Roosevelt Papers

Mr. Myron C. Taylor to President Roosevelt 1

Dear Mr. President: I dictated the attached brief summary of the activities of our committee work at the Department of State to use as a summing up at our last meeting before adjournment. As the Congressional members were “occupied” on the days set for the final meeting the meeting was postponed until September—thus I made no use of it. I am sending a copy to Secretary Hull.

Will you do me the honor to read it before your meeting with the Prime Minister.

I regret exceedingly that I did not receive word of the meeting with you today2 until too late to reach Washington in time. I am available at any time if wanted.

With kind regards,


Myron Taylor

Memorandum by Mr. Myron C. Taylor

The discussions in the several committees under the leadership of the Department of State during the past sixteen months have developed much thought and information relating to the world problems growing out of the present war. These problems have been subject to continuous study and exchange of ideas among an aggregate committee membership of one hundred thirty-five and a research staff of sixty, generously assisted by other members of the Department of State and representatives from other departments of government. Each problem has been considered separately and in relation to other problems. The ideal approaches to the betterment of mankind throughout the world have been stated, discussed, and re-stated.

There has gradually emerged out of this intensive consideration a set of principles which are directed toward ideal solutions, but which are necessarily influenced by immediate practical considerations. The first of these considerations—without minimizing the importance of [Page 685] others—is world security. In approaching the problem of general security, we must again keep in mind an ideal universal solution, but we must give first thought to the security of the United States and the other American republics, and to the welfare of the peoples of this hemisphere.

problems requiring international collaboration

In the course of our long discussions we have exposed many important problems that will require post-war collaboration.


For the promotion of security, we have considered what powers the international organization should have to settle disputes and to enforce its decisions. We have discussed possible means for the enforcement of peace and have considered in that connection the establishment of international air fields in the islands of the Pacific and elsewhere.

We have discussed the terms of surrender and the plans of occupation for conquered enemy countries, and have considered how these countries are to be treated in order to assure security. In particular we have weighed the treatment to be accorded Germany in order to weaken its capacity to make another war and to curb the war-like character of the German people. We have explored the possible advantages and disadvantages to durable security of partitioning the German state, in comparison with the gains or risks of leaving Germany unified. And we have considered the possibility of segregating the industrial regions of the Rhineland, the Ruhr, the Saar and Silesia, or of placing these areas under some form of international control in order to prevent the rebuilding of Germany’s military might.


We have assessed the cost of armaments during normal periods and during war and have visualized how great a benefit would flow to mankind from an agreed world reduction of armaments accomplished within the needs of world security and the obligations of enforcing peace when necessary.

Restoration of Conquered Countries

We have considered plans for the orderly transition to independence of countries released from Nazi domination. We have explored possible forms of government for such countries and appraised the possibilities of trustworthy and capable leadership within them. We have examined the agrarian and industrial capacity of each country, and have sought to appraise its potential development.

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Territorial Adjustments

We have also discussed the many territorial and boundary adjustments that may be required in the post-war world, among them the most practicable disposition of East Prussia and the frontiers of states bordering Russia.


We have considered the carrying out of international responsibilities in the mandated areas resulting from the last war and in such trust areas as will be created after the present war. We have contemplated, as a substitute for the theories and practices of mandates, a new and not yet defined type of trusteeship. We have considered the administration of certain trustee areas by local groups of states rather than by a single mandatory state, as was the former practice.

Economic Problems

We have under consideration the full gamut of economic questions—finance (including the problem of a possible world bank), stabilization funds, long and short term credits, power problems, transportation, shipping, commissions, food problems, raw materials, heavy industries, cartels, freight agreements, trade barriers, et cetera.

These highly important economic problems, world-wide in their scope, extend to the vitals of individual and community well-being everywhere. As we have discovered through examination of the economic relationships within our own Union, these world economic activities are intimately related to whatever political structure or arrangements we may create. As the economic relations are weakened or destroyed, the political structure is weakened or destroyed. Similarly, any deterioration of political security immediately undermines economic relations and stability.

Refugee Problems

We have discussed the problem of refugee peoples and have sought a solution for the sad plight of those thousands who have not been executed, but who have been torn from their homes and introduced into virtual slavery because of their political, racial or religious affiliations.

Economic and Social Improvement

We have considered the need of bringing to the people of the earth a better standard of living, better educational facilities and protection of life and property, freedom of speech and religion.

meaning of these problems for international organization

And so, Mr. Secretary, we have discovered that many serious problems are involved in international collaboration after this war. In our [Page 687] efforts to learn how that collaboration can be achieved we have traveled over a long and difficult course; we have been beset with uncertainties and have realized the resentments, the suspicions and the doubts of every country toward the motives of the others. We have tried to understand what problems of race, religion, economic circumstances, tradition, resentment, suspicion, doubt, and hatred have through the long course of history frustrated the will of nations to collaborate—nations which are courageous enough to try once more to build out of such chaos something that will endure and benefit the world.

In our quest, we as Americans have not overlooked the ideal or the practical. Neither can we overlook the distinction between idealism and ideology. The one embodies the very spirit of man; the other has only fleeting value as the ideas of an individual who abandons the practical in the pursuit of an illusion. Such pursuit, as we have seen in the present exploitation of so-called ideologies, has brought the world near disaster. We have tried, and must continue to try, to keep free from any illusion.

Thus, as I stated at the outset, driven by the due sense of the gigantic stakes of peace, proceeding by reason and full discussion, and supported by the highest ethical motives, we undertake now to cope with the great problems emerging from the war through some form of international organization in which America can and will take a responsible part. We seek an agency with sufficient scope and power to prevent the disruption of human affairs and the destruction of human lives through the terrifying agencies of modern war, since we know that only the exercise of kindly observation, timely council and forceful action if necessary can make such conflicts impossible.

nature of the international organization

What then is this agency that will insure the best future of the world? It can be none other than a world organization of nations—large enough, broad enough, powerful enough, alert enough and energetic enough to see and to act.

It has been our thought that such an organization should have the primary purpose of maintaining security but that it might also carry on other vital functions. To this end, we have envisaged a larger, more complete, better organized, and more effective instrumentality than the League of Nations, with power to adopt rules of right conduct among nations, to settle political disputes, to resolve legal questions by means of a world tribunal, and to prevent aggression by force if necessary. We have therefore considered the possible reorganization of the existing League of Nations, with a restatement of its principles and a redefinition of its functions; and we have considered whether a new [Page 688] organization should be created out of United Nations relationships or other current experience.

Possible Regional Groups

We have explored the possibility of setting up groups of states or regional councils, such as those described by Prime Minister Churchill in his address of March this year.3 With respect to the proposed Council of Europe, we have questioned whether the United States should join Great Britain and Russia in guaranteeing the security of that group of states. We have examined this problem in the light of Western Hemisphere relationships under the Monroe Doctrine and in terms of the more recent Good Neighbor policies.

As an alternative to Mr. Churchill’s proposal, we have discussed a union of all European states, excluding Great Britain and Russia, which would be placed under the protection of a world organization that would include Britain and Russia.

We have considered a loosely organized union of states in Eastern Europe under the protection of a world organization. We have also considered a possible Asiatic Council for security purposes as was proposed by Prime Minister Churchill.

We have questioned how long such regional groups might escape the greed, rivalries, and ambitions of their component parts, or their utilization for selfish purposes by more powerful members; and we have queried whether those dangers could be avoided only through a strong world order. We have reached a consensus that the universal organization must not be founded upon regional structures and that such regional relationships or organizations should be primarily concerned with local problems, though they could perform some functions by delegation from the general international organization.

the problem of sovereignty

The creation of such an organization gives rise to the objection that it would mean a surrender of sovereignty. What is the real basis of this claim?

Certainly no surrender of sovereignty over domestic affairs is involved, since no peace plan will be concerned with the internal affairs of nations.

Neither can the judicial process for the settlement of disputes be objected to as violating national interests, since that process is simply a means whereby a nation can safeguard its peace and security through the pacific settlement of international differences.

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Civilized nations have always claimed to be governed by international law as established by treaties, custom and usage. The promulgation of such rules of right conduct will involve no impairment of national sovereignty unless the disregard of such rules be deemed a privilege of sovereignty.

The treaty making power will not be impaired. Indeed, the field of international cooperation through general international and regional conferences and agreements can profitably be expanded. Many of the problems now under consideration may well be left to that field, outside of the immediate control of any central authority.

An international arrangement to control by force the means of aggression and to prevent acts of aggression may indeed impinge on the alleged rights of would-be aggressors. However, there will be no surrender of sovereignty by nations contributing forces to the maintenance of peace. If, however, individual nations press their claims of sovereignty to the point of judging, each for itself, what force to supply if need arises, the international organization might then be rendered impotent and the likelihood of having to employ force would be increased. Arrangements for the use of force must be set in advance and must be certain.

There can be no permanent peace unless nations are prepared to accept the decisions of the international organization on matters entrusted to it, in full faith that the enlightened opinion and moral judgment of the world will prevail in that organization. To that extent only must member states give up the right of individual decision and action. However, any conception of sovereignty that precludes united or co-operative action is an anachronism in the modern world.

There is in fact no real surrender of sovereignty in cooperated or united action; and there is nothing but an act of sovereignty itself in the negotiation of a treaty to enter into organized cooperation. If by the transfer of certain powers to an authority outside the state we obtain the support of other nations in guaranteeing our own security and that of our neighbors and allies, have we diminished our sovereignty? Or have we in fact enlarged it? What is involved is not so much a diminution of sovereignty as a re-distribution of the peoples’ authority in order to make it effective over a wider area.

establishment of an international organization

Following the practical sense of our exploration, what are the steps most likely to bring about ultimate world organization? It seems to me that the natural approach would be through the present association of the United States with three other great powers in a collective effort to crush the common enemy. Their responsibility for securing victory [Page 690] is acknowledged. The four-power relationship has been born in this war and exists in fact. It is not something that has to be created; it is something that has to be extended and expanded. The continuing adherence of those four great nations is essential to the fulfillment of any plan for world peace that is workable and effective. Without any one of them the project becomes dubious.

Certainly European security cannot rest on a foundation that does not bring Russia into agreement with the other powers. Anglo-American understanding is basic and inherent in any plan that can work and endure. Yet certainly the American public would seriously question the encouragement of a project to insure the security of Europe if Great Britain were its only other partner, and would object upon grounds that are too familiar to be recited in this well-informed body.

In my judgment, the approach to the world organization should have as its first step a four-power pact between the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China. It should be a simple document but comprehensive enough to give expression to the public will of this country, which seeks organized protective measures on a world basis. There should then be an effort to promote at the earliest moment a world organization upon lines not inconsistent with the proposed pact.

I am not one of those who believes that a mere declaration of American sentiment would be adequate. I should prefer a fundamental approach to the question of firm agreement among these four nations, urgently presented to the Senate for ratification, with the hope that it may be removed from political controversy in the year to come. The weakness in our position before the world today lies in the fact that other nations do not know whether we will make such an agreement or participate in a world organization. Our failure to enter the League leaves a reasonable doubt as to our sincerity now. To promote the world organization, therefore, some positive step must be taken now to assure the world of our adherence.

We have often referred to the greater prospects of gaining American adherence while the war is in progress, rather than to postpone all definitive action until the war is over. Of this there can be no doubt.

Concluding then, it would seem to me undesirable for this country to associate itself in a local organization that has as its objective the maintenance of peace in a particular zone; that its objective should be to promote, either through reorganization of the League of Nations or through other means, a strong universal organization through which the eligible states could effectively maintain peace; and that the approach to such a world organization should be through a four-power [Page 691] pact, entered into promptly and openly, and having behind it the constitutional authority of our Government.

Myron Taylor
  1. This handwritten letter and its attachment were presumably written in Taylor’s capacity as a member of the Advisory Committee on Post-War Foreign Policy. See Notter, pp. 73 ff. They were sent by Taylor to the President’s secretary (Tully) under cover of the following letter: “I am very desirous that the President should read the enclosed before the visit of the Prime Minister. Will you be good enough to put it in his hands at an appropriate moment.” (Roosevelt Papers)
  2. See ante, p. 681.
  3. For the text of Churchill’s broadcast of March 21, 1943, in which he made the suggestion referred to, see New York Times, March 22, 1943, p. 4; Churchill, War Speeches, vol. ii, pp. 425–437.