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91 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 209[A] LONDON, 12 December 1942, 3.10 p.m.


Dominions Office Circular D.538. [1] While, as you will appreciate from my previous telegrams [2], I share the views expressed as to the necessity vis-a-vis the United States of facing this question I would put the case even more strongly than in the earlier part of Dominions Office telegram.

I am convinced that the United States [of America] [3] regards [the British Empire] attitude towards Colonies and dependent peoples as the touch-stone of their sincerity with regard to post- war co-operation. This is of particular importance because feeling with regard to the necessity of a liberal and enlightened policy with regard to Colonies and dependent peoples is strongest in the United States in quarters most inclined towards international collaboration.

With regard to the line of approach to the United States for a joint declaration as set out in (1-4), my view is that it is ill- conceived. The main emphasis is Defence and I feel that the American reaction would be that this is a cunning move to trap the United States into commitments for future defence of the British Empire. It is true that 3 and 4 contain pious expressions of good intentions but I do not believe that the United States will be prepared to accept these. A progressive step is suggested under (a) but it is contemplated only as a matter for discussion after the joint declaration has been agreed and published.

In my opinion the whole line of approach should be altered and be somewhat along the following lines:-

(1) That the formulation of a post-war policy in regard to Colonies and dependent peoples is essential.

(2) That we desire to discuss with the United States the lines that policy should take.

(3) That our broad thought on the subject of what such a policy should be is:-

(a) Recognition that control of non self-governing territories is a trust to be exercised first on behalf of native inhabitants and then of the world.

(b) The aims and objects set out in (3) of the suggested declaration omitting references to the parent state and defence.

(c) No exclusive economic rights in such territories and equal access to raw materials to all countries.

(d) Regional commissions (Dominions Office's telegram (a)).

(e) Co-operation for defence of territories probably through machinery of regional commissions.

(f) Responsibility for administration of parent state (Dominions Office's telegram (b)).

(4) That no attempt should be made at this stage to formulate a declaration but Halifax should be given widest discretion to explore the whole position with the American Administration.

(5) That dependent on how these exploratory conversations develop a decision to be taken whether the declaration should be a joint Anglo-American one or whether other Colonial powers should be brought in, e.g. Netherlands.

In view of Hull's attitude in his conversations with Halifax (my telegram S92 of 28th August [4]) it is probably desirable and possible to put in the forefront the paramount necessity of winning the war and it may well be that more emphasis can be put on the conception of parent state. Equally [?from] the evidence of Hull's mind on the necessity of fitness and willingness to fight for freedom it may be possible to give more prominence to the defence conception. I feel, however, that it is much more desirable to let these trends develop in conversations than for us to stress them in the first approach to the Americans.

I regret that the position has developed so far without my having had an opportunity to put my views to War Cabinet. Owing, however, to the fact that there were considerable differences of opinion in the United Kingdom Government and that the Dominions were to be consulted before action was taken, the discussions have been regarded as being in respect to a 'domestic' question.

The present position is that Stanley, having only seen the report of conversations with Hull in August since he became Secretary of State for the Colonies a week ago, has the feeling strongly that an opportunity has been missed and is very impressed with the necessity of opening this matter with the United States as soon as possible. Having got a new sense of urgency created owing to his intervention I hope that you will send your views in reply to Dominions Office telegram D.538 as soon as possible.


1 Document 90.

2 See Documents 56 and 86.

3 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, December 1942.

4 See Document 56, note 2.

[AA:A989, 43/735/1021]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History