Atlantic Charter

The Atlantic Charter was a statement issued on 14 August 1941 that set out American and British goals for the period following the end of World War II.

The joint statement, later dubbed the Atlantic Charter, outlined US and UK aims for the world as follows: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people (self-determination); restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; 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. Adherents to the Atlantic Charter signed the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942, which was the basis for the modern United Nations.

The Atlantic Charter inspired several other international agreements and events that followed the end of the war: the dismantling of the British Empire, the formation of NATO, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) all derive from the Atlantic Charter.

Origin

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill aboard HMS Prince of Wales in 1941

US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and UK Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, discussed what would become the Atlantic Charter in 1941 during the Atlantic Conference in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.[1] They made their joint declaration on 14 August 1941 from the US naval base in the bay, Naval Base Argentia, that had recently been leased from Britain as part of a deal that saw the US give 50 surplus destroyers to the UK for use against German U-boats (the US did not enter the war as a combatant until the attack on Pearl Harbour, four months later). The policy was issued as a statement; as such there was no formal, legal document entitled "The Atlantic Charter". It detailed the goals and aims of the Allied powers concerning the war and the post-war world.

Many of the ideas of the charter came from an ideology of Anglo-American internationalism that sought British and American cooperation for the cause of international security.[2] Roosevelt's attempts to tie Britain to concrete war aims and Churchill's desperation to bind the US to the war effort helped provide motivations for the meeting which produced the Atlantic Charter. It was assumed at the time that Britain and America would have an equal role to play in any post-war international organization that would be based on the principles of the Atlantic Charter.[3]

Churchill and Roosevelt began communicating in 1939; this was the first of their 11 wartime meetings.[4] Both men traveled in secret; Roosevelt was on a ten-day fishing trip.[5] On 9 August 1941, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales steamed into Placentia Bay, with Churchill on board, and met the American heavy cruiser USS Augusta, where Roosevelt and members of 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 and made an official statement which, despite two attempts, the movie sound crew present failed to record.[6]