Mr M.J. Savage, N.Z. Prime Minister, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram unnumbered WELLINGTON, 5 November 1939, 9.15 a.m.


Your most secret telegram 28th October. [1]

I would like to express the warm appreciation of your action in informing the New Zealand Government of your views on the vital question of war aims and to assure you that the ideas and ideals you put forward have been closely considered by my colleagues and myself Your sentiments in favour of a generous peace are shared equally by us. While determined to pursue our war effort to the limits of our strength we believe that we had a duty in formulating war aims worthy of the sacrifices we are likely to be called upon to make. The New Zealand Government are both ready and anxious therefore to exchange views with the other Dominion Governments and with Great Britain for the purpose of formulating the terms of a just and lasting peace and we have requested Mr Fraser [2] to raise this matter at the Ministerial Conference in London and to express our view point in the sense set out in the text following:-

1. Cabinet has given consideration to the views expressed in Circular D.52 [3] and D.54 [4] dated 24th and 27th October, 1939, from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs also the relevant statement from the Commonwealth Prime Minister dated 28th October.

2. It is, in our opinion, most essential not only that a fun and frank discussion of war aims should take place but that the terms should be formulated and published upon which members of the British Commonwealth and France would be willing to negotiate with Germany.

3. While making it clear that New Zealand is fully determined to prosecute its effort against aggression and for the maintenance of democracy it should be emphasized that the Government of this country are equally anxious to ensure that the restoration of peace on just terms should be the primary aim of the British Commonwealth.

4. It might be stressed too that experience has abundantly shown that good does not come out of a peace imposed by a victor on the vanquished. We should therefore not wait until the exhaustion and bitterness of war has rendered impossible a peace on equal and rational terms, but rather take the earliest opportunity of making an attempt to bring about sincere and constructive peace discussions. It should also be made clear to the French that the Commonwealth cannot be party to an ungenerous peace.

5. Since the German terms as announced by Hitler are unacceptable [5] we must state our own, and Russia and the United States of America and other nations should not be excluded in any effort to induce Germany to discuss them.

6. We would like you to reiterate those views on the conduct of international relations which we in New Zealand have consistently expressed (see my speech at the Imperial Conference 21st May, 1937 Conference Report of the Minutes of the meeting and note to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations dated 16th July, 1936).

You should re-affirm the unmistakeable belief in the collective peace system and the ideals of the League of Nations, in the framework of which we still believe effective guarantees against aggression do exist.

7. In the formulation of war aims the following considerations should be borne in mind: of the fundamental economic and political causes of the war the political must not be underrated. The idea of domination and expansion seems firmly fixed in some minds and the threat to our own and the other nations’ security is of vital importance. It is no doubt truism that there can be no peace on the basis of one nation being stronger than another but there seems to be no cure for that present unstable position unless each nation is willing to give up some element of its sovereignty in favour of an international body under a system of collective security, or at least a federation of European States.

8. We are concerned at the moment in fighting for a moral issue wherein we are aspiring to substitute discussion and peaceful settlement in place of the use of force, and to institute the rule of law and acceptance of the principle of third-party judgment. It is essential therefore that any peace should not confirm Germany’s aggression nor should we buy peace at the price of the liberty of someone else. We should insist as a first condition of peace that the small nations and peoples shall be guaranteed their freedom.

9. Though our immediate object is plain enough-the ending of aggression, this is largely a negative aim and we must have something more positive. Our ultimate aims must therefore be formulated in order to convince our own people that peace is worth striving for and that only for this is the war worth while winning. At the same time we should seek to convince our opponents that they, with us, can advance only in this manner. We have in short to offer the German people some acceptable alternative to their present position. And there remains finally the urgent necessity of convincing neutral opinion that our cause is both just and is essential to their own security and welfare.

10. The ultimate aims of the allies should include:-

(a) outlaw of aggression;

(b) the substitution of discussion and negotiation for force;

(c) guarantee of each nation’s security;

(d) universal disarmament;

(e) restoration of respect for the sanctity of contracts. (This presupposes just treaties and effective means of modifying contracts by agreement);

(f) revival of the League of Nations or a substitute therefor or addition thereto; e.g., a federation of European States.

(g) solution of economic questions; e.g. supplies of raw materials and essential goods; transport facilities; exchange and finance;

ordered transit from war to peace economy, etc.

(h) increase in the welfare of the mass of people. (No peace is worth while which does not result in raising the living standards of the people).

11. In stressing these views we know they are in full accord with your principles and we desire you to present them supported by your own case on behalf of the Government.



1 See Document 311, note 2.

2 Peter Fraser, N.Z. Minister of Education, Health, Marine and Police.

3 Document 307.

4 Document 310.

5 See Document 267, note 1.


[AA: A989, 43/735/143]