Robert H. Jackson as United States Attorney General-Destroyers for Bases Agreement and Lend-Lease Act

Aims & Purpose

This 90-minute lesson supports instruction of the following generalization:

*WORLD WAR II (1935-1945): The participation of the United States in World War II was a transformative event for the nation and its role in the world. 

11.8a As situations overseas deteriorated, President Roosevelt’s leadership helped move the nation from a policy of neutrality to a pro-Allied position and ultimately direct involvement in the war.

Students will examine reasons for the passage of the Neutrality Acts (1935-1937) and consider the national debate as a shift to pro-Allied policies including “cash and carry” and Lend-Lease.

*Taken from:  New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework for grades 9-12 (New York State Education Department, 2014), p. 40.

Students will examine:

-The reasons for the shift from a United States foreign policy of   neutrality to a pro- Allied position

-Robert H. Jackson’s role in helping to draft and pass the Destroyers for Bases Agreement and the Lend-Lease Act

-How the adoption of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement and the Lend-Lease Act provided needed assistance to the Allied nations.


Decision Making


Civic Values


Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence

Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources

Create meaningful and persuasive understandings of the past by synthesizing disparate and relevant evidence from primary and secondary sources and drawing connections to the present.

Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Articulate how events are related chronologically to one another in time and explain the ways in which earlier ideas and events may influence subsequent ideas and events.

*Taken from:  New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework (New York State Education Department, 2014), pp. 14-16

Setting the Stage-Introduction & Background

20 minutes

During the early years of World War II, Great Britain and its allies needed any assistance the United States could provide to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers.  Robert Jackson was instrumental in assisting President Roosevelt in arguing for aid in the form of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement and the Lend-Lease Act.  A series of Neutrality Acts from 1935 to 1937 had limited what aid the United States could offer Great Britain and its allies.  Through private negotiations (Destroyers for Bases Agreement) and Congressional debates (Lend-Lease Act), the United States provided much needed assistance to the allies, short of going to war.

Ask students to view the section of the DVD, Liberty Under Law:  The Robert Jackson Story, which describes Robert Jackson’s role in the debates over the Destroyers for Bases Agreement and the Lend-Lease Act

(16:20-20:42 minutes).  After viewing this segment on the DVD, ask students to describe the background for each program. Emphasize the following points:

  • The limitations imposed on United States involvement in assisting the Allies by the various Neutrality Acts from 1935 to 1937
  • The reasons why Great Britain needed destroyers and why the allies needed military hardware and supplies
  • The provisions of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement and the Lend-Lease Act
  • Robert Jackson’s role in preparing and supporting both programs to aid the Allied cause.

Historical Background to the Destroyers for Bases Agreement & the Lend-Lease Act

20 minutes

Provide small groups of students with the article, “Destroyers for Bases Agreement, September 2, 1940” taken from the Jackson Center newsletter for September 2, 2015.  The article can be found on-line at

Ask students to answer the questions on “Destroyers for Bases Agreement and Lend-Lease Act Questions”


Destroyers for Bases Agreement & Lend-Lease Act Questions

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's press conference about the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, Sept. 3, 1940

20 minutes

Have students read President Roosevelt’s press conference announcing the Destroyers for Bases Agreement.  Ask small groups of students to prepare a press release announcing the program and explaining why it was important for the Allies.

Students can find the press conference on-line at

Or at   Go to September 3, 1940 press conference #677.

As a follow-up activity, students can read President Roosevelt’s Message to Congress and compare it to their press releases.  The Message to Congress, September 3, 1940 can be found at

Lesson 3 Activity 3 Questions

Questions related to the Destroyers for Bases Agreement & Roosevelt’s Message to Congress

Lend-Lease Act-March 11, 1941

30 minutes

Provide students with the following excerpts from President Franklin Roosevelt’s December 17, 1940 press conference and his January 6, 1941 annual Message to Congress.  Ask students to explain why President Roosevelt called on Congress to approve the Lend-Lease Act.

Robert Jackson defended the legality of the Lend-Lease Act and emphasized its importance to assisting the Allied cause.  Have student groups debate whether the Lend-Lease Act violated the United States policy of neutrality.

President Roosevelt’s December 17, 1940 press conference can be found on-line at

Ask students to explain what FDR was trying to explain with his analogy about lending his neighbor a garden hose.

President Roosevelt’s annual Message to Congress, January 6, 1941 can be fond on-line at This site also includes an audio version of this message.

Text copy from Annual Message/Lend-Lease

Writing Assignment for homework for US History & Gov't Grade 11

30 minutes

Students can find a copy of the final Lend-Lease Act entitled, “1776-An Act Further to Promote the Defense of the United States” at  Search under “Lend-Lease Act.”

In an essay format, have students summarize the elements of the law and discuss why President Franklin Roosevelt called on the United States to become the “Arsenal of Democracy.”  Ask students to reflect on what role the United States should play in assisting in or resolving international conflicts.  What advice do students think Robert Jackson would give to future presidents about United States involvement in foreign wars or conflicts?


  • Roosevelt Announces the Destroyers Deal:  Press Conference, September 3, 1940.

     Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt:  The Call to Battle Stations (New York, 1950), pp. 663-72.