6-104 Speech to Rio Conference, August 20, 1947

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 20, 1947

Subject: Postwar

August 20, 1947
Petropólis, Brazil

I welcome this opportunity to participate with so many distinguished statesmen in the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, under the direction of the permanent chairman, His Excellency Dr. Raul Fernandes. It gives me an opportunity to renew friendships with many of you, and to meet others for the first time. May I express to you particularly, Mr. Chairman—and through you to His Excellency President Dutra—the appreciation and admiration which I, my associates, and my Government, feel for the generous hospitality of Brazil in its role as host to this Conference.2

While this is my first experience in a Pan-American conference, I did have a rather intimate experience in conferences with your military representatives during the war years. It was my honor and pleasure on one occasion in 1940 to have all of your Chiefs of Staff as my guests.3 So I do not feel quite a stranger to the proceedings of this gathering.

We are here to add to the strength of the structure for peaceful stability in this hemisphere. The foundations of this structure have already been laid at Buenos Aires, Lima, Panama, Habana, and Mexico City and we are molding it within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations, which our Governments joined in writing. The frame of reference for this meeting has therefore been clearly established.

The immediate task we face at this Conference is to draft the treaty contemplated in the Act of Chapultepec. In that act we jointly declared that every attack by a state against an American state shall be considered as an act of aggression against all, and we provided for collective sanction against the aggressor. This principle of collective responsibility for our common defense is a natural development of inter-American collaboration. We have been for years a community of nations, with deep traditions of cooperation, and mutual respect. We turn now to the drafting of a treaty to establish a community responsibility, to defend by collective action any member of our regional group that may be the victim of aggression.

This is but one step. Our broad objectives require that we simplify and make clear the exact procedures of pacific settlement whereby such inter-American disputes as may arise can be effectively settled through peaceful means. At Bogota, in January, we shall formulate the treaty designed to give effect to that purpose. This treaty, together with the comprehensive organic pact on the inter-American system and the treaty we conclude at this conference, will strengthen the principle of collective responsibility, and the rule of law in our international affairs. The results of our labors will demonstrate to all the world that peoples, and nations, who really want peace can have peace by living in an atmosphere of increasing cooperative action and good will. We all recognize, I am sure, that we are living in a sick and suffering world. By the grace of God through the development of the strong bonds of Pan-Americanism we have been spared the horrors and devastation of the war in our country-side. Perhaps distance from the scenes of the great tragedy makes us slow to comprehend the necessities. Nor do I think we are sufficiently aware of how vastly important to the future of the Old World is the unity of the New.

The grave political problems confronting the world today are largely due to the complete disruptions of normal economic and social relations. The extent of this confusion is much more marked in Europe and the East than in this hemisphere. Our problems are long-range peacetime problems requiring more intensive economic planning for the more efficient use of the tools of production and of the abundant resources at our disposal with which to raise the general standard of living of this hemisphere. The resources and technical skill of private enterprise, the resources of our Government and of international agencies such as the Pan-American Union, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, must be intelligently applied to the efficient and fair development of this productive capacity.4

The Government of the United States of America has assumed unusually heavy burdens in a determined effort to meet the minimum economic requirements of the areas devastated by war and now threatened with starvation and economic chaos. In assuming this burden we have not lost sight of the economic problems of the Western Hemisphere. As a matter of fact the economic rehabilitation of Europe is vital to the economy of this hemisphere. My Government will continue to take up economic questions with its sister republics and seek a sound basis for practical cooperation. Each of our countries must do its part in the achievement of this goal.

The economic problems caused by the war have developed political and moral problems in Europe and the east which cannot be ignored. We of the American Republics won our freedom in the name of democracy. We have fought for the dignity of the individual—an individual endowed with certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken from him by any law or decree, an individual whose standards of moral conduct are the essence of a peaceful world. But what is more important, we are devoted to the principle that states and nations should be bound by the same standards of moral conduct we set for the individual. Good faith and fair dealing, honesty and friendly cooperation, mutual respect and freedom of intercourse—these we expect of each other as individuals, these we should demand of each other as states. This is the basis of our fundamental belief in the equality of individuals, of the equality of states. We must reject encroachment upon the fundamental rights of the individual with the same determination that we reject any encroachment upon the fundamental rights of the state. I am confident that we all agree that the state exists for man, not man for the state—and that we abhor any limitations upon the freedom of expression of men throughout the world. For only when we have access to the thoughts of men, to the forces of public opinion free of coercion or connivance, only then can we develop a wholesome common interest while at the same time respecting separate national traditions.

We of the Americas, I think, have achieved this goal—we have no secrets from each other—we have confidence in our pledged words because we know the forces of public opinion from which they stem. We have, therefore, no fear and no mistrust in our mutual relation. We stand to all the world as an example of states striving to live in harmony, determined to abide by the same principles of moral conduct we demand of the individual citizen.

With a foundation of these principles we can have faith and assurance that we can solve the problems that may present themselves in the years to come. Today, at Rio de Janeiro, our concern is with mutual defense and security; tomorrow, at Bogota, we shall go on to reorganize and strengthen our inter-American system and to make it a more effective agency of cooperation in the pursuit of our common interests. With good will and mutual respect for one another both of the objectives will be attained. And the world will learn, I hope, a great lesson.

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

1. Marshall’s speech was presented during the third plenary session at the Hotel Quitandinha at 4:00 p.m. His remarks were followed by those of the president of Guatemala and the foreign ministers of the Dominican Republic and Peru. Drama was supplied for the occasion by the arrival, ten minutes prior to Marshall’s address, of Eva Perón, the wife of Argentina’s president. (Foreign Relations, 1947, 8: 52.)

2. Raul Fernandes was Brazil’s foreign minister and Eurico Gaspar Dutra its president.

3. The Latin American chiefs of staff had visited Washington, DC, in October 1940. See photo #34 in Papers of GCM, 2: following p. 516. For General Marshall’s goodwill tour to Brazil in 1939, see ibid., 1: 668, 715–20.

4. The International Conference of American States (Pan-American Union from 1910 to 1948) was founded in 1889 to encourage better political, cultural, and commercial relations between the participating countries of North and South America. Its headquarters are in Washington, DC.

At the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, delegates from the forty-four participating nations established the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IBRD (World Bank) would provide financial assistance to countries suffering from poor economic development or war destruction. The IMF would maintain exchange rates and provide short-term assistance to countries with temporary deficits in order to maintain global financial stability and trade.

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. 199-201.