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287 Attlee to Curtin

Circular Cablegram D705 LONDON, 28 September 1943, 12.30 a.m.


My telegram of 20th September, D.674. [1]


We are glad to note that the principle of such a declaration is welcomed by other British Commonwealth Governments and we have considered fully their comments on the proposed wording.

2. Clause 4. After examining the various views expressed, we think that it would be best to add the following wording-

'That they recognize the necessity of establishing, at the earliest practicable date, a general international organization based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all nations for the maintenance of international peace and security in which all peace-loving nations, great and small, may play their part.' This we think would provide adequate recognition for the position and status of the smaller powers while avoiding the danger to which the Union Government's reply called attention. [2] We do not think that this wording need exclude present enemy powers from eventual participation.

3. Clause 5. We agree that this would be improved by including express reference to consultation with other members of the United Nations and now favour the following wording-

'That for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security pending the re-establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a general system of security they will consult with one another and, as occasion requires, with other members of the United Nations with a view to joint action on behalf of the Community of Nations.'

We agree that the word 'joint' involves some risk of inaction resulting from disagreement but it also seems important to aim at preventing independent action by one of the signatories.

4. Clause 6. With reference to paragraph 4 of the Canadian reply we think it may safely be assumed that this clause would not impair any existing arrangements with regard to consultation on military questions. 5. Clause 8. We agree with the Canadian suggestion that this should read-

'That they will confer and co-operate with one another and with other members of the United Nations to bring about a practicable general agreement with respect to the regulation of armaments in the post-war period.'

6. China. As regards the Australian Government's observations on the proposed participation of China, we feel that from the point of view of opinion in the United States, the inclusion of China must be regarded as essential and that it would be unwise for us to suggest omitting China.

7. Dominions. We have given the fullest consideration to the Australian suggestion that the declaration should be, so far as we are concerned, in the name of the British Commonwealth, and that Australia should either separately or as part of the British Commonwealth be definitely included as one of the parties to act on behalf of the Community of Nations. We are of course in fullest agreement with the general idea that what we should aim at is to secure a joint British Commonwealth policy on all these matters.

The Australian suggestion would, however, as the Commonwealth Government point out, require assent of all the Dominions and it will be remembered that at the 1926 Imperial Conference, the idea of the British Commonwealth as a single contracting unit was ruled out at the request of the Dominions as tending to obscure their separate international status. Unless, therefore, the other Dominion Governments were prepared to support the Australian proposal it does not appear to be practicable. In any case we do not see how other foreign countries could now be expected to accept an arrangement under which the Dominions were at the same time formally parts of one of the major powers and also separately individual members of the general Community of Nations. In practice the position of the Dominions in the sense which the Australian Government desire should be fully safeguarded by the existing system of consultation which would ensure the fullest possible preliminary consideration between ourselves and other British Commonwealth Governments of all matters which, under the terms of the declaration, would come before the major powers. In practice if not in name the United Kingdom would support a policy acceptable to all members of the British Commonwealth. Our conclusion has, therefore, been against the adoption of the suggestions in paragraph 6 and 7 of the Australian reply.

8. Nevertheless we think that there would be important advantages if it could be demonstrated to the world if and when the declaration is adopted that, although it is only signed by the United Kingdom, it has the approval of other British Commonwealth Governments. If this suggestion is acceptable we should be happy to consider at a later stage how effect could best be given to it, e.g. simultaneous statements or possibly by joint declaration.

9. We are now putting to the State Department the amendment to Clause 3 set out in my telegram D.650 [3], the above amendments to Clauses 4, 5 and 8, and also a suggestion for substituting 'to the liberation of other States . . .' for 'of territory of other States . . .' in Clause 2.

1 This cablegram advised that the views of the Dominion Govts on the Four Power Declaration were being carefully considered and requested that each Dominion repeat its views to the others. In consequence the Commonwealth Govt received cablegrams from the Canadian (no. 10), N.Z. (nos 175 and 177) and South African (no.

99) Govts on 22-23 September. All cablegrams are on file AA:A989, 43/1/1. For the Commonwealth Govt's views see Document 280.

2 In his cablegram cited in note 1, Smuts had suggested 'that in paragraph 4 of your Amendment "just" before "part" be deleted as it may again mean "equal" and open the door to the pretensions of small powers which made the League of Nations unworkable'.

3 Document 278.

[AA:A989, 43/1/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History