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370 Eggleston to Evatt

Dispatch 12/44 WASHINGTON, 11 December 1944

I have the honour to report that I have closely studied your telegram No. 1902 [1] containing your views on the Australian - New Zealand Conference and also the telegrams [2] from Mr. Fraser, Prime Minister of New Zealand giving the resolutions in full. In my opinion the time is opportune for a full discussion of the question of the Government of Colonial Territories. The President has some fully defined views on the subject which are the direct antithesis of those which appear to be entertained by the British.

Our views appear to come in between and afford a good basis for compromise between the two others.

At the present juncture, it would be exceedingly unfortunate if these differences were discussed in public and I think the interviews I have had show that a diplomatic exchange of views would be advantageous.

In pursuance of your instructions I sought an interview with Mr.

Stettinius and after some postponements I saw him on the morning of 6th December. I said that I wished to bring up the question of Government of Colonial Dependencies. I understood that it was not discussed at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and he said 'no', but it would have to be discussed at the next, which would take place in three months' time. He said that the reason for not discussing the 4 Berle submitted his resignation as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on 3 December, but remained Leader of the U.S. Delegation in Chicago and President of the Conference.

Colonial question was that it was tied up with so many military questions. I then said that the question had been brought up at the Australian - New Zealand Conference and you had asked me to hand him in a personal and confidential way point 11 [3] of the resolution arrived at the conference, which differed somewhat from the published statement of Mr. Fraser. [4] He than read the clause and said, 'does this mean the Government of the dependency by one power?' and I said it means that one power shall be responsible as mandatory. He said, 'well, there is where you will come into conflict with the President'. He said he was speaking quite confidentially but the President's view was that the sovereignty was to be in the United Nations as trustee and that it should govern through an international organisation. He was not very clear here and he said that three or four nations might be associated in the joint government. I presume he referred to the idea of Regional Commissions. I said that we had one experience of a condominium, i.e., the New Hebrides, and we regarded it as a most unsatisfactory form of government. He said, 'you think that one power should be responsible', and I said that that was our contention, we believed that only if the prestige of one power was pledged to secure good government would such government be achieved. I said he would notice we advocated the universalisation of the Mandate System whether involved in the war or not. I said I had made a personal study of the Mandate System because I was reporting on the proposed amalgamation of Papua and New Guinea and I had read all the reports of the Mandate Commission and also most of the reports of the mandatory powers and I was satisfied that it had been a success. I said Australia was willing to modify the terms of the C Class Mandate so that the objectionable features in it would be removed. I also said that our view differed from that of the British who believed in a system of Regional Commissions but have not made clear to whom the accountability should be.

He took notes of what I said and said he would speak to the President and have a further discussion. I formed the opinion that the Secretary of State had no set opinion of his own; this was a matter on which the President had views and he would only act as his mouthpiece.

This situation gives point to my conversation with the President which took place when I presented my credentials and also to the conversation with Mr. Harry Hopkins [5] which took place on 5th December, see Despatch No. 11/44. [6] Mr. Hopkins definitely suggested that I should bring my opinions before the President. He said the President had very curious ideas on sovereignty and thought it could be exercised by the whole of the United Nations and said that he intended to apply this sort of joint government to a number of the French Colonies and the Japanese Islands involved in the war. I said that I thought the restoration of the whole of the French Empire had been promised at Casablanca. He said he did not think the declaration went so far. I said that we would be only too glad if the U.S. would take the Japanese Islands but he said the President would not do that. Churchill was always suggesting that U.S.A. should take possessions here and there, but the President would not accept, he wanted to put his ideas of international government into operation. I said that in his conversation with me the President indicated that his opinion on Colonial Government differed from that of Great Britain. He said, 'well, whenever you have a conversation with the President introduce the subject as you will only get his real views as the result of a number of conversations'. I formed the idea that Mr.

Hopkins felt either that the President's views were open to question or that it was a pity that a very wide breach was developing between the British and American idea on the subject.

It will be remembered that some time ago Mr. Hull prepared a statement [7] on Colonial Policy which was discussed between British and American representatives. We have a copy of the proposals but no details of the reactions of the British to them.

These proposals stress the policy of giving independence at the earliest possible moment and fixing a date for future independence where it is impossible to give it at once. There is another section on International Trusteeship for backward peoples which suggests the setting up of a general International Authority but it is rather vague as to the actual power of government which this authority should have. The President's remarks to me at the presentation of my credentials were probably a reflexion of Mr.

Hull's proposals. He was strongly critical of Britain, wanted them to give up Malaya and Burma unconditionally as he was giving up the Philippines and he made the curious exception in favour of the Queen Wilhelmina's [8] proposal [9] to give a Federal Constitution to Netherlands East Indies.

From the various conversations I have had and my reference to the files, I would sum up the various views as follows:

American Policy:

Independence to be granted to dependencies wherever possible. The President evidently thinks it should be given to Malaya and Burma.

A date to be fixed for the granting of future independence.

An International Authority for governing countries inhabited by backward peoples liberated by the war. There is some doubt whether this view is President Roosevelt's personal view or that of the public as a whole. Many think that the public are becoming Imperialistic. British Policy:

A declaration of trusteeship of dependent peoples.

Regional Commissions for collaboration between different powers in the government of these dependencies.

There is no definition of the mechanism by which the governing power becomes accountable to whom or how.

Australian Policy:

The Australian policy as I gather adopts the Mandate principles, that is, the responsibility of one state for the government of the dependent community.

The Australian Government believes such a system should be applied to all dependencies.

The terms of the C Class Mandate would be considerably modified by Australia to include power of inspection conditions for welfare of native peoples and non-discrimination in trade.

It will be seen that the Australian view is a good compromise between the British and American views. It has the advantage that it is a development of an existing system which in my opinion has done well, but the disadvantage [is] that Americans because they did not join the League do not know very well how the League System worked and are inclined to regard it with suspicion. In particular they are inclined to view C Class Mandate as veiled Imperialism.

I will report when I hear further from Mr. Stettinius and meanwhile I will try and keep the question alive by reminding him from time to time of the interest we have in the question.


1 Dispatched 25 November. In AA:A3196, 1944, O.32504/05/32491.

2 See Document 337.

3 i.e. paragraph 11 of section I of the Resolution published as Document 337.

4 See Document 344, note 1.

5 Adviser and assistant to President Roosevelt.

6 In AA:A4231, Washington, 1943[-45].

7 The Hull statement was mooted in August 1942. See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 56, note 2, and Document 90.

8 Queen of the Netherlands.

9 See Document 65, note 5.

[AA:A4231, WASHINGTON 1943[-45]]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History