THE sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt cannot at this stage affect the course of the war; it may however involve serious and disquieting factors affecting the peace.
The late President was in every sense a big man—and a big man who understood perfectly how to take the fullest advantage of contemporary currents which, despite democratic pretensions, tend to invest two or three world figures with unprecedentedly strong authority A Christian would be right (and not guilty ot excessive moralising) in pointing out that -the relatively brief and always uncertain span of human life suggests the deepest criticism of tendencies which give so much power to princes and so greatly weaken the authority of tradition and law that reflect. however distantly, the Will of God.
In the midst of the complex cross-currents, international and social, through which his great career was lived Roosevelt unquestionably saw very clearly, He saw behind these currents a tremendous conflict between good and evil, between international peace dependent on the achievement of social justice, and international war fed by bad traditions, individual selfishness and economic grievances.
To have seen this was perhaps not so very exceptional; but Roosevelt, we believe. was clear n his own mind and at a comparatively early stage that the great conflict could only be resolved in one way—by the physical &atm lion of the evil thing in war.
His tremendous achievement was to carry his people, in spite of political and sentimental obstacles, with him and to pursue the conflict against the European and Asiatic evil nations to the very eve
A Rough Road
As a trained and experienced politician in the toughest of .political schools, the idealist Roosevelt was . perfectly ready for the truth that his aims could not be realised without • compromises. These he never feared, and indeed his career was an amazing example of political and international
craftsman ship. .
TIE.RALD, Friday, April 20, 1945 And now there is something truly tragic—in far more than the mere conventional sense of the word—in his death just when the goal was being achieved—or, it may be, just when it was becoming clear that the goal could never .be achieved. For Roosevelt, we think, did not understand, any more than most of his contemporaries, that compromise along. the road can change the direction and actually lead to goals that were never intended.
Or, putting it another way, it may be that history will not agree that he saw truly when he reduced the moral complexities of his time • to a simple clear-cut conflict with all the good On one side and all the
evil on the other. Some of the courses which his idealistic leadership has been forced to sponsor are not consistent with the vision.
The Lost Key
However this may bc, the plain fact remains that a great world idealist-leader who, through a long career of consummate statesmanship, commanded immense and decisive forces dedicated to the Same ideal has been taken from the world at a critical moment.
Whether his vision and his craft were sufficient to carry him and the idealist course he had chosen thrcugh the shoals of peace-making — so much more perilous than those of actual war when that war has proved so destructive and in many respects so compromising—can never be known; it is however certain that without his guiding expert hand, the chances of the world ever reaching in our time the goal he set himself arc greatly, diminished.
Though Roosevelt was forced in the course of his crusading to drop at least temperarily his plan of a peace unity built on all peaceloving Powers, small as well as great, in favour of a Three-GreatPower alliance, he remained .able to hold in intimate understanding his own country and ours. Without him that understanding cannot be considered so safe, and the consequences for us may prove very serious indeed.
On a minor, but, we think, on a scale of real importance, the late President appreciated, as no other figure of the same eminence does, the value to a disrupted world of the moral support and advice of the Papacy. That this almost solitary conviction, even though it may not have amounted to anything very decisive, should disappear through his death is a grievous blow to Catholics.
Too little is known of the new President for anyone to be able to estimate his influence in the next three decisive years, but it is scarcely possible for anyone, however gocd and however capable, to replace at a moment's notice the leadership of a person who had built himself into a position of such influence and who was so intimately responsible for a chequered world course of which he alone, if anyone, held the key.