These drawings are from a couple of sketchbook-journals carried on visits to the beautiful gardens of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, Washington, DC. However, I post them not for the sake of those lovely gardens themselves (to which the sketches don’t do justice) but in honor of today’s anniversary of the ratification of the charter for the brand-new United Nations. Perhaps some of you folks out there already knew that the foundation of its charter had been hammered out at Dumbarton Oaks. I only learned it recently.
Dumbarton Oaks, built in 1801 as a private home, was purchased in 1920 by diplomat Robert Bliss and his wife Mildred. With Beatrix Ferrand they created the fabulous gardens and renovated the house, adding a music room for concerts and lectures, and a museum for their art collection. In 1940 they gave the property to Harvard University.
Although in 1940 the United States had not yet even officially entered the Second World War, entities private and governmental were already discussing the possible creation of a post-war international peacekeeping organization—but secretly, because of the strong isolationist, anti-League of Nations element existing in the country. Isn’t it amazing what significant matters we managed to keep secret in a pre-Internet era?
FDR first offered the optimistic term “United Nations” to refer to such an organization in a 1942 Declaration composed at the Arcadia Conference by the USA, the UK, the USSR, China, and twenty-two other countries to lay out their common goals during and after the war. Other nations signed on later. Bliss, speaking for Harvard, offered the use of Dumbarton Oaks as a possible location for future talks. This setting was deemed suitable, and the offer was accepted.
So, between August and October, 1944, representatives of the USSR, the UK, the USA, and China (although never with the USSR and China at the same table at the same time!) gathered at Dumbarton Oaks to wander the lawns, dine in the Orangery, and sit in the music room for a series of discussions. At their conclusion, the four nations had agreed upon a series of proposals which, along with provisions born of the Yalta conference, formed the basis for the new United Nations Charter, which was signed in San Francisco on October 24th, 1945.
Among the goals were these: The development of friendly international relations. The strengthening and maintenance of international peace and security. The removal of threats to peace through collective cooperation. And collective measures to solve economic and humanitarian problems.
What an impressive and inspiring global perspective, especially for a species that only a few thousand years earlier routinely regarded an unfamiliar tribe as the enemy. (This antiquated response is occasionally observed even now.) May we see these goals one day fully realized.