Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August 14, 1941:

The Atlantic Charter

President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met aboard warships anchored in Argentia Bay off Newfoundland -- the first of a dozen conferences the two would participate in during the course of the war, though of course at that moment the United States was still officially neutral. The occasion may be more important for the meeting of minds between Roosevelt and Churchill than the official statement they issued, known as the Atlantic Charter and dated August 14, 1941.

It's a rather Wilsonian document in some ways. FDR had been a member of Wilson's government, after all. Churchill, on the other hand, had not, and reportedly did not take the document too seriously, especially after it was clear the Allies would win the war. The Soviet Union wasn't interested in signing on, either. Still, even if not strictly binding policy, the charter became a well-known statement of Allied principles.

"The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles...

"First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

"... they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

"... they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

".... after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

"... they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. 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 frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential...

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