San Francisco Conference Prospective
A CHARTER CONVENTION, NOT PEACE CONFERENCE
By EDWARD R. STETTINIUS, JR., U. S. Secretary of State
Delivered before the Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, April 6, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 388-389.
IN speaking here in New York this afternoon at the dedication of the building which is henceforth to be the headquarters of the Council on Foreign Relations, I come to bear witness, as has every Secretary of State during the past quarter of a century, to the great services and influence of this organization in spreading knowledge and understanding of the issues of United States foreign policy.
Certainly today—after two world wars in twenty-five years—there can be few Americans, whether they live in the East or the West or the South, who do not understand how directly and personally they are concerned in our relations with other nations.
Ever since Pearl Harbor the hopes and thoughts of the people of this country have been centered increasingly upon creating at last a world organization which could be endowed with the power and the will this time truly to maintain the peace.
And ever since Pearl Harbor intensive studies and preparatory discussions of such an organization have been carried on by this Government—and by other governments. There were many plans and a multitude of variations in viewpoint which had to be weighed and analyzed and adjusted. This process took two years and a half.
By last summer we were ready for discussions with our principal allies—the Soviet Union, Great Britain and China. Out of these discussions, and all the preliminary work that had gone before, evolved the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.
Since last October these proposals have been before the peoples of the Governments of the United Nations for further discussion and analysis.
Now—seven months later—all the United Nations are about to meet in San Francisco to write the charter of a world organization on the basis of these proposals.
I have briefly reviewed this bit of history for a reason.
It has taken three and a half years of the most prodigious and single-minded effort the world has ever seen to bring the fighting forces of the United Nations into the heart of Germany and close to the home islands of Japan.
We can be sure that winning the peace is going to take a good deal longer and that it will be just as difficult and just as challenging a task.
Early in the war, when the United States and other United Nations were in mortal danger from our enemies, we were steady and resolute and we found the means to develop and strengthen that unity of action without which we could not win victory. This is, perhaps, more difficult,now that immediate danger has passed.
But the danger has not really passed—the danger that we shall fail in rebuilding the world and in preventing what would be the greatest—and perhaps the most fatal disaster of our history—another world war.
What is required above everything else today is the same steadiness and fixed resolution and clear understanding of our national interest with which we met the tests of war in 1942 and 1943 and 1944. Certainly we shall never succeed if every road block or every land mine on the road to peace throws us into a panic and conversely, if every hundred yards of clear going makes us think that we have nothing more to worry about.
It is with this point in mind that I wish to talk to you briefly about the San Francisco Conference and about some of the forebodings and difficulties that have arisen concerning it.
First of all, let us keep the San Francisco Conference in its proper perspective. It is not a peace conference. It will not deal with boundaries or reparations or questions concerned with the disarmament and the control of Germany and Japan. Its purpose is to prepare a charter of a world organization to preserve the peace in the future which can be submitted to the member nations for adoption;
It will be a difficult task, a task as difficult as the writing of our own constitution in 1787, for the conference at San Francisco, like the convention in Philadelphia, will be pioneering a new way. The charter will inevitably be the product of a series of adjustments, just as our own Constitution was the product of a series of compromises between the North and the South, and large States and small, and merchant interests and agrarian interests. And without these adjustments of interest and viewpoint our Constitution could not have been written. Nor could it have been ratified by the thirteen original States.
Probably no charter that can be agreed upon at San Francisco will completely meet the wishes of any one of tie United Nations. What we must do there is to create i framework for the world organization that can command the support of the great majority of the peoples of the world, that will be soundly based and that will be open to improvement as we gain experience in the functioning of the organization after it is established.
I am reminded again of our Constitutional Convention. The delegates to that convention clearly foresaw the necessity for later adjustments and amendments and made provision for them. Indeed, the first ten amendments to our Constitution went into effect only four years after it was written.
I believe that it was a wise decision, indeed an essential one, that the establishment of the world organization should be kept entirely separate and apart from the settlements that will follow this war. It has been said that by joining in the world organization before the peace settlements are made, the United States and other members would be committed in advance to maintaining all these settlements in perpetuity whether they were good or bad.
Just the contrary is true. By creating the world organization first, and separating its functions from the peace settlements, we place it above and apart from those settlements and leave it just as free to deal with threats to the peace of the world that may later arise from these settlements as from any other causes. The Dumbarton Oaks proposals, through their provisions for dealing with any situation that might endanger the peace, provide for the exercise of this responsibility by the world organization*
for this reason, as well as for others, the rapid approach of the end of the war in Europe, far from making postponement of the San Francisco conference advisable, makes it all the more important that the conference be held on schedule and that its work be completed at the earliest possible moment
We have ahead of us many other tremendously difficult tasks with which the San Francisco conference will not be concerned. We shall not be able to accomplish these other tasks in a few weeks or a few months. They will take years. We have to deal with the disarmament and control of Germany and Japan, after they have surrendered, and the tasks of repairing the disastrous damage done by the war to the world's economy, of assisting the liberated peoples to regain freedom and security, and of reaching agreements on many other matters, social and economic, that are necessary to lasting peace.
Concern is expressed over the prospects of the San Francisco conference because of the delays that have arisen over the establishment of a new Polish Provisional Government of national unity, or because of the questions raised by the Soviet Government for separate membership in the Assembly of the world organization of two Soviet Republics, or because any other of the difficulties with which we are inevitably surrounded as we approach the end of the war.
I can assure you that if we based our course of action on that line of reasoning we would never have a conference, or a world organization. New problems of this nature will continue to arise. The coming months and years will be, in fact, a continuous challenge to our good sense and our will to master the difficulties of peace. And I hope that all Americans will keep such temporary difficulties as the delay over the new Polish Provisional Government of national unity in perspective.
It is important that this new Government be established in time to make it possible for Poland to be represented at San Francisco. The United States Government is doing all in its power to bring this about. Poland is a United Nation and should be there.
But I ask you to remember that the agreement made at the Crimea Conference about Poland is only seven weeks old and that it was reached after two years of divergent views among the principal allies about the Government of Poland. The delay in carrying out the Crimea decision on Poland has been disappointing, but in this perspective it has not been long.
I ask you also to remember that the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States have repeatedly reaffirmed and always agreed in their common determination to see established a strong, independent and democratic Poland after the war.
Nothing has happened to shake my belief that the Crimea agreement on Poland will be carried out. That agreement, you will recall, provides that the new Polish Provisional Government of national unity shall be formed by reorganizing the Provisional Government now functioning in Poland "on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad"; and that this new Government shall be pledged to holding free elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot, with all democratic and anti-nazi parties having the right to take part.
Our participation in that agreement reflects the steadfast determination of the United States Government to respect the legitimate rights of the small nations. No nation in the world has shown greater interest than the United States in the independence of small countries and in their right to manage their own affairs. This principle is basic in our dealings with all nations. It is basic in our policy for peace, and is basic in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.
The freedom, the independence of small nations cannot be maintained, however, unless the large countries unite their power to preserve peace in which the democratic rights of all nations can be upheld.
The only hope of small countries, as of large countries, lies in a world so organized for peace that the industrial and the military power of the large nations is used lawfully for the general welfare of all nations. The alternative is a world in anarchy in which lawless power runs riot and small nations are the first to be trampled underfoot.
The large nations, and all the United Nations, are firmly united in the purpose and in the necessity to create a new world organized for peace, because it is the vital interest of each of them to do so. Let us never forget that this unity of purpose and this community of national interest is paramount to all the lesser differences among us in interests and in history, and language and in customs. Because of that paramount unity of purpose and community of interest these lesser differences can be and will be overcome as they arise, through the hard and the exacting day-to-day work of consultation, negotiation, and adjustment which are the essence of successful cooperation among free peoples.
Eight years ago my great predecessor, Cordell Hull, when speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations, called for "a world organized for peace and advancing civilization, rather than for war and degrading savagery."
Now, after the devastating war which he foresaw, the world has its chance. It has taken the sacrifice of millions of lives, the outpouring of our wealth and untold destruction and suffering, to bring us to this moment.
The San Francisco Conference will be a decisive juncture in the history of America and of the world. But we are only at the beginning of the long road to a lasting peace.
If we are to complete the journey, surely we will neither fail nor falter now when we have hardly begun upon it. American character and America's achievements have been fashioned by a high vision and good common sense. With that power of vision to keep the goal we seek always before us, and that common sense to guide us, I know that America will not fail either the world or herself.