Roosevelt and Churchill Discuss Colonial Questions, August 10, 1941, excerpt from Elliott Roosevelt, As He Saw It (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946).


Father [FDR] started it.

"Of course," he remarked, with a sly sort of assurance, "of course, after the war, one of the preconditions of any lasting peace will have to be the greatest possible freedom of trade."

He paused. The P.M.'s [Churchill's] head was lowered; he was watching Father steadily, from under one eyebrow.

"No artificial barriers," Father pursued. "As few favored economic agreements as possible. Opportunities for expansion. Markets open for healthy competition." His eye wandered innocently around the room.

Churchill shifted in his armchair. "The British Empire trade agreements," he began heavily, "are--"

Father broke in. "Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It's because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are."

Churchill's neck reddened and he crouched forward. "Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favored position among the British Do-minions. The trade that has made England great shall continue, and under conditions prescribed by England's ministers."

"You see," said Father slowly, "it is along in here somewhere that there is likely to be some disagreement between you, Winston, and me.

"I am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can't be done, obviously, by eighteenth-century methods. Now-"

"Who's talking eighteenth-century methods?"

"Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods involve bringing industry to these colonies. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation-by making sure that they get a return for the raw wealth of their community."

Around the room, all of us were leaning forward attentively. [Harry] Hopkins [a major FDR adviser] was grinning. Commander [C. R.] Thompson, Churchill's aide, was looking glum and alarmed. The P.M. himself was beginning to look apoplectic.

"You mentioned India," he growled.

"Yes. I can't believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy"

"What about the Philippines?"

"I'm glad you mentioned them. They get their independence, you know, in 1946. And they've gotten modern sanitation, modern education; their rate of illiteracy has gone steadily down

"There can be no tampering with the Empire's economic agreements."

"They're artificial ..."

"They're the foundation of our greatness."

"The peace," said Father firmly, "cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples. Equality of peoples involves the utmost freedom of competitive trade. . ."

It was after two in the morning when finally the British party said their good nights. I helped Father into his cabin, and sat down to smoke a last cigarette with him.

Father grunted. "A real old Tory, isn't he? A real old Tory, of the old school."

"I thought for a minute he was going to bust, Pop."

"Oh," he smiled, "I'll be able to work with him. Don't worry about that. We'll get along famously."

"So long as you keep off the subject of India."

"Mmm, I don't know. I think we'll even talk some more about India, before we're through. And Burma. And Java. And Indo-China. And Indonesia. And all the African colonies. And Egypt and Palestine. We'll talk about 'em all."


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