November 22, 1945
New York Times.
In addressing the House this afternoon I am speaking in the third legislative chamber in ten days. On Tuesday, Nov. 13, I had the honor of addressing the joint session of Congress at Washington and on Monday last I had the privilege of speaking to the two houses of the Canadian Parliament at Ottawa.
I am speaking in this debate on foreign affairs because I thought it right to take the earliest opportunity of giving the House an account of my visit to the United States and Canada and to amplify in some degree the joint declaration which was made by President Truman, the Prime Minister of Canada and myself on atomic energy. I also thought it right that the House should have an opportunity of expressing their views.
It will, I am sure, be realized that I have not had very much time to prepare myself since landing on Tuesday night, and I, therefore, do not propose to range over a large number of topics which may properly be raised on debate on foreign affairs but shall confine myself to the main subject of discussions which I had across the Atlantic.
In doing so I should, however, make it clear that the Government have no desire or expectation that this debate should be restricted to this topic.
The Foreign Secretary will be speaking tomorrow and will reply to today's debate.
I would like to say a word here as to the circumstances which gave rise to the visit.
Toward the end of September last, I made known to the President of the United States my views on the vital importance to the world of the discovery of atomic energy, and of its application to warfare which made it essential that those in responsible positions should consider the problems to which it had given rise, and the implications which emergence of this weapon has on the endeavours we are all making to banish war from the world.
In conveying to him tentative conclusions to which the Government had arrived, I suggested a personal discussion which might follow, and in October I received an invitation from President Truman to visit Washington to discuss the whole matter with him and the Prime Minister of Canada. The Prime Minister of Canada had been over here on a visit and I had the advantage of exchanging views with him.
I am very grateful to Sir John Anderson, whose knowledge of the subject and of the circumstances attending working with the Americans and Canadians on atomic energy research was so great, and for being so good as to accompany me. His knowledge, advice and help at all times were invaluable, and I am very greatly indebted to him.
During my stay in Washington, I was most kindly entertained, and had numerous meetings with Cabinet members, Senators, Congressmen and other leading figures in the political world.
From the day of my arrival I had constant meetings and talks, most of them taking place at the White House, and one long, fruitful and pleasant talk on a yacht in the Potomac River.
While the principal subject of the talk concerned problems they had met to consider, I naturally discussed with the President and Mr. Byrnes and others matters of common interest, and I found as always a friendly and cooperative attitude.
I had the honor of addressing a joint session of Congress, and I paid tribute, as I feel sure that House would have wished me to do, to the unsurpassed war effort of the United States. I also told them I had come with the united good wishes of the House of Commons, in the task which lay ahead.
I was quite sure in the United States it was fully realized that there was no difference of opinion in this House about its desire for the utmost cooperation in world affairs with the great republic across the Atlantic.
I would like to acknowledge here the great assistance I had from our Ambassador, Lord Halifax, from Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson and from all members of our staff in Washington.
I then went to Canada, where I was immensely struck by the deep desire of the Canadian people to do all they could to help this country in the difficult circumstances of the present time.
I told them very frankly of our difficulties, but I assured them that we were meeting them in a spirit of resolution and confidence. The Prime Minister of Canada assured me of the affection and admiration of the people of Canada for the people of this country.
Indeed, I found that assurance in the demeanor of everyone with whom I came into contact. I had the honor to lay a wreath at the foot of the War Memorial in Ottawa and in Ottawa I also had the benefit of the extremely able help of the Lord High Commissioner.
I now turn to the principal matters which I discussed with the President [Truman] and Mackenzie King. I should like to say something first of all with regard to the approach I made to this question of atomic energy as applied to war. In my view it is impossible to isolate the problem of the atomic bomb from that of the use of other destructive weapons.
There was a time when wars were locally fought out with weapons which to us seem extraordinarily primitive. In those days losses and destruction caused by war could often be made up in a few years and great as was the misery caused the thing was measurable. Sometimes even the losses were slight and men in authority might count the cost of war as worth while for the advantages, but those advantages seem to us sometimes today to be trivial. Such an attitude toward war is impossible to our generation. We have seen two world conflagrations, and we know the cost or at least we know something of the cost in human suffering and in the destruction of the work of generations of man.
The practical obliteration of great cities which took place in the last war as a result of shelling and bombing was bad enough. We know too well what the effect of the bombing was in London, Coventry, Plymouth and other cities, and anyone who has seen Aachen and Stalingrad or Warsaw knows how infinitely greater is the ruin on the continent of Europe.
It was with that object lesson in their minds that representatives of nations met at San Francisco. But since then we have had the atomic bomb. Two only were dropped on Japan, but in each instance a large part of a great city with its inhabitants was wiped out. The atomic bomb is the latest word in destructiveness, but it may not be the last.
It brought home as nothing else has done that if civilization is to survive there must be no repetition of the First and Second World Wars. Therefore, when I spoke in Mansion House-and in all my discussions-I have considered not just the elimination of atomic bombs from the armory of nations but what kind of a world order is necessary in an epoch in which science has placed in man's hands such terrible weapons. I emphasize this because there have been attempts in the past to eliminate certain weapons and certain methods of warfare, and there were certain successes in the past. There have been wars in which the Geneva convention has been pretty fairly observed on both sides, but broadly speaking, the attempt to abandon certain weapons has failed.
Gas was banned before the 1914-1918 war but was used, and I have no doubt that if the Nazis had thought it worth while they would have used it once again. The bombing of open cities once filled the world with horror, but it became the everyday experience of the citizens of London in the last war. I do not believe that in a warring world, except to a very little extent, there can be a set of Queensberry rules.
I think an attempt on those lines is as futile as an attempt of knightly contestants of the Middle Ages to ban that unsporting thing-gunpowder.
I think it is well that we should make up our minds that if the world is again involved in a war on a scale comparable with that from which we have just emerged, every weapon will be used. We may confidently expect full-scale atomic warfare which will result in the destruction of great cities, in the death of millions and the setting back of civilization to an unimaginable extent. You will find this thought expressed in the joint declaration.
We have in process a meeting of the United Nations Organization, and there is an instrument which, if all nations resolve to use it, can establish a rule of law and prevent war.
I say resolve to use it because to my mind here is the essence of the problem. Just as no system of inspection or control of weapons is to avail without good-will, so no international organization, however carefully framed, will be of any avail unless the nations resolve to lay aside war and threat of war as an instrument of policy, unless they determine to establish between themselves such mutual confidence that war is unthinkable. This is the only real solution. No safeguard offering any chance of success should be overlooked or ignored.
I say mutual confidence is needed, but it is as well to remember that over great areas of the earth's surface this confidence is already established. War between Britain and any of the dominions is unthinkable.
War between Britain, Canada or the United States is unthinkable. It is the task of statesmen to spread that confidence throughout the world. The declaration which we made at Washington was made with this object of increasing confidence in order that we may press on with the great task of ridding the world of the fear of war.
Let me turn now to what we have actually done. First, we three countries were concerned in the discovery and development of atomic energy. Countries which possess the knowledge have already made available to the world the basic scientific information essential to its development for peaceful purposes.
We declare our readiness to make available any further basic scientific information of this kind for the whole world. We desire to promote the use of advances in scientific knowledge to peaceful and humanitarian ends, and we declare our readiness to exchange fundamental knowledge and to arrange for interchange of scientists with any nation that will fully reciprocate. I ask the House to note that desire for reciprocity. We cannot tell what scientific discoveries may be made and used for warfare. Therefore, we ask that all should be prepared to do what we have done and what we are prepared to do.
I now turn to the question of the disclosure of detailed information from the practical industrial application of atomic energy. Atomic energy already has been used for destruction. Its development for peaceful purposes, for helping instead of destroying the human race, is not likely to be perfected for some years at all events. Meanwhile, methods and processes already developed can lead to either purpose. The proposal has been urged in some quarters that knowledge of these processes should be broadcast to the world in the same way as fundamental scientific information has been given.
I cannot think this would be wise. In the first place this knowledge cannot be given in formula or blueprint. It can only be done by scientists and technicians being taken to the plant to explain everything in detail involving numbers of men with specialized knowledge.
That is a matter which would take a long time, and to do this for all nations would clearly be a matter of very great difficulty, and I can see no reason for singling out particular nations.
Secondly, this discovery can be used either for peace or war. Can it be wise then when the United Nations Organization is only just formed and not out of its cradle to broadcast to the world methods of making such a destructive weapon?
In our view, this must await the growth of confidence and the development of safeguards. It may be said, what safeguards are any use?
I may be told that I have already said no system of safeguards can be devised to make an effective guarantee, but I ask the House to note the words about a nation bent on aggression in the declaration. Where there is no mutual confidence, no system will be effective. Where it exists there will be no difficulty. For instance, there is no difficulty between Britain and Canada and the United States. We trust each other. We are able to have free, full and frank discussions.
We wish to establish between all nations just such confidence. It is to be remembered that although the processes for producing atomic energy are complicated and require a great plant, the product itself is a small thing. The weight of the bomb on Hiroshima was not great. Clearly there must be most sedulous care taken in the control of this most dangerous substance.
The three signatories declare, however, their readiness to share with other nations on a reciprocal basis the practical industrial application of this discovery just as soon as effective and foreseeable safeguards can be devised and to this end they propose a commission under the United Nations Organization.
The House will have seen the duties it is proposed to entrust to the commission.
It will be remembered that the United Nations Organization is set up for the prevention of wars and the establishment of peace. It is, therefore, natural to entrust this work to the commission which will make recommendations to that organization. I draw special attention to the provision that the work of this commission is to proceed by stages.
There is not only atomic energy to be dealt with, but all weapons adaptable for mass production Not one of these weapons has a legitimate place in the armaments needed for ordinary internal security or protection of a Government. They are weapons for total war designed for mass destruction, and we must banish total war from the world if civilization is to continue.
Here is our declaration. I hope that there will be a world-wide response to its principles and proposals here made for spreading scientific information for peaceful purposes and the prevention of these perversions for war. The United Nations Organization will soon be meeting when these matters will be brought up. This cannot be solved by America, Canada and this country alone and it would be a disservice to pretend that it could.
This is a world question, and for its solution we need not merely agreements of Governments but the wills and faiths of the peoples of the world .
Lost friends, ruined homes are fresh in the memory of us all. We have been through so many horrors that perhaps it is difficult for most people to grasp the threat there is still stretching before us unless men can so order their affairs as not to be destroyed by their own invention.
The atomic bomb is here. It is not something just noted, nor a newspaper sensation to be read about in comfort. It is a danger that hangs over everyone of us here in this country and over all the peoples of the world.
The United Nations Organization is now here. It is here, present in the world. It was born almost at the same time as the atomic bomb. It is not something vaguely heard of and outside the range of our life. It is fraught with tremendous possibilities, and, I want everyone here in this country and in the world to feel their personal concern in the success of the United Nations Organization.
I would like to end with some words I used on Monday in addressing the Canadian Parliament:
"Unless we apply to these problems the moral enthusiasm as great as that which the scientists bring to bear on our research work, then our civilization built up for so many centuries will surely perish."