This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71128
Municipal archives id: LT4084
The original text of the WNYC radio broadcasts are the property of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives. This digital edition is made available for research purposes only. The text may not be duplicated or reproduced without the written permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives 31 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1945.
CITY OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
TEXT OF MAYOR F. H. LA GUARDIA'S SUNDAY BROADCAST TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW YORK FROM HIS OFFICE AT CITY HALL, FEBRUARY 11, 1945, BROADCAST OVER WNYC AT 1: 00 P. M. FOLLOWS:
Patience and Fortitude.
Today I am going to talk about something that is in the minds and hearts of millions and millions of people throughout the world. I am going to talk about the Atlantic Charter.
It is as alive today as it was when we first heard about it. It means today what it was intended to mean when it was first proclaimed. It is now the possession of the liberty-loving world beyond the call of any individual.
Let us recall just how it all happened.
When men are in great sorrow they speak from the innermost of their souls. When men are in great danger they think clearly and act unselfishly for their own safety and that of others. In every catastrophe or great cataclysm in the history of the world, men have thought not only of immediate protection but of future safety and avoidance of the causes that brought disaster. In the days when pestilence raged, taking terrific toll of life, men gave thought not only to healing the sick at the moment, but to finding ways and means to avoid future epidemics.
It was in such a period of stark danger and in an atmosphere of deep sorrow that two great men, leaders of two great people, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, met. From this historic meeting on a battleship in mid-ocean came the Atlantic Charter. To understand this covenant we must know the background. We must consider the situation of that time. We must bear in mind the danger then facing Great Britain and the United States. We must not forget the determination of the British people and that of the people of our own country not to submit at whatever cost to Nazi tyranny. All this is necessary to clearly understand what brought forth the Atlantic Charter, and its true intent and meaning.
Let us recall the Military situation of that day. August 14, 1941 ”” The Axis powers were at the peak of their strength, flushed with military victories and hope of ultimate success. The Battle of Britain began about August 1940, and increased its intensity right up to the very day of the Atlantic Charter. Thousands of German planes raided British cities, day after day, hour after hour.
Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol and every industrial city and port took merciless pounding month after month. In April, 1941, London was constantly under air attack and tons of bombs dropped upon it day after day for weeks and months. Liverpool was partially wiped out in April. Portsmouth and other ports were successively attacked during that summer.
It was then not at all certain that the Axis forces would not invade Great Britain, and no one knew better than President Roosevelt that if they did we would have to defend our own shores and prepare for a ten-year war of defense.
The casualties, dead and injured, of civilians in Great Britain, noncombatants, men, women and children mounted to over one hundred thousand by that time.
Let us look at our own shores. German submarines were within sight of the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Up to May 1941, Allied shipping had suffered a loss of 6, 127, 573 tons of ships. The Battle of the Atlantic raged simultaneously with the Battle of Britain. There were periods immediately preceding the memorable day of August in 1941 when it seemed as if the Axis powers could cut off the source of supply to Great Britain and cut communication between the nations of the British Commonwealth.
Remember, too, that when President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill met on the battleship in the Atlantic, their purpose was to prepare a long, defensive warfare and have plans ready in the event of the Nazi occupation of the British Isles. The Axis powers had already occupied, and were holding and bleeding Czechoslovakia and Poland and Finland and Denmark and Norway and a great part of France. Italy, under Fascists and braintrusted by Nazi mentality, had entered the war, had been successful against the spear-armed fighters of Ethiopia, and had been driving successfully in North Africa. Her Navy at the disposal of the Nazis, was effectively policing the Mediterranean. There were periods when it was not known whether the defense of the Suez could hold out. As a matter of fact, the Canal was often closed to navigation for long periods. In June of that year 1941 the British suffered reverses in Greece and were compelled to evacuate. Germany successfully invaded. Yugoslavia, and Greece. Salonika was lost and the Balkans with the rich oil fields of Romania, were under complete control of the Axis forces.
Dunkirk was the constant reminder of the critical situation. Only one day prior to the Atlantic Charter Marshal Petain signed the Collaboration Treaty with Germany which actually turned over to the Nazis all the resources of France and control of the entire Channel and Mediterranean coast of that country. Germany was pushing Russia hard. By August 14, 1941, Odessa had been encircled, the Nazi troops were advancing between the Dneiser and Dneiper Rivers, and had taken control of the mineral regions of Krivoi Rog. The bread basket of Europe, the Ukraine, already had been evacuated, leaving the Nazis in control of the entire wheat country.
A gloomier military situation could not possibly have existed for Great Britain. Democracy was never nearer complete annihilation than it was then. Our country was never in greater danger - not even on the day when the British marched into Washington and burned our Capitol.
Assurance had to be given to the world, in the midst of this critical situation, in the face of the apparent military successes of the Axis forces, that there was still hope for all of the people of the world, and that the United States and Great Britain had pledged their sacred honor to see it through. For centuries to come, the Atlantic Charter must be read and understood and followed and adhered to in the light of that period and what it meant at that time. It must not be abridged. It must not be reduced. It must not be modified. It must not be weakened. It must not be amended. It must be interpreted straight from men's souls in the way it was written. It cannot be construed now, in the flush of victory with new ideas and selfish ambitions, national or personal. None of its fundamental principles can be changed now. It is man's covenant with heaven.
This great declaration of principle was proclaimed in Great Britain and the United States through the highest official sources. It was not just a press release. It was the solemn proclamation of the chiefs of the two countries concerned, which since has been ratified and sanctified by the hearty approval of the millions of people these two chiefs of government represent. In London it was proclaimed by the Lord Privy Seal and in Washington by the President from the White House.
Is it national policy of the American People? It is. Is it national policy of the people of the United Kingdom? It is. What is all this talk about it not having been signed or that it was just a release or an expression of hope. Let no one ever attempt to detract from its meaning or to divest it of the solemnity of national policy accepted and ratified in accordance with every tradition and custom of the people of Great Britain as well as the people of the United States. Yes ”” and accepted and signed by over fifty nations.
Insofar as the United States is concerned, the principles, yea, the identical words agreed upon by the Prime Minister of England and the President of the United States, became an accepted national policy in the very same manner as did the Monroe Doctrine. Is there anyone who will dispute today that the provisions of the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine is not the national policy of our country.
On the 21st of August, 1941, a little over a week after the meeting between our President and the Prime Minister of England and after they had announced the Declaration of Principles to the entire world, the President submitted these principles to the Congress of the United States, now contained in Document #358 of the First Session of the 77th Congress. It is contained in the message from the President of the United States transmitting a public statement made by both the Prime Minister of England and the President of the United States with regard to the "Declaration of Principles necessary under the Code of the two countries." It was in a message from the President to Congress that President Monroe on December 2, 1823, stated to the entire world that "We should consider any attempt on the part of European powers to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." It was read to Congress just as the President's message of August 21, 1941, was read. President Monroe did not refer to the principle contained in his message as the "Monroe Doctrine". It became known as that later on. President Roosevelt did not in his message of August 21, 1941 call the declaration the "Atlantic Charter. " It acquired that distinctive name a few weeks later. The Atlantic Charter has been officially recognized and accepted in documentary form through solemn pledges in the very first year of its existence, a hundred, yes, a thousand times more than the ever-living Monroe Doctrine. Within four months after the Sermon on the Deck, on January 1, 1942, this great Declaration had received its name as the Atlantic Charter and had been accepted in the form of a solemn agreement by twenty one nations and six of the Commonwealths of the British Empire, and since that day over fifty nations have recognized the Atlantic Charter and subscribed and approved and pledged to sustain its principles. On January 1, 1942, at the White House, a Declaration by the United Nations was solemnly signed. It reads:
"A joint declaration by the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czecho-Slovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia."
"The Governments signatory hereto,
"Having subscribed to a common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Joint Declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated August 14, 1941, known as the Atlantic Charter,
"Being convinced that complete victory over their enemies is essential to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands, and that they are now engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world,
(1) Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Tripartite Pact and its adherents with which such government is at war. "
Can anyone now say that the Atlantic Charter is not a definite, specific, signed, binding promise of our own attitude and that of every nation which signed the agreement on January 1, 1942, and guaranteed to every one of the subjugated countries and to all of the invaded countries, that they are entitled to all of its provisions and to its full and complete protection.
Not only the Monroe Doctrine but the Emancipation Proclamation -the Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln issued on January 1, 1863, was announced to the country and to the world in the same manner, The emancipation of slaves in the States in rebellion against the authority of the United States was contained in no Act of Congress but only in this proclamation issued by President Lincoln under the authority as Commander-In-Chief. No one could question its authenticity. It was as the "Atlantic Charter" the solemn declaration of intention of seeing those principles through, as actually happened in the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution and as must happen with the recognition of free governments of liberty-loving people, guarantees of the rights of oppressed people, the maintenance of peace, the promise against aggression, the economic security and freedom from the fear of want.
Now let us see what happened in Great Britain. The Declaration was announced in the most solemn and official manner in keeping with ancient tradition of the British Kingdom. It was in Great Britain that it received the name of the "Atlantic Charter". Let us now recall Mr. Winston Churchill's proclamation of this particular Declaration of Principle to the people of England and to the people of all of the Commonwealths of the British Empire.
This is what Mr. Churchill officially stated at the time:
"I thought you would like me to tell you something about the voyage which I made across the ocean to meet our great friend the President of the United States.
"Exactly where we met is a great secret but I don't think I would be indiscreet that if I go so far as to say that it was somewhere in the Atlantic. " * * * (powerful American warships, protected by strong flotillas and far-ranging aircraft, awaited our arrival and, as it were, stretched out a hand to help us in. )
* * * *
"President Roosevelt is the thrice-chosen head of the most powerful State and community in the world. I am the servant of King and Parliament, at present charged with the principal direction of our affairs in these fateful times. And it is my duty also to make sure, as I have made sure, that anything I say or do in the exercise of my office is approved and sustained by the whole British Commonwealth of Nations."
Note the careful choice of words of Mr. Churchill speaking in his official capacity, It is not the indifferent language of a tourist coming from a vacation relating an interesting episode. Mr. Churchill continues:
"Therefore this meeting was bound, to be important because of the enormous forces, at present only partially mobilized, but steadily mobilizing, which are at the disposal of these two major groupings of the human family, the British Empire and the United States, who, fortunately for the progress of mankind, happened to speak the same language and very largely think the same thoughts, or anyhow, think a lot of the same thoughts.
"The meeting was, therefore, symbolic. That is its prime importance. It symbolizes in a form and manner which everyone can understand in every land and in every clime, the deep underlying unities which stir and, at decisive moments, rule the English-speaking peoples throughout the world.
"Would it be presumptuous for me to say that it symbolizes something even more majestic, namely, the marshaling of the good forces of the world against the evil forces which are now so formidable and triumphant and which have cast their cruel spell over the whole of Europe and a large part of Asia.
"This was a meeting which makes forever in the pages of history the taking up by the English-speaking nations, amid all this peril, tumult and confusion of the guidance of the fortunes of the broad toiling masses in all the continents, and our loyal effort, without any clog of selfish interest, to lead them forward out of the miseries into which they have been plunged, back to the broad high road of freedom and justice. This is the highest honor and the most glorious opportunity which could ever have come to any branch of the human race.
"The Austrians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Danes, the Beglians, the Greeks, the Croats and the Serbs, above all the great French nation, have been stunned and pinioned. Italy, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria -- have bought a shameful respite by becoming the jackals of the tiger. But their situation is very little different and will presently be indistinguishable from that of his victims. Sweden, Spain and Turkey stand appalled, wondering which will be struck down next. Here then is the vast pit into which all the most famous states and races of Europe have been flung and from which, unaided, they can never climb.
"We had the idea when we met there..... the President and I...,. that without attempting to draw final and formal peace aims or war aims it was necessary to give all peoples and especially the oppressed and conquered peoples a simple rough-and-ready wartime statement of the goal towards which the British Commonwealth, and the United States mean to make their way and thus make way for others to march with them upon the road which will certainly be painful and may be long.
"The ordeals, therefore, of the conquered people will be hard. We must give them hope, we must give them conviction that their sufferings and their resistance will not be in vain. The tunnel may be dark and long but at the end there is light.
"That is the symbolism, and that is the message of the Atlantic meeting. Do not despair, brave Norwegians... Be sure of yourselves, Czechs... Poles, the heroism of your people standing up to the cruel oppressors, the courage of your soldiers, sailors and airmen shall not be forgotten... Lift up your heads, gallant Frenchmen,.. Tough, stout-hearted Dutch, Belgians, Luxemburghers. Tormented, mishandled, shamefully cast away peoples of Yugoslavia. Glorious Greece now subjected to the crowning insult of rule by the Italian jackanapes; yield not an inch. Keep your souls clean from all contact with the Nazi. Make them feel, even in their fleeting hour of brutish triumph, that they are moral outcasts of mankind. Help is coming. Mighty forces are arming in your behalf. Have faith, have hope. Deliverance is sure..."
Now get this - Mr. Churchill still speaking - I am quoting from his statement: "You will perhaps have noticed that the President of the United States and the British representatives in what is aptly called the Atlantic Charter have jointly pledged their countries to the final destruction of Nazi tyranny." And may I add that in the same Atlantic Charter are seven other principles upon which the President of the United States and the British representative have jointly pledged their countries.
Whether or not there is any particular piece of the original paper with Mr. Churchill's signature on it is of no importance today. Mr. Churchill's signature is on the agreement of January 1, 1942. There is no signature affixed to the British constitution, it was never formally written yet it is indelibly engraved in the hearts of every Britisher and so well defined and recognized that it cannot be ignored, distorted or in any way belittled. Let someone produce the signature of King John on the Magna Carta. There too it was attempted to be described as a sort of indefinite program. A non-binding promise but it has lived through the years. It survived the indifference and belittling of those who (proclaimed) it. It served not only the people of Great Britain but has been an inspiration, guide and goal to the people of the civilized world through the centuries.
The Atlantic Charter has been baptised by the tears of the families and relatives of the crew of the "Prince of Wales" who witnessed its birth. It is steeped in the blood of our boys in the Pacific and in Africa, Italy, Normandy and Germany. It is sanctified by hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children all over Europe and China who were destroyed by the ruthless enemy. It was in the mind of the defenders of Warsaw and on the lips of the Partisans of Greece.
What is the Atlantic Charter? First: Great Britain and the United States "seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other." Everybody can understand that. The people of the two countries must see that this pledge is carried out.
Second: "They (the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States) desire to seek no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned." Can there be any doubt as to the meaning of that? Why any discussion now, when the war is not even over, as to changed conditions? The Atlantic Charter is clear in its meaning. It means simply that no country or any part of a country can be taken and given to someone against the wishes of the natives, the inhabitants of that country. They, alone, are to decide. Territorial confines are to be fixed in accord with the wishes of the people concerned, not by a pencil line drawn arbitrarily on a map.
Third: The two nations pledged their respect for "the rights of all people 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." That too is clear. All occupied countries are to be restored and their people are to decide what form of government they now desire. It also means that colonies or Islands that have been unhappy in the past and have had little or no say in their own destiny, in their own government, have been guaranteed the right of self-determination and of deciding whether they will go back to the old status or will establish their own government. Iceland has already made a decision and has elected a President.
Fourth: The two countries "will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity. " Here, perhaps, the one cause which, more than any other, has produced wars, is sincerely faced. Let no one be deceived. Here one of the causes of war has been touched upon. If soon we start talking about new barriers, if we seek in any way to deviate from this principle so vital in a new world order, the boys in our grade schools today will be in the Third World War.
Fifth: The Charter expresses the desire "to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic adjustment and social security." There is nothing new in this. It often has been talked about. It has been sung for centuries. Here is a solemn pledge, here is the sacred word of honor given by two great people to bring about a decent standard of living for all people and proper adjustment for security. In this respect, to date, man has failed miserably. God Almighty in His Wisdom provided the world with sufficient food and everything man needs. Man has not been able to use it properly. To the contrary, man has hoarded, has pilfered, and has sought to monopolize at the expense of others. God's own gift to all.
Sixth: The sacred promise is given that "after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny... that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want." It must be recorded in history as an actual achievement. It must be translated into action. It must be given life and vitality and reality at home and abroad, to present friends and to past foes. This is too precious to be left for the annals of poetry.
Seventh -- and Eighth: Promise is given of access to the high sons and the abandonment of the use of force. It gives notice to the Axis powers, -- that they will not be permitted again to arm. That is so clear that it requires no explanation and will permit of no change.
There is altogether too much talk at this time as to what the Atlantic Charter really means. It means exactly what it says. There is too much being said and sometimes from high authoritative sources, that of course it has to be considered in the light of changed conditions. Oh no, not that! It must be construed in the light of the conditions which brought it about and what it seeks to achieve. It must be construed and applied in the light of what we know about human history, ancient and contemporary. It must be construed and enforced in accordance with what it meant, what it means and what it will mean to the entire world.
The Atlantic Charter is not a harlot to be enticed by rhyming jingles and a bottle of eau de cologne. The Atlantic Charter is the charter for a new world. It is something definite; something that the people of the world earned; something for which millions of men have already died; something for which hundreds of millions of people are living. The hope of the world contained in the Atlantic Charter must be translated into new constitutions, its guarantees contained in new treaties, its promise transformed into reality to be enjoyed by millions of liberated, free and happy people.
Instead of dodges, explanations or weakening or curtailing of this magnificent hope to the world, now is the time to reiterate its principles, to reaffirm its sacredness and to reassure its sincerity to all the people of the world. Read it again in Commons. Read it again in Congress. Translate into every tongue of the world -- proclaim it again and again again.
This is my humble tribute to Abraham Lincoln whose birth we commemorate tomorrow. We owe so much to him. The world owes so much to him. He stands as the foremost champion of freedom and liberty and the rights of man. It is quite appropriate that in the turmoil and confusion and sorrow of the present day, our thoughts should turn to him. He was a great American. He was a big man. He was a gentle soul. May we not apply His immortal principle and his thoughts, and bow our heads and pray that this world under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall be established all over the earth.
Once we will have separated the war guilty, once we will have brought the war criminal to justice, may we then again revert back to Lincoln, with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the world's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. And may we not all seek to emulate Abraham Lincoln in his humility and may we not all take an example of his
PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE.