Edward Stettinius to Eleanor Roosevelt

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Edward Stettinius to Eleanor Roosevelt

26 July 1945 [The White House]

Personal and Confidential

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,

I promised to explain to you how it came about that Argentina was admitted to the San Francisco Conference and Poland was refused admission.

At the Mexico City Conference, the matter of the recognition of the Argentine Government by the United States, as well as the other American Republics, and its adherence to the United Nations declaration, as well as the possibility of its being invited to participate at UNCIO, were discussed at length. The Mexico City Conference unanimously declared its hope that Argentina would "implement a policy of co-operative action with the other American nations so as to identify herself with the common policy which these nations are following and so as to orient her own policy so that she may achieve her incorporation into the United Nations as a signatory to the joint declaration entered into by them."7 In the middle of March an agreement was reached between the United States and the other Latin American countries attending the Mexico City Conference that when Argentina declared the existence of a state of war with Germany and Japan, expressed conformity with the principles and declarations of the final Act of Mexico City, and complied with such principles and declarations, it would be permitted to sign the final Act of Mexico City, would then be recognized by the Governments of the American nations, and the United States as the depository State would then request that Argentina be invited to sign the joint declaration of the United Nations.8 A memorandum embodying this agreement was approved and initialed by President Roosevelt. It was clearly understood that, if Argentina were admitted to the ranks of the United Nations, she could not be refused the right to participate in UNCIO.

On March 22, 1945, Argentina declared War on Germany and Japan, expressed adherence to the Mexico City declaration, and took steps to implement this decision. On April 4, she was permitted to sign the final Act of Mexico City. On April 9, the American Republics re-established relations with her. On April 16, Argentina officially requested permission to sign the United Nations declaration and pressed, with considerable support from other Latin American countries, for admission to UNCIO. I postponed a decision on this request until after the Conference met.

You will recall that early in the Conference, the Soviet Union took the position that the Ukraine and White Russia must not only be admitted to the Organization, which was unanimously agreed to at one of the first meetings of the Steering Committee, but that they should also be admitted forthwith to the Conference itself. The Russians were adamant on this matter and refused to agree to the organization of the Conference for business until this was done. The Latin American countries, in their turn, felt strongly that Argentina should be admitted to the ranks of the United Nations and to the Conference, and refused flatly to agree to the admission to the Conference of the Ukraine and White Russia unless Argentina were also seated. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached between the Russians and Latin Americans. This, however, proved impossible as Molotov9 would not agree to seat Argentina unless the so-called Polish Lublin Government were also seated immediately, to which, of course, we could not agree. After careful consideration, the delegation decided that the only way to meet this situation was to vote for the admission of both Argentina and the Soviet Republics. It was of the utmost importance that the Conference should get down to its business of writing the Charter, and this seemed the only way to avoid a deadlock.

As far as the question of admitting Poland is concerned, it was of course at that time entirely out of the question for the United States to agree to the seating of the Polish Lublin Government;10 to have done so would have meant sacrificing any chance of getting the Soviet Government to live up to the Yalta decision on Poland. If we had given in on this point I am certain that Harry Hopkins could never have worked out the satisfactory arrangement which has now led to our recognition of the Provisional Government of Poland in which all of the old parties are represented.11

I hope this letter will set at rest some of the questions which have bothered you. Unfortunately, for various reasons which you will understand, it has not been possible to explain publicly the details of what took place.

I may try to go off for a short rest, soon, and I hope I shall have a chance to see you before very much longer.

With best wishes, always,

                                          Sincerely yours,

                                       Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.


1. Thomas P. Campbell and George C. Herring, The Diaries of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., 1943–1946, 399-404; Schlesinger, 248; ER to James Roosevelt, 27 June 1945, JRP, FDRL.

2. On the San Francisco conference, see n1 Document 2.

3. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee opened hearings on the UN Charter July 9, 1945, with Stettinius and Byrnes as the first two witnesses. President Truman and Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the committee, pushed for prompt ratification. On July 14, the committee unanimously recommended ratification and the Senate approved it July 28 by an 89-to-2 vote. France, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain all ratified the charter in the following month and it came into force as "part of the law of nations" on October 24, with the deposit of the twenty-ninth country's ratification (James B. Reston, "Charter Hearings Begun by Senators; Passage Is Likely," NYT, 10 July 1945, 1; "Roll Call Re-echoes in Silence of Galleries," WP, 29 July 1945, M1; Bertram D. Hulen, "Charter Becomes 'Law of Nations,' 29 Ratifying It," NYT, 25 October 1945, 1).

4. In his remarks, the secretary described the UN Charter as "both a binding agreement to preserve peace and to advance human progress and a constitutional document creating the international machinery by which nations can cooperate to realize these purposes in fact." The United Nations will work for "the maintenance of international peace and security; the development of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the equal rights and self-determination of peoples; cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural and humanitarian character, and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all."

"The Charter," he concluded, "of course, is not a perfect instrument." He was "sure it will be improved with time as the United Nations gain experience in its application;" however, he believed "it offers to the United States and to the world a truly effective instrument for lasting peace." The charter set a course "within the capacity of the nations at this period of world history to follow" and established "a direction of our highest aspirations for human advancement in a world at peace." Indeed, "the five major Nations proved at San Francisco beyond the shadow of any doubt that they can work successfully and in unity with each other and with the other United Nations under this Charter … No country has a greater stake than ours in a speedy beginning upon the task of realizing in fact the promise which the United Nations Charter offers to the world." For complete text of Stettinius's remarks see "Text of the Statement by Stettinius to Senate Hearing on the Charter of the United Nations," NYT, 10 July 1945, 6.

5. ER to Edward Stettinius, 13 July 1945, AERP.

6. ER to Edward Stettinius, 3 August 1945, AERP.

7. Twenty nations, including the United States, attended the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace held in Mexico City where they passed the Act of Chapultepec, requiring joint action in repelling aggression against an American state. Stettinius played a key role in these deliberations, which were in part aimed at Argentina, its military build-up, and a desire to bring a democratic Argentina "back into the family of American nations" and, thus allow its admission into the United Nations Conference on International Organization (the San Francisco conference on the founding of the United Nations). See n4 Document 13.

A version of this "Political and Military Defense" resolution appeared in "Excerpts Highlighting Accomplishments of Inter-American Parley in Mexico City," NYT, 9 March 1945, 12.

8. See n4 Document 13.

9. Vyacheslav Molotov.

10. Here Stettinius references the seating of the Lublin (provisional) government as the representative of Poland at the United Nations.

11. See n5 Document 13.

Elenor Roosevelt and the National Citizens Political Action Committee

ER's public refusal of political positions did not dissuade her supporters from trying to secure her commitment to their organizations. Ironically, she had tried to persuade Vice President Henry Wallace, once FDR acceded to the pressures of Democratic conservatives and removed him from the 1944 ticket, to accept the job Sidney Hillman, Calvin Baldwin, and the new National Citizens Political Action Committee (NCPAC) now offered her—the position of national chair. As Wallace recalled in his diary November 10:

She felt that Sidney Hillman was not suitable for heading up such a broad liberal organization. She said furthermore that even though I had a position in the government, she thought I could go in on such an organization … Later in the day I called her up and told her the first thing that occurred to me was that whatever was done should have the complete and enthusiastic blessing of Sidney Hillman. Second, I told her that I felt the only way any liberalism could express itself on a national basis was through the Democratic Party and I felt it would be damaging to the Democratic Party and to the liberalism boys if I should take the position she suggested …1

Now in the summer of 1945, Sidney Hillman came to ER to offer her the leadership position of the organization he had created. Hillman's Congress of Industrial Organizations Political Action Committee played a decisive role in the hotly contested 1944 election and he planned to create an organization targeted to an audience beyond labor. This offer intrigued her enough to discuss it several times with Joe and Trude Lash. Both ER and her friends knew of Communist activity within NCPAC and while not dissuaded by the Communist presence, the Lashes encouraged her to investigate the offer further and, especially, to determine "precise" lines of authority.

ER met with Hillman, Baldwin, and the NCPAC board the night of July 18. She reported to Joe Lash that the discussion:

left me torn in my mind. I don't know how useful I will be to them. I have an aversion to taking on responsibility except individually and this is a big one. On the other hand, it seems the one group that has organized nationally and can sway political parties and they need to be swayed.2

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Edward Stettinius to Eleanor Roosevelt

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