Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"Mrs. Roosevelt, Ministers representing our allied countries, High Commissioners, Ministers of State, Ladies and Gentlemen:

"We, to-day, acting on behalf of all the people of Australia, enjoy a very great privilege in extending to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt a hearty welcome to our country. We welcome her, not only in her own right - a very great right that she has established for herself in her own country and, indeed, throughout the world - but also as the ambassadress of her husband and the people of the United States of America.

"At present, our two countries are sharing the task undertaken by both of them, not only of preserving the liberties that we ourselves enjoy but also of maintaining the liberties of free men the world over. We have espoused the greatest cause that has even been given to man to support, and jointly we are giving to it everything that we have; all our resources, the valour of our manhood, and the devotion of our womanhood, have gone into the pool upon which the United Nations have drawn in order that those who sought to destroy freedom in the world may be defeated. We have passed through dark and perilous days. There were occasions when it looked as though the preparations which the enemy had made, and our own unpreparedness, gave to the aggressors an advantage which might well have been so complete as to make them invincible. But we girded ourselves for the test. We managed to establish strong-posts of resistance, and we made those so powerful that they have now become the bases from which the United Nations launch their offensive against those who have destroyed the peace of men. The times have changed, both for us and for the aggressors. Where at first we had been engaged in holding our enemies back we are now, thanks to the mutuality of the United Nations, engaged in driving them home; and the righteousness of our cause has so inspired and strengthened our efforts that now we need only the qualities of stamina and endurance to bring victory to complete fruition. And it is not a cheap victory that we seek; our aim is to destroy the forces which have menaced civilization, and, having destroyed them, to rebuild our own nations, do justice to those who have served us so well, and also plan to make the whole world a place in which decency, dignity, and liberty may be maintained by honorable men and women.

"You, Mrs. Roosevelt, come here not only as the wife of the President of one of the greatest of the powers that are associated with our common cause, but also as a personality whose service in that cause has marked you out as being amongst the most distinguished figures of our age. Your own country probably knows you best and, consequently, very properly may be said to respect you most; nevertheless, in Australia you have won a place which not only causes us to admire you, but also, if you will permit me to say so, to have an affection for you which, I am quite sure, symbolizes the real nature of the links that exist between Australia and the United States of America. I know that you will thoroughly understand that I speak of Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as a part of the British Empire, with His Majesty the King the symbol that unites all 'British territories and the peoples thereof. We are a part of that great Commonwealth of Nations with which your great country is not only in complete alliance but also, we believe, in kinship, in the espousal of great causes which words cannot adequately describe. The men who have come to Australia from your country have won our gratitude because of the services they have rendered to us and the associations they have had with our own fighting men. The gallant leaders whom you have given to us have distinguished themselves in our service and in yours; moreover, they look and behave so like us that sometimes we wonder how the historical separation that exists actually occurred. But the new unities that have been generated more than compensate for any divisions which history has produced.

"I would say, too, that we have endeavoured in this land manfully to do our duty to a cause that was larger than our own. We have considered that, in promoting our own security, we were, in fact, contributing to the safety of the United States of America, as well as maintaining the authority of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the world. We believe that we are warranted in saying quite humbly, that in this struggle we have been animated by a nobility of principle, which, if it were understood in the world, would win respect for us. We believe that you will discover that; and we know that, having discovered it, you will be an additional interpreter of Australia in your own great country to your own great people. So we welcome you here with the warmest of feelings and the greatest of respect. Anything that we can do to make your sojourn here pleasant, to aid you in your studies, or to meet any other desires you may have, you have only to make known, and not only the Government but also the whole of the people of this country will regard themselves as privileged to meet your wishes.

"Because this occasion is historic the Government, acting in behalf of the Australian people, desires to mark it by the presentation to you of a tangible expression of the goodwill that we have for yourself and your country. We are not rich in tradition; nevertheless, we have some very valuable records. Probably the most valuable of all our historic possessions is the journal of the first voyage to these seas in the Endeavour made by Captain James Cook. This record was kept in his own handwriting. Hitherto there has been no copy of it. But we have had a photographic replica made from the original in the National Library at Canberra for presentation by the Government and people of Australia to the Government and people of the United States of America. We consider that it is particularly appropriate that a reproduction of this document should be housed in the United States of America, because Captain James Cook was not merely an Australian figure, and not merely a British figure; he was the greatest of all the navigators of the eighteenth century, and as such was, in the fullest sense, a world figure. We regard him as the Columbus of the Pacific. May I remind you, Mrs. Roosevelt, that he discovered Hawaii and the Sandwich Islands, the latter being the venue of his tragic death. This journal is in every true sense a personal record. It was kept throughout in his own handwriting, and was passed on by him to his wife, in whose possession it remained for over 50 years. Finally, it passed into the National Library of the Commonwealth of Australia, which we regard as its most fitting resting place. To-day the Pacific, so thoroughly explored by Cook, no longer divides but rather links our two nations. It is our hope that the community of spirit, forged in war, will endure into the days of peace, and that this presentation may be one small link in a chain which will draw us ever closer together.