Joan E. Denman


As a junior United States Senator from Florida during 1939-1941, Claude Denson Pepper was one of the most vocal advocates of conscription and aid to France and Britain. Having seen Adolph Hitler's influence and popularity firsthand in 1938, he realized the threat that Nazi Germany presented to the European continent, Great Britain, and possibly the United States. Throughout 1939 and 1940, he spoke of the need for preparedness and became increasingly outspoken as the conflict in Europe intensified. With the help of presidential advisor Benjamin V. Cohen, he drafted two Senate bills for aid to the Allies in May 1940. Although they failed, both resolutions heightened debate and support for aid, later resulting in the Lend-Lease Act of early 1941. Pepper's aggressiveness in promoting his beliefs brought public attention to interventionist ideas and conscription. When, in August 1940, the Congress of American Mothers, a coalition of right-wing women, hanged him in effigy, Pepper's climb into the national spotlight was complete.