Atlantic Charter
Overview
 
The Atlantic Charter was a pivotal policy statement first issued in August 1941 that early in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. It was drafted by Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and later agreed to by all the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. The Charter stated the ideal goals of the war: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people; restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; free access to raw materials; reduction of trade restrictions; global cooperation to secure better economic and social conditions for all; freedom from fear and want; freedom of the seas; and abandonment of the use of force, as well as disarmament of aggressor nations.
Encyclopedia
The Atlantic Charter was a pivotal policy statement first issued in August 1941 that early in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. It was drafted by Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and later agreed to by all the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. The Charter stated the ideal goals of the war: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people; restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; free access to raw materials; reduction of trade restrictions; global cooperation to secure better economic and social conditions for all; freedom from fear and want; freedom of the seas; and abandonment of the use of force, as well as disarmament of aggressor nations. In the "Declaration by United Nations
Declaration by United Nations
The Declaration by United Nations was a World War II document agreed to on January 1, 1942 during the Arcadia Conference by 26 governments: the Allied "Big Four" , nine American allies in Central America and the Caribbean, the four British Dominions, British India, and eight Allied...

" of 1 January 1942, the Allies of World War II
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 pledged adherence to the charter's principles.

The Charter set goals rather than a blueprint for the postwar world. It inspired many of the international agreements that shaped the world. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was negotiated during the UN Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization . GATT was signed in 1947 and lasted until 1993, when it was replaced by the World...

 (GATT), the post-war independence of European colonies, and much more are derived from the Atlantic Charter.

Origin

The Atlantic Charter was drafted at the Atlantic Conference (codenamed Riviera) by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 in Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

. It was issued as a joint declaration on 14 August 1941. The United States did not officially enter the War until after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 in December 1941.

The policy was issued as a statement; as such there was no formal, legal document entitled "The Atlantic Charter". The term "Atlantic Charter" was coined by the Daily Herald, a London newspaper, after the joint declaration had been published. It detailed the goals and aims of the Allied powers
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 concerning the war and the post-war world. The ideals expressed through the eight points of the Atlantic Charter were so popular that the United States Office of War Information
United States Office of War Information
The United States Office of War Information was a U.S. government agency created during World War II to consolidate government information services. It operated from June 1942 until September 1945...

 distributed 240,000 posters of it in 1943 (OWI Poster No. 50).

On 9 August 1941, HMS Prince of Wales sailed into Placentia Bay
Placentia Bay
Placentia Bay is a body of water on the southeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada. It is formed by Burin Peninsula on the west and Avalon Peninsula on the east. Fishing grounds in the bay were used by native people long before the first European fishermen arrived in the 16th century. For a time, the...

, with Winston Churchill on board, and met the USS Augusta
USS Augusta (CA-31)
USS Augusta was a Northampton-class heavy cruiser of the United States Navy, notable for service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during World War II, and for her occasional use as a presidential flagship carrying both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman under wartime conditions...

 where Roosevelt and his staff were waiting. On first meeting, Churchill and Roosevelt were silent for a moment until Churchill said "At long last, Mr. President", to which Roosevelt replied "Glad to have you aboard, Mr. Churchill". Churchill then delivered to the President a letter from King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 and made an official statement which, despite two attempts, a sound-film crew present failed to record.

Content

The Atlantic Charter established a vision for a post-war settlement.

The eight principal points of the Charter were:
  1. no territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
  2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned;
  3. all peoples had a right to self-determination
    Self-determination
    Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

    ;
  4. trade barriers were to be lowered;
  5. there was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
  6. the participants would work for a world free of want and fear;
  7. the participants would work for freedom of the seas
    Freedom of the seas
    Freedom of the seas is a principle in the international law and law of the sea. It stresses freedom to navigate the oceans. It also disapproves of war fought in water. The freedom is to be breached only in a necessary international agreement....

    ;
  8. there was to be disarmament of aggressor nations, and a postwar common disarmament.


Point Four, with respect to international trade, consciously emphasized that both "victor [and] vanquished" would be given market access "on equal terms." This was a repudiation of the punitive trade relations that were established within Europe post-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, as exemplified by the Paris Economy Pact
Paris Economy Pact
Paris Economy Pact was an international economic agreement reached at the Paris Economic Conference held in June 1916 in Paris, France. The meeting, held at the height of World War I, included representatives of the Allied Powers: Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia.The pact was intended to...

.

Origin of the name

When it was released to the public, the Charter was titled "Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister" and was generally known as the "Joint Declaration". The name "Atlantic Charter" is believed to have been first coined by the Daily Herald newspaper, but was used by Churchill in Parliament on 24 August 1941, and has since been generally adopted.

No signed version ever existed. The document was threshed out through several drafts and the final agreed text was telegraphed to London and Washington. President Roosevelt gave Congress the Charter's content on 21 August 1941.

The British War Cabinet replied with its approval and a similar acceptance was telegraphed from Washington. During this process, an error crept into the London text, but this was subsequently corrected. The account in Churchill's The Second World War concludes "A number of verbal alterations were agreed, and the document was then in its final shape", and makes no mention of any signing or ceremony. Archives at the FDR Library show that at a press conference in December 1944, Roosevelt admitted that "nobody signed the Atlantic Charter." In Churchill's account of the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 he quotes Roosevelt saying of the unwritten British constitution that "it was like the Atlantic Charter - the document did not exist, yet all the world knew about it. Among his papers he had found one copy signed by himself and me, but strange to say both signatures were in his own handwriting."

Acceptance by Inter-Allied Council and by United Nations

At the subsequent meeting of the Inter-Allied Council in St. James' Palace in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on 24 September 1941, the governments of Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, and representatives of General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, leader of the Free French, unanimously adopted adherence to the common principles of policy set forth in the Atlantic Charter. On 1 January 1942, a larger group of nations, who adhered to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, issued a joint Declaration by United Nations
Declaration by United Nations
The Declaration by United Nations was a World War II document agreed to on January 1, 1942 during the Arcadia Conference by 26 governments: the Allied "Big Four" , nine American allies in Central America and the Caribbean, the four British Dominions, British India, and eight Allied...

 stressing their solidarity in the defence against Hitlerism.

Impact

The Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 interpreted these diplomatic agreements as a potential alliance against them. In Tokyo the Atlantic Charter rallied support for the militarists in the Japanese government, who pushed for a more aggressive approach against the US and Britain.

The British dropped millions of flysheets over Germany to allay fears of a punitive peace that would destroy the German state. The text cited the Charter as the authoritative statement of the joint commitment of Great Britain and the U.S. "not to admit any economical discrimination of those defeated" and promised that "Germany and the other states can again achieve enduring peace and prosperity."

The agreement proved to be one of the first steps towards the formation of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

.

Impact on imperial powers

The problems came not from Germany and Japan, but from those of the allies that had their empires and which resisted self-determination--especially Britain, the Soviet Union and the Netherlands. Roosevelt's speechwriter Robert Sherwood
Robert Sherwood
Robert Sherwood may refer to:*Robert Emmet Sherwood , American playwright, editor, and screenwriter*Robert Edmund Sherwood , American clown and author*Bobby Sherwood , American bandleader...

 noted that "it was not long before the people of India, Burma, Malaya, and Indonesia were beginning to ask if the Atlantic Charter extended also to the Pacific and to Asia in general." With a war that could only be won with these allies, Roosevelt's solution was to put some pressure on Britain but to postpone until after the war the issue of self-determination of the colonies.

British Empire

Public opinion in Britain and the Commonwealth was delighted with the principles of the meetings but disappointed that the U.S. was not entering the war. Churchill admitted that he had hoped the U.S. would finally decide to commit itself.

The acknowledgment that all peoples had a right to self-determination gave hope to independence leaders in British colonies
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 (e.g., India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

).

In a September 1941 speech, Churchill stated that the Charter was only meant to apply to states under German occupation, and certainly not to the peoples who formed part of the British Colonial Empire.

Churchill rejected its universal applicability when it came to the self-determination of subject nations such as British India. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1942 wrote to President Roosevelt: "I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for the freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India and for that matter Africa are exploited by Great Britain..." Roosevelt repeatedly brought the need for Indian independence to Churchill's attention, but was repeatedly rebuffed. However Gandhi and his party refused to help either the British or the American war effort against Germany and Japan in any way, leaving Roosevelt no choice but to back Churchill. India eventually ended up contributing significantly to the war effort, sending over 2.5 million men (the largest volunteer force in the world at the time) to fight for the Allies, mostly in West Asia and North Africa.

Poland

Churchill was unhappy with the inclusion of references to peoples' right to "self-determination" and stated that he considered the Charter an "interim and partial statement of war aims designed to reassure all countries of our righteous purpose and not the complete structure which we should build after the victory." An office of the Polish Government in Exile
Polish government in Exile
The Polish government-in-exile, formally known as the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile , was the government in exile of Poland formed in the aftermath of the Invasion of Poland of September 1939, and the subsequent occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which...

 wrote to warn Władysław Sikorski that if the Charter was implemented with regards to national self-determination, it would make the desired Polish annexation of Danzig, East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 and parts of German Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

 impossible, which led the Poles to approach Britain asking for a flexible interpretation of the Charter.

Baltics

During the war Churchill also argued for a liberal interpretation of the charter in order to allow Russia to continue to control the Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

, an interpretation accepted by the U.S. in March 1944. Lord Beaverbrook warned that the Atlantic Charter "would be a menace to our own safety as well as to that of Russia." The U.S. refused to recognize the Soviet takeover of the Baltics, but did not press the issue against Stalin when he was fighting the Germans. Roosevelt planned to raise the Baltic issue after the war, but he died in April 1945 in the last weeks of the fighting.

See also

  • List of World War II conferences
  • United Nations
    United Nations
    The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

  • United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference
    United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference
    The United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, commonly known as the Bretton Woods conference, was a gathering of 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after...


External links

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