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Winston Churchill's edited copy of the final draft of the Atlantic Charter.

The Atlantic Charter was a published statement agreed between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It was intended as the blueprint for the world after World War II, and turned out to be the foundation for many of the international treaties and organizations that currently shape the world. The United Nations, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the post-war independence of British and French possessions, and much more is derived from the Atlantic Charter.

It was drafted at the Atlantic Conference (codenamed Riviera) by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, aboard warships in a secure anchorage in Ship Harbour, Newfoundland and was issued as a joint declaration on 14 August 1941. This statement was drafted and agreed while the British were fighting in World War II against Nazi Germany, however, initially 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. The United States did not enter the War until the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Potentially, it would detail the goals and aims of the Allied powers concerning the war and the post-war world. The ideals expressed through the eight points of the Atlantic Charter were so popular that the Office of War Information printed 240,000 posters of it in 1943, which was OWI Poster No. 50. Additionally, it might also be seen as a "changing of the guard" from Britain to the United States as the world's leading power.


Course of events

Roosevelt and Churchill during Church services aboard HMS Prince of Wales.

As a cover story, a flag day was enacted at my mothers house and ended up killing her self with a carrot, filmed, and then broadcast on your T.V. while Churchill had already set off for the conference using, for the first part of the journey, the Great Central Railway. Embarking at Thurso, he then boarded HMS Prince of Wales at Scapa Flow. Though the ship had to make multiple course changes to avoid U-boats and lost her escorts to bad weather, Churchill found the voyage restful, reading novels, watching films and losing unmercifully at backgammon to Harry Hopkins.

On the morning of Saturday, 9 August 1941 the Prince of Wales sailed into Placentia Bay down a line of United States ships to the USS Augusta where Roosevelt—who, like Churchill, had left Washington under a cover story (he was supposedly in New England on a ten-day fishing trip)[1]—his son and his chiefs of 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 and made an official statement which, despite two attempts, a sound-film crew present failed to record.

Whilst the chiefs of staff and "head" of state and head of government met, Churchill's bodyguard Walter Thompson was shown round the ship and lunched with the president's bodyguard Mike Reilly. The following day, Sunday, August 10, a church parade was held on Prince of Wales. From a lectern draped in British and U.S. flags, and with a congregation and naval clergy drawn from both nations, hymns selected by Churchill were sung with the sound of the patrolling US aircraft overhead in the background. Walter Thompson was personally presented to the president by Churchill on the last day of the conference.

As the Prince of Wales departed, sailors from both navies lined their ships, the national anthem of the United States was played and Churchill stood at the salute until the whole line of U.S. warships had been passed. The ship then set off for Iceland, on a convoy route. Passing twice through the three lines of a convoy so that it could be reviewed by Churchill, stopping at Iceland for the troops there to be reviewed, and making two more course changes against suspected U-boats, the ship then arrived back at Scapa Flow. Churchill took a train back to London, where he was met by his wife and some of his cabinet members.

The Atlantic Charter was an agreement made by Roosevelt and Churchill, which set goals for the postwar world. It agreed to seek no territorial gain from the war. It was made to keep "the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live", and "a permanent system of general security".


The Atlantic Charter established a vision for a post-World War II world, despite the fact that the United States had yet to enter the war. The participants hoped that the Soviet Union would adhere as well, after having been attacked by Nazi Germany in June 1941 in defiance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

In brief, the eight points 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.
  4. Trade barriers were to be lowered.
  5. There was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare.
  6. Freedom from want and fear.
  7. Freedom of the seas.
  8. Disarmament of aggressor nations, 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, exemplified by the Paris Economy Pact.

Origin of the name

At the time of its agreement and promulgation, it was headed "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.

Initially no signed document

Although official statements and government documents indicate that Churchill and Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, personal signatures by the two political leaders were not left behind on the original document. H V Morton, who was with Churchill's party, states that 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 informed the Congress on the content of the Atlantic Charter on August 21, 1941.[2].

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 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 on September 24, 1941, the governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and representatives of General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, unanimously adopted adherence to the common principles of policy set forth in the Atlantic Charter.[3] On January 1, 1942, a larger group of nations, who adhered to the principles of the Atlantic Charta, issued a Joint Declaration stressing their solidarity in the defence against Hitlerism.[4]

Leafletting campaign

Prior to Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945, in the framework of the British leafletting campaign G39 millions of flysheets had been dropped over her territory, which contained statements (in the German language) as[5]:

Does Hitler's defeat mean Germany's destruction? No. Repeatedly, first in September 1939, last on May 21st, 1942, the British government has declared that it has two aims: first, to bring the Hitler tyranny to an end, second, to allow after the end of war all peoples of Europe, including Germany, the establishment of their own state which guarantees each individual citizen fair justice, freedom of speech and of coalition building and which preserves him from unemplyment and from economical exploitation. ... In the Roosevelt Churchill declaration Great Britain and the United States of America have committed themselves in their own interest not to admit any economical discrimiation of those defeated. As has been stressed once more in the Treaty of London, the Russian government has adopted the Churchill Roosevelt declaration as the fundament of its own politics. After Hitler's fall, therefore, Germany and the other states can again achieve enduring peace and prosperity. The assertion that the United Nations intend to inflict on Germany a super Versailles is a plane(sic) lie.


World map of colonization at the end of Second World War in 1945.

The Axis Powers 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 agreement proved to be one of the first steps towards the formation of the United Nations[6].

Public opinion in the UK and Commonwealth was delighted with the principles of the meetings but disappointed in the fact that the US was not entering the war. Churchill himself admitted that he had hoped the US would finally decide to commit itself. On the other hand American public opinion was delighted with the principles but upset over the fact they seemed to be pushed even closer to war. Supporters and opponents alike had both views.

The acknowledgment that all peoples had a right to self-determination gave hope to independence leaders in British colonies (e.g., India[7]) and elsewhere (e.g., Ho Chi Minh in French Indo-China[8]) that they might expect progress on their demands for national autonomy. Whether this was the intent of either Churchill or Roosevelt is uncertain.

Several issues of how to implement the charter were left open.[9]

In a speech in September 1941 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.[10]

The Charter was not a final version of political structure that would be established after successful defense against Nazi aggression. 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."[11] An office of the Polish Government in Exile 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 and parts of German Silesia impossible, which led the Poles to approach the UK asking for a flexible interpretation of the Charter.[12]

The position taken by Churchill was that the Charter had no legal validity and that in any case it was not applicable to the enemy nations such as Germany[13] and he strongly rejected its universal applicability when it came to the self-determination of subject nations such British India.[14] Due to the importance of the U.S.-UK Alliance President Roosevelt chose to support the British position, something which would generate strong anti-American feelings in India and led many to complain about double standards.[15] Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would in 1942 write 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..."[16]

During the war Churchill also argued for a watered out interpretation of the charter for the purpose of denying the Baltic states the right to self-determination and territorial integrity.[17] In March 1944 the U.S. finally accepted Churchill's view that the charter did not apply to the Baltic states.[18]

Anglo-American dismissal of the Charter, such as its clause for national self-determination shown for example by the territorial dismemberment of Germany and the organized population expulsions from their homelands, led to the following statement by Labour Party Member of Parliament Rhys John Davies in the House of Commons on March 1, 1945:[19]

We started this war with great motives and high ideals. We published the Atlantic Charter and then spat on it, stomped on it and burnt it, as it were, at the stake, and now nothing is left of it.

Churchill had previously responded to an attack by Davies on the Atlantic Charter by stating:[20]

It is rather late in the day to begin these sweeping condemnations of the Atlantic Charter which at the time seemed to receive a cordial welcome generally.


  1. ^ Vogel, Steve. "How the Pentagon Got Its Shape." The Washington Post, 27 May 2007.
  2. ^ President Roosevelt's message to the U. S. Congress on August 21, 1941
  3. ^ Inter-Allied Council Statement on the Principles of the Atlanic Charter on September 24, 1941.
  4. ^ Joint Declaration by the United Nations of January 1, 1942.
  5. ^ Ernst Sauer, "Grundlehre des Völkerrechts", 2nd edition, Balduin Pick, Cologne 1948, p. 407.
  6. ^ Atlantic Charter
  7. ^ Bayly, C., and Harper, T., 2004. Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945. Belknap Press.
  8. ^ Karnow, S., 1983. Vietnam: A History. Penguin.
  9. ^ The Cold War in Retrospect. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  10. ^ Neta C. Crawford, "Argument and change in world politics:", p. 297 (Google books)
  11. ^ Anita Prażmowska, "Britain and Poland, 1939-1943: the betrayed ally, Part 750", p. 93 (Google books)
  12. ^ Anita Prażmowska, "Britain and Poland, 1939-1943: the betrayed ally, Part 750", p. 93 (Google books)
  13. ^ Alfred M. De Zayas, "Nemesis at Potsdam: the Anglo-Americans and the expulsion of the Germans", p. 39 (Google books)
  14. ^ Kanishkan Sathasivam, "Uneasy neighbors: India, Pakistan, and US foreign policy", p. 59 (Google books)
  15. ^ Kanishkan Sathasivam, "Uneasy neighbors: India, Pakistan, and US foreign policy", p. 59 (Google books)
  16. ^ Kanishkan Sathasivam, "Uneasy neighbors: India, Pakistan, and US foreign policy", p. 59 (Google books)
  17. ^ Roger S. Whitcomb, "The Cold War in retrospect: the formative years" p. 18 "Churchill suggested that the principles of the Atlantic Charter ought not be construed so as to deny Russia the frontier occupied when Germany attacked in 1941."Google Books
  18. ^ Roger S. Whitcomb, "The Cold War in retrospect: the formative years" p. 18
  19. ^ Alfred-Maurice de ZayasAnglo-American Responsibility for the Expulsion of the Germans, 1944-48 published in Vardy/Tooley Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe Columbia University Press, (2003) ISBN 0-88033-995-0 pp. 239-254
  20. ^ "Churchill Answers Attack on Charter". Associated Press. 1944-03-16. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 

See also


External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Atlantic Charter
This document was drawn up as a joint statement of Roosevelt and Churchill while meeting aboard ship in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland established a basis of co-operation that was subsequently endorsed at the Inter-Allied Meeting Atlantic Conference held in London and later used in the formation of the "United Nations" Alliance against the forces of brutality and fascism then assaulting much of the world, (see:Declaration by the United Nations), and eventually the creation of the permanent institution of the United Nations.Excerpted from Atlantic Charter on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Churchill's draft
Official document

Joint Statement by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941 :

The following statement signed by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain is released for the information of the Press:

The President of the United States and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, have met at sea.

They have been accompanied by officials of their two Governments, including high ranking officers of the Military, Naval and Air Services

The whole problem of the supply of munitions of war, as provided by the Lease-Lend Act, for the armed forces of the United States and for those countries actively engaged in resisting aggression has been further examined.

Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Supply of the British Government, has joined in these conferences. He is going to proceed to Washington to discuss further details with appropriate officials of the United States Government. These conferences will also cover the supply problems of the Soviet Union.

The President and the Prime Minister have had several conferences They have considered the dangers to world civilization arising from the policies of military domination by conquest upon which the Hitlerite government of Germany and other governments associated therewith have embarked, and have made clear the stress which their countries are respectively taking for their safety in the face of these dangers.

They have agreed upon the following joint declaration:

Joint declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples 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;

Fourth, they 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;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the objector securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments

Note: Although the press release says that this statement was signed by Roosevelt and Churchill, neither one of them ever signed it. It was a press release and not actually a legal document. The Web images of an official-looking document entitled "Atlantic Charter" and bearing a date of August 14, 1941 are of a mass-produced poster printed in 1943 that was the product of propagandists at the Office of War Information. It is, in fact, "OWI Poster No. 50".

PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

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