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378 Eggleston to Evatt

Letter WASHINGTON, 19 December 1944


In view of the situation which appears to be developing as outlined in my Despatch No. 12 [1] and your personal telegram to me No. 1996 [2], I think it may be as well to think out for ourselves the way in which the situation is likely to develop. As I see it the President and the British are preparing for a full discussion on Dependencies at the next important meeting on World Organisation and the asperity in tone of the British telegram [3] to Australia and New Zealand may be taken as indicating that the British and U.S. views are far apart and they fear that our ideas on supervision may lean to the U.S. point of view.

I entirely agree, if I may say so, with the view expressed in your telegram that it is desirable to come to a satisfactory arrangement with Great Britain and that future discussions should be confidential and provisional in character. I was a bit afraid of a public discussion and of course there is little likelihood of our carrying a policy opposed by Great Britain, little chance of doing it indeed unless we convert her to our views.

It must not be forgotten that your Wellington resolution [4] proposes a universalisation of the Mandate System-its application to all Colonial dependencies. I have for years advocated this, but it must be admitted that it is a large order. A number of powers like Netherlands, Belgium, will oppose it and rather than agree to it will oppose the whole system. Portugal and Spain will, I presume, not be among the United Nations and their Colonies will be held as at present. The early announcement of your views will not only set these powers working against the system but may create a certain amount of antagonism to us. This raises an interesting tactical question. Great principles of this kind are not realised without public advocacy but on the other hand logic does not play much part in international settlement. They are not likely to be implemented without a lot of finesse and the mustering of forces in their favour. If we want to get anything through, we must make a most careful appreciation of the alignment of forces for or against it, and in this we must take account of interest as well as principles. Frankly, I would have been happier if the declaration had not referred to any extension of the system to dependencies not involved in the war. The question of extending it could be brought in when the main principle was accepted. There was little prior discussion of the Mandate System before it was brought before the Peace Conference at Paris in 1919. But it was accepted without much question because Britain and U.S. had determined on it.

If the case for Mandates has to be argued over again there are several important points that should be developed.

(1) Strategical The mood of some people is that the Mandate is an idealistic device which failed because the Japanese Islands were fortified.

This is a very shortsighted view. The fortification of the Japanese Islands could have been prevented if there had been a system of inspection. The new World Security System will be based apparently upon an international Air Force which will require bases which can be held. A series of isolated bases over the world will apparently be chosen. It seems to me to be obvious that this system will not work if in the country surrounding the bases the local state can build up extensive military installations. Neither an International Air Force nor an International Police Force can operate if armaments are built up in territory adjacent to the bases from which they operate. The value of the Mandate System is that large areas of territory can be held on terms which forbid the construction of bases of operation and in which preparation for war can be confined only to these bases which are required for an International Police Force. This, of course, presupposes a World Security System backing up the International Police Force.

But if we do have an effective International Security System then the larger the area which can be regarded as militarily passive the better, the less the strain on the forces used for the Security System. Of course, if the Security System broke down such areas would be vulnerable but the fact is that the Colonial areas are now vulnerable as has been shown in the war.

(2) Political and Economic Development I suggest also that the Mandate System is the only way in which the political development of dependent territories can be secured.

Undeveloped States can only go through the discipline required for the satisfactory growth of political institutions if they are free from fear of military attack. Such a fear inhibits all the freedom of expression and action which are necessary for democratic institutions. The influence of the Mandatory Power may not of course be sincerely applied for this purpose, and that is why some responsibility should be acknowledged to a general International Authority. There is a rather naive idea in U.S.A. that all human groups are capable of self-government and are prevented from exercising these privileges by sinister influence. I will deal with some of these ideas later but the main reason why it is difficult to develop political institutions in backward countries is that there are no economic foundations for them. The Mandatory Power should therefore assist in the economic development of the country and not only in the production of crops for world markets, but in the improvement of living standards. This will not be possible on a large scale unless some steps are taken to promote international investment. It must not be forgotten that it is easy for backward peoples to absorb the shibboleths of western political thought without understanding them and without any thought of implementing them in any practical way. Thus, the concentration on purely political controversies is always unfortunate in a developing state. These doctrines are only real to people who have some economic status. It is a great pity that in India both the British and the Indians concentrate purely on political questions and though the British Raj has done a great deal of economic development of a primary character it is seldom referred to and hardly known.

(3) American ideas of Self-Government These truths will probably come home to U.S.A. when dealing with the Philippines. These islands have had very little developmental work done in them, less than in India. The standard of living of the people is as low as in most other of the Pacific Islands. The 'politicos' are a small class of people educated in Philippino, and American universities who only know political catch cries. The industries are capitalistic in form, worked with peon labour and based on a protected U.S. market. There is a large proportion of purely primitive peoples. Self-government under these conditions will be difficult. It remains to be seen what power will be retained by the U.S.A. when independence is given. That an Asiatic state can develop itself, set up a stable regime is shown by the example of Japan. Japan is so far in advance of every other Pacific power that her military potential makes her a danger, which will only be formally redressed when other Asiatic races are developed. Another example is Thailand which was, with very limited assistance from outside in the form of capital and expert advice, making a very good attempt to develop her natural resources and her communications. She had herself done very little to improve the standard of living of her citizens or check the pressure of debt. But the point is that Thailand was helpless against the aggressive power of a better developed nation like Japan and this would apply to the Philippines and every other native state in the area.

Another matter to be borne in mind is that in many cases the only political unity is that created by the Western Colonial power.

This applies to Netherlands East Indies, French Indo-China, Malaya and Burma. Without the unifying influence of the Western Colonial powers, each of these would be a congeries of decadent Empires, small principalities and primitive tribes all mixed up together.

In most cases no community exists. This is what makes the idea of an Indonesian Federated Republic so fantastic and ideas of simply conferring selfgovernment absurd. To whom would one give self- government in Malaya for instance? The Malay princes or the Chinese? If one favours a democratic constitution the result would be an internecine struggle between Chinese and Malays.

Corresponding difficulties would be encountered in French Indo- China and Netherlands East Indies. In Burma would the Hsawbaws [5] of the Shan states be given their old power? Moreover, self-government includes the right of conducting external policy. Experience has shown that these immature states are incapable of defending themselves in a jungle world and therefore their external policy is a matter very largely of chance. The prospect of a number of half-developed states being given free power of developing policy in this area is not a very reassuring one. The effect would be to Balkanise the Pacific.

These small powers would come within the influence of a strong local aggressive power like Japan. The lines of policy would be uncertain and incalculable. They would have to be brought within a strong United Nations organisation. I contend strongly that the best way for the United Nations to work in these circumstances is by deputing the government and political and economic development of these territories to strong members of it-in other words, the Mandate System.

(4) International Government The President's idea is not clearly defined but it may take one of two forms, either government by an International Governing Authority or by smaller groups or Regional Commissions. It is as well to state succinctly the objections to this type of joint government. The main objection is that it is impossible to prevent appointments to the administrative staff from being dominated by national considerations and usually they are made rateably. When appointments are made on this basis the appointee regards himself as responsible not to the international organisation but to his own nation. This has always been a fatal defect in international government and it was to get away from this that the Mandate System was designed in 1919. There is also as a result of similar factors a confusion of policy in international organisations.

These difficulties were felt in the League of Nations. In spite of all efforts to avoid them they are felt in U.N.R.R.A. but the most conspicuous example is the condominium in the New Hebrides. It would be desirable for somebody who has had experience in the New Hebrides to write the story in all its gory details.

(5) Regional Commissions The three different schemes of Colonial Government, that of U.S.A., U.K. and Australia - New Zealand, all include the formation of Regional Commissions. In the case of Australia these are intended to secure collaboration by different authorities within an area in common problems. There is no question of accountability to or government by these Regional Commissions.

It is not clear what the purpose of the U.K. and U.S. Commission is but I think that the President contemplates Regional Commissions as governing authorities. The British do not appear to contemplate accounting to the Regional Commission. They certainly would not agree to government by the Regional Commissions.

I must confess to some concern at the multiplicity of Regional Commissions, especially if they are only wanted for advisory purposes. They will all require staffs both for the Commissions and for the Government concerned and we have found staffing problems exceedingly difficult. I believe in joint Health Services and other administrative collaboration. In this respect Regional Commissions are valuable. But I cannot see that they are of any value as organs to whom responsibility is due. The regional principle is fully realised from this point of view if the General International Authority has two branches, a Pacific and an Atlantic Branch (see my despatch No. 66 from Chungking [6]). If however there are too many Regional Commissions the whole system will break down.

Finally, it seems to me that the difference between the British and Australian point of view may be due to the fact that the British are thinking of A and B Class Mandates, the temporary government of civilised peoples released from enemy control and we are thinking of C Class Mandates, the government of primitive peoples in territories of strategical importance. The A and B Class Mandates may not be required but the primitive peoples will need a lot of political tutelage.


1 Document 370.

2 Dispatched 8 December. On file AA:A3300/T1, 1944 War: U.S.B.C.

Colonial Policy.

3 Document 347.

4 See Document 337.

5 i.e. Sawbwas.

6 A reference to his dispatch of 2 February 1943. In AA:A4231, Nanking, 1943.

[AA:A1066, P45/153/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History