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Confidential Print: North America, 1824-1961

Introduction

Confidential Print: North America includes the following classes from The National Archives, Kew in their entirety:

CO 880/1-32 North America, 1839-1914

CO 884/1-38 West Indies, 1826-1961

FO 414/1-278 North America, 1824-1941

FO 461/1-13 America, 1942-1956

FO 462/1-10 USA, 1947-1956

 

Nature and Scope


Nature of the material

  • Reports
  • Dispatches
  • Descriptions of leading political personalities
  • Weekly political summaries
  • Monthly economic reports

 

Scope of the collection

This collection covers a broad sweep of history from c. 1824 to 1961, taking in the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America.

CO 880/1-32 spans the years 1839-1914 and is primarily focused on Canada. It includes topics such as the birth of the railways, fisheries, border disputes, the Hudson’s Bay Company, clergy reserves, trade, the Treaty of Washington, Native Americans, shipping.

CO 884/1-38 covers the years 1826-1961 and focuses on the Caribbean. Topics such as slavery and apprenticeship, trade, economy, agriculture, boundary disputes, the Morant Bay rebellion, troops, military expenditure, indentured labour, health and disease, finance, and communication are all covered.

FO 414/1-278 covers a vast array of subjects from the years 1824-1941 including:

  • Prohibition
  • Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between US and Germany
  • Conference on electrical communications
  • Canadian claim to territories lying north of the Canadian mainland as far as the North Pole
  • Liquor smuggling
  • Reports on the Ku Klux Klan and its declining membership and influence
  • The League of Nations
  • US financial position
  • Progress of anti-lynching filibuster
  • The US and the European situation, including "Text of a message sent by the President to Herr Hitler and by Secretary of State to Signor Mussolini"
  • World War II
  • Lend-lease

FO 461/1-13 covers both North and South America over the time period 1942-1956, and includes:

  • The text of President Roosevelt's broadcast address regarding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the entrance of the USA into the war
  • USA and WWII
  • US relations with Canada, e.g. removal of customs and administrative barriers standing in the way of joint war production
  • Anglo-US co-operation in WWII
  • Nazi activities in Chile
  • Columbia and WWII
  • Review of Argentina’s world outlook and policy
  • Financial situation in Venezuela

 

FO 462/1-10 covers the USA from 1947 to 1956. Topics covered include:

  • The aftermath of World War II
  • The rise of Communism
  • Measures taken by the US government against members of the Communist party and their sympathisers
  • McCarthyism
  • The atomic bomb
  • Strikes
  • US policy towards China
  • Racial desegregation in the US
  • The hydrogen bomb
  • "Atoms for peace" conference
  • Ireland: Mr de Valera's visit to the US and the record of his main speeches on the subject of partition and lack of American response to his appeals

 

 

Highlights from the collection

Below are a few interesting selections from the documents, which help to illustrate the fascinating and diverse nature of the material. 

Racial desegregation in the US:
"In general, the last few months have seen a lessening of public discussion of this very serious problem. From May 1954, when the Supreme Court handed down its first decision on the illegality of segregation in the public schools, until March of this year, when the Autherine Lucy case and the Montgomery bus case both came to a head, tempers had been steadily rising on both sides. Segregationists were talking of open defiance of the Supreme Court, and anti-Segregationists of using Federal troops or Federal economic power to enforce its decisions. Such talk may still be heard but much less frequently than before, and only from the more irresponsible. Though the fundamental bitterness and obstinacy is still there, the dangers of extremism seem to have become apparent to both sides."

(FO 462/10)

 

Senator McCarthy: His career, present political power and prospects:
"A review of the political rise and recent activities of the Senator; the reasons for the tolerance of McCarthy and his methods by many elements in the US; "McCarthyism" not likely to reach a stage from which it can do permanent damage to the American body politic.""He relies primarily on personal propaganda and publicity, and by playing on the current prejudices and emotions of the American people, he has succeeded in creating single-handed an impression of intimidation and power""The harm which Mr McCarthy's activities are doing at the moment is considerable but it is limited in scope and its effect. It would be even more limited if the press were more restrained in the amount of space which they help to give him.""Above all "McCarthyism" as it is interpreted abroad, is having a damaging effect on the prestige of the US in foreign countries and particularly among its allies."

(FO 462/7)

 

General observations:
"Although 1948 will be remembered in this country as the year in which Mr Truman performed his election miracle, its salient feature, not only to the foreign observer but to Americans themselves, was the extent to which the "cold war" with the Soviet Union dominated public opinion and shaped the conduct of public affairs. Apart from the Presidential election, most of its major political events were related to the steadily sharpening conflict between the East and the West."

(FO 462/3)

 

The Great Powers:
Description of the factors which have caused the idea of Britain's inferiority to the US and the USSR to become prevalent among the American public. Consideration of what effect it is likely to exercise on Anglo-American relations.

(FO 461/4)

 

Notes on a three-week tour to South America:
T
he diversity of the countries and peoples of South America and their tremendous plans for development and construction; Peron and his regime; the influence of Peronism in the rest of South America; anti-Americanism; comments on the extent of Communist influence; the various British communities; the outlook for foreign capital; the English language; the British Council and the BBC; United Kingdom representation in South America.

(FO 461/11)

 

Prohibition, and dissatisfaction among labouring classes of New Jersey and New York:
"As a result of prohibition, according to figures widely circulated in the press, 116,000 liquor stores will be closed. Capital invested in the brewing and liquor business to the extent of 1,294,000,000 dollars will be affected, 233 distilleries and 992 breweries will be put out of business, and 794,000 men will be forced to seek other employment."

(FO 414/215)

 

The USA, World War II and public opinion:
"American opinion is still I believe, almost universally anti-Nazi. In addition it is now almost more strongly anti-Soviet. It is to a much less degree pro-French or pro-British. There are formidable elements, which are definitely anti-British, which take every opportunity to misrepresent our motives and attack our methods. There is some evidence that there has lately been a growth of anti-British feeling stimulated by these agencies but resting partly on the bad conscience that Great Britain is pulling her weight and the US is not, and partly on the feeling that Great Britain is keeping the war going while the rest want peace. This does not affect the real matter of American policy, but needs to be watched and countered where possible."

(FO 414/276)