Charles Beard’s book, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances and Realities,  positions Beard both as an historian with an acutely enquiring mind and as a critic of Roosevelt’s war dealings specifically and of America’s role in war generally. However, for a reader to fully appreciate Beard’s white-knuckled mood and firmly grounded perspective one must, at least, be familiar with Beard’s prior works on these and other related issues.
Beard was astute enough to see another great war looming on Europe’s horizon by 1936 and to be moved enough to write The Devil Theory of War: An Inquiry into the Nature of History and the Possibility of Keeping Out of War, in which he argued that the prime motivation of America’s involvement in the Great War was for the benefit of capital and big business eager to cash in on the many new opportunities that war provided. He saw the embryonic imperialist dreams of American empire that Theodore Roosevelt, Admiral Mahan, Henry Cabot Lodge, Albert Beverage and others were espousing as simply a “plain capitalist racket” that utterly appalled him. By 1936, Beard could see America heading in exactly the same direction, yet again, having paid no heed whatsoever to the lessons he believed should have been learnt from the First War. It is not until the penultimate paragraph in the Devil Theory of War that Beard offers a meek, almost passing, but nonetheless important insight into the conditions by which America might entangle itself in war, where he suggests that:
"It might so happen that participation by the United States in the next or following war would be desirable “in the national interest” or for some great good. If so, the case could be discussed openly on its merits by the Congress of the United States, as advised by the President and the State Department openly. If we go to war, let us go to war for some grand national and human advantage openly discussed and deliberately arrived at, and not to bail out farmers, bankers and capitalists or to save politicians from the pain of dealing with a domestic crisis."
It is difficult to judge exactly what Beard had in mind with regard to the words “grand national and human advantage” and the offering this paper makes can only be speculative, but it may well be that Beard foresaw some overwhelming catastrophic threat to America’s existence as being the only situation that would require America to entangle itself in war – not just the war to come but, he carefully notes, any future war. That, however, was in 1936.
In President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941, Beard’s reflections on the reasons for FDR taking America into the Second World War, he certainly does not entertain the notion that the attack on Pearl Harbour provided such threat to America’s existence and, indeed, implies that, while America then had no choice but to prosecute the war, its provocation was engineered and could have been avoided. He immerses himself in the task of proving his argument and making his point. The extent of the research alone demonstrates the drive he has found for the purpose and the passionate search for the truth borders on a kind of controllable obsession that seems to fuel that drive. One wonders if Beard senses or is aware of his approaching demise, (he dies in 1948, the year of the book’s publication) and whether this too projects his sense of urgency needed to once and for all resolve and reveal the truth of it. Not just of FDR’s complicity in political manipulation, but also to vindicate what Beard believed and had expressed in 1936 in The Devil Theory of War as an all embracing truth and that the ensuing war was stark proof of it. This paper, apparently, is not the first to discuss the validity of such argument.
But then one arrives at the last chapter of President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War and, after reading it carefully, one wonders if there is not some paradoxical conundrum lurking between all the previous lines. If only Beard were still alive. He could be asked if, in 1948 and with the benefit of hindsight and having full knowledge of the absolute atrociousness of the war, (which he actually would not have had in 1948) whether he would still have been the isolationist that he was before the war. Beard concedes to the obscenity of Hitler’s Nazism and the impossibility of a neutral America being forced to trade with a victorious Hitler throughout Europe and a Japanese empire through Asia. In questioning FDR’s reasoning for doing what he had done, Beard asks if “the means justified the ends”. If, at the end of it all, two monstrous tyrannies were beaten into non-existence at such a terrible price only to be replaced by a huge monolithic tyranny that now swept not just through much of Eastern Europe but across to those regions that were once part of the previous Pacific tyranny, then was it all worth it? If Beard were President, one might ask, what would he have done? The answer, one suspects, is that he would rather have told of what he would not have done. For Beard, the question was not what he would or would not have done; it was the question of political morality that was important. A matter of political honesty and integrity, he may say, and since neither were present according to Beard, there could, he implies, only be left dishonesty, deceit and hypocrisy. For Beard, the hypocrisy of the Atlantic Charter of August 1941, from that meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill where, incidentally, Beard implies, the plans for America’s incursion in to war were hatched, was the betrayal of all that was noble in the Charter. It demonstrated perfectly his contention that the end did not justify the means. The victorious Allied leaders determined a post-war way of life for millions of Europeans who would have no say at all about their future. What now of that ‘noble Charter’, Beard demands to know.
And what of the future? It may well have been Beard’s next question. He does not ask it in Roosevelt and the Coming of the War - the book ends before it is asked. But throughout the entire book one senses that this is really what Beard is leading up to. If the reasons for America’s part in the war are revealed to be wholly for ulterior motives and the outcome of the war so contrary to the rhetoric of great cause and noble righteousness, then how can the people of America and, indeed, the world, ever again trust unrestrained governments to collude with others of the same ilk in the name of the common interest of humanity? As an historian, always trying to find that fine balance between the objectivity of truth and the subjectivity of the righteousness of the true great cause, Beard, in the end, finds himself struggling between calm analysis, frustration at a world unwilling or incapable of ‘seeing’ that which he has laid before them, and an intangible despair that seems to prevent him from asking that question - what of the future?
Beard ensures the reader of Roosevelt and the Coming of the War that it is a sequel to the 1946 publication of his work, American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940, a work that demonstrates the historians art almost classically, yet, at the same time, gives insight as to what his next book will be. One is struck by Beard’s growing sense of frustration in Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, the seeds of which are sown in the (almost) calm analyses and research that went into American Foreign Policy, to the extent that one needs to ask if it was the emergence of truth, the shedding of light that research exposes, that prompted the need for a sequel. While using the trained historians methods, Beard puts so much feeling into Roosevelt and the Coming of the War as to expose himself as a man who wants to have his life again, or at least a bit more than what is left of this one, so that he can have the ultimate word in his struggle against the hypocrisy of an America going to war without some “grand national and human advantage”. With Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, Beard goes to the edge of scholarly history and pushes right to the boundary of social criticism.
Beard, Charles A., The Devil Theory of War: An Inquiry into the Nature of History and the Possibilities of Keeping Out of War, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1969 reprint ed.)
Beard, Charles A., American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940: A Study in Responsibilities, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946.)
Beard, Charles A., President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances and Reality, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948).
Kennedy, Thomas C., Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy, (Gainesville, Fl: The University Presses of Florida, 1975).
 Charles Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances and Reality, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948).
 Charles Beard, The Devil Theory of War: An Inquiry into the Nature of History and the Possibilities of Keeping Out of War, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1969 reprint ed.)
 Beard, The Devil Theory of War. pp. 119-121.
 Beard, The Devil Theory of War. p. 124.
 Beard devotes an entire chapter entitled ‘Manoeuvring the Japanese into Firing the first Shot’ in his effort to prove that America went to great effort to manipulate a situation that would bring it into war with Japan and thence Germany. Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. Chapter XVII.
 Thomas C. Kennedy, Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy, (Gainesville, Fl: The University Presses of Florida, 1975). p. 151.
 Much of what we know today about the history of the Second World War has been derived from resources made available since 1948 though Beard would have been aware of the criminal extent of the war from the revelations of the Nuremberg trials of the major war criminals and the trials of the Japanese war criminals.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. p. 575.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. p. 577.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. Ch. XV generally and p. 457 specifically.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. pp. 576-577.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. pp. 582-583.
 Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War. Prefatory Note.
 Charles Beard, American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940: A Study in Responsibilities, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946.