McGhee Files: Lot 53 D 468: File—”Africa”

Remarks Made by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( McGhee ) at an Official Luncheon in Honor of the Gold Coast Leader of Government Business ( Nkrumah ), Washington, June 8, 1951 1

On behalf of my Government I should like to extend a most cordial welcome to the United States to our distinguished visitors from the Gold Coast, Mr. Nkrumah the Leader of Government Business and Mr. Botsio, the Minister of Education and Social Welfare. Mr. Nkrumah is, of course, no stranger to these shores, having done graduate and post-graduate work in American educational institutions, one of which so signally honored him a few days ago. During this formative period of his life in the United States he came to know us well. He came to know that faith in freedom and progress is a dominant trait in the American character.

Freedom and progress are as indissolubly bound to each other as air is to life. The only limitation we have put on freedom is that it be exercised in such a way as not to interfere with the freedom of others.

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This concept of freedom has underlain the development of the United States since its very foundation. It is because of this freedom that we have never been primarily concerned with keeping things as they are. Our main interest is making things better by peaceful means and by the exercise of free choice.

It is the traditional policy of the United States to support orderly movements towards self government. We have followed with keen interest, therefore, the efforts of the British Government over the years to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples in British African territories. January 1, 1951 marks a historical day in the Gold Coast. It may well mark a historical day in Africa. It was on this day that a new Constitution became effective in the Gold Coast, establishing popular elections and granting the African himself broad competence over his own affairs for the first time in African colonial history.

This far-reaching development in British colonial policy has produced misgivings in certain quarters. We, ourselves, have no such misgivings. We have observed the competent and efficient manner with which the preliminary stages of this bold experiment have been worked out cooperatively by British officials and Africans, and the moderation and sense of responsibility shown by the African leaders since the Constitution became operative. We are confident that this experiment in African administration will succeed. It must succeed. The eyes of the world will be focused on the Gold Coast. They will watch with the hope that this first British experiment in African administration will prove beyond doubt that the African is capable of governing himself. They will watch with some degree of anxiety knowing that their many serious obstacles must be overcome. Foremost among these is the difficulty of unifying a diverse people, a people differing in language and customs and varying markedly in degree of political consciousness and economic development. The boldness of the British experiment should be measured in the light of these difficulties. Excuses could have been offered with some reason for instituting less liberal political concessions to the people of the Gold Coast in the management of their own affairs. The decision to go forward in the face of these obstacles can be attributed only to a sincerity of purpose in carrying out the long avowed objectives of British colonial policy of advancing the dependent peoples to self-government as rapidly as conditions permit. It represents an incontestable denial of the oft repeated charges of the Kremlin that the British and other Western Nations are intent on keeping dependent peoples in permanent subjection. It is a fitting answer to the Kremlin which falsely sets itself up as the champion of dependent peoples—the same Kremlin which since 1945 has taken over more than 7-½ million [Page 1273] square miles of new territory, an area approximately equivalent to the combined area of the colonial territories in Southern Africa, and it is even now intent on further expansion in Asia.

The deepening division between the Soviet Government and the Free World is not, as is sometimes incorrectly thought, a conflict between capitalism and communism. Among the nations of the Free World, in fact, there are some that have chosen a Socialist system. Rather the conflict is between a power-hungry government that is bent on imposing its system on others by force, terror, and every other means, and the community of Free Nations which refuses to be conquered or dominated, or to stand by and see its members swallowed up.

In so far as Africa is concerned it is a major objective of United States policy to assist the African peoples in any way we can in their political, social and economic advancement in accordance with the United Nations Charter. We know, and I feel sure they know, that the Soviets do not offer them the goal to which they aspire, but utter and complete subordination, many times more onerous than any restriction they have known in the past.

Your Government, Mr. Nkrumah, is embarking on a new, untried course. Its success or failure will measure the rapidity with which constitutional advancement is made in other colonial territories in Africa. We appreciate the numerous and formidable obstacles which must be overcome but are supremely confident that your Government will successfully solve them. We wish you success and trust that you will carry back with you the knowledge that the United States Government and its people wish always to remain the friend of the Gold Coast Government and its people.

As a memento of this very happy occasion I should like to present to you, Mr. Nkrumah, a copy of the United States Government Organization Manual, and to you, Mr. Botsio, a copy of a book on the American Educational System.

  1. The source text is part of dossier for the visit of Nkrumah to Washington, June 7–8, included in the McGhee Files. Regarding the Nkrumah visit, see the editorial note, supra. These remarks were drafted by Durnan of NEA/AF.