From the Atlantic to the U.N. Charter

Freedom From Fear

Freedom from Fear

Freedom From Want

Freedom from Want

Freedom of Worship

Freedom of Worship

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech

UN Charter in English

United Nations Charter in English

Eleanor Roosevelt and the UN Charter Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt and the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Yalta Summit with Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

Yalta Summit of the Big Three

"We the people of the  United Nations"

"We the people of the United Nations"


After articulating the Four Freedoms in his State of Union Address on January 6, 1941, and again in May at the dedication of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial, President Franklin Roosevelt , with Winston Churchill, embodied these principles in the eight points of the Atlantic Charter.  In the sixth point they declared:  "After the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want."  And again in the eighth point they referred to the "establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security."

Historian Jon Meacham, in "Franklin and Winston: A Portrait of an Epic Friendship," (2003), noted the central role of the organization of the United Nations in the discussions between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at the summit conference in Yalta in February, 1945:

"After several years of imprecise talk --usually by Roosevelt--a plan thrashed out in the summer and fall of 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington provided a security council (the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, china, and ultimately France would be permanent members,) and a general assembly.  The organization would have the ability, with its members, to exert force—military, by sanction, or by suasion—to try to keep order in what was inevitably a disorderly world.

Gone were the debates about regional councils, a global body was to take shape—if it could all be worked out with Stalin, who wanted extra votes in the General Assembly for the Soviet Republics.  (eventually he got two.)  There were other issues, questions of veto power, trusteeships for former colonies, and refugee matters among them—and a conference in San Francisco  in late April would finalize things, Roosevelt died believing a global, not a regional organization was the proper means for a new international order.

The UN agreement at Yalta, Roosevelt would tell congress on March 1, 1945, “ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries—and have always failed,” he said, sitting as he spoke for the first and only time in a congressional address in his twelve years as president.  “We propose to substitute for all of these a universal organization in which all peace loving nations will finally have a chance to join.

Churchill, who had long favored the regional approach, was not particularly impressed by the United Nations in its early days.  Encouraged by Roosevelt, he gradually adopted the President’s more optimistic, but hard headed view: “The purpose of the United Nations is to make sure the force of right will, in the ultimate issue, be protected by the right of force,’ he said in 1946.  “Peace is no passive state, but calls for qualities of high adventure and endeavor” he said in 1950.  “Through the United Nations we must not only prevent war, but feed the hungry, heal the sick, restore the ravages of former wars, and assist the peoples of Africa and Asia  to achieve by peaceful means their hopes of a newer and better life.”

On Sunday morning, February 11th, 1945, the Big Three signed the Declaration of Liberated Europe in the Czar's former billiards room, pledging that: "The establishment of order in Europe, and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by a process which will allow all liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges on nazism and fascism  and to create democratic institutions of their own choice.  This is the principle of the Atlantic Charter--the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live--the restoration of sovereign rights and self-Government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived of them.”

Continues Jon Meacham:  “Churchill would live to see and fight the cold war.  Roosevelt would be dead by then, but whatever compromises the president made at Yalta on issues relating to the postwar world, there is evidence that he would have taken a hard line against Soviet totalitarianism had he lived." 

“Yalta was only a step toward the ultimate solution Franklin had in mind,” Eleanor recalled.  “He knew it was not the final step.  He knew there had to be more negotiation, other meetings.  He hoped for an era of peace and understanding,  but he knew that peace was not won in a day—that days upon days and years upon years lay before us in which we must keep the peace with constant effort.”