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Marshall plan: US aid to rebuild postwar Europe – archive, 1947

Better use of US aid to Europe: “unite to plan economic salvation”

6 June 1947

Cambridge (Massachusetts)
Mr George Marshall, secretary of state, speaking at Harvard University to-day, [5 June] called on the countries of Europe to unite in planning their economic salvation and warned them that the United States cannot do much more to alleviate Europe’s plight until a joint programme has been agreed on by a number of European nations, if not by all of them. He went on:

It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a programme designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in drafting a European programme and of later support of such a programme so far as it may be practical to do so.

Europe would require outside help for the next three or four years, but the remedy for European difficulties lay in restoring the confidence of the people in the economic future of their own countries and of all Europe. He continued:

It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.

United States assistance should not be doled out as crises develop. Any assistance the government may render in future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative. Any government that is willing to assist it in the task of recovery will find full cooperation on the part of the United States government. Any government which manoeuvres to block the recovery of other countries cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States.

Mr Marshall described the world situation today as “very serious.” Reviewing the economic breakdown in Europe during and after the war, he said “The rehabilitation of the economic structure of Europe quite evidently will require a much longer time and greater effort than had been foreseen.”

The speech interpreted

Mr Marshall’s speech at Harvard is regarded here as marking the adoption as official United States policy of a much-discussed plan to put aid to European countries on a continental instead of an individual basis. The possibility of a speedy European response, possibly involving a European economic conference, is being discussed.

The speech is regarded by diplomatists as the most important creative policy pronouncement since the president proclaimed in March the Truman doctrine of aiding countries considered to be threatened by communism, and is interpreted as a positive constructive application of the doctrine.

America is seen as seeking to avert an economic collapse of Europe and an inevitable communist aftermath by encouraging the construction of a more closely integrated European economy. It is thought that without some such movement by European nations Congress will not appropriate any substantial funds for aid to Europe.

The Observer, 8 June 1947
By A Student of Europe

American aid plans: Europe must take the initiative

13 June 1947

Washington, 12 June
Mr Marshall, secretary of state, made it clear at his press conference to-day that until European nations responded to his call to them to unite to formulate a scheme for restoring the continent’s economy he would make no further statements on the matter of any diplomatic approach. He repeatedly emphasised that the initiative must come from Europe. Mr Marshall said he meant to include both Britain and Russia when he used the term “Europe” in his Harvard speech. He meant “everything west of Asia.” Mr Marshall said Mr Churchill’s advocacy of a United States of Europe proposal had influenced him in developing his proposal.

Speaking at Long Beach, Mr Benjamin Cohen, a state department Counselor, said Europe might require up to £6,000,000,000 in outside assistance during the next four years to prevent starvation and check the danger of dictatorships. Mr Cohen, who is one of Mr Marshall’s leading advisers, made it plain that he thought Britain should share in whatever aid programmes were worked out to help Europe as a whole.

President Truman signs the Economic Assistance Act, a programme for the reconstruction of Europe 19 April 1949.
President Truman signs the Economic Assistance Act, a programme for the reconstruction of Europe 19 April 1949. Photograph: UIG/Getty Images

Editorial: The Marshall plan

5 April 1948

The great debate is over, and the Marshall plan has begun its work. On Friday both Houses of Congress approved the final form of the Foreign Assistance Bill; on Saturday the President signed it. Ships leaving New York to-day carry the first cargoes debited to the £1,325,000,000 which the United States will contribute in the coming 12 months towards the economic reconstruction of Europe. This weekend may prove to have been a turning point in the world’s history; Mr Truman was not speaking with improper arrogance when he called the measure “perhaps the greatest venture in constructive statesmanship that any nation has ever taken.” It is the constructive, or reconstructive, aspect of the plan which must be grasped and remembered and followed.

The essence of Mr Marshall’s great conception proclaimed last June was that the united effort of the nations of Europe to rebuild their broken economies with each other’s help would call forth a generous response from the United States. The 16 nations have begun that task at Paris, and the American people has magnificently expressed its confidence in them to carry it through. For any nation to accept American aid as a substitute either for its own necessary effort or for full and unselfish cooperation with its neighbours would betray that confidence and invite a disastrous estrangement. Within our own sphere, all the economic problems which faced us a week ago are still there, flinty as ever: increased production, better distributed man-power, the dangers of rising costs and of creeping inflation. The Marshall plan gives us the chance to overcome these; not to escape from them. As Senator Vandenberg said in introducing the bill into the Senate, “Our dollars are no substitute for their own will.”

Now that it has come about, the Foreign Assistance Act seems almost miraculous.
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