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287 Attlee to Curtin

Circular Cablegram D705 LONDON, 28 September 1943, 12.30 a.m.


My telegram of 20th September, D.674. [1]


We are glad to note that the principle of such a declaration is
welcomed by other British Commonwealth Governments and we have
considered fully their comments on the proposed wording.

2. Clause 4. After examining the various views expressed, we think
that it would be best to add the following wording-

'That they recognize the necessity of establishing, at the
earliest practicable date, a general international organization
based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all nations
for the maintenance of international peace and security in which
all peace-loving nations, great and small, may play their part.'
This we think would provide adequate recognition for the position
and status of the smaller powers while avoiding the danger to
which the Union Government's reply called attention. [2] We do not
think that this wording need exclude present enemy powers from
eventual participation.

3. Clause 5. We agree that this would be improved by including
express reference to consultation with other members of the United
Nations and now favour the following wording-

'That for the purpose of maintaining international peace and
security pending the re-establishment of law and order and the
inauguration of a general system of security they will consult
with one another and, as occasion requires, with other members of
the United Nations with a view to joint action on behalf of the
Community of Nations.'

We agree that the word 'joint' involves some risk of inaction
resulting from disagreement but it also seems important to aim at
preventing independent action by one of the signatories.

4. Clause 6. With reference to paragraph 4 of the Canadian reply
we think it may safely be assumed that this clause would not
impair any existing arrangements with regard to consultation on
military questions. 5. Clause 8. We agree with the Canadian
suggestion that this should read-

'That they will confer and co-operate with one another and with
other members of the United Nations to bring about a practicable
general agreement with respect to the regulation of armaments in
the post-war period.'

6. China. As regards the Australian Government's observations on
the proposed participation of China, we feel that from the point
of view of opinion in the United States, the inclusion of China
must be regarded as essential and that it would be unwise for us
to suggest omitting China.

7. Dominions. We have given the fullest consideration to the
Australian suggestion that the declaration should be, so far as we
are concerned, in the name of the British Commonwealth, and that
Australia should either separately or as part of the British
Commonwealth be definitely included as one of the parties to act
on behalf of the Community of Nations. We are of course in fullest
agreement with the general idea that what we should aim at is to
secure a joint British Commonwealth policy on all these matters.

The Australian suggestion would, however, as the Commonwealth
Government point out, require assent of all the Dominions and it
will be remembered that at the 1926 Imperial Conference, the idea
of the British Commonwealth as a single contracting unit was ruled
out at the request of the Dominions as tending to obscure their
separate international status. Unless, therefore, the other
Dominion Governments were prepared to support the Australian
proposal it does not appear to be practicable. In any case we do
not see how other foreign countries could now be expected to
accept an arrangement under which the Dominions were at the same
time formally parts of one of the major powers and also separately
individual members of the general Community of Nations. In
practice the position of the Dominions in the sense which the
Australian Government desire should be fully safeguarded by the
existing system of consultation which would ensure the fullest
possible preliminary consideration between ourselves and other
British Commonwealth Governments of all matters which, under the
terms of the declaration, would come before the major powers. In
practice if not in name the United Kingdom would support a policy
acceptable to all members of the British Commonwealth. Our
conclusion has, therefore, been against the adoption of the
suggestions in paragraph 6 and 7 of the Australian reply.

8. Nevertheless we think that there would be important advantages
if it could be demonstrated to the world if and when the
declaration is adopted that, although it is only signed by the
United Kingdom, it has the approval of other British Commonwealth
Governments. If this suggestion is acceptable we should be happy
to consider at a later stage how effect could best be given to it,
e.g. simultaneous statements or possibly by joint declaration.

9. We are now putting to the State Department the amendment to
Clause 3 set out in my telegram D.650 [3], the above amendments to
Clauses 4, 5 and 8, and also a suggestion for substituting 'to the
liberation of other States . . .' for 'of territory of other
States . . .' in Clause 2.

1 This cablegram advised that the views of the Dominion Govts on
the Four Power Declaration were being carefully considered and
requested that each Dominion repeat its views to the others. In
consequence the Commonwealth Govt received cablegrams from the
Canadian (no. 10), N.Z. (nos 175 and 177) and South African (no.

99) Govts on 22-23 September. All cablegrams are on file AA:A989,
43/1/1. For the Commonwealth Govt's views see Document 280.

2 In his cablegram cited in note 1, Smuts had suggested 'that in
paragraph 4 of your Amendment "just" before "part" be deleted as
it may again mean "equal" and open the door to the pretensions of
small powers which made the League of Nations unworkable'.

3 Document 278.

[AA:A989, 43/1/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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