Implementing the Atlantic Charter


By JOSEPH CLARK BALDWIN, Congressman from New York

Delivered before The Foreign Policy Association of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., February 13, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 380-382.

PROBABLY at no time in the history of this country has our Congress faced so grave a responsibility as confronts it today. In the Revolutionary War we fought to create the Union. In the Civil War, we fought to preserve the Union, and in this war, as in the last war, we are, in my opinion, fighting to extend the Union.

Now don't misunderstand me. I am not saying this as an imperialist. For the Atlantic Charter, to which I subscribe, forbids territorial aggrandisement. Nor am I saying ft as an advocate of so-called "Union Now." For I don't believe in any union forged in the stress of war. I'm saying it as, I hope a realist, who believes that the united efforts of the United Nations should not be confined to the war but should be carried on into the peace. Which means that our Congress has in effect assumed international responsibilities, the sound handling of which is bound to affect the whole future of the world and not this nation alone.

The current Congress has been called the Victory Congress. It is my pious prayer that it will indeed be the Victory Congress. But victory means peace. And the solution of the problems of peace are by the very nature of things far more difficult than the solution of the more forthright problems of war.

While I can't speak for Congress in this regard, I can as a member, speak with some authority of it—and certainly I can give you the conclusions and the program of an active congressman.

In the first place if you agree with me that the problems confronting us are world problems, that the local, or shall we say national, and international problems are so interwoven as to be almost indistinguishable; if you agree with me that this war is being fought to extend the union of peoples everywhere, then I think you will agree with me that the first step Congress should take to handle this world situation is to set its own house in order.

I hate to use the term "streamline" because it has so often been abused, but it does seem to me that in these days when the leaders of nations cross continents and oceans in a few hours to confer, and when events happen with breath-taking rapidity, the first job Congress faces in preparing itself to function for modern democracy is to "streamline" its own organization.

I tell you, that if representative government is to be preserved and the powers of a parliament under the modern tempo are to be retained, Congress must be prepared to function rapidly. The alternative is the granting of extraordinary powers to the executive in order to save time in a so-called emergency. And that is not the democratic process.

Nor is the speed of current war events a temporary emergency my friends. It is permanent. It is the future whether in war or peace! In the last war we thought we had done a monumental job if we marched 12 or 15 miles a day. Today, in battle, an advance of 50 miles is commonplace, with motorized and air borne troops. We read that almost daily in the papers.

Democracy must be streamlined if it is to hold its own. Nor need it lose one iota of its democratic effectiveness in the process. On the contrary it will increase it. The basictrouble in Congress is that its committee structure, its procedure, in fact its very modus operandi, are paced at a tempo 150 years old.

You may well ask what all this has to do with implementing the Atlantic Charter?

Well—let me say this my friends—If our Congress isn't set to the modern tempo, if it isn't prepared to move with speed, the Victory is going to find us left at the post when peace is signed, and the Atlantic Charter will become merely a memory.

Now as to the Atlantic Charter—If some of you have been as confused as I occasionally have been as to what is involved therein, I think it would bear a brief review before I suggest how to implement it.

In the first place, remember that beyond military necessity, it is the only document signed by all the United Nations, which expresses any concrete peace aims whatsoever.

In the second place, its principles were first enunciated by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in a battleship conference off the coast of Newfoundland on August 14th, 1941, before the United States of America had entered the war—that is almost 4 months before Pearl Harbor. It was proclaimed by us in time of peace! It has since been signed by 29 nations, four of the most important on January 1st, 1942—that is to say, the U.S.A., Great Britain, China, and Russia. The most recent to adhere were Irak and Brazil.

And finally it is not to be confused with the Four Freedoms contained in a speech by President Roosevelt in this country although two of the four freedoms—freedom from fear, and freedom from want—are contained in the charter.

The charter itself contains 8 points. And for the purpose of the conclusion of my speech, I would like to review them:

1. No territorial aggrandisement.

2. No territorial changes without the consent of the peoples involved freely expressed.

3. The right of all peoples to choose their own government, with sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.

4. With due respect to existing obligations all nations to have access to trade and raw materials needed for economic prosperity.

5. Fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labor standards, economic adjustment, and social security. (This is of course, freedom from want.)

6. After final destruction of the Nazi tyranny the establishment of a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries and will provide assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want. (Freedom from both fear and want here definitely expressed.)

7. Such a peace to enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance.

8. All of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as for spiritual reasons to abandon the use of force. And since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea, or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten or may threaten aggression outside of their own frontiers that pending establishment of a wider and more permanent system of general security the disarmament of such nations is essential and that the signatories will aid and encourage all other practical measures which will lighten for peace loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

That is the Atlantic Charter. Verbiage I have heard it said. Of course it is verbiage as it stands. In spite of 29 or more signatories. But it contains the framework of the future. It is shall we say a signed letter of intent as the basis for a future contract. And if you believe in it, as I do, and as I believe most members of Congress do, what should be the first steps to be taken by our own Congress to make it effective?

It stands to reason, of course, that much of it will have to be implemented after Victory. It stands to reason, also, that some of it, so far as this country is concerned, is self-evident. For instance, it has been a constant and open policy of this country for nearly 50 years not to seek territorial aggrandizement. This takes care of point number one, so far as we are concerned. The so-called Kellogg-Briand pact, subsequently reiterated by Secretaries Stimson and Hull, also established as our foreign policy that this nation would not recognize territory taken by aggression in violation of existing agreements. That takes care of the second point, so far as we are concerned.

But there are certain things that can be done now. And there is one first step in this connection which I consider all important.

You will remember that during the last war President Wilson enunciated fourteen famous points as the basis for future peace. Our allies generally adhered to them. The United States of America through the Congress, which had not been consulted, alone held out. I don't want this to happen again.

I call upon President Roosevelt to present to the Congress now his own legislative program for implementing the Atlantic Charter. Delay on this score might well prove disastrous. Not that I think Congress will be found in the end obstructionist. On the contrary—But because history has proven that ignorance has all too often caused fatal fumbling of the ball. The President has given us an Atlantic Charter. Let him now give us an American Charter, which will specify our own contribution to the cause.

In the meantime there are some things which I believe the Congress can itself initiate in this regard. I offer them to you as suggestions,—as action which I myself advocate as a sincere supporter of the Atlantic Charter.

I have already covered the first two points in the Charter. The third point must wait until after victory except for the declaration of intent contained in the Charter. We are in, no position to guaranty such things until we have won the war.

But there is a contribution we can make here and now to placing ourselves in a position to making such a guaranty. That is to winning the war. The Congress can and must renew the so-called lend-lease laws, now up for renewal.

And I believe I am safe in saying that they will do so—and promptly.

On the fourth point Congress will shortly be called upon to take a very definite and vitally important stand. I'm speaking now of the right of all nations to have access to trade and raw materials needed for economic prosperity. Sometime in April probably, the Congress will be asked to renew the reciprocal trade agreements we now have with various nations of the world. It is my considered opinion that should we fail to renew these agreements we will be creating inevitably causes for future conflict. It may sound strange for a member of the Republican Party, popularly or perhaps unpopularly known as the high tariff group to come out for these agreements. But remember that the origin of the Republican tariff policy was tariff for protection of infant industries, and it is my conviction that my party will return to first principles on this point and will support the renewal of these trade agreements, which in fact are in no way necessarily a contradiction to Republican tariff policy. Certainly I will support their renewal

As to point five, which involves improved labor conditions and social security there is much I could say, if I had the time, and there is much Congress can do, if it will, and it is my firm conviction that it should. On the first score, that of labor, and I am on the Labor Committee of the House, and was the Labor Party, as well as the Republican Party candidate in the last election—let me say this—that I have supported in the past and shall continue to support in the future American Labor's hard and often heartbreaking struggle to achieve a proper and profitable position in the American social structure. I have opposed and shall continue to oppose all raids on Labor's hard-won rights. But I am most earnestly convinced and shall act accordingly that the only guarantee of improved labor conditions in this country is for Congress to require and labor to accept corporate responsibility in the same way that every membership organization in our community accepts it—with all that such responsibility implies. I believe that Congress should act in this session to require such responsibility, which I am sure would cure all alleged existing labor evils. And that Congress should correspondingly defeat all reactionary attempts to otherwise harass American labor.

That increased social security is not only important to world peace but to our own economy and the preservation of the system under which we have so long prospered seems to me self-evident. I have studied the so-called Beveridge plan, introduced for consideration in Great Britain and I believe it to be excellent—for Great Britain. It is well worth our studying here. But I submit that plans which are pertinent to comparatively small areas like the British Isles, Denmark and Norway cannot be successfully applied without wide change and adaptation in so vast an area as the United States of America where living costs vary so widely-no simple federal yardstick is going to work equitably. Some system of home rule devolving upon the states must in my opinion be worked out. I believe that Congress in this connection can and should set up a commission to report as promptly as possible on this problem—a commission to include not only members of Congress but recognized authorities from various sections of the country.

Action on point number six can in part be immediate and must in part be postponed until after victory. This is the point involving freedom from fear—that is the threat of future wars. Immediate action can certainly be taken by Congress in this connection by amending the Selective Service Act to provide permanent military training for all our young men for at least a year in certain age groups, therebyserving notice on the world that in cooperation with the United Nations or without we are prepared to preserve the peace by force if necessary. I advocate such action by Congress. We have already served notice that in building a two ocean navy we have this in mind. And Congress is now considering a special civil aviation committee, which I sincerely hope it creates, as a source of peace protection.

You may say that such a suggestion nullifies the eighth point of the Charter which looks to reduction in armament. This is not true. Local police forces are often reduced, obviously should be reduced as state and national police protection is increased. So our national armed forces can and should be reduced as soon as a permanent international police force is set up. And I am not advocating a large standing army—but a large reserve force—which has been a definite American policy too often ignored.

I have omitted point number seven. The freedom of the seas. That has been American policy since the war of the revolution. I think it is covered by our gradual creation of a two ocean navy. This Congress has already acted upon.

In conclusion I can only add this. We are on the road to victory. Which means that we are on the road to peace. How permanent that peace is to be depends not only on me and my colleagues as members of Congress, but on you as citizens of the greatest and strongest nation on this earth. Your active support or your active disapproval are paramount in the problems that confront us. I'm not begging any question. I am saying that if you do not crystallize your opinions and express your desires your Representatives in Congress whatever their vision, will be feeling their way in the dark. National sovereignty we need not, we must never yield. National sacrifices both for our own permanent benefit and for the welfare of the world we are going to have to make. As I heard a young Harvard Valedictorian say at Cambridge less than a year ago on this very subject: "A peace to be durable must be endurable." Not only Congress and the United Nations but you and I and all men and women of good will must see to it that at long last we obtain and maintain a peace that is both durable and endurable.