Minutes of British Commonwealth Meeting

BCM(45) 2nd Meeting (extracts) LONDON, 4 April 1945, 3.30 p.m.


LORD CRANBORNE invited Colonel Stanley to open the discussion with a statement of the United Kingdom Government’s views regarding Territorial Trusteeship.

COLONEL STANLEY said that he must first apologise for having asked that what Mr. Fraser rightly described as a secondary matter should be taken first. The urgency was explained in Dominions Office telegram D. 519 of the 28th March to Dominion Governments.

[1] It had been agreed at Yalta that the question of Territorial Trusteeship should be the subject of further consultation before the San Francisco Conference between the five countries who would have permanent seats on the Security Council. The United States authorities had suggested that these conversations should be held in Washington as soon as possible, and the date at which we were aiming was the 9th April. These conversations, which would be on a technical level, would, of course, be exploratory, but the United Kingdom Government wished to hear Dominion Governments’ views before their representatives left for Washington.

He would begin with the Memorandum on ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’ which had been sent to Dominion Governments on the 27th December last under cover of the Dominions Secretary’s despatch D. No. 172. [2] He did not wish to go into that Memorandum in detail, but he would like to explain that it was the result of considerable thought given to the subject in the Colonial Office. It had been considered by some of his colleagues, but it had not received final Cabinet approval. It represented an honest and, he hoped, constructive attempt to get the maximum of international co-operation in relation to colonial territories.

There had been no question in the United Kingdom Government’s mind of an appeal to public opinion. The sole object was to improve colonial administration for the benefit of the dependent peoples in colonial territories. He regarded that as of infinitely greater importance than even the most honest public opinion elsewhere.

The main feature of that Memorandum had been the proposal to get rid of the Mandate system, and to substitute for it a more generally satisfactory scheme of colonial administration. He did not wish to belittle the work of the Permanent Mandates Commission, but the United Kingdom and some of the Dominion Governments had had experience of the working of that body, and his own opinion was that, while it had achieved a certain amount, it had suffered from many disadvantages. The sense of impermanence, which inevitably followed from the nature of its conception, re-acted to the detriment of the native peoples concerned. He had felt strongly that the proposals in the Memorandum for consultation on a regional basis were much more satisfactory and more applicable to territories many of which had progressed a long way towards self-government.

He would now turn to what had happened since December. In the first place, the spotlight had been concentrated on the Mandates system. He was advised that that system could only be abolished by international agreement. The Mandatory Powers had entered into engagements from which they could only be released by common consent.

The United Kingdom Government were very grateful for the full and detailed comments which had been received from the Dominion Governments. It was clear that as regards Mandates, Australia and New Zealand were not convinced about the advisability of abolition, and here he would remark that their experience had perhaps been rather different from that of the United Kingdom.

Their Mandates belonged to Class C, while most of the United Kingdom Mandates belonged to Class B. Canada, while observing that she had not been directly concerned as a Mandatory Power, had put forward the view that abolition was not likely to commend itself to public opinion in the United States. He had had further opportunity to test opinion in the United States at the end of last year when, following upon a visit to the West Indies, he had had conversations with officials of the State Department, and had been empowered to discuss informally with them the proposals set out in the Colonial Office Memorandum. He must confess that he had been disappointed by the United States reaction, which had been far from constructive. Little, if any, interest had been displayed by United States officials in the improvement of administration which had as its objective the benefit of the native peoples. It was clear that they were principally concerned to seek ways and means of acquiring Japanese islands in a manner which would not adversely affect their own public opinion. If, as he thought, the views expressed to him by the United States officials he had seen reflected the views of their Government, there appeared to be little, if any, hope of satisfactory agreement with the United States.

The most recent development had been the very brief discussion of the question at the Yalta Conference, which resulted in the inclusion, in the Secret Protocol of Proceedings, of the agreement set out in Dominions Office telegram D. 429 of the 12th March to Dominion Governments. [3] The Prime Minister had since made it clear that this agreement committed us to no more than discussion, as a natural part of the discussions arising out of the demise of the old League of Nations, while limiting the scope of the matters to be discussed, and that there was nothing in it in any way to limit our freedom of decision or to prevent us from putting forward in those discussions any points which we thought it proper to advance.

It was natural that in view of these new factors- (i) the comments made by Dominion Governments;

(ii) the United States reactions in informal conversation at Washington, and (iii) the obligation to discuss the Mandates system, entered into at the Yalta Conference;

the War Cabinet should reconsider the position. As he had said, there could be no question of abolition of Mandates by unilateral action. On full consideration, the United Kingdom Government had therefore come to the conclusion that they would be prepared to accept in principle the continuance of the last-war Mandates, and the application of a similar system to territories detached from enemy States as a result of the present war. In taking this decision, the United Kingdom had in mind the single-Power system, whereby a single State undertook responsibility for administration of a particular area on a Mandatory basis. He did not know what the United States Government contemplated; the paper which their officials had promised had not yet been received. But if the press was any guide, there was the possibility that they might present us with proposals for multiple-or international-Mandates. If so, particularly if these proposals included provision for accountability to some central international body, the United Kingdom Government proposed to resist them strongly.

On the assumption, however, that the single-Power system would be perpetuated, United Kingdom authorities had been examining the existing machine as it had been established after the last war.

They felt that considerable changes would be necessary, and he was ready to circulate a list of these. Meantime, he would only refer to one or two alterations of major importance, which the United Kingdom wished to suggest:(1) Defence-The restrictions upon the establishment of military, air and naval bases, the erection of fortifications, and the organisation of native military forces were clearly obsolete and should be removed. Modern warfare had demonstrated the inter-dependence of neighbouring and even far- distant territories; for example, after the fall of Singgapore, we had found it necessary to take considerable defence measures in Tanganyika which it was very difficult, if not impossible, legally to reconcile with the Mandate provisions. The defence role of Mandated territories should be determined in relation to the world security plan and regional requirements.

(2) The Open Door Policy-Quite a number of provisions, e.g., those requiring for all nationals of States Members of the League equal rights with the nationals of the Mandatory Power in respect of conduct of business, the open door economic provisions, &c., were unfair in practice. Those provisions related to B Mandates and the same disabilities did not, of course, apply in the case of C Mandates, which could in effect be administered as parts of the territory of the Mandatory Power. In practice, the open door provisions had proved to be much more of a safeguard for those outside the Mandated territory than for its inhabitants, who received nothing in return. The foreign States who enjoyed the benefits of these provisions did not reciprocate. In the case of Tanganyika, he did not think that the position could be maintained locally if there was any suggestion of reverting to the pre-war situation regarding German immigration. He recalled the revelations which had been made of the manner in which the Germans had abused their position in Tanganyika.

(3) Impermanence of Existing Mandates-He felt that the main disadvantage of the existing system rested in the inevitable feeling of impermanence. He had been very much impressed, for example, by the position in Togoland and the Cameroons. These two small areas were, for practical purposes, administered as part of a larger colony. When capital expenditure was being considered, there was a natural inclination-and who could blame those concerned-to spend on permanent works in the area which was an integral part of the Empire and not in the Mandated portion. He felt that, somehow or another, it would have to be made clear that there should be no question of the Mandatory Power surrendering such territories.

To sum up, as regards existing Mandates, while the United Kingdom Government agreed in principle to the continuance of the system in respect of existing Mandated territories and territories removed from the enemy, there were features of the existing system which he would wish to see modified. He hoped that the United Kingdom would have the full support and assistance of Dominion Governments in securing agreement to these modifications.

There was one further point of vital importance in regard to the preliminary conversations at Washington. Clause (c) of the passage on Territories Trusteeship in the Secret Protocol of the Yalta Conference (Dominions Office telegram D. 429 of the 12th March) referred to ‘any other territory which might voluntarily be placed under Trusteeship’. There had been nothing under the old Mandates system to prevent countries placing fresh territories voluntarily under Mandate, but no Power had, in fact, availed itself of this provision. It was certainly not the intention of the United Kingdom Government to agree that the Mandatory system might be extended to territories under its sovereignty.

MR. FRASER asked whether that represented the considered opinion of the United Kingdom Government.

COLONEL STANLEY confirmed that it was. He went on to explain that we hoped to limit the discussions in Washington and San Francisco to the points which he had mentioned, and that we would urge that discussion of these subjects at San Francisco should be confined to the drafting of a general formula, detailed discussion being deferred for later consideration by a smaller and more suitable body consisting, e.g., of all the Mandatory Powers, including the United States as a potential Mandatory Power.

There remained the question of the action to be taken in regard to the other proposals in the Colonial Office Memorandum for the establishment of Regional Commissions and of an International Colonial Centre. The United Kingdom Government had had no thought of putting forward the Regional Commissions proposal as a bargaining counter in connection with the abolition of Mandates.

But the International Colonial Centre had been proposed as in some ways taking the place of the Permanent Mandates Commission, and it would therefore now be dropped. He did not, however, wish for one moment to abandon the proposals for Regional Commissions, though he felt that it would be inappropriate to discuss them at San Francisco. He regarded these proposals as the most hopeful and fruitful approach that had yet been made to the colonial problem, and he felt that it would be a great mistake to have them mixed up at San Francisco with the Mandates question. He therefore suggested that the Regional Commissions proposals should be pursued as opportunity offered in each of the areas concerned. The Caribbean was a useful model. In the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand would no doubt wish to make an early start with the Commission which had been suggested for that area. In Africa, however, a slightly different approach might be advisable; there it might perhaps be better to build up first on the basis of ad hoc conferences, such as the recent Civil Aviation Conference, and, when experience had been gained, to constitute a Commission.

These were the reasons why the United Kingdom Government’s views had altered since the despatch to Dominion Governments of the Colonial Office Memorandum. He would be very glad to hear the views of the Dominion delegates.

MR. MASSEY [4] said that he and Mr. Hume Wrong [5] were much indebted to Colonel Stanley for his very full and interesting review of the situation. Canada was greatly interested in these questions, but she was neither a Mandatory Power nor a parent State. For the moment he would not, therefore, wish to express any particular views.

DR. EVATT said that before commenting upon the United Kingdom proposals in detail he wished to make two observations.

First, as regards the procedure which was being adopted, he would recall that, following upon receipt of the Colonial Office memorandum of December last, Dominion Governments had been informed in Dominions Office telegram D. No. 342 of the 24th February [6] that territorial trusteeship had been discussed briefly at the Yalta Conference, but that there would be full discussion with Dominion representatives at the proposed British Commonwealth Conference. The Australian Government had certainly expected the United Kingdom Government to await such discussion before reaching any decision.

Secondly, the Australian Government had expected to be consulted fully in advance of any decision. Indeed, their comments had been invited in the Dominion Secretary’s despatch D. No. 172 of the 27th December, and subsequent telegrams had promised discussion.

They were now informed that the United Kingdom Government had taken a firm decision that it would decline to agree that the mandatory system might be extended to ‘any other territory which might voluntarily be placed in trusteeship’. In his opinion consultation with Dominion Governments should have taken place before a decision was reached.

The mandates system had two different aspects. The system was set up in 1919 because President Wilson [7] objected to the ordinary consequences of conquest. A mandate was given to the selected Power to administer ex-enemy territory as the agent of the victorious Powers. That aspect of the mandate system could have existed even without any idea of trusteeship for the dependent peoples. The second aspect of the mandate system was that the idea of trusteeship for dependent peoples had been introduced, and it was required that the mandatory Power should exercise the mandate for the benefit of the native peoples. He did not think that there should be any insuperable difficulty about the alteration of the terms of existing mandates, where necessary or advisable, but these two distinct aspects should be kept in mind.

At the end of this war a situation would arise similar to that of 1918. The Japanese could not be allowed to retain their colonial territories, and the mandate system was the solution. It must be borne in mind throughout that the overriding consideration was the benefit and welfare of the native inhabitants of these territories.

Dr. Evatt continued that the broad questions raised by the statements and communications on the subject of territorial trusteeship might be stated as follows:-

(i) Whether Powers responsible for dependent territories should accept the principle of trusteeship, i.e., that the main purpose of administration is the welfare of the dependent peoples and their economic, social and political development.

(ii) Whether such Powers should make regular reports either to an international body analogous to the Permanent Mandates Commission or to some regional body.

(iii) Whether this body should be established within the framework of the General International Organisation.

(iv) Whether this body should make reports.

(v) Whether this body should be empowered to cause dependent territories to be visited (see paragraphs 5 and 6 below).

(vi) Whether this body should have executive or merely advisory powers.

The Colonial Secretary’s proposals of December 1944 were of first- rate importance. They favoured regional advisory councils for collaboration rather than any institution analogous to the Permanent Mandates Commission. Nevertheless, the proposals clearly envisaged United Nations discussions on all dependent territories, not merely mandates or ‘detached’ areas. Further, the report recognised the international interest in dependent peoples by proposing an ‘International Colonial Centre’ as part of the World Organisation.

After the proposals had been dealt with by cables from Australia and New Zealand it was understood that no British Commonwealth decision on the subject would be taken pending consultation.

However, at Yalta it was agreed that ‘trusteeship’ should be applied only (i) to present mandates; (ii) to territories ‘detached’ from the enemy during the present war; and (iii) to any territories voluntarily placed under trusteeship. This agreement, although made without first reference to the Dominions, still left open for discussion whether the above principles could still be applied within the framework of the Yalta decisions, and it had been hoped that the United Kingdom would decide to place some of its territories voluntarily under trusteeship.

Dr. Evatt presented the following general arguments for recognition of trusteeship in respect of all dependent peoples:-

(i) It seemed to be a logical and almost inevitable development from past policies and statements.

(ii) International concern in the welfare of dependent peoples had increased and would increase in future. Public interest was real and criticism could not be avoided.

(iii) Reluctance to acknowledge that ‘trusteeship’ implied some duty or responsibility would provoke very hostile criticism. Most Colonial Powers had nothing to hide and a suitably constituted advisory commission of a functional character and comprised of experts could assist greatly in the difficult task of governing dependent peoples.

(iv) In matters of welfare it was impossible to draw any valid distinction between territories taken away from an enemy Power and other dependent territories. What reason was there for according inhabitants of ex-enemy territory rights under a charter which inhabitants of other dependent territories were denied? (v) Under the Dumbarton Oaks draft itself it was provided (Chapter IX (A)) that the organisation acting through the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should facilitate solutions of international economic, social and other humanitarian problems and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It would seem that the power referred to clearly covered action of an advisory character for the purpose of promoting the welfare and the ‘human rights’ of dependent peoples.

(vi) Among the objectives stated in the Atlantic Charter was ‘a peace . . . which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want’ (Sixth Principle). Acknowledgment of some degree of responsibility in respect of dependent peoples would be an important step towards carrying out this principle.

(vii) It was important, in the Pacific at least, that a means of advising and influencing certain non-British colonial administrations should be established. Not only Australia and New Zealand but the British Commonwealth as a whole was vitally interested in seeing that conditions of dependent peoples of South-East Asia were advanced and improved, thereby contributing to the security of that region.

(viii) Conditions in dependent territories were capable of considerable improvement and the obligation to report to a central body would be an incentive to improvement. By way of example only, it was stated authoritatively that in 1937-38 only 2.4 per cent.

of the population of Indo-China and only 4 per cent. in the N.E.I.

were receiving education, as compared with over 10 per cent. in Formosa, Philippines and Thailand. The percentage of total expenditure devoted to education in the N.E.I. was 6; in Thailand it was 11 and in the Philippines 20 per cent. (J. S. Furnivall, Educational Progress in S. E. Asia (I.P.R. 1943)).

In many dependent areas public health services were very backward, sanitation was poor and midwifery primitive (L. P. Mair, Welfare in the British Colonies (R.I.I.A. 1944), PP. 92-3). The League of Nations Committee on Nutrition reported in 1937 that ‘colonial populations in general are undernourished’ (A 13, 1937, 11A, P.

320) and that in Africa diet was partly responsible for relatively low resistance to infection, and high infant mortality. The report on Nutrition in the Colonial Empire (1939) stressed the need for raising standards of living and improving education. Reports and analyses by an international body, and discussion of such matters by the Assembly and the Social and Economic Council, would unquestionably stimulate and assist more energetic action to advance the welfare of dependent peoples.

Reviewing policies of various Governments, Dr. Evatt quoted Clause 28 of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement, of January 1944, as follows:-

‘The two Governments declare that, in applying the principles of the Atlantic Charter to the Pacific, the doctrine of “trusteeship”

(already applicable in the case of the mandated territories of which the two Governments are mandatory Powers) is applicable in broad principle to all colonial territories in the Pacific and elsewhere, and that the main purpose of the trust is the welfare of the native peoples and their social, economic and political development.’ At the Australian-New Zealand Conference in November, 1944, the following resolution was adopted and subsequently approved by the Cabinets of both Australia and New Zealand:-

‘Resolution 11-Powers responsible for dependent territories should accept the principle of trusteeship already applicable in the case of mandated territories. In such dependent territories the purpose of the trust is the welfare and advancement of native peoples.

Colonial Powers should undertake to make regular reports to an international body analogous to the Permanent Mandates Commission set up within the framework of the General Organisation. This body should be empowered to make reports of its deliberations and to visit dependent territories.’ Provided that the central international body were properly constituted and competent, he did not see how any exception could be taken to the obligation to report to it upon the administration of dependent territories. Voluntary action in this direction by the United Kingdom would afford a shining example to other Powers, whose administration of colonial dependencies was far from satisfactory. Surely we could at least go as far as the Colonial Centre? As a minimum, something like that should be attempted.

Trusteeship in its broadest sense had long been declared by British Statesmen to be the recognised principle of British Colonial administration. For example, in 1923 the British Government stated with reference to Kenya:-

‘In the administration of Kenya, His Majesty’s Government regard themselves as exercising a trust on behalf of the African population and they are unable to delegate or share this trust, the object of which may be defined as the protection and advancement of the native races. We are the trustees of many great African dependencies of which Kenya is one and our duty is to do justice and right between the various races and interests, remembering above all that we are trustees before the world for the African population. Our administration of this trust must stand eventually before the judgment seat of history and on it we shall be judged as an empire’ (quoted in Lindley ‘Acquisition and Government of Backward Territory in International Law’, page 335).

In 1920, Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant evidenced an important step forward, for it recognised the need for some international institution, representing world opinion, to which certain specified States should render an account or report of the manner in which they were discharging their duty towards native peoples. In principle Article 22, on which was based the mandate system, seemed equally applicable to all dependent territories.

Article 22 said:-

‘the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples’ (i.e., people not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world) ‘form a sacred trust of civilisation, and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant.’ In the United Kingdom statement of Policy on Colonial Development and Welfare issued in 1940, it was declared that- ‘His Majesty’s Government are trustees for the well-being of the peoples of the Colonial Empire … The primary aim of Colonial policy is to protect and advance the interests of the inhabitants.’ At the Prime Ministers’ Conference in May, 1944, the Colonial Secretary expressed the hope that the mandate system would be abolished. On the other hand, he was also reported as having said that ‘he contemplated an obligation being placed on colonial Powers to make reports, but supervision could best be left on a regional basis’. But willingness to accept an obligation to make reports implied a recognition of the main principle under the mandate system, i.e., that the performance by parent States of their duty to care for dependent peoples is properly regarded as a matter of international concern.

In the memorandum on Colonial Policy of the 21st December, 1944 (paragraph 4) it was stated that:-

‘the objective of good colonial administration is to promote to the utmost the well-being of colonial peoples within the world community. So far as Great Britain is concerned, this objective may be taken as implying:-

(i) the development of self-government within the British Commonwealth, in forms appropriate to the varying circumstances of colonial peoples;

(ii) their economic and social advancement; and (iii) recognition of the responsibilities clue from members of the world community one to another.’ This memorandum outlined a scheme for future international cooperation in regard to colonies, including both co-operation on a regional basis and co-operation through central bodies attached to the World Organisation. In regard to the latter, the United Kingdom memorandum provided for the operation in respect of dependent territories of functional bodies under the General International Organisation. It also provided for the setting up of an International Colonial Centre, which would receive reports and act as a centre of information on colonial matters. It was difficult to reconcile this approach to the question with the recommendations of the Yalta Conference. This memorandum expressly recognised ‘the responsibilities due from members of the world community one to another’, in respect of colonial matters. This provided for the setting up of a central body, which could properly concern itself with the welfare of dependent peoples. It was quite clear that the suggestions in the United Kingdom memorandum were not confined to mandates (existing or to be created), but were to be made applicable to dependent and colonial territories generally.

The Australian and New Zealand Governments both sent telegrams to London commenting on this memorandum by the Colonial Secretary.

[8] They welcomed the suggestion of co-operation between colonial Powers and specialised international agencies. Both welcomed the trend of United Kingdom thinking towards the establishment of an international Colonial Centre, although Australia and New Zealand felt that this proposed body should be given much greater powers.

It might be mentioned that the British Labour Party, in a pamphlet on ‘The Colonies’, published as recently as March 1943, advocated the extension of the mandate system to all backward colonial territories. It urged that- ‘The International Authority should therefore appoint an International Colonial Commission, composed of independent persons who are nationals both of administrating and non-administrating Powers. It should have all the powers of the old Mandates Commission, but also others.’ This pamphlet contemplated for the Commission powers that went beyond those proposed by Australia and New Zealand.

It was clear that up to the Yalta Conference the subject of colonies was being discussed on the assumption that the colonial question generally, and not merely the question of mandates, would be discussed in connection with the World Organisation. However, a telegram dated the 12th March [9] was received, indicating that it had been agreed at Yalta that the five nations which would have permanent seats on the Security Council would confer with each other prior to the San Francisco Conference on the basis that territorial trusteeship would apply only to existing mandates, territories detached from the enemy in the present war, and any other territory which might voluntarily be placed under trusteeship.

Two comments could fairly be made:-

(a) Unless a broad interpretation and application are given in relation to the third category, (i.e., territories voluntarily placed under trusteeship), the effect of this suggestion would be to confine the principle of trusteeship within narrow limits.

(b) The five Nations invited to the discussions had been chosen as permanent members of the Security Council because of their military power and not at all because of their special concern in the problem of the welfare of dependent peoples. Chapter IX (C) 1 of the Dumbarton Oaks draft clearly implied that the problem of dependent peoples related primarily to welfare and only touched security in a secondary way. The Australian Government had always understood that the whole basis of the proposed world organisation was that there should be a distinction between security and welfare matters. Surely problems connected with the administration of dependent peoples were primarily a matter of welfare? It was therefore inexplicable that the nations invited to take part in the preliminary discussions on this subject should be the military Powers while the Dominions which were directly concerned were excluded.

The Australian case might be summed up as follows:-

(a) The Australian contention was that the general principles expressed in the Australia - New Zealand Agreement are sound, that the Charter of the General International Organisation should clearly embody the principle that the duty of the parent State is to protect the welfare of native races in its dependent territories, and that this international duty should be accompanied by a duty to submit reports regularly to an expert committee or agency vested with sufficient powers to enable it to give advice and make suitable recommendations.

(b) It had been hoped and it was still hoped that a position not dissimilar in substance might be arrived at by voluntary declarations in accordance with the Yalta arrangement.

(c) None of the proposals supported by Australia and New Zealand involved any interference with the Sovereignty of the parent State.

In conclusion DR. EVATT said that the main issue was whether the hopes aroused by the various declarations of the Great Powers and the United Nations were to be fulfilled or not. He did not think that it was asking much of the United Kingdom to acquiesce in the principle that the duty of parent States was to protect the welfare of native races in their territory and that this duty should be accompanied by an obligation to submit reports regularly to an expert and competent body. He could imagine nothing less onerous in the case of Powers such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, which discharged their colonial obligations honestly and to the best of their ability. If they refused to do so it would set the worst possible example for others. He trusted that the conference would not end without some conclusion in this direction having been reached.

[matter omitted]

SIR FIROZ KHAN NOON [10] enquired what would happen if agreement were reached between the Commonwealth Delegations that the existing system of mandates should be retained, but at the discussion in the Assembly at San Francisco the majority of those present voted in favour of a system of international trusteeship? LORD CRANBORNE said that it would be necessary to keep an open mind and to be guided by the situation as it developed. It was very difficult to predict the course of events.

DR. EVATT said that it was important to face the possibility that, however one attempted to restrict the area of discussion, once the matter had come before the Assembly it would be hard to control the course of the debate. In the discussion on mandates in particular, no previous arrangement could prevent the matter from being discussed on broad lines.

LORD CRANBORNE said that none of us yet knew how the question would be raised at San Francisco. For his part, he envisaged the matter arising only under the general head of transferring to some other body the residual functions of the League of Nations. To discuss details at the San Francisco Conference would be premature.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS said that in the discussion so far the questions raised could be divided into those of substance and those of procedure.

(a) Questions of substance:-

He agreed with Colonel Stanley that there was no question of surrendering our existing mandates, which were ours under international law and represented rights which we should certainly retain. On that there was, he thought, general agreement amongst delegates.

It was also generally agreed that there were certain features of the mandates which were out of date and could well be improved. In particular, some different system would have to be found for the Permanent Mandates Commission, the present working of which was far from satisfactory. But these were matters of detail which would be better discussed on some later occasion.

(b) Questions of procedure:-

Here there appeared to be some difference of view. For his own part, Dominions Office telegram D. 429 of the 12th March, which stated that it had been agreed at Yalta that there should be no discussion of actual territories, had reassured him. But the subsequent telegram (D. 519 of the 28th March) regarding the preliminary consultations, had renewed his doubts as to the value of discussing mandates with Powers who knew little about colonial problems and had little interest in them. San Francisco seemed to him to be an entirely wrong place for such a discussion.

MR. FRASER suggested that the question of how to dispose of the present Japanese-held islands would in any case cause the question to be raised at San Francisco.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS said that we wanted to keep existing mandates out of the discussion.

Any system of territorial trusteeship would have to be applied generally to countries with colonial possessions. These were the United Kingdom, and the other Commonwealth countries, France, Portugal, Belgium and Holland, all of them sovereign countries with large and valuable colonial Empires. By what right could we suggest to them that they should curtail their rights? Although we might all agree that it would be most desirable, it would be extremely difficult to dictate in any such terms to sovereign Powers.

In his view, the furthest we of the British Commonwealth could go would be to say ‘we for our part are acting on this principle’. To go further would risk encountering the opposition of other Powers.

For these reasons he felt that any discussions on colonial matters should be limited strictly to procedure. He certainly would not be prepared to agree to anything whether decided at Washington or elsewhere, which affected any mandate held by South Africa, without full previous opportunity being given to him for considering the matter.

DR. EVATT said that the future status of mandates also interested Australia and New Zealand, who would not be represented at the Washington talks either.

COLONEL STANLEY suggested that it was only right before we went to San Francisco to inform the Americans that we now held the view that the existing mandate system should be continued. The other object of the Washington talks was to confirm that the discussion at San Francisco would be confined to the acceptance of the general formula which might well be discussed as part of the general business rising out of the demise of the League of Nations. Any detailed discussions would have to be held later and in a more suitable atmosphere.

The difficulty with regard to the publication of reports arose not so much over publication as over ensuring that any discussion which took place on the reports should be objective in character and should be conducted only by informed persons, concerned to ensure the welfare and progress of the areas in question, rather than to pursue any ulterior political motive.

DR. EVATT said that he trusted it would be possible for the United Kingdom Government to review the policy announced by Colonel Stanley before participating in the Washington talks. He felt that this was a matter of real importance.

COLONEL STANLEY asked whether Dr. Evatt felt that San Francisco would be a good place to discuss the proposals contained in his original paper of December 1944, or whether he agreed that the San Francisco discussions should be limited to the general proposition that the existing mandate system should be continued and that details should be left until later? DR. EVATT replied that our prime object must be to secure the welfare of the native peoples. This subject should be discussed with the other colonial Powers concerned, not necessarily at San Francisco. Of the other ‘security Powers’ Russia and China had practically no interest in colonial questions and the United States had only very limited colonial territories.

LORD CRANBORNE said that the preliminary consultations at Washington had been decided upon at Yalta, and that it would be difficult now not to hold them. He felt, however, that there was general agreement that we should limit the subjects to be discussed at the San Francisco conference to a discussion of what was to be done with the existing mandates when the League of Nations came to an end. A later discussion between colonial Powers could be held to discuss details.

MR. FRASER agreed but said that the danger was that the matter might well be raised at San Francisco by a majority vote of the Assembly.

MR. ATTLEE suggested that it was essential to limit the discussions at San Francisco to what was really necessary. If colonial questions were discussed by uninformed people there would be a tendency to blur the responsibility of the mandatory Power.

There should be a later discussion between the countries concerned upon functional questions, of which the principal one was how to implement the principle of territorial trusteeship without blurring the responsibility of parent States.

[matter omitted]


1 On file AA:A1066, P45/153/2, i. In fact dispatched 29 March.

2 See Document 17, note 1.

3 On the file cited in note 1.

4 Vincent Massey, Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

5 Canadian Associate Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs.

6 In AA : A3195, Folder, Most Secret, Inwards from Secretary of State, D1-1/1/1945 to D[1149]-3/7/1945, 1.6653.

7 i.e. Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President 1913-21.

8 See Document 17.

9 Cablegram D429, on the file cited in note 1.

10 Defence Member of the Governor-General’s Executive Council, India.


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