6th September, 1928


(Due to arrive Canberra 8.10.28)

My dear P.M.,

Chamberlain [1] is evidently a very sick man. The photographs of his departure oft his health trip to the West Indies were rather alarming and would give one to think that he had had a stroke, but I am assured that this was not so. He is 65, has taken no exercise for years, has done himself very satisfactorily in the way of food and drink, and has consistently overworked. Added to which he is much the same type as his father, who cracked rather suddenly at about his age. Then when he returns from his trip he has a strenuous election before many months. And I am told that Birmingham is not the safe Chamberlain preserve that it has been.

It would, I think, be a great loss were he not to come back to the Foreign Office. He is extremely good with foreigners and has but little of the traditional British contempt for them, which they are not slow to realise. He is very good with Mussolini, Briand [2] and Stresemann [3], and has been as good as anyone without divine patience can be with the Americans. If he goes, I don't know who has any particular claims or qualifications for the job of Foreign Secretary. I suppose Cushendun [4] would carry on till the election. (This has been confirmed in the Press since writing the above.) After that, I don't think the party or the country would stand Winston [5], who would no doubt covet the job.

I don't see that there is anyone except Birkenhead [6] who could take on the Foreign Office as a permanency. I am sure he would do it remarkably well if he kept himself in hand a bit. I know from the best of sources that he was spoken to about his method of conducting himself in this last six months by Lord Balfour [7], who is regarded as the Elder Statesman par excellence. No doubt if the Foreign Office was offered to him, it would be accompanied by a very strict reminder from either Balfour or Baldwin [8] that he was to mend his ways.

The 'Daily Express' published a statement yesterday that Birkenhead was going to the City, which I hope will turn out not to be the case.

Neville Chamberlain [9] is a great favourite of Baldwin's, and I have heard it said in responsible quarters that if he set his cap at the Foreign Office, he would have a good chance of succeeding his brother. I know that he (Neville Chamberlain) was offered the Treasury four years ago, but at that time his solid virtue prompted him to take a Ministry (Health) that he knew something about and at which he could shine.

I expect Winston will remain at the Treasury where he has been quite a success. It is quite a different matter his being at the Treasury to being at the Foreign Office. At the Treasury his periodical effervescence can be restrained by his colleagues, but at the Foreign Office he would get the country hopelessly involved by brain-wave speeches.

Walter Guinness, now Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, is said to be not much good but by reason of his great wealth is thought to be a great source of comfort to party funds. I hear him spoken of as being in the running for a rise of a not very important nature. He may go to one of the Service Departments, such as Air. Hoare [10] might go from Air to the Admiralty to replace Bridgeman [11] who is retiring.

Baldwin has said publicly that some of the younger men of the Party are to be given a chance after the next election. This means, I suppose, Ormsby-Gore [12], Duff Cooper [13], Walter Elliot [14], etc.

But the Foreign Office and Dominions Office are the important posts as far as we are concerned. There are forces working against Amery [15], but personally I should doubt if they will displace him. The Foreign Office will need wise guidance in the next year or so, with Reparations and the Rhineland Evacuation looming ahead, as well as relations with America, Disarmament, Kellogg Pact aftermath, and the general European situation to be carefully handled.

Sir Ronald Lindsay [16], promises to pull the Foreign Office together again after Tyrrell's [17] rather slack administration.

There are signs already in this direction.

I am continuing to collaborate with Sir Charles Nathan on the North Australia development business. [18] I understand that he proposes to suggest to you that when he leaves England, the negotiations should be continued by me. As he was proposing to frame his plans on this basis, I had to tell him that I knew it was in your mind soon after the election to consider the possibility of translating me to another sphere. He seemed rather disturbed at this and is writing you by this mail on the subject.

I don't know how you feel in your mind about the relative importance of the proposed American appointment and the job that I am doing here. Personally I should think there was more for me to do here, and, from a personal point of view, I should be most relieved to hear that you had decided to deal with the problem of our representation in America by some method other than sending me there. I am still, of course, prepared to go if you want me to, but, as I say, I most heartily hope some benevolent spirit makes you decide otherwise. [19]

As to remaining here-if I had an assistant who could take the bulk of the hack-reading and devilling off my hands, I could increase my usefulness in this job twofold. The job seems to be growing every week and the burden of reading and chores is very heavy. I could make very good use indeed of Officer [20] here, although I suppose it is asking too much to put this up to you. I realise that his coming here would leave a gap at Canberra, but as you are calling for applicants for the new Canberra posts, you might get a good man of the right type to replace him.

Tom Jones [21] regrets Haldane [22] death very much. They used to lunch or dine together every few weeks, together with one or two scientists or leaders in various walks of life. They were apparently most interesting and informative meals as Haldane was in the habit of leading off with 'Well, tell us what has been happening in your particular activity'. But for his political affiliations, Tom Jones thinks that he would have been classed with Balfour as a wise counsellor whose guidance would have been sought and utilised by the Government. He apparently kept himself in close touch with a very wide range of activities.

The Berry brothers are coming to the front as a newspaper-owning group in this country. I have heard on good authority that they now own 500 publications of various sorts. The two remaining brothers are Gomer Berry and Sir William Berry. Lord Buckland, who was Henry Seymour Berry, was killed whilst riding recently. [23]

I write a letter by this mail on the effect of disestablishment of the Church here on our Church in Australia. It is not worth your reading as the subject matter is very much in the future. But if you do happen to see it, please try and forget that I haven't been inside a church for many years, as otherwise the crozier and reredos atmosphere that I have been at pains to produce would be ruined!

In such odd moments as I get, I am trying to get some understanding of the unspeakable subject of international finance.

In consequence, I find the leaders in the financial press becoming rather less nonsense. They are probably just as much nonsense as they ever were, but this, I suppose, is a question of relativity.

I see that you had a debate in the Senate on May 17th on the Pan Pacific Labour Congress. I am sending in another letter by this mail information that I have got from the Foreign Office about this organisation that definitely places its Bolshevik nature, if such confirmatory proof is necessary.

As you may be away from Canberra on work in connection with the election when this mail arrives, I am sending a copy of the 'Confidential' letter (not this or other personal and confidential letters) to Henderson [24] as well.

By the way, owing to recent deaths there are several vacancies in the Order of Merit at present. Haig [25], Hardy [26] and Haldane and I think one or two others. The Order is limited to 24 members but there were only 16 members living at the beginning of 1928, and, as I say, there have been several vacancies created through deaths since then.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

2 Aristide Briand, French Foreign Minister.

3 Dr Gustav Stresemann, German Foreign Minister.

4 Lord Cushendun, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. As Ronald McNeill, he had been Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs 1922-24 and 1924-25.

5 Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

6 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India.

7 Lord President of the Council; Prime Minister 1902-05.

8 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

9 Minister of Health, half-brother of Sir Austen Chamberlain.

10 Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary for Air.

11 William Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty.

12 William Ormsby-Gore, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Colonies.

13 Financial Secretary at the War Office.

14 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland.

15 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

16 Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.

17 Sir William Tyrrell, Ambassador to France; formerly Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.

18 See note 2 to Letter 141.

19 His marriage, or perhaps Bruce's determination to leave an Australian Commissioner in New York, may have affected Casey's ambition to go to Washington.

20 F. K. Officer returned to Canberra after attending the 1928 session of the League of Nations Assembly.

21 Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.

22 Lord Haldane, Lord High Chancellor 1912-15 and in the Labour Government of 1924, had died on 19 August 1928.

23 The Berry interests included the Daily Sketch, the Sunday Graphic and the Daily Telegraph. Sir William Berry was as well Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Times. See Letters 17 and 135.

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

25 Field Marshal Lord Haig had died in January 1928.

26 Thomas Hardy, poet and novelist, had died in January 1928.