The Atlantic Charter

Image: Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt standing aboard HMS Prince of Wales. Supporting Franklin Roosevelt on his left side is his son, Captain Elliot Roosevelt USAAF. A presidential aide stands nearby. August 10, 1941. Imperial War Museum.
What type of partnership did the Atlantic Charter create between the United States and Great Britain?
How are the themes of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech reiterated in the Atlantic Charter? What objections might members of the “America First” Movement make to the Atlantic Charter?

In August 1941 (four months before the United States entered the war), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Newfoundland and crafted the Atlantic Charter. In June, Nazi Germany had invaded the Soviet Union, making Great Britain and the Soviet Union allies. The Atlantic Charter, however, envisioned the world’s leading democracies, not communist Russia, re-building the postwar world. The Atlantic Charter remained the fundamental statement of American war aims. The Charter’s call for self-government and self-determination also inadvertently became touchstones for those around the world wishing for independence from European empires.

—Jennifer D. Keene

Source: “The Atlantic Charter,” National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Office of Government Reports, Record Group 44.

The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Winston S. Churchill

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