Destroyers for Bases Deal

Message to the Congress informing them of the exchange of certain over-age destroyers for British naval and air bases, September 3, 1940

To the Congress: 

I transmit herewith for the information of the Congress notes exchanged

between the British Ambassador at Washington and the Secretary of State 

on September 2, 1940, under which this Government has acquired the right 

to lease naval and air bases in Newfoundland, and in the islands of 

Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and Antigua, and in 

British Guiana; also a copy of an opinion of the Attorney General dated 

August 27, 1940, regarding my authority to consummate this arrangement.

The right to bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda are gifts-generously 

given and gladly received. The other bases mentioned have been acquired 

in exchange for 50 of our over-age destroyers.

This is not inconsistent in any sense with our status of peace. Still 

less is it a threat against any nation. It is an epochal and far-

reaching act of preparation for continental defense in the face of grave 


Preparation for defense is an inalienable prerogative of a sovereign 

state. Under present circumstances this exercise of sovereign right is 

essential to the maintenance of our peace and safety. This is the most 

important action in the reinforcement of our national defense that has 

been taken since the Louisiana Purchase. Then as now, considerations of 

safety from overseas attack were fundamental. 

The value to the Western Hemisphere of these outposts of security is 

beyond calculation. Their need has long been recognized by our country, 

and especially by those primarily charged with the duty of charting and 

organizing our own naval and military defense. They are essential to the 

protection of the Panama Canal, Central America, the northern portion of 

South America, the Antilles, Canada, Mexico, and our own eastern and 

Gulf seaboards. Their consequent importance in hemispheric defense is 

obvious. For these reasons I have taken advantage of the present 

opportunity to acquire them. 

Accompanying documents will be found in the Congressional Record of 

September 3, 1940.