swept over Western civilization,” but “through a re-kindling of the inherent spiritual spark in mankind, another rebirth brought back order and culture and religion. I believe that the travail of today is a new form of these old conflicts…” (LH-FDR signed speech #23)
The Arsenal of Democracy Fireside Chat, December 29, 1940, delivered on the night of one of the most destructive air raids on London during the Blitz
“If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the high seas—and they will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere.... We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.” (LH-FDR signed speech #34)
Third Inaugural Address, Focusing on the American spirit, January 20, 1941
“The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth. We know that we still have far to go; that we must more greatly build the security and the opportunity and the knowledge of every citizen, in the measure justified by the resources and the capacity of the land. But it is not enough to achieve these purposes alone. It is not enough to clothe and feed the body of this Nation, to instruct, and inform its mind. For there is also the spirit... if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation's body and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know would have perished…” (LH-FDR signed speech #36)
This is the only archive remaining in private hands from such a central figure in FDR’s personal and political life. Seth Kaller, Inc. and Glenn Horowitz Booksellers, Inc. are together offering the archive intact, directly from Ms. LeHand’s heirs. Catalog and Price on Request.