Neutrality Acts, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939

   Determined to avoid the mistakes that led to U.S. involvement in World War I, isolationists in Congress enacted a series of Neutrality Acts in the 1930s, beginning with a ban on the export of implements to belligerents and forbidding U.S. vessels from carrying munitions to warring nations. In 1936, this first measure also included limits to extending loans to belligerents. In 1937, the president was given the power to prohibit even the carrying of nonmilitary materials on U.S. ships and allow trade only on a cash-and-carry basis—the purchasers had to pay for goods and ship them themselves. The 1939 act codified the existing legislation, maintaining the cash-and-carry principle but prohibiting U.S. citizens from traveling on the ships of belligerent nations and banning U.S. ships from sailing to belligerent ports and even into war zones.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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