Arcadia Conference, Fulton Missouri, General Douglas MacArthur, Jennie Jerome, Mayflower descendants, Roosevelt, Special Relationship, UK - US relationships, UK /US politics, UK and US Special Relationship, US History, Winston Churchill, World War II
Today a Cross (very it seems) Party Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs has suggested that perhaps the Special Relationship has had its day. We should move on, it’s not working, it’s not you, it’s me….
For those who are not aware what the “Special Relationship” is, it harks back, as so many things that have gone wrong for Britain in the last century do, to Winston S. Churchill. He invented the phrase, which he delivered in November 1945 at Fulton Missouri, to provide the British with a fictitious fig leaf to cover the fact that by the end of the Second War they stood bankrupted, and in hoc to the USA with their nation in ruins and the Empire either gone, or handing in it’s dinner plate. We hoped that we might cling onto influence through this relationship. We thought that we might speak wisdom to power, and guide the fledgling superpower even as the Greeks advised their barbarian Roman masters. The enduring picture of this relationship usually is that of the picture above with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. An image already being overwhelmed by events, even as it was being taken.
It was a very British fiction designed to cover the wreckage of empire. I suspect the Americans gave the term little if any thought.
There was never much to base this special relationship on. Historically the British, as a people, had never been very trusting of the Yanks. At best they blow hot and cold about their country cousins made good. They can, depending on age, cite any number of reasons not to trust the USA, from betrayal of the League of Nations, through war debts, right up to The Falklands, when it is insisted the United States gave every assistance short of actual help, and right through to today and its extradition treaties, International Courts, and torture. Churchill was seeking to sugar what was, for some, a very bitter pill.
For an entire generation Suez gave the lie to this “Special Relationship” and America never quite got her gloss back in their eyes.
However, as this blog is concerned with family connections, I wondered if there might be any connection between the two leaders of the Empire and the Republic at the time of the Second World War. And there is! Roosevelt and Churchill are sixth cousins. Churchill’s mother Jennie Jerome was descended from the “Mayflower” passengers, as was Roosevelt (thirteen times over!).
They first met at the Arcadia Conference, held in Washington between December 22, 1941 and January 1942, just after America came into the war It was held to decide how the war was to be fought, and essentially in what order and who was to do what. Interestingly there was a third man present, whose influence in his own field was almost as important and his relationship to the first two is not so well known.
General Douglas MacArthur was wheeled out of retirement to direct the Pacific theatre and he was to become at the end of the war, Proconsul of Japan. He even entertained ideas of running for President himself. And he too was also a cousin of both Roosevelt and Churchill. Three cousins who quietly divided up the world for the period of the war.
As to it being a “special” relationship? It’s probably only special in the sense that my daughter calls me special!