6-092 Speech to Governors’ Conference, July 14, 1947

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 14, 1947

Subject: Postwar

July 14, 1947
Salt Lake City, Utah

I have welcomed the opportunity to meet with you gentlemen again but not the obligation to make a formal public statement. During the war years it was possible for me to talk off the record and also to discuss matters in a rather definite manner. I always felt that you not only gave me your confidence, but that the Army derived a very definite benefit from the more intimate knowledge of its problems that I felt free to communicate to you. I express again my appreciation of the support you gave me in those difficult days and the meticulous manner in which you respected my confidence.

I little thought in my last meeting with some of you, I believe at Mackinac Island, that I would return again in a totally different capacity and with problems and responsibilities that are in some respects much more difficult than those that were mine during the war.1 It is unnecessary to tell you gentlemen that reestablishing the peace has its difficulties, or that it is necessary that I be very careful in what I say publicly and when I say it. If it had been practicable for me to talk to you off the record and in great confidence, there is much that I would like to discuss with you. However, I must confine myself to the necessities of the time and the occasion.

In accepting my new responsibilities it is probably fortunate, though it did not seem so at the time, that I had little opportunity to go into all of the details concerned with the critical negotiations, discussions and actions in which I was soon to participate. Probably if I had had a full realization of the enormity of the task and its requirements, I would have suffered considerably in morale. As it is, I have reason to be really very grateful for the generous support which has been given me and the sympathetic understanding with which my various efforts have been regarded.

I will say right now that the greatest problem I feel we have to deal with is in bringing the American public to a general understanding of the conditions involved at home and abroad which influence all negotiations and therefore all efforts to reestablish the peace and prosperity of the world. Prejudiced points of view are of course objectionable in all such matters, but it is very hard to avoid a degree of prejudice under real provocation, and particularly when one is remote from the scene of the difficulties. Also it is very difficult to reduce the problems to a simplicity of statement that is understandable to our citizens generally. I can judge this I think rather accurately by my own difficulties when I first took up the burdens of preparation for the meetings in Moscow. That experience, incidentally, has guided my language to a considerable extent in the various public statements I have had to make. State papers and state pronouncements must be couched in diplomatic, at least dignified phraseology, and unless one is a master of the English language, such as Mr. Churchill for example, it is very difficult to combine these requirements with the urgent necessity of making impressively clear to the ordinary citizen the matters under discussion.

These gatherings of the executive heads of the states on which our government is founded are emphatic reminders of the function of the states in our political life. That function has a very special significance today when one considers the present world problems.

Thinking back on the developments of our federal union: on the doubts and difficulties which preceded the final union of the colonies, on the remarkable productive effort which followed on the solution of the early difficulties, and on the high degree to which the states have continued to maintain their own individual personality and institutions, Americans should have a keen and sympathetic understanding for the efforts now under way in Europe to overcome the limitations of national barriers in the approach to a solution for common economic problems. And their understanding will strongly influence, in fact will determine, the decisions which this country will be called upon to take with relation to the outcome of those discussions.

There is no blinking the fact that this country now stands at a turning point in its relations to its traditional friends among the nations of the old world. Either it must finish the task of assisting these countries to adjust themselves to the changed demands of a new age, or it must reconcile itself to seeing them move in directions which are consistent neither with their own traditions nor with those of this country. In this latter case, the United States would be faced with a radical alteration of its own position in the world. I ask you to consider most carefully the implication of such a development for the future prosperity and security of our country.

There are many who are in doubt as to the course which this nation should now pursue. They feel that the aid granted thus far to the countries of Europe has been piecemeal, and certainly not fully effective. And they wonder whether we are pursuing the right course.

These reactions are understandable. It is true that the efforts to put European countries back on their feet have thus far been largely to meet a series of crises and therefore of a somewhat disjointed character. It is also true that they have not accomplished all of the task which it was hoped they would accomplish, though I think they have been far more beneficial than is generally realized. The uncertainties of the immediate post-hostilities period were such that no one could have predicted accurately the course of developments or devised adequate, coordinated approaches to Europe’s problems. An immense amount has been accomplished by what this country and others have already done to help Europe overcome the effects of this war. However, a great part of the problem of postwar adjustment in Europe still awaits solution. No one clearly foresaw, and no one could have foreseen, the outlines and the magnitude of the problem while the smoke of battle still hung over the scene.

It is now possible to calculate more exactly the needs which must be met, and the sources from which they must be met, if this adjustment is to be completed. Furthermore, the urgent need for a carefully coordinated European effort is now widely recognized. The meeting in Paris called at the initiative of the Foreign Ministers of France and Great Britain constitutes an auspicious beginning to the accomplishment of this task. The representatives of European countries there assembled deserve to feel that their work will be followed in this country with genuine sympathy and good-will. For we are intimately concerned with the solution. 2

In Washington we are studying with the greatest of care the implications of the various possible solutions from the standpoint of the interests of the United States. But whatever course is adopted will affect the lives and fortunes of people in every State of the Union. It is imperative that the attitude taken by our Government toward this problem, as in all great questions of foreign affairs, be in intimate accord with the feelings of the nation at large. To make up its mind this country will need facts. One of the results of the meeting being held in Paris and of the studies now being made by the Government will be to bring out all the facts. With the facts before them I am confident of the response of the American people.

With your help I feel it will be possible for our Government to find a course of action fully consistent with our own national interests and yet equally considerate of the incalculable stake which this country has in the preservation of European civilization. 3

GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)

1. Marshall delivered some off-the-record luncheon remarks at the July 4, 1945, conference at the Mackinac Island, Michigan, resort. The editors have found no transcript of that talk.

2. On June 6, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin had contacted French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault and arranged for a conference in Paris on the seventeenth to consider the ideas Marshall had put forth in his Harvard address. On June 18, Bevin and Bidault invited Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov to meet with them, and arrangements were made for conversations to take place in Paris beginning June 27. By June 29 both the British and French foreign ministers were expressing pessimism about Soviet intentions. “Molotov clearly does not wish this business to succeed,” Bidault told US ambassador to France Jefferson Caffery, “but on the other hand his hungry satellites are smacking their lips in expectation of getting some of your money. He [Molotov] is obviously embarrassed.” Bevin, the ambassador reported, asserted that “Molotov is dragging his feet. However Bidault and I gave him to understand yesterday that we are determined in one way or another to go ahead with this with or without him.” (Foreign Relations, 1947, 3: 301.)

At the final meeting on July 3, Molotov vigorously attacked the proposal for a response to the US initiative as leading to domination of Europe’s small powers by its big powers, interference with national sovereignty, and one that, if persisted in, “would result not in the unification or reconstruction of Europe but a division of Europe into two groups.” It was the Soviet Union that was dividing Europe into two groups, Bidault retorted. (Ibid., p. 306.) On July 4, Britain and France sent invitations to twenty-two European countries (excluding Spain and the USSR) to attend a meeting in Paris of the Conference on European Reconstruction, to begin on July 12. All countries in which communists predominated rejected the invitation, as did Finland and Czechoslovakia, leaving sixteen nations to attend: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. The conference established the Committee of European Economic Cooperation (CEEC) to gather information on European requirements and the availability of supplies. The inquiry included the Western zones of Germany, although the occupation authorities there were not represented on the conference’s technical committees. The CEEC’s primary task, Bidault explained, was to organize European efforts in such a way as to limit the need for US funds to what the conferees could not provide themselves. Simultaneously, however, cooperation was limited by the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of the individual states. (William Adams Brown Jr., and Redvers Opie, American Foreign Assistance [Washington: Brookings Institution, 1953], pp. 131–34.)

3. This speech was one of many that Marshall would make around the country in support of the European Recovery Program. “I worked on that as hard as though I was running for the Senate or the presidency,” he later said. “That’s what I’m proud of, that part of it…. It was just a struggle from start to finish…. I traveled all over the country…. [T]he idea wasn’t so much—in fact that is very little—but it’s the execution that was the great trouble, and that posed a very heavy task.” (George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, ed. Larry I. Bland, 3d ed. [Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1996], pp. 556–58.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 172-176.