No. 25
The Secretary of State to the United States High Commissioner for Germany (McCloy) 1

secret and personal

Dear Jack : I deeply appreciate the steps you have so promptly taken as reported in your letter of April 252 to obtain agreement by Chancellor Adenauer and the British and French to the elimination from the Preamble to the General Convention of the clause on [Page 42] human rights. I understand your reasons for deciding to seek agreement to eliminating the clause rather than changing it to conform to that in the Japanese Treaty. I also understand the Chancellor’s desire to have a letter explaining the omission of such a clause for use if he should be pressed hard on this point by elements in Germany.

I must confess, however, that I look with considerable concern upon the idea of thus recording in a letter which might well be published our reasons for wishing to see no mention of human rights in the contractual agreements. Furthermore, the Chancellor himself seems well aware of the implication of the omission of such a clause. For these reasons I have been casting about for an alternative which would eliminate the necessity for a letter to the Chancellor and at the same time avoid duplicating the language in the Japanese Treaty.

I have hit upon an alternative, which is to omit the present human rights clause and substitute in the preceding “whereas” clause the phrase “human rights” for “rights of the individual”; so the whole clause would read “Whereas the Federal Republic has developed free and responsible political institutions and is determined to maintain the liberal-democratic federal constitution which guarantees human rights and is enshrined in its Basic Law;”

This change has the merit of simplicity, should eliminate the need for a letter to the Chancellor, does not alter to any degree the meaning of the clause and inserts in the General Agreement a reference to human rights which would at least allay the criticism which will probably be voiced if specific mention of the term is not made.

A second alternative would be to substitute the following language for the clause now in the Preamble:

“Whereas Germany recognizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement and declares its intention to promote respect for those rights and freedoms;”

By the above language Germany would simply acknowledge the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, as did the Members of the United Nations in adopting this Declaration by a General Assembly resolution on December 10, 1948. The pertinent language in the Preamble of the Declaration reads as follows:

“The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by [Page 43] progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

Thus the Germans would be acknowledging a responsibility, no greater and no less than the members of the United Nations themselves. This would eliminate any implication of inequality of treatment for the Germans, which is, I know, a sore subject with them. In effect they would be doing in the general convention what they would have done had they been members of the UN and thus able to vote in favor of the General Assembly Resolution.

I cannot guage the difficulties which may face you in approaching other parties to the contractual agreements with another request in regard to the human rights clause. I prefer the first and simpler alternative. However, I leave to your judgment which one to use in the light of conditions there, with which you are more familiar than I.3

I am truly sorry to have to add this problem to all the others with which you are faced just now.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson
  1. Drafted by Lewis and Cates and Green of UNA and approved in draft by Matthews, Sandifer of UNA, and McFall of H. In a memorandum dated May 1, Secretary Acheson noted that he had that day discussed the paragraph on human rights with President Truman. This letter was drafted along the lines indicated below.
  2. Document 22.
  3. In discussions on the paragraph on human rights, which followed receipt of this letter in Bonn, McCloy was able to obtain agreement on the procedure proposed by Secretary Acheson in the third paragraph. For text of the convention on general relations with the agreed paragraph, see Document 51.