29th March, 1928


My dear P.M.,

The Zinovief [1] debate in the House of Commons resulted in a Government victory. It is thought that the Labour Party has damaged itself by the debate. I send the full Hansard report in another letter and enclose to you, with this letter, the kernel of the whole affair, the bombshell that Baldwin [2] produced in the shape of a letter to him from Mr. im Thurn [3] who got the Zinovief letter from a Communist and sent it to the Foreign Office and to the Daily Mail. I have a feeling that there is more in the story than has come out, but it seems to have stifled the Opposition comment and curiosity, and everyone is telling his neighbour that the subject is now closed and done with.

I mentioned Andre Siegfried to you a few weeks ago, with reference to his writings, 'America Comes of Age' and others. [4] Since then I have been in communication with him in Paris by letter, having been introduced by a mutual friend. He says that he has been twice in Australia and that after his second visit (in 1918) he began to write something but that it did not come to anything. He says that my suggestion of a study of Australia is 'tempting'. He suggests that we meet when I am next in Paris, which I will certainly make a point of doing.

Sir George Buchanan [5] writes an article in the current 'National Review' in which he summarises his Report to the Commonwealth Government on Transport in Australia. It adds nothing to what he said in the Report itself.

A very badly-written article by Michael Terry [6] in the current 'Empire Review'-'An impression of Northern Australia'-reminds me that I heard many hard things about this young man when I was in Broome last October. To euphemise the general run of the comment, he apparently allowed himself to be carried away by his imagination in his descriptions of places that he claims to have been to in the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys. From what I saw of him in London two years ago, I should say that he had some ability, great assurance but only a moderate endowment of other necessary qualities.

I think McDougall [7] said that he had sent you the 'Times' leader, 'Morals for Ministers', but in case not and so that you don't miss it, I send another copy herewith. It is plainer speaking than the 'Times' usually allows itself.

I had a silent score and a subsequent smile at a letter from Colonel Harrison [8] (of the Melbourne Barracks) to Colonel Plant [9], an Australian officer attached temporarily to the War Office, that the latter showed me yesterday. It was to the effect that at a recent meeting of the Council of Defence (I think), you had produced a telegram 'from an unknown source' that had had the effect of postponing the spending of any considerable amount of money on the re-arming of our Coast defences. Plant (whom I know well) asked me with a shrewd look if I knew who had sent that telegram, to which I gave a diplomatic reply and changed the subject!

Since writing the above, Major Rowe [10] (Military Liaison Officer at Australia House) has shown me a similar letter from General Chauvel [11], in which he takes him to task for not having sent the information that I sent you, to the Defence Department, with regard to the attitude that the various parts of the Empire were taking up regarding Coast Defence. There is evidently a mild 'situation', which may be a suitable opportunity to establish the principle, vis-a-vis the Defence Department, of the man in my appointment keeping you informed of matters of political importance as regards Defence that arise in the Committee of Imperial Defence. I have telegraphed you in this connection.

I understand from Henderson [12] that you are not in favour of a separate registered telegraphic address for the External Affairs Department. I suggested this when I was in Australia as a means of ensuring that my telegrams (on possibly confidential and delicate subjects) reach either yourself or Henderson without going through intermediate hands for whom they were not intended. An example of a comparatively unimportant nature happened recently when my telegram to you about de Bavay's Belgian decoration apparently went the usual course through the Prime Minister's Department and the reply over your name came back through Australia House. The whole business became known to many people here and presumably in Canberra. Unless you feel strongly on this matter of a separate telegraphic address for the External Affairs Department (I suggest 'AUSTFORAFS, CANBERRA'), I suggest that it would at least stop the possibility of such leaks, and that possibly you might reconsider the matter.

I've read lately the latest anonymous book of lively comment on living people-'The Feet of the Young Men' by 'Janitor'. [13] It is clever, biting and, in parts, mildly scandalous, and so is sure of a market. It must have been written by someone who at least has been in high places-probably an ex-Private Secretary. Rumour says it is by Hore-Belisha, a young Liberal M.P. [14] Surely an Official (Social) Secrets Act should be enacted to stop this sort of thing, however entertaining it may be. 'Janitor's 'raw material is Lady Astor [15], George Lloyd [16], Irwin [17], Philip Kerr [18], Lionel Curtis [19], Oswald Mosley [20], Ormsby-Gore [21], Walter Elliot [22] and half a dozen others. With these as raw material, you can imagine that the finished goods are entertaining when brightly and frankly treated.

I have also read the sixth series of H.L. Mencken's 'Prejudices'.

As you may know, he is the 'young man in a hurry' whose self- appointed mission is to expose the crudities and anachronisms of latter day America, or, as he calls it, the 'Babbitt Warren'. He has written many books (amongst which 'Defence of Women' I have read and which, of course, is an attack on them) and is Editor of the American 'Mercury', the bible of the advanced crowd of the intellectual acrobats. His writing usually consists of a quite unbridled snapping and biting at every established American institution from the Constitution to the Volstead Act. As an alternative to letting off vocal steam oneself against the die- hard stupidities and snobberies of the day, I know of no better pabulum than Mencken. [23] You sit back and he does it all for you.

It is better to buy milk than keep a cow-and better to read Mencken than get inflamed yourself.

And to make up for past deficiencies, I have been goaded into reading Samuel Butler's 'Way of All Flesh', and was delighted with it.

There is a lot of truth in a headline in the Paris 'Matin' last week-'Should not the organisation of the week-end be considered at Geneva? For two days out of seven England is afflicted with international paralysis.'

I lunched last week with Here Ruthven (Colonel the Hon. Sir Alexander Hore Ruthven, V.C., C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.), Governor designate of South Australia, who leaves for Australia in a few days' time. He was Military Secretary to Lord Dudley [24] in Australia in 1908 and was detailed to go round Australia with Lord Kitchener [25] for four months. He is a good type and should go down well, not too intellectual nor too sporting, nor too anything else, and an easy and pleasant fellow to talk to. His military record, of course, is first class. His wife is Irish.

John Sanderson [26] has just told me of Mrs. Oakley's [27] naive remark to him in 1923: 'Is it possible for a Free Trader to be honest, Mr. Sanderson?' To which John replied: 'Not only possible, Madam, but indispensable.'

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 See notes 21-23 to Letter 93.

2 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

3 Donald im Thum, a London businessman with secret service connections.

4 See Letter 92.

5 Sir George Buchanan, 'The Transport Problem in Australia', National Review, XCI, 541, 1928, pp. 147-54. See Letter 52.

6 Michael Terry, 'An Impression of Northern Australia', Empire Review, XLVII, 326, 1928, pp. 194-8. Terry was a British-born explorer and author, who undertook several exploratory and prospecting expeditions in northern and western Australia 1923-36.

He retired to Terrigal, N.S.W.

7 F. L. McDougall, Economic Adviser to the Australian High Commissioner.

8 Colonel Eric Harrison, Army Headquarters, Melbourne.

9 Colonel E. C. P. Plant.

10 Major G. C. Rowe.

11 Lt Gen Sir Henry Chauvel, Chief of the Australian General Staff.

12 Dr Walter Henderson, Head of the External Affairs Branch.

13 'Janitor' (pseudonym of J. G. Lockhart and M. Lyttleton), The Fleet of the Young Men: Candid Comments on the Rising Generation, G. Duckworth, London, 1928.

14 Leslie (later Lord) Hore-Belisha, barrister and journalist. He held several ministerial posts in the 1930s, including Parliamentary Secretary at the Board of Trade 1931-32, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1932-34, Minister of Transport 1934-37, and was a member of the War Cabinet as Secretary for War 1939-40.

15 Conservative M.P. American-born wife of Lord Astor, proprietor of the Observer.

16 Lord Lloyd, High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan. See Letters 207-9.

17 Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India. Later, as Lord Halifax, Ambassador to the United States 1941-46.

18 Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, later, as Lord Lothian, Ambassador to the United States 1939-40.

19 Fellow of All Souls, Secretary of the Institute of International Affairs.

20 Sir Oswald Mosley entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1918, became an Independent in 1922 and joined the Labour Party in 1924.

He later became a Minister in the Labour Government in 1929 but resigned in 1930 and in 1931 left Labour to launch a fascist organisation.

21 William Ormsby-Gore (later Lord Harlech), Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for the Colonies.

22 Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

23 H. L. Mencken, Prejudices, 6th series, Jonathan Cape, New York, 1928 and In Defence of Women, Jonathan Cape, New York, 1927.

24 The Earl of Dudley, Governor-General of Australia 1908-11.

25 Lord Kitchener visited Australia and New Zealand in 1909 to advise on defence policy.

26 Director of the Australian Agricultural Company, the Bank of Australasia and the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company.

27 It is difficult to know to whom Casey was referring-possibly to the wife of R. McK. Oakley, Australian Controller-General of Customs 1923-27.