Eggleston to Bruce

Letter WASHINGTON, 9 July 1945


The British Delegation will have gone back to England and as there was some friction between our delegation and theirs, I think it is probably wise for me to give you my version confidentially.

A cable to you from Evatt [1] came through the office the other day and it seems to me to put the matter very clumsily. As a matter of fact I consider that Evatt performed a great intellectual tour de force at San Francisco. These tours de force are not always successful and they bring a good deal of publicity, which is not always beneficial, but on the whole I thoroughly supported Evatt’s position. As you will realise, the conference was exceedingly strenuous; it was so strenuous that I cracked up and had to go into hospital for a week. This was due very largely to the way in which Evatt worked. There was no organisation, although I did my best to bring it about. Everything was done by Evatt, or under his instructions, by the team which he had brought with him and the work consisted partly of preparing speeches to be made by Evatt, or drafting amendments to be moved by him, partly of very close negotiations with various other delegations. The latter took up most of Evatt’s time during the day and the result was that most of the other work had to be done between 10 p.m. at night and 2 in the morning, and the poor typists had, very often, to work from that hour onwards. Work of this kind was quite impossible for me and one had a feeling of frustration. The work could have been organised so as not to put an undue strain on anybody. I tried to bring this about but was unsuccessful.

In addition, the conditions of working in the Conference were bad;

a committee room about 60 x 25, without ventilation, would contain over 100 people. Speeches had to be translated from English into French and vice versa, and speeches in Russian, Spanish or Chinese, had to be translated both into French and into English.

There was no agreement as to methods of procedure to start with and 80 percent of the first fortnight was wasted in discussing methods of procedure. You can realise the exasperation of work of such kind. In the circumstances, I do not think that anyone can be blamed for occasionally losing his temper, or any friction which occurred. As you know, Evatt is not very tactful and, in addition, his manners are none of the best, in fact he can be exceedingly rude and he did not restrain himself.

I know all Evatt’s weaknesses and have no admiration for the way in which he works but I have to confess that I believe that he played a very constructive part at the conference and that he pointed out the weak points of the main scheme, conducted a very fine campaign against them and that on the question of the Economic & Social Council and the Trusteeship clause, he was very largely responsible for the draft which appeared. Here is where the main conflict took place with the British Delegation. An episode occurred, which he has tried to explain in his cable to you.

After the draft was complete, Lord Halifax issued a statement in which he said that the British had ideas on trusteeship for dependent peoples and out of these the chapter on trusteeship had developed. I enclose a copy of the statement. [2] It is hard to accuse Halifax of being disingenuous, but this is certainly not a fair statement. I believe that you are not very favourable to the Mandate System. I am a strong supporter of it, but it has been obvious for the last few years that the Dominions or Colonial Offices wish to terminate the Mandate System and when Stanley was here last December, we were asked to meet him and he said that the British were determined to substitute a system of regional associations like the Caribbean. I pointed out that this was no substitute for the Mandate System and it would only crystallise the sort of opinion that existed in the particular area. I instanced South Africa. I said that the essence of the system of mandates was the principle of accountability to an independent authority. He didn’t like this a bit as others who were at the meeting will testify. Then he gave a lecture in New York in which he described these regional groups and made no reference to any reports. On this a group of American publicists, interested in mandates, wrote a letter to the New York Times asking his views on accountability and no reply was made to it. You know better than I do what took place in London, but I understand that after opposing a trusteeship system in the first stage, it was referred to the Cabinet and then the British agreed to some form of trusteeship. I think it is quite clear that if it had not been for Australian and New Zealand pressure the question of trusteeship would have been sidestepped, at any rate by the British. The Americans found there was a widespread demand of absolute ownership for the islands conquered from Japan by the United States and though the State Department wanted a limited form for the islands detached from Japan, I think they would have also avoided the issue. Under the circumstances, I do not think it was unnatural for Evatt to resent strongly the claim by Halifax that the British played a leading part in the trusteeship chapter of the Charter and I think justice should be done to him in this respect. I don’t think that anything can be done in public, but if the matter is mentioned in conversation, it may be possible to prevent this matter from reacting to the disadvantage of Australia.

The main issues, apart from the Economic & Social Council and Trusteeship, were the powers of the Security Council, and especially the veto power and the powers of the General Assembly.

Our attempt was to cut down the veto to the enforcement provisions of the Charter and to increase the powers of recommendation by the General Assembly. The people who proposed this concurrent vote of the Five Powers never seemed to realise that it meant a veto and that if it is applied to the whole machinery of the United Nations Organisation, it could be used to paralyse it. It could be used to prevent proceedings for conciliation and it could also be used after a decision for enforcement has been taken to prevent subsequent steps. As The Times in its article reviewing San Francisco says, ‘there is no system of selective security under the new organisation’ and I think that is a sorry conclusion to arrive at after a second world war.

There was a certain amount of friction between the British Delegation and our Delegation on this and also on the powers of the Assembly, but this was mainly due to the extraordinary tactics employed by the British of taking the whole burden of defending the veto. They put up people like Dingle Foot [3] and Miss Horsbrugh [4] on committees on which I sat to defend the positions and I am sure that Dingle Foot didn’t believe in it a bit. Our feeling was that, although Russia had been most insistent on it, the United States was equally insistent: the other three powers not nearly so keen on it. This brought, of course, the British and Australians into opposite camps and we felt that the British might have gained a point if they wanted it, if they had only been tougher with the other two. This may merely be speculation. The fact is that Russia did give way at the last moment on matters on which she had been most insistent. There was quite a curious fear by the British that we would wreck the conference by carrying the matter too far. We had always said that we would vote for the third reading, even if we did not get the amendments and I don’t think there was any justification for the British attitude. The rudeness was not all on one side; some of the British delegates, such as C.K. Webster [5] and the Foreign Office representatives, were very rude indeed. Webster is a very dogmatic man, talks everybody down and refers to their arguments as poppycock. He did as much harm on his side as anything done on the other side.

I said in the meeting at the British Embassy afterwards, that I was very unhappy about the Charter because wars were not caused by small powers, but by the rivalries of great powers. Halifax interrupted me by saying that the only remedy for that is the virtue of the great powers. Surely a man who had gone through the period of 1930 and 1939 must have realized that in a period of tension, there is no room for virtue, that everybody is forced to measures of expediency. We got an awful lot of rubbish such as the statement that the Charter is based on the principle of the unanimity of the great powers. The organisation cannot act at all unless they are unanimous, but there is nothing in the Charter to secure unanimity, no pressure can be exerted on a great power. The idea also that the big powers are responsible for peace is equally nonsensical; the fact is that the great powers take no responsibility for peace except to enforce peace among the small power. You must not take it that Evatt’s campaign was merely a small powers vs. a great power campaign. It was a campaign against the defective principles of the Charter. It certainly brought a number of rather undesirable small powers on his side, such as the Latinos and the Arabs. I suppose that cannot be helped. You must not take this letter as a defence of Evatt. What I want to do is to show that we had right on our side and must not be penalised because Evatt got a bad name.

We were very distressed to hear of the death of Curtin. Evatt had left by boat from San Francisco just about four hours before the announcement.

I have been complaining, ever since I came here, about the lack of staff and all that has happened is that Dr. Evatt has created two new posts and is creating a Consulate General in New York and I am asked to help staff these posts from Washington.



1 Presumably Document 128.

2 Not published. Eggleston enclosed two cuttings, dated 23 and 24 June, from the Washington Times-Herald. The first quoted Halifax’s claim that the trusteeship policy adopted ‘was similar to one the British had meant to propose some time ago’. The second quoted Evatt’s statements at a press conference called in response to Halifax’s statement.

3 Parliamentary Secretary, U.K. Ministry of Economic Warfare until 25 May.

4 Parliamentary Secretary, U.K. Ministry of Health Until 26 May, then Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Food.

5 Stevenson Professor of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science.


[AA : M100, JULY 1945]