April 26, 1945
United States Department of State Bulletin.
No more suitable setting could have been found for this assembly than the splendid City of San Francisco, one of the main centers of the United Nations war effort-San Francisco, whose confidence in the future is only equaled by its sense of comradeship today. Our deep gratitude is due to the city itself and to the whole State of California, which with traditional hospitality has opened its gates to us, and also to the Government and the people of the United States who in a wider sense are our hosts at this momentous Conference.
We are met here in the shadow of a grievous loss. No one can speak in this assembly without recalling the memory of Franklin Roosevelt, the friend of free peoples, the good neighbor. He looked forward to continuing in peace that close association of the free nations which has brought us to the very edge of victory and from which the meeting of today has sprung. It was he who named us the United Nations, and we shall best honor his memory by proving ourselves worthy of that proud title.
Let us be clear about the purpose of this Conference. We are not met here to draft the terms of the treaty of peace. We are met to agree to set up a world organization which will help to keep the peace when victory is finally won over Germany and Japan.
At intervals in history mankind has sought by the creation of international machinery to solve disputes between nations by agreement and not by force. Hitherto all these endeavors have failed. Yet no one here doubts that despite these earlier failures a further attempt must be made, and this time we must succeed. All the causes that made some form of international machinery desirable after the last war make it indispensable today.
In the last hundred years, and in particular the last twenty-five years, the discoveries of science have served to enrich and sometimes endanger the world, but above all to contract it. We have entered an age when no natural barrier, whether mountain or ocean, can guarantee security against the new weapons which science has placed at the disposal of mankind. This hard fact is now biting deeply into the consciousness of all peoples, and they are, I believe, ready to accept its implications and to shoulder the responsibilities which it imposes.
Herein lies the main difference between today and the lost opportunity at the end of the last World War. Today this fact is patent to us all. Whether we will or no, we are all now one another's neighbors. San Francisco is as close to Berlin or Tokyo as New York was to Washington a century ago. The world of today is one large city, and our countries are its several parishes. We are the citizens.
Either we must find some means of ordering our relations with justice and fair dealing, while allowing nations great and small full opportunity to develop their free and independent life, or we shall soon head for another world conflict which this time must bring the utter destruction of civilization in its train.
It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the work on which we are making a start here may be the world's last chance. That is why the Governments of the four powers who sponsored the invitations to this Conference asked their representatives to meet and work out proposals which might later form the basis of an international agreement. They did so at Dumbarton Oaks. Their work was examined and completed in the Crimea. The final outcome is now before you.
Here there are a few general observations which I would make. In the first place, these Proposals admittedly constitute a compromise. In the second place, they do not constitute an attempt by the four powers to dictate to the rest of the world what form the future world Organization should take. They are the suggestions which we unitedly present to you for your consideration.
Nor are they intended to stand unchanged until the end of time. For our own part, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are prepared to accept and to endorse them and to do their best to give them life, because we believe that they can form a basis for a future world Organization which will help to provide that security which is today mankind's greatest need.
Security is not itself a final end. But it is indispensable if we are to make true freedom possible. Not otherwise can we hope to realize a world in which justice for nations as well as for individuals can prevail.
But this security cannot be created in a day nor by any document, however admirable. It must be the product of time and of constant effort, of learning to work together, of practicing and upholding accepted standards of international conduct. The important thing is to begin now.
Here let me sound a warning note and make a suggestion. Let us not attempt too much. We cannot hope here to produce a complete scheme, perfect in all its elaborate details, for the future ordering of the world. I am persuaded that we should be wise to set ourselves a goal more within the compass of our immediate possibilities. We shall have taken the indispensable first step if we can now draw up a charter within the framework of our principles. The details can then be left to be filled in in the light of experience.
I know that this is an Anglo-Saxon conception, which may possibly be challenged by others, but I am convinced that in this particular case it is right, and I would claim that its merit is capable of proof by reference to historical facts.
Now let me turn briefly to the Proposals themselves which we are met to discuss. They impose obligations equally on all powers, great and small. But I am conscious that a special responsibility lies on the great powers in these days when industrial potential is so decisive a factor in military strength. Great powers can make a two-fold contribution. They can make it by their support of this Organization. They can make it also by setting themselves certain standards in international conduct, and by observing those standards scrupulously in all their dealing with other countries. The greater the power any state commands, the heavier its responsibility to wield that power with consideration for others and with restraint upon its own selfish impulses.
What was the most sinister feature of the years which preceded the present struggle? It was the deliberate debasement of international conduct in which Germany, Italy, and Japan engaged to further their own selfish plans. It was the practice of these powers not only persistently to violate their engagements, but to use the new engagements they so readily undertook after each aggression as a cloak to cover their next crime.
This was their technique. But what was the result? There came a time when the outraged forces of civilization had to call a halt to these practices, and so inevitably the world was plunged into another war. Great powers have a special responsibility to guard against the recurrence of such practices.
I have laid emphasis on that portion of our task which is concerned with the provision of international machinery for the settlement of political disputes. But of equal importance with this is the solution of economic problems which, if untended, can themselves sow the seeds of future war. This will be the task of the Social and Economic Council which finds its place in the Proposals now before you. It is our duty to insure that this Council shall be well adapted to play its full part in our new structure of peace.
Here, then, are two immediate tasks, political and economic. Let us press them vigorously to a conclusion. World events of unprecedented magnitude both in the east and in the west crowd upon us every hour. If we order our labors efficiently and work to the utmost of our strength, it should surely be possible for us to agree our Charter within four weeks from now. We cannot afford to delay. Sir, I hope that we shall set ourselves such a target date and determine to reach it. This Conference bears heavy responsibilities. It has also splendid opportunities. Let it seize them now.
In the early days of this war, I went to Egypt to greet soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who had come to that country to protect the Suez Canal against the imminent threat of Mussolini aggression. On the evening of their arrival I was speaking to a number of the men of the motives which had made them volunteer for this adventure. Of the group one man remained silent. At last I turned to him and said, "And what made you come here?" He replied, "I guess there is a job of work to be done."
In the last six terrible years unnumbered men have died to give humanity another chance. We, too, have a job of work to do if we are not to fail these men. Let us do it with courage, modesty, and despatch. Let us do it now.