Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

December 19, 1944

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't got any news.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Bevin said in London last week that you initialed the Quebec British plan for British stabilization of Greece. Could you tell us anything about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Wasn't that denied?

Q. Don't think so, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: State Department? I think so.

Q. No, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think they said something in a more polite form than that.

Q. Is it to be denied, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't bring it up again. I think it's contentious. I found a new word when I was away: contentious. (Laughter) I wouldn't bring it up. There is nothing in that. . . .

MAY CRAIG: Mr. President, this is a contentious question, but I would like a serious answer. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: You would find it awful hard to get, May.

MAY CRAIG: There's a good deal of question as to whether you are going right or left politically, and I would like your opinion on which way you are going?

THE PRESIDENT: I am going down the whole line a little left of center. I think that was answered, that question, eleven and a half years ago, and still holds.

Q. But you told us a little while ago that you were going to have Dr. Win-The-War and not Dr. New Deal.

THE PRESIDENT: (interjecting) That's right.

Q. (continuing) The question is whether you are going back to be Dr. New Deal after the war-

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) No, no. No. Keep right along a little to the left of center, which includes winning the war. That's not much of an answer, is it?

MAY CRAIG: No. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: However, you have broken the ice, May.

Q. Mr. President, if you are going down a little left of center, how does that match with the six appointments you sent up to the Hill on the State Department?


Q. Would you call them a little left of center?

THE PRESIDENT: I call myself a little left of center. I have got a lot of people in the Administration—oh, I know some of them are extreme right and extreme left, and everything else—a lot of people in the Administration, and I cannot vouch for them all. They work out pretty well, on the whole. Just think, this crowd here in this room—my gracious, you will find every opinion between left and extreme right.

Q. Mr. President, would you welcome, and do you see the prospect of an early conference with Mr. Churchill and Mr. Stalin?

THE PRESIDENT: I saw that. Yes. A highly speculative story.

Q. I asked you if you saw the prospect of an early conference?

THE PRESIDENT: I said it's highly—highly—what?—what was the word I used about it?—speculative.

Q. I would like to eliminate the speculation and go to the highest source. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: I know you would. So would I. You are not the only one. (More laughter)

Q. Mr. President, in being a little left of center, you have noticed in your life that many a progressive or liberal stays where he is and becomes hopelessly conservative as time goes on.

THE PRESIDENT: And you are exactly the same age as I am.

Q. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, do you feel that you are getting more conservative?

MR. GODWIN: I think I am.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's bad. You must be older than I am.(Laughter) Old age hasn't crept up on me yet. You ought to be careful. You ought to watch that; it's a serious thing when it happens ....

Q. Mr. President, did Mr. Churchill ever sign the Atlantic Charter?

THE PRESIDENT: Nobody ever signed the Atlantic Charter. Now that's an amazing statement.

Q. Where is it, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you're thinking in awfully—oh, what will I say?- banal phrases and thought.

There isn't any copy of the Atlantic Charter, so far as I know. I haven't got one. The British haven't got one. The nearest thing you will get is the radio operator on the Augusta and on the Prince o[ Wales. That's the nearest thing you will come to it. It's one of the things that was agreed to on board ship, and there was no formal document.

And the aides were directed to have the scribbled thing, which had a great many corrections, some I suppose in Mr. Churchill's handwriting, and some in mine, and some in Sir Alec Cadogan's handwriting, some in scraps of paper, some in Sumner Welles's handwriting—and the aides were directed to have it sent off to the British Government, and to the United States Government, and released to the press. That is the Atlantic Charter.

Q. Well, Mr. President, is it not true that all of the United Nations have signed the-

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Oh, yes.

Q. (continuing)- obligations of the Atlantic Charter through the Declaration of Washington?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that was done on the first of January, 1942, and that's all signed.

There was one amusing thing that happened to it. The original was, I think, typewritten in the State Department. And finally, on the first of January, 1942, the Ambassadors came in a great part of that day. We had two or three sessions. And we all signed up. And then a little later on Brazil and a couple of other countries signed, over in the Dining Room in the White House, which was all decorated with flags.

That's where I got caught. Nobody caught on. The press was there, though.

And the Brazilian Ambassador was sitting on my right, and the copy wasn't there! I delivered a speech, and then asked the signatory powers to sign. But there was nothing to sign. It was in the Department safe, and the keeper of the Department safe who knew the combination was out in Bethesda, which didn't help at all.

And I said all right, we haven't got the document for you to sign; and I wrote out longhand very simple words: we hereby approve and join in the Declaration by the United Nations set up on the first of January last.

But before writing it, I looked for a pen, and there wasn't any pen!—(laughter)—because the pen wouldn't work-didn't have any ink in it. It finally ended by my borrowing the pen—I used really strong language—luckily I wasn't on the air- (more laughter)—as to the lack of pens, and I borrowed the fountain pen of the Mexican Ambassador.

Q. Mr. President, that Statement that was issued to the press said it was a Statement signed by yourself and by the British Prime Minister. Is that literally not true, sir, that it was merely presented through you—that it was not a document —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) What Statement to the press?

Q. When the Atlantic Charter Statement was issued?


Q. Issued through the White House.

THE PRESIDENT: It isn't a formal document. He [Churchill] has got a lot of his handwriting—some of mine—in it, and I don't know where it is now.

Q. I understand that, sir, but the caption on that Statement that we received said it was a Statement signed by yourself and the British Prime Minister. I was just trying to clarify whether that document actually had signatures on the bottom of it, or whether it did not?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think it's probable, in time, they will find some documents and signatures.

The spirit still is there, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we all agreed on it, that's all I know. I have got some memoranda that were signed by the British Prime Minister, but it wasn't the complete document. It isn't considered signed by us both.

Q. My recollection is that the thing that came up to the Capitol said at the bottom, "Signed Roosevelt and Churchill.". . .

THE PRESIDENT: It was signed in substance. There is no formal document—complete document- signed by us both. There are memoranda to the people there and to the radio people.

Q. (interjecting) Whether or not it was signed, you promulgated and stood for it, and you stand for it now?

THE PRESIDENT: (continuing) And sent for the radio man and said put this on the air. That's all.

Q. Have you, since that time, Mr. President, wished that you had a formal document which was signed, sealed, and attested?

THE PRESIDENT: No, except from the point of view of sightseers in Washington. I think that they will like to see it, perhaps not so much as the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States. Well, if you wanted to exhibit it, there isn't any good reason we can't.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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