The Great Depression Dbq

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Louisa Odonkor
Mr. Hamel
Period 1
U.S History II – DBQ During the Roaring Twenties, Americans were prosperous when it came to living in society. Then something rather unfortunate happened. The Great Depression hit the world in shock depriving the world of all its joy and happiness. America experienced great global events. From the end of World War I in 1918 to the Roaring Twenties, straight to the Great Depression in 1929, into the beginning of World War II in 1939, and all the way to the horror of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, America was forced face these occurrences with difficulty and confusion. But with the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, quick and immediate responses were made to stabilize America. Among his responses were changes in America’s foreign policy. The well-established sense of isolationism soon faded (foreshadowed by WWI and Wilson’s plea for the League of Nations). As demonstrated by Wilson’s League of Nations, Hitler’s reign, and the start of World War II, America gradually changed its foreign policy from avoiding foreign issues to becoming involved in global affairs because it got to a point where it was inevitable. During this period of time, many Americans still held an isolationist view. They were too arrogant at the time to not only become more aware but also more active in foreign affairs. With the presidency of Harding and Coolidge, the popular view of the time was the return to “normalcy”. In 1920, Harding made a speech opposing Wilson’s plan for the League of Nations (Doc A). This return to “normalcy” was believed to be the key to upholding America’s sovereignty and its values. This belief was shared by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
As we got more into the 1930s, it became clear that fascism was destroying many democracies around the globe, but America still wanted neutrality rather than war. Hopelessly optimistic and naïve American politicians like Frank B. Kellogg created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by fifteen nations, which would supposedly protect America from the threat of war. Although the nations that signed agreed not to use war as an instrument of national policy, the Pact was utterly useless because it could not be enforced. Similarly, the Nine Power Treaty attempted to keep the Open Door in China open by affirming the territorial integrity of the country; however, the agreement was easily broken by the Empire of Japan in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria. Although Americans lambasted Japan for disregarding international treaty agreements, there was nothing the U.S. could do—short of war—that would stop Japanese aggression. In order to avoid any unintentional disasters that might plunge the U.S. into war, Congress passed three consecutive Neutrality Acts from 1935-1937 aimed at keeping Americans impartial and out of harm’s way. If Americans were not able to secretly aid belligerents on either side, as they had in World War I, then, presumably, the U.S. would not be drawn into the conflict. Although Americans were upset with Japanese aggression, they opted to maintain peaceful relations as long as possible, as evidenced by the Public Opinion Poll results in 1939-1941 which show that a majority of Americans opposed war during this period. However, the fall of France demonstrated to the American people, more than anything else, the true threat fascism could pose to American democracy.

President Roosevelt realized that Britain needed aid or else the U.S. would become a lone “free” nation in a fascist-dominated world. The American military needed to be mobilized in order to assist the Allies or democracy would be in grave danger. Roosevelt plead his case to the American people in his famous “Quarantine Speech” in which he called for an end to dangerous isolationism; however, his speech was not well-received and he was criticized for his desire to “entangle” the U.S in European foreign affairs. With Britain the only remaining power fighting against