The Ludlow Amendment proposed ‘Except in the event of an invasion of the United States…authority of Congress to declare war shall not become effective until confirmed in a Nationwide Referendum’. President Roosevelt was adamantly opposed, maintaining it would ‘cripple any president in his conduct of foreign affairs’. In 1930s America, the public mood was firmly isolationist (a Gallup survey in 1935 found 75 per cent support for the amendment) and, after several attempts, the amendment’s proposer, Democratic Senator for Indiana Louis B. Ludlow, managed to secure its consideration by Congress. In the event, it was defeated 209 to 188, over 100 short of the 2/3 majority needed to take it to the Senate. Its backers were concentrated in constituencies with large numbers of Irish and German Americans, the most profoundly isolationist segment of the electorate. With Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, public enthusiasm for the Amendment would wane dramatically.
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