The Free World


By HONORABLE SUMNER WELLES, Under Secretary of State

Delivered before the New York Herald-Tribune Forum, New York City, November 17, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 114-116.

TONIGHT we of the United Nations have the right to look ahead, not only with hope and with passionate conviction, but with the assurance which high military achievement affords, to the ultimate victory which will presage a Free World.

None of us are so optimistic as to delude ourselves into the belief that the end is in sight; or that we have not still before us grave obstacles; dark days; reverses and great sacrifices yet to be undergone. But the tremendous initial effort, in the case of our own country, of transforming the inertia of a democracy of 130 millions of people at peace into the driving, irresistible energy of 130 millions of American citizens aroused and united in war, has been successfully made.

The first months of confusion and of cross-currents are past. The men and women of the United States are now enabled to see for themselves the development of the strategic moves in which their Commander-in-Chief and their military and naval leaders are engaged. They are able to appreciate the amazing nature of the feat realized in the occupation of North Africa; and to recognize the time and the extent of the preparation required for this gigantic task.

They now realize that the prodding of our self-appointed pundits who were constantly demanding the creation of a second front was not required, and that the carefully thought-out plans for the second front now in being had long since been conceived, and were already in process of realization while the clamor of these critics went on.

They can now fully evaluate the lack of vision and of knowledge of those who demanded the abandonment of our whole policy towards the French people, at the very moment that that policy was afforded the striking opportunity of proving its full worth—its full worth to the cause for which we fight, and its full worth in preserving the soul of France during the darkest days she has ever known: France, the birthplace of so many of those principles of human liberty for which we and the people of France once more battle today.

They realize that we have in North Africa but one objective—the defeat of the Axis forces—which will bring with it the liberation of the people of France. During these first days all arrangements which we may make with Frenchmen in North Africa are solely military in character, and are undertaken—properly—by the American and British military commanders. It is the hope of all of us that all Frenchmen who represent or who are part of the forces of resistance to Hitler will unite as one in the support of our military endeavor.

And so the clouds are lifting—the clouds of doubt, and of disparagement and of lack of self-confidence. We can all see more clearly how inevitable has now become the final conquest of the armies of that criminal paranoiac whom the German people were so benighted as to acclaim as their leader; how crushing will at long last be the defeat which the Japanese hordes and their military leaders will suffer in just retribution for the treacherous barbarity which they have been inflicting upon the world during the past eleven years.

How can we achieve that Free World, the attainment of which alone can compensate mankind for the stupendous sacrifices which human beings everywhere are now being called upon to suffer?

Our military victory will only be won, in Churchill's immortal words, by blood and tears, and toil and sweat.

It is just as clear that the Free World which we must achieve can only be attained, not through the expenditure of toil and sweat alone, but also through the exercise of all of the wisdom which men of today have gained from the experience of the past; and by the utilization not only of idealism but also of the practical knowledge of the working of human nature and of the laws of economics and of finance.

What the United Nations' blueprint imperatively requires is to be drafted in the light of experience and of common sense, and in a spirit of justice, of democracy and of tolerance, by men who have their eyes on the stars, but their feet on the ground.

In the fundamentals of international relationships there is nothing more fatally dangerous than the common American fallacy that the formulation of an aspiration is equivalent to the hard-won realization of an objective. Of this basictruth we have no more tragic proof than the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

It seems to me that the first essential is the continuous and rapid perfecting of a relationship between the United Nations so that this military relationship may be further strengthened by the removal of all semblance of disunity or of suspicious rivalry and by the clarification of the Free World goals for which we are fighting, and so that the form of international organization, determined to be best suited to achieve international security will have developed to such an extent that it can fully operate as soon as the present military partnership has achieved its purpose of complete victory.

Another essential is the reaching of agreements between the United Nations before the armistice is signed upon those international adjustments, based upon the universal principles of the Atlantic Charter, and pursuant to the pledges contained in our mutual-aid agreements with many of our allies, which we believe to be desirable and necessary for the maintenance of a peaceful and prosperous world of the future.

We all envisage the tragic chaos and anarchy which will have engulfed Europe and a great part of the rest of the world by the time Hitler's brief day is done, and when he and his accomplices confront their judges. The United Nations' machinery for relief and rehabilitation must be prepared to operate without a moment's delay to alleviate the suffering and misery of millions of homeless and starving human beings, if civilization is to be saved from years of social and moral collapse.

"No one will go hungry or without the other means of livelihood in any territory occupied by the United Nations, if it is humanly within our powers to make the necessary supplies available to them. Weapons will also be supplied to the peoples of these territories to hasten the defeat of the Axis." This is the direction of the President to the Lend-Lease Administrator, to General Eisenhower, and to the Department of State, and it is being carried out by them to the full extent of their power and resources. The other United Nations, each to the full extent of its ability, will, I am sure, cooperate wholeheartedly in this great task.

Through pre-arrangement certain measures such as the disarmament of aggressor nations laid down in the Atlantic Charter must likewise be undertaken rapidly and with the utmost precision.

Surely we should not again resort to the procedures adopted in 1919 for the settlement of the future of the world. We cannot afford to permit the basic issues by which the destiny of humanity will be determined, to be resolved without prior agreement, in hurried confusion, by a group of harassed statesmen, working against time, pressed from one side by the popular demand for immediate demobilization, and crowded on the other by the exigencies of domestic politics.

If we are to attain our Free World—the world of the Four Freedoms—to the extent practicable the essential principles of international political and economic relations in that New World must be agreed upon in advance and with the full support of each one of the United Nations, so that agreements to be reached will implement those principles.

If the people of the United States now believe as a result of the experience of the past twenty-five years that the security of our Republic is vitally affected by the fate of the other peoples of the earth, they will recognize that the nature of the international political and economic relations which will obtain in the world, after victory has been achieved, is to us a matter of profound self-interest.

As the months pass, two extreme schools of thought will become more and more vocal—the first, stemming from theleaders of the group which preached extreme isolation, will once more proclaim that war in the rest of the world every twenty years or so is inevitable, that we can stay out if we so desire, and that any assumption by this country of any form of responsibility for what goes on in the world means our unnecessary involvement in war; the other, of which very often men of the highest idealism and sincerity are the spokesmen, will maintain that the United States must assume the burdens of the entire globe, must see to it that the standards in which we ourselves believe must immediately be adopted by all of the peoples of the earth, and must undertake to inculcate in all parts of the world our own policies of social and political reform whether the other peoples involved so desire or not. While under a different guise, this school of thought is in no way dissimilar in theory from the strange doctrine of incipient "bear the white man's burden" imperialism which flared in this country in the first years of this century.

The people of the United States today realize that the adoption of either one of these two philosophies would prove equally dangerous to the future well-being of our nation.

Our Free World must be founded on the Four Freedoms—freedom of speech and of religion—and freedom from want and from fear.

I do not believe that the two first Freedoms—of speech and of religion—can ever be assured to mankind, so long as want and war are permitted to ravage the earth. Freedom of speech and of religion need only protection; they require only relief from obstruction.

Freedom from fear—the assurance of peace; and freedom from want—the assurance of individual personal security, require all of the implementation which the genius of man can devise through effective forms of international cooperation.

Peace—freedom from fear—cannot be assured until the nations of the world, particularly the great powers, and that includes the United States, recognize that the threat of war anywhere throughout the globe threatens their own security— and until they are jointly willing to exercise the police powers necessary to prevent such threats from materializing into armed hostilities.

And since policemen might be tyrants if they had no political superiors, freedom from fear also demands some form of organized international political cooperation, to make the rules of international living and to change them as the years go by, and some sort of international court to adjudicate

disputes. With effective institutions of that character to insure equity and justice, and the continued will to make them work, the peoples of the world should at length be able to live out their lives in peace.

Freedom from want requires these things:

People who want to work must be able to find useful jobs, not sometimes, not in good years only, but continuously.

These jobs must be at things which they do well, and which can be done well in the places where they work.

They must be able to exchange the things which they produce, on fair terms, for other things which other people, often in other places, can make better than they.

Efficient and continuous production, and fair exchange, are both necessary to the abundance which we seek, and they depend upon each other. In the past we have succeeded better with production than exchange. Production is called into existence by the prospects for exchange, prospects which have constantly been thwarted by all kinds of inequalities, imperfections, and restrictions. The problem of removing obstacles to fair exchange—the problem of distribution of goods and purchasing power—is far more difficult than the problem of production.

It will take much wisdom, much cooperative effort, and much surrender of private, short-sighted, and sectional self-interest, to make these things all come true. But the goal is freedom from want—individual security and national prosperity—and is everlastingly worth striving for.

As mankind progresses on the path towards the goal of freedom from want and from fear, freedom of religion and of speech will more and more become a living reality.

Never before have peace and individual security been classed as freedom. Never before have they been placed alongside of religious liberty and free speech as human freedoms which should be inalienable.

Upon these Four Freedoms must rest the structure of the future Free World.

This time there must be no compromise between justice and injustice; no yielding to expediency; no swerving from the great human rights and liberties established by the Atlantic Charter itself.

In the words of our President:

"We shall win this war, and in Victory, we shall seek not vengeance, but the establishment of an international order in which the spirit of Christ shall rule the hearts of men and of nations."

We won't get a Free World any other way.