Atlantic Charter

US #2559d from the 1941: A World at War sheet.

On August 14, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, which defined the Allies’ postwar goals for the world.

In reality, the charter was a statement more than a legal document.  It was the culmination of two years of communication between Roosevelt and Churchill.

US #2559d – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

The two leaders arranged to meet each other in secret in August 1941.  At the time, President Roosevelt was on a 10-day fishing trip.  On August 9, Churchill was aboard the HMS Prince of Wales when it steamed into Placentia Bay on the southeast coast of Newfoundland. There he met President Roosevelt who was on the USS Augusta.

US #2559d – Classic First Day Cover.

This event marked the first time the two men would meet.  After a brief silence, Churchill greeted Roosevelt, “At long last, Mr. President,” to which Roosevelt replied, “Glad to have you aboard, Mr. Churchill.”  After that, Churchill gave Roosevelt a letter from King George VI and delivered an official statement.  Over the next few days, the two men discussed their goals for the war and postwar world.

On August 14, 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill presented their statement, then referred to as the Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister.  A few weeks later Churchill called it the Atlantic Charter and the name stuck.

US #2559d – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

The charter stated that the US supported the UK in the war and that both nations held the same hopes for a peaceful postwar world.  A major focus was on the peace to come, rather than specific American involvement in the war itself. The charter consisted of eight main points: the US and UK didn’t seek any territorial gains; land that had been seized would be returned according to the wishes of the people; everyone would have a right to self-determination; trade barriers would be lowered; all nations would agree to economic cooperation and social welfare reform; all signers would work toward a world free from want and fear; there would be freedom of the seas; and aggressor nations would be disarmed.

Item #55907 – Fleetwood First Day Proof Card.

There was no signed version of the document – it was developed over several drafts and then telegraphed to London and Washington. Shortly after its release, the Allied nations arranged a meeting in London on September 24 and unanimously agreed to adhere to the principles set forth in the charter.

Those that agreed on the charter then signed the Declarations by United Nations on January 1, 1942, which provided the basis for the modern United Nations.  The Atlantic Charter is credited as the inspiration for several international agreements that followed.

Click here to read the text of the charter.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. A sad footnote to this historic meeting and agreement is that Churchill’s ship, HMS Prince of Wales, was sunk by Japanese bombs and torpedoes as was HMS Repulse four months later on December 10, 1941 in the South China Sea. They were the first capital ships to be destroyed solely by naval air power. Nearly all hands on the two ships were lost.

    1. Correction: Capital ships were of course sunk in Pearl Harbor on December 7, three days earlier. The Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first capital ships sunk solely by air power while on full power on the high seas.

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