5

16th December, 1924

Dear Mr. Bruce,

FRENCH SECURITY AND THE PROTOCOL

Discussion on the Protocol [1] and cognate subjects is being actively continued, although it is universally admitted in confidence that the Protocol in anything like its present form is a dead letter as far as we are concerned.

It is held, however, that by reason of the tone of our conversations with France since 1919, we are morally bound to give effect to some instrument which will relieve the mind of France with regard to security.

The course of negotiations with France in this regard is concisely covered in several Foreign Office and Committee of Imperial Defence documents, which I hope to be able to enclose to you with this letter. They take you from the Peace Conference, where France wanted the left bank of the Rhine, but was 'fobbed off' with the stillborn tripartite Treaty [2], through the negotiations leading up to the proposed Treaty of Mutual Guarantee in 1922 [3], and its child, the proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance in 1923 [4], out of which came the Protocol.

We have for various reasons rejected all these attempts to create an instrument in an endeavour to facilitate disarmament (what we want) and at the same time give France security against aggression. It is felt that the time is approaching when we must be active instead of passive in the matter.

Sir William Tyrrell (Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) recently said to me, 'no real peace or settling down in Europe is possible until France is satisfied as to her security. Until her mind is at rest on this point she will be uneasy and nervous, and not in a good mood for negotiation or compromise in Europe or in other parts of the world. Only America or Britain can give her the necessary guarantees. America will not help and so it is up to us. America looks askance at the Protocol but would not be averse to our entering into an agreement with France, giving limited and definite guarantees of assistance against aggression, without the entangling commitments of the Protocol, the carrying out of which would amost certainly involve us with America. For us, the commitments under the Protocol are definite, the advantages vague. Even if we accepted the Protocol, it would have to be with the stultifying mental reservation that we would employ our fleet only in so far as it did not antagonise America.' He ended by saying that all our commitments in Europe must be looked at from the point of view of our friendly relations with America, as the greatest world guarantee for peace was really a proper understanding with America, and even this need not be on paper as is essential with Latin races.

A meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence was held to-day at this Office, at which it was decided to cable all Dominions saying that it was proposed to hold a Conference with the Dominion Prime Ministers in early March, on the subject of the Protocol, and asking for your preliminary cabled comments on the Protocol by the end of January. [5] As the cable is unlikely to go for two days, I am cabling you at once to warn you.

In the meantime a committee has been formed to go thoroughly into the terms of the Protocol, broadly and in detail, to see if it can be amended to suit us; or if not to try and formulate the general lines on which such a document should run in order to meet both our views and those of France.

WAR GUILT

Headlam-Morley (Historical Adviser to Foreign Office) tells me that there is a lot of heavy work being done by German Historians and propagandists in their efforts to try and prove, by documentary evidence and otherwise, that Germany is wrongfully accused of being responsible for the War. A strong group, containing practically all the German Historians of note, is actively engaged in pamphleteering on the subject, and the frank publication (sic) of the principal documents in the Archives of the German Foreign Office is doubtless to this same end.

The danger in the movement (and undoubtedly the mainspring of it) is that if they can convince any considerable body of public opinion that they are right, they will have a moral lever for the amendment of the Covenant of the League, which is based on the assumption of Germany's guilt.

He tells me that they have had several articles to this end in the American publication 'Foreign Affairs', although I have not yet had time to look them up.

MEXICO

This country does not recognise the present Mexican Government who have lately, as you know, retaliated by withdrawing their consular representatives from the United Kingdom and the Dominions.

Vansittart (American Department, Foreign Office) tells me that there are two groups of opinion in this country on the subject of our recognition of Mexico. The commercial people, who want immediate unqualified recognition to facilitate trade, and the holders of Mexican Securities that have been repudiated, and who want 'recognition' to be withheld as a lever in the hands of our Government to try and eventually force Mexico to swap 'recognition' for 'payment of debts'.

I understand the question is a perennial one in Parliament here, and no doubt it will be aired in the new parliament.

Vansittart says we are under no great disabilities in our commercial dealings with Mexico by reason of the present 'non- recognition' position.

TANGIER

Although I have not yet had time to discuss this potential source of trouble with the Foreign Office, I have learned that Spain has failed in her campaign and that it is possible that we may get at cross purposes with France as to who is to step in, if and when Spain evacuates the territory. I understand that France now opposes the proposal of internationalisation.

EGYPT

The press may be said to support the Government in the attitude towards Egypt. The 'Manchester Guardian' hesitates a little, and points out the fact that Egypt was never a British possession so the term 'disloyalty' regarding the Egyptian extremists' attitude is hardly applicable. It is also pointed out that it is now harder than ever for us to get out of Egypt and give them the Independence that we have been promising them for so many years.

The position is still causing anxiety and several cables from Lord Allenby [6] come in daily.

The rather loose and harsh expressions used regarding irrigation areas are deprecated by the opposition and by a section of the press. Without doubt the proper meaning could have been conveyed in terms less liable to misunderstanding.

INFORMATION TO DOMINIONS

Hankey [7] recently said to me that there was good value in the actual presence of an Australian representative here even if he did nothing, as he acted as a constant reminder that Australia (and indeed other Dominions) should be kept fully informed, as that was the reason for his presence.

I do not think that the detailed reports of departments of State on the Protocol would have gone to you, nor the Print on French Security and several others, if one had not asked that they be sent. There is little or no objection raised to papers being sent, but they have not up to now seen the necessity.

On my approaching Hankey to-day to ask him if I could send out to you a complete set of papers dealing with French Security, he said at once that they all could and should go to all Dominions. He further said that in general if I 'gingered him up' (his own words) in this way about papers, he would see to it that they went off officially, which is perhaps better than if I sent them unofficially.

The responsibility at present for informing the Dominions is shared in reality by E. J. Harding [8] (Dominions Department, Colonial Office) and Sir Eyre Crowe [9] (Foreign Office). They are both very busy, and the informing of the Dominions on the Foreign Situation is a side issue with them. They both have to delegate the actual work to someone else. It is shaping itself in my mind that the responsibility might well be sheeted home to the Heads of Departments in the Foreign Office, making it part of their duty, whenever the situation looks like altering, to draft a cable (and in quiet times a short despatch) on the position in the countries they cover. Their drafts might be looked over, cut down perhaps, and welded into one weekly cable, under the instructions, say, of Sir William Tyrrell or Sir Eyre Crowe, of the Foreign Office. This would mean very little extra work being put on Foreign Office Departments and would ensure that all the news was put on paper by the people who specialise in our relations with each country. The responsibility would be with Tyrrell or Crowe to cut out what was nonessential to us.

I mention this only as an idea, that I am not prepared as yet to suggest to the Foreign Office.

A restraining influence on the openness and frankness of Colonial Office cables is the fact that Canada is in the habit of requesting from time to time that they be allowed to publish in full their cable communications with the Colonial Office on any subject. They do so, they state, on the plea that public opinion in Canada demands such frank disclosures of what is going on. And as the same cables are sent to all Dominions, it means that we suffer to the extent that we get the same cables carefully edited by E. J. Harding (Dominions Department, Colonial Office), with a view to the fact that they may all subsequently appear in the Canadian Press. I discovered this fact by reason of my asking Harding if some indication could not be contained in the 'Protocol' cables going to you, of the way official opinion was shaping itself here in the matter, and naturally with the above in mind, he explained why he could not do so.

I am, Yours very truly, R. G. CASEY

1 See note 2 to Letter 2.

2 In 1919 France persuaded the United Kingdom and the United States to guarantee her eastern border with Germany, but the American Congress did not honour President Woodrow Wilson's undertaking, and the United Kingdom was not prepared to act alone.

3 Disturbed by the League Council's inactivity on disarmament, the Assembly in 1920 established a Temporary Mixed Commission. The T.M.C. reported back in 1922 that disarmament must be universal and that, beyond the League Covenant, there must be a treaty guaranteeing the security of disarming powers.

4 In 1923 the T.M.C. submitted a Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance to the League Assembly with these principal provisions: (a) a disarming state, if attacked, must be aided at once militarily and financially by other treaty parties; (b) states would not be expected to aid such victims of aggression outside their own continents. The latter, of course, deprived it of any interest to Australia. Most states found reasons for not approving the Draft Treaty. In the United Kingdom, the Conservatives were still at base hostile to mandatory collective security; Labour still found problems of principle in the notion of preserving peace by force.

5 The conference was not held.

6 Field Marshal Lord Allenby, High Commissioner for Egypt 1919-25.

7 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

8 Assistant Secretary at the Colonial Office.

9 Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.