After two months of hearings and debate, the House of Representatives passed this bill, H.R. 1776, “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States,” which became known as the Lend–Lease Act.
Embroiled in war with Nazi Germany, Great Britain sustained heavy military and financial losses during the early years of World War II. The United States furnished Great Britain and other allies with military supplies and equipment through a “cash and carry” system permitted by the Neutrality Act of 1939. This arrangement required the purchasers to pay in cash and transport the goods themselves, allowing the United States to maintain the appearance of neutrality in the conflict. Concerned that his country would soon be unable to pay for supplies, Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the United States for additional assistance for Great Britain. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed a lend–lease system that distributed military aid to “the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” The President also determined the appropriate repayment. This plan allowed the United States to continue to support the war against the Axis powers without involving American troops in a foreign war.
Roosevelt reasoned that, “We cannot, and we will not, tell them that they must surrender, merely because of present inability to pay for the weapons which we know they must have.” Congressional isolationists, who opposed intervention in the war, asserted that a lend–lease policy disregarded American neutrality and gave the President “practically unlimited” authority. After much debate, the House and the Senate passed the act, and President Roosevelt quickly signed it into law on March 11, 1941.