Continuing our “Statehood Countdown,” we’re looking at a document from the Congressional Record, July 27, 1956. E.L. Bartlett (the Alaskan equivalent to Hawaii’s Territorial Delegate John Burns), addressed the House regarding the issue of Alaska’s and Hawaii’s submission to the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Contained in this document is Assistant Secretary of State Thurston B. Morton’s response to Senator Watkins, who, three years earlier in 1953, submitted a request to Secretary of State Dean Acheson to have Alaska and Hawaii removed from the United Nations list of NSGT. In his response, Morton reports that although Congress maintained a distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories, the United Nations did not. Hawaii and Alaska could only be removed from the UN list of NSGT through an application of self-governance, which at the time of this correspondence meant an application of self-determination.

Extension of Remarks of Hon. E.L. Bartlett Delegate from Alaska in the House of Representatives Friday, July 27, 1956

Mr. Bartlett. Mr. Speaker, on July 20 last the distinguished minority leader of the United States Senate, Senator Knowland, of California, expressed to the Senate his amazement and concern that the United States under the United Nations Charter is required to furnish regular reports to the United Nations concerning Alaska and Hawaii. Under Article 73, Chapter XI, of the charter, it is held that Alaska and Hawaii are non-self-governing Territories. That is certainly true. But it is likewise true that they are incorporated, organized territories of the United States and as such are constitutionally part of the Union.

I was delighted to learn that Senator Knowland took such an emphatic position in seeking to bring to an end the furnishing of these reports. I trust his efforts will be successful. It must be sadly admitted, however, that earlier attempts in this same direction failed completely. To the best of my knowledge, it was Senator Arthur V. Watkins, of Utah, who in the early winter of 1953 first called upon the Secretary of State to discontinue without delay such reporting. For my part, I followed in the next few days with a letter to the Secretary of State endorsing Senator Watkins’s recommendation. The letter which was directed to Senator Watkins by Assistant Secretary of State Thurston B. Morton and copy of which was furnished me by the Department of State was about as unresponsive a communication as I have ever had come to my attention. The State Department wrote to Senator Watkins in these words:

My Dear Senator Watkins: The Department has noted with great interest the points which you raise in your letter of February 10, 1953, concerning reporting by the United States to the United Nations on Territories under the administration of their government.

The Department was glad to learn that you favor the decision recently communicated to the United Nations that, in view of the self-governing status within the Federal Union attained by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico under the constitution of July 25, 1952, it is no longer appropriate or necessary to provide information on Puerto Rico under the provisions of chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations.

With Regard to Alaska and Hawaii, the ultimate status to be attained within the American Federal system is evidently statehood. The Department of State has always considered that, with the attainment of statehood for these Territories, a full measure of self-government in the language of Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter will have been obviously achieved and there will be no question of further reporting to the United Nations. In this connection, it is noted that statehood for Hawaii is among the measures urged by President Eisenhower in his state of the Union message and ranks high on the legislative program of the current session of the Congress. It is also noted that bills have again been introduced proposing statehood for Alaska.

There is no question, as you point out in your letter, that Hawaii and Alaska, as incorporated Territories, are integral parts of the United States. The charter, however, makes no distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories and calls for the transmission of economic, social, and educational information for territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.

In 1946, on purely pragmatic ground, the United States considered that a broad interpretation of this charter obligation would not only cause no disadvantage but would encourage other members of the United Nations to transmit information on their territories on a similarly broad basis, and thus assist in rendering the charter effective in this important sphere. The decision to report to the United Nations on Hawaii and Alaska has remained unchanged in the absence of any modification since 1946 in the constitutional position and status of these Territories, which would lead the United States to cease reporting. The United States, it may be added, has actually received much favorable comment for the excellent administration of it Territories.

The Department is constantly reexamining the question of reporting to the United Nations on the United States Territories, and your suggestion regarding Hawaii and Alaska will be given further study in connection with this periodic review. A change in status in either case would, of course, bring your suggestion into immediate effect.

I replied to February 21 as follows:

Thank you for your letter of February 20 with which you were good enough to send me a copy of the letter addressed to Senator Watkins under date of February 19. Both these communications have to do with reporting by the United States to the United Nations in respect to the Territories of Alaska and Hawaii.

Since you have been in office such a short time that naturally you have not had the opportunity to look into matters such as this and also because as a former member of Congress you must have had your hackles rise upon receiving departmental letters whose weight is based only on wordage and not logic, please allow me to record a personal belief that the letter sent Senator Watkins is gobbledygook in its most elevated form.

I was particularly taken by the phrase that the United States in 1946 “on purely pragmatic grounds” decided to report to the United Nations on these Territories, which are integral parts of the United States. Purely pragmatic grounds is wonderful. Perhaps it would be just as well, though, for the United States to look at this realistically and become unpragmatic. Whoever was the actual author of the letter sent to Senator Watkins inserted by way of added dividend “The United States, it may be added, has actually received much favorable comment for the excellent administration off its Territories.” May I call upon you to supply by chapter and verse the notation of such favorable comment. This would be most interesting. Actually, I would be much more content if the Department of State under the new administration were to cease furnishing to the United Nations precise statistical information which might be useful to Soviet Russia, a nation which naturally is most interested in everything that goes on in the Territory so close to its own Siberia. Better yet, grant us statehood and there would be no question about any of this.

Mr. Speaker, it is not only improper that Territories, which, as Senator Watkins pointed out, have been brought into the Union, should be reported on to the United Nations but there are certain inherent dangers in doing so. There is always the possibility that information might be furnished in connection with these highly strategic areas that would be useful to a potential enemy. Alaska is one of the principle bastions of the United States. We do not tell our own people much about what is going on there regarding defense. Why, then, do we report to the United Nations? This practice should be stopped without delay. I am grateful to Senators Watkins and Knowland for their help.

go to #17 in the countdown

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