The Atlantic Conference : Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) 08/11/41
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740.0011 European War 1939/140076

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

AT SEA, August 11, 1941.

I went by arrangement to see Sir Alexander Cadogan on the Prince of Wales this afternoon. He gave me to read memoranda which he had already completed on the conference between the Prime Minister and the President this morning and, with a few changes which I indicated, they appeared to be a correct presentation of the discussion ant of the agreements reached.

With regard to the draft of the joint declaration, Sir Alexander told me that the Prime Minister had already radioed to London the text of the proposed joint declaration incorporating therein modifications of points four and seven.. Sir Alexander gave me the revised text to read. Inasmuch as the Prime Minister's draft of point four was far broader and more satisfactory than the minimum which the President had instructed me, after our conference of the morning, to accept, I raised no objection thereto, and with regard to the proposed change in point seven I stated that while it was completely satisfactory to me and entirely in accord with my own way of thinking I had no idea what the President's decision might be. I said that I would have to submit it to trim.

Sir Alexander stated that the Prime Minister felt very strongly- perhaps exaggeratedly-the opposition which would be created on the part of a certain pro-League-of-Nations group in England to the contents of point seven declaring for the disarmament of nations which undertook aggression outside of their frontiers. He went on to say that while he believed there w oiled not be the amount of opposition which the Prime Minister anticipated he nevertheless thought that it would be a tragic thing to concentrate solely upon the transition period after the war was ended when some kind of joint police power would have to be exercised by the British and by the United States Governments and omit any reference to the need of the creation of some effective and practicable international organization which would function after the transition period was concluded. I said that as I had already indicated while I was in full agreement with his own views the matter would have to be determined by the President.

We discussed the desirability of informing the Chinese Government of the steps which the United States Government in the person of the President was taking with regard to Japan. I said that while I felt very definitely that every effort should be made to keep China closely informed of what was being done in her interest by Great Britain and by the United States I wondered whether telling China of what the President intended to state to the Japanese Government at this particular moment would not mean that the Government at Chungking for its own interests would make public the information so received. If publicity resulted, I stated I feared that the extreme militaristic element in Tokio and that portion of the Tokio press which was controlled by Germany would immediately take advantage of the situation so created to inflame sentiment in Japan to such an extent as to make any possibility remote, as it might anyhow be, of achieving any satisfactory result through negotiation with Japan. Sir Alexander said he was entirely in accord and would be governed by those views. He said, of course, I realized how terribly persistent the Chinese were and that the present Ambassador in London, Dr. Wellington Koo, would undoubtedly press him day in and day out to know what had transpired at the meeting between the Prime Minister and the President with regard to China. He said that he felt that the best solution was for him merely to say in general terms that the two governments had agreed that every step should be taken that was practicable at this time for China and its defense and avoid going into any details.

I subsequently went to see the President. The President said that he was entirely in accord with the redraft of point four which was better than he had thought Mr. Churchill would be willing to concede. He also accepted without question the amendment made by Mr. Churchill to point seven and the President said that it seemed to him entirely desirable since the amendment made it clear that once the war was over a transition period would have to take place and that the permanent international organization would only be set up after that experimental period had passed. He had jotted down certain minor changes in the text of the proposed joint declaration, most of which were merely verbal changes for the purpose of clarification.

I said I felt it necessary for me to ask him whether he did not believe that a very considerable opposition on the part of extreme isolationists in the United States would result from that portion of point seven which declares in the judgment of the United States that it is essential that aggressor nations be disarmed. I said that if a great Power like the United States publicly declares that something is essential, the inference is that that Power is going to do something itself about it. I said it appeared to me more than likely that the isolationists will insist that this public statement by the President meant that the United States would go to war in order to disarm not only Germany but even possibly Japan and theoretically, at least, even the Soviet Union if that country should later once more embark upon aggression on its neighbors. The President replied that the whole intent of point seven, as he save it, was to make clear what the objective would be if the war was won and that he believed people in the United States would take that point of view. He further said he felt the realism inherent in article seven was one which would be apparent to the enormous majority of the American people and that they would enthusiastically support the need for the disarmament of aggressor nations.

I said I also had been surprised and somewhat discouraged by a remark that the President had casually made in our morning's conference-if I had understood him correctly-which was that nothing could be more futile than the reconstitution of a body such as the Assembly of the League of Nations. I said to the President that it seemed to me that if he conceived of the need for a transition period upon the termination of the war during which period Great Britain and the United States would undertake the policing of the world, it seemed to me that it would be enormously desirable for the smaller Powers to have available to them an Assembly in which they would all be represented and in which they could make their complaints known and join in recommendations as to the policy to be pursued by the major Powers who were doing the police work. I said it seemed to me that an organization of that kind would be the most effective safety valve that could be devised.

The President said that he agreed fully with what I said and-that all that he had intended by the remark he made this morning was to make clear his belief that a transition period was necessary and that during that transition period no organizations such as the Council or the Assembly of the League could undertake the powers and prerogatives with which they had been entrusted during the existence of the League of Nations.

I further said that while from the practical standpoint I was in agreement that the United States and Great Britain were the only Powers which could or would exercise the police trusteeship and that it seemed to me that it would be impossible if such a trusteeship were set up to exclude therefrom the other American republics or for that matter the countries at present occupied such as Norway, the Netherlands, and even Belgium. The President said that he felt that a solution for this difficulty could probably be found through the ostensible joining with Great Britain and the United States of those Powers, but it would have to be recognized that it would be ostensible since none of the nations mentioned would have the practical means of taking any effective or, at least, considerable part in the task involved.

I said that it seemed to me that now that the text of the joint declaration had been agreed upon, since I assumed from what Mr. Churchill had told me that the British Government would support his recommendations with regard thereto, all that was left to do in the way of drafting was the preparation of the brief statement which would be issued simultaneously in London and at Washington announcing that the President and the Prime Minister had met, referring to the discussions under the Lease-Lend Act and the inclusion at the termination thereof of the text of the joint declaration. I said that Mr. Churchill had told me that he had cabled his Government that he was not leaving Argentia until Wednesday afternoon (1) and said it seemed to me that everything could be definitely agreed upon and cleared up by 1:00 p. m. tomorrow, and I could see no practical reason for waiting another twenty-four hours. The President agreed and said that he would try and get indecision reached in that sense when he saw Mr. Churchill this evening.



(1) August 13. Back

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