CHURCHILL, Winston S. and Franklin D. ROOSEVELT (1882-1945). Printed broadside of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's verse "Sail on, O Ship of State!...," printed at Churchill's request and circulated by him at the Atlantic Conference, August 1941. 8 3/4 x 6½ in., lithographic broadside in gray, black and orange inks. Showing a galleon under full sail at top with a large capital "S," containing the verse: "Sail on, O ship of state, Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate !." An explanatory note identifies the text as "The Longfellow verse in Mr. Roosevelt's message to Mr. Churchill." SIGNED BY THE PRESIDENT ("Franklin D Roosevelt") AND THE PRIME MINISTER ("Winston S. Churchill") at top and bottom edges respectively, the signatures slightly pale, neatly mounted and enclosed in an ornate giltwood frame.
ONE OF A FEW JOINTLY SIGNED COPIES OF THIS SPECIALLY-PRINTED BROADSIDE
A memento of the close personal connections between the American President and the British Prime Minister in connection with the secret Atlantic Conference, held August 9-12, 1941 on a warship anchored in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. At that historic meeting, the two leaders and their military aides agreed upon critical policies for the conduct of a joint war against Germany, even though the U.S. was still officially neutral. The meetings culminated in the Atlantic Charter, a declaration of principles issued a few days after the conference. Often compared to Wilson's Fourteen Points, the Charter laid the foundation for the United Nations Declaration, signed by 26 nations in January 1942.
Roosevelt had copied the stanza of Longfellow, from memory, for Churchill on 19 January 1941, the day before his Third Inauguration, and forwarded it with a personal letter addressed to "a certain Naval person." In his letter, Roosevelt explained his conviction that "this verse applies to you people as well as to us" (see FDR: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945, ed. Elliott Roosevelt, 2:1109). "Roosevelt never made a more graceful or effective gesture than that" (R. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p.234). The letter and the verse were hand-carried by Wendell Wilkie to London and given by Hopkins to the Prime Minister. Churchill in turn had this decorative broadside printed, and when he arrived in Newfoundland for the conference with the President brought two copies to be signed "one for himself and one for the President" (Warren F. Kimball, Forged In War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War, p.98).
One of the two broadsides carried by Churchill to the Conference was later given to John A. Roosevelt; that copy was sold by Christie's in The Roosevelt Era, 14 February 2001, lot 178, $64,625. The appearance of the present copy, similarly signed, suggests that other participants in the Conference may have received copies as well.