No reference was made in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals to colonial questions, and this, the most important omission among the subjects covered in the Covenant of the League of Nations, brought forth immediate comment. There was, first of all, the problem of those territories held under mandate as part of the League of Nations system. They were all under the administration of members of the United Nations, except for the former German islands in the North Pacific, which were under mandate to Japan. If the new organization was to supplant the League, some formal changes would, in any case, be required.
A second problem was the disposition of such territories as had been taken from Italy and would be taken from Japan. If the self-denying ordinances of the Atlantic Charter and the Cairo Declaration were to be taken literally, there would be territories to dispose of which could hardly be turned into colonies.
Finally, the unfortunate experiences of many European states during the earlier years of the war in the Asiatic and Pacific territories under their control had caused a large amount of discussion of colonial questions. The belief had been voiced in various quarters that colonial administration needed modernizing, that self-government of the natives was not always their goal, and that colonial problems should be considered as international problems and not merely problems of individual colonial powers. Some of these powers looked upon the United States as the center of anti-colonial feeling, and even went so far as to suspect the United States Government of a desire to force changes on them. It was held by some groups in the United States that, as these colonies would be freed largely by American arms, the United States thereby would acquire some responsibility for their future. As the war situation improved and the colonial powers began to think about a peacetime future, they started to make tentative schemes for colonial reform which might avert any sort of outside intervention or internationalization. The British Colonial Development and Welfare Bill, the French proposal to unite all colonies in a “union” with the metropole, the Dutch proposal for a federalized state, all seemed related to the anti-imperial trend of the early days of the war.