Looking Forward to the Postwar World
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Feb 1945, p. 256-265
Atherton, The Honourable Ray, Speaker
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Item Type
International security and the principles of postwar world organization. The Dumbarton Oaks proposals. Remembering the principles of the Moscow Declaration. The wording of that document. Looking back to the beginnings of the North American federal systems to find nearly all the problems now causing dismay in connection with the prospects for world co-operation in almost greater force in respect to state and provincial cooperation. An examination of Canada before Confederation. The American Articles of Confederation. The evolutionary nature of the process of drawing together, accompanied by disappointments, and also by compromise. Belief in world cooperation by the United States and Canada.
Date of Original
1 Feb 1945
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Full Text
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Conquergood
Thursday, February 1, 1945

MR. CONQUERGOOD: The Empire Club extends d most cordial welcome today to our guest of honor, The Honourable Ray Atherton, United States Ambassador to Canada:

We have so much of common interest with the people of the United States, in business and social affairs, that we value them not only as rich neighbors, but as our most intimate and kindly friends as well.

We have so many things in common that in many ways we are very much alike. We sprang from the same origins, we speak the same language, we read the same books, magazines, and other publications. We see many of the same motion pictures and listen to many of the same radio programs. We are allies in the same war, fighting for the same way of life. The long boundary line that separates us constitutes in the main a separation in the realm of political affairs. If the guiding star of the United States' political thought is "Liberty", we, on this side of the line, are equally intent on the guiding star of "Freedom", which is certainly set in the same constellation. Whenever. therefore, a distinguished representative of the United States addresses us, he is assured not only of an attentive but also an appreciative and receptive audience.

Our guest speaker today qualifies as a distinguished representative of the United States; first, because in his official capacity he occupies the highest position in the gift of his Government, and secondly, because by training and experience, he has earned a personal right to the honor.

Mr. Atherton is a graduate of Harvard University and one of a great list who have brought distinction to the cultural training of this great college. He studied for four years in France, and has represented his country in China, Greece, Great Britain, Bulgaria, and Denmark. With such a background of varied experience, he was warmly welcomed on his arrival in Canada in 1943. In his leisure hours, I gather from a recent newspaper story, he finds relaxation in the pursuit of art.

I have the honor of presenting The Honourable Ray Atherton, United States Ambassador to Canada, who will address us on "Looking Forward to the Postwar World."

THE HONOURABLE RAY ATHERTON: Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen: At about this same time last year it was my privilege to speak in Toronto before the Canadian Club. That was my first appearance before a Toronto audience. Since then I have spoken in some twenty Canadian cities. Returning to Toronto, I find myself somewhat in the position of the traditional road-company actor who is given to judging cities only by the audiences' reactions to his performances. I say, however, that judged by any criterion Toronto has always seemed to me a fine place, and I am delighted to have the opportunity of spending a few days here again this winter.

Much has happened during this last year, in the world as well as in Toronto. In Toronto you have had some winter weather, for one thing. Local pride compels me to state that our snow banks in Ottawa are still a little higher than yours, but, to be fair, it must be admitted that, as usual, a lot of our Ottawa snow is left over from last winter.

When I spoke in Toronto last year the historic conferences of Cairo and Teheran were events of recent history and the famous joint Four-Nation Declaration issued at Moscow the previous October was in everyone's mind. International security and the principles of postwar world organization formed a substantial part of my remarks. This year again I feel that such ideas take precedence over any other thoughts that any of us may have, and it is my intention to discuss these world ideas with you once more.

If you should be kind enough, and hardy enough, to invite me to address you five years from now you would probably find me still dwelling on the same subject, be cause I am profoundly convinced that no other field of study so earnestly requires our closest attention. We are all citizens of the world now, and citizens at a time when the duties of citizenship are heavier than at at any previous moment in the world's history.

Last year, as I say, our minds were on the Moscow Declaration. It is a measure of the progress achieved in the intervening twelve months that today our minds are on the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. We are contemplating uo longer a simple statement of principles but a set of specific proposals, carefully prepared for submission to and consideration by the United Nations. Yet the principles of the Moscow Declaration have not been forgotten; they have endured; they have grown stronger in the minds and souls of men all over the world.

It may be well to refresh our memories concerning the wording of that all-important document. In Moscow, in October, 1943, the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China united in asserting "the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security." Dumbarton Oaks was, essentially, a conference held to implement this assertion of international policy. It was one step further--one long step further--along the path to international security.

We have reached a stage, now in the early days of 1945, when many men of good will in all parts of the world are growing impatient at the speed with which we are travelling this path, Voices are beginning to be raised, questioning the ultimate feasibility of genuine world cooperation. After five and a half years of the worst war in history it is natural that men should lose patience, that some should even lose hope for the future. But, of all the peoples of the world, we in North America should be the very last to lose our patience, the very last to lose hope. For Canada and for the United States our own history supplies us with the complete answer to scepticism concerning the feasibility of world organization, of international co-operation for peace.

Most great nations are composed of diverse groups of people welded together over the centuries into a unified whole, but in North America we have uniquely achieved federation through a peaceful, deliberate, and conscious process. The Constitution of the United States and the British North America Act stand alone as monuments to the invincible will for union displayed by independent and divergent groups, by dissimilar if not hostile colonies. These great victories over mutual jealousy were won a long time ago-one hundred and fifty-six years ago and seventy-eight years ago, respectively,

Manv of us have forgotten the circumstances of those earlier days, It is, therefore, a rewarding and a most instructive pursuit to cast our minds back to the beginnings of our North American federal systems to the times when the foundations of national unity for both great countries were laid. If we do this we shall find that nearly all the problems now causing dismay in connection with the prospects for world co-operation were present in almost greater force in respect to state and provincial co-operation; we shall find that the arguments of defeatism were almost stronger in 1789 and 1867 than they are in 1945. Studying these things, and remembering these things, and at the same time being conscious of the unprecedented success both our nations have made of nationhood, how can we North Americans fail to view the future world scene not only with hope but with courage and with a sure confidence?

The faint-hearted are fond of complaining that the peoples of the earth are so widely scattered and know so little about each other that genuine world understanding is impossible. But let's think back. The Nova Scotian fisherman today knows more about Russia and Australia than his great-grandfather knew about Toronto in 1867. The Vermont farmer today knows more about China and Norway than his forebears knew about the plantations of Virginia in 1789. These things are true because of the tremendous improvements in transportation and communication that have occurred in recent years. Almost over night the miracle of the airplane has brought Toronto as close to Calcutta as it was to Kingston a century ago. Radio, moving pictures, the spread of the printed word-through these media the earth's family of two billion people can now study itself and learn to understand itself far better than could the four million colonists of the Atlantic seacoast a hundred and fifty years ago. Yes, to the pessimists of today I reply that their pessimism is far less well-founded than that of their gloomy ancestors of 1789 and 1867.

"But nations are jealous", the dour realist declares. "They are mutually suspicious. They are afraid of helping one another lest they hurt themselves."

To such a man I would read a description by John Fiske of the state of affairs in my country while we were struggling through that twilight period of the Articles of Confederation.

"A single instance, which occurred early in 1787, may serve--as an illustration. The City of New York had long been supplied with firewood from Connecticut, and with butter and cheese, chickens and garden vegetables, from the thrifty farms of New Jersey. This trade, it was observed, carried thousands of dollars out of the city and into the pockets of detested Yankees and despised Jerseymen. It was ruinous to domestic industry, said the men of New York.... Acts were accordingly passed, obliging every Yankee sloop which came down through Hell Gate, and every Jersey market boat which was rowed across from Paulus Hook to Cortlandt Street, to pay entrance fees and obtain clearances at the custom-house, just as was done by ships from London or Hamburg; and not a carload of Connecticut firewood could be delivered at the back door of a country house in Beekman Street until it should have paid a heavy duty. . . . . The New Jersey legislature made up its mind to retaliate. The City of New York had lately bought a small patch of ground on Sandy Hook, and had built a lighthouse there. . . . New Jersey gave vent to her indignation by laying a tax of $1800 a year on it. Connecticut was equally prompt. At a great meeting of business men, held at New London, it was unanimously agreed to suspend all commercial intercourse with New York. Every merchant signed an agreement, under penalty of $250 for the first offence, not to send any goods whatever into the hated state for a period of twelve months."

While I do not wish to imply that things were as bad as this in your country before Confederation, I have read enough Canadian history to know that many of the delegates who attended the historic conference in Quebec in October of 1864 went there in fear and trembling. I have read enough Canadian history, and I have also visited the Maritimes.

Which brings me to a very important point. Provincial rights with you and States rights with us are a source of much good-humored sparring and likewise of much real concern. Often one would surmise, from listening to the debate, that these are unique sources of friction, peculiar to North America or to our system of government. Actually they are merely typical symptoms of the universal tendency for smaller groups of people within a larger group to assert their individuality. This decentralizing instinct can be traced beyond Provincial or State lines. In our State Legislatures the representatives of individual cities and towns are constantly up in arms to protest that their local rights are being subordinated to general State welfare. In every city council sit aldermen grimly determined that the city as a whole shall take no advantage of Ward 6. Even within Ward 6, Walnut Street may complain that Maple Avenue gets better ash-removal service, and even on Maple Avenue the north side of the street can grow bitter over the delivery of the mail first on the south side of the street. Lastly, within families themselves the minority element (normally the husband) has been known to assert if not to defend Provincial rights.

No, the problem of Provincial and States rights is not peculiar to this continent nor to the federal system of government. It is a human trait. And, in the long run, it is not a bad trait, if it is successfully moderated as it has been with us, When I left Prince Edward Island last summer they asked me if I were going "back to Canada", but I wasn't disturbed, because I know that the State Legislature of Vermont at almost every session passes a resolution of advice to its Senators in Washington that reads more like a letter of instruction to an Ambassador than like the opinion of a unit of the American government.

We enjoy these small shouts of sturdy defiance within our family circle. Sometimes they grow loud, and learned observers tremble and fear for the future of the federal system, but remembering John Fiske's description of New York City in 1787, I am not personally worried. And remembering that our system has been strong enough to produce the present North American war effort, unparalleled in the history of the world, I cannot take too seriously the "threat" of the Provincial or States rights issue.

May I go back for a moment to what I have called the "twilight period" of the Articles of Confederation, From 1781 to 1789 the thirteen American colonies struggled along under this loosely-knit system of confederation, which produced commercial and monetary chaos and, as Beard says, actual "threats of social dissolution". This was our transition stage, our period of growing pains. We did not leap directly from the status of separate British colonies to our present Constitution. There was a similar transition stage in Canada's evolution. From 1841 to 1867 Upper and Lower Canada experimented with a legislative union, and by the end of that period the system had so badly broken down that, had no external causes been present, some new form of government would have had to be devised for this region of the country.

I emphasize this evolutionary process, this trial-and-error method which we both followed in building the permanent structure of our governments, because I believe we have here the answer to those who are impatient with the pace of our progress towards world co-operation. If Canada experimented for a quarter of a century with partial confederation, and if the United States had to learn through the bitter experience of the Articles of Confederation the necessity for a real Constitution, how can we expect all the nations of the world to rush at once into a perfect, all-embracing organization? Endless discussion took place, endless meetings were held, endless compromises were effected before Canada and the United States were born, Yet today certain commentators appear to believe that the nations of the whole world can meet in a hotel in some large city, talk for two weeks, and produce the final draft of international Utopia. We North Americans are the realists who know what a long hard struggle successful co-operation entails, even as we are idealists who know how inevitable that success is.

We know, too, that disappointments are ahead of us. There was far from universal approval in either country when union was first proposed. New York voted overwhelmingly against ratification of the Constitution, for example, when that document was first submitted for adoption, and in two other of the largest States, Virginia and Massachusetts, the vote was uncomfortably close. In Canada, as you know, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland withdrew from the negotiations leading up to the British North America Act; the Government of New Brunswick which had participated in the Quebec conference was thrown out of office; and indignant protest swept Nova Scotia.

Yes, MacDonald and Cartier and Tilley and Tupper knew their disappointments. The fathers of the American Constitution--the authors of "The Federalist"--knew theirs, too, But Canada was born and the United States was born. We shall know disappointments, bitter ones, in our great task of building a world organization for peace. But that world organization will be born.

I have described this great business of drawing together as an evolutionary process, and a process always accompanied by disappointments. It is also inevitably achieved through compromise. The problems which had to be solved through compromise in 1789 and 1867 were fully as grave for our forefathers as are the problems of today for us. Tiny Prince Edward Island and tiny Rhode Island, for instance, stood in awe of their neighboring giants, Upper Canada and New York, quite as frankly as small nations today stand in awe of mightier ones.

With us the Senate was especially designed to provide protection for the interests of small States that would be hopelessly overwhelmed by a completely proportional sys tem of government. The statesmanlike and effective compromises which were embodied in your British North America Act are too well known to you all to require comment here. My point is that it ill becomes any North American to be critical of proposals for a world organization simply on the grounds that compromises are involved. We, who live in houses of compromise, should not cast stones. And we should remember, every day of our lives, what magnificent houses compromise has built for us.

In erecting the mansions of a world organization for peace we of North America claim no unique genius as architects, but we have every right to claim experience as architects. Over the decades and over the centuries we have served our apprenticeship at this trade. And the houses we have built have stood against the elements.

The days ahead will be filled with dangers and with fears, of a different sort from those we have faced since 1939. The world of free men must face those days with the same courage that it faced the horrible menace of German and Japanese attack. For us in North America a special comfort exists, a special truth has been revealed, a special role is cast. Humbly, but confidently it is for us to make known our faith in world co-operation, based on our experience in national co-operation. We are not wiser than our neighbors, but we have the advantage of having travelled for long and splendid years the path that the entire world is now about to set its foot upon.

The United States and Canada believe in world cooperation because they believe in themselves. It is not with them a theory. It is with them a projection of the deepest and most vital fact of their national lives, an application of their truest idea.

Coming back to Toronto this winter, and remembering the circumstances of my last year's visit, I am warmed and heartened by the evidence I find everywhere that these things are believed here. I have found the same evidence all over Canada, from Sydney to Victoria. And I have found the same evidence in my own country.

The American people determined in 1789 that there should be a United States of America. The Canadian people determined in 1867 that there should be a Canada. Every true North American is equally determined this year of 1945 that there shall be a world organization of the United Nations, and that it shall share the indelible pages of history with our own beloved countries.

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Looking Forward to the Postwar World

International security and the principles of postwar world organization. The Dumbarton Oaks proposals. Remembering the principles of the Moscow Declaration. The wording of that document. Looking back to the beginnings of the North American federal systems to find nearly all the problems now causing dismay in connection with the prospects for world co-operation in almost greater force in respect to state and provincial cooperation. An examination of Canada before Confederation. The American Articles of Confederation. The evolutionary nature of the process of drawing together, accompanied by disappointments, and also by compromise. Belief in world cooperation by the United States and Canada.