18th October, 1928


(Due to arrive Canberra 17.11.28)

My dear P.M.,

Hankey [1] is back from a few weeks' holiday abroad and I had a long talk to him yesterday.

He is very much concerned about the Anglo-French Naval muddle and he is rather inclined to think that the only solution is to take a strong line and place the Agreement before the Preparatory Committee on Disarmament at Geneva when it meets next in about January, and make an attempt to have it accepted by all concerned- this would mean, of course, the majority of nations outside of America. [2] Hankey has always been in favour of taking a strong line with the Americans as he says that you gain nothing by truckling to them and we lose face on the Continent by so doing.

I said that I thought that if this policy was agreed on, then it should be accompanied by a very considerable stiffening of the British Embassy in Washington.

I have a distinct impression, gathered from constant perusal of the Washington despatches and from conversations with individuals, that the British 'case' is not well 'put' in Washington, nor is the Foreign Office well informed of the state of mind of the American public or the State Department. The maintenance of Anglo- American relations at a reasonable temperature being almost the most important Diplomatic task today, it would seem essential to have the very best staff obtainable for the Washington Embassy.

Who better than Lord D'Abernon [3], who, although not a 'career' diplomat, has shown himself in Berlin to have rare qualities of representation that I cannot discover are equalled by any 'career' diplomat in the Service.

Hankey said that the great difficulty in this was the fact that all the career members of the Diplomatic Service had been working for years to eliminate the non-career men and had only just succeeded in uprooting the last of them when Tyrrell [4] replaced Crewe [5] at Paris. There would be a lot of hard and silent opposition to D'Abernon going to Washington and he did not think that Chamberlain [6] was the man to stand up against the pressure that would be exerted. And the Prime Minister [7], of course, will not take a strong line about this or anything else.

He outlined the various real and potential losses that the Government had undergone in personnel. Cave [8] had died; Hogg had become Hailsham [9] and so was more than halved in usefulness;

Balfour [10] was now of little value except for shedding occasional brilliant light on some obscure subject; Worthington- Evans [11] was far from fit; Salisbury [12], who is looked on to do a good deal of the hack work, was not in good health; Bridgeman [13] was retiring; Steel-Maitland [14] was a bundle of nerves, and Austen Chamberlain was obviously only a halftime man for at least six months or so. Hankey thinks that Neville Chamberlain [15] is well in the running as successor to Baldwin, as he seems to have many bread-and-butter virtues. But he says that he is a cold fish of a man with very little attraction.

Someone who knows Birkenhead very well told me in this last week that he (Birkenhead) had told him that before the War he had with great difficulty got together a fortune amounting to 90,000, but this had been reduced to 60,000 at the end of the War and was now 30,000. He had accepted an earldom and, in consequence, had saddled his son with it. He had been offered 25,000 a year in the City and he could not afford to refuse it. So he was going. [16]

Sir Charles Nathan [17] left a few days ago and has handed over to me copies of all his papers with regard to the negotiations on North Australia Development. [18] I will do what I can to forward this matter but it is becoming a difficulty to fit into the day all the things that should be done.

The Dominions Office seized on the point you made in your policy speech at Dandenong with regard to the alterations you proposed to make in the Navigation Act, and were anxious to have early information of what you have in mind. [19]

I write in other letters by this mail on New Guinea Boundaries;

British and rival claims in the Antarctic; the usual Antarctic letter; International Regulation of Whaling; Unrest in Asia;

Communist activities, and the usual general letter.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

2 The Three-Power (the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States) Naval Disarmament Conference at Geneva in mid-1927 had broken down because of American refusal to accept the British argument that her imperial responsibilities were such that, while she could agree to international ratios as to capital ships and large cruisers, she must be free to retain or build a large number of small cruisers. In mid-1928 the United Kingdom obtained French acceptance of her view but at the time of Casey's letter the United States and Italy were objecting loudly and subsequently the Anglo-French agreement was allowed to lapse.

3 Ambassador to Germany 1920-26; now aged 71 and retired.

4 Sir William Tyrrell, formerly Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign office, had gone to Paris as Ambassador in July 1928.

5 A minister in pre-1916 Liberal Governments, Lord Crewe had been Ambassador to France 1922-28.

6 Sir Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

7 Stanley Baldwin.

8 Lord Cave, Lord Chancellor, had died in March 1928.

9 Formerly Attorney-General, Sir Douglas Hogg had been raised to the peerage as Lord Hailsham to succeed Cave as Lord Chancellor.

10 Lord Balfour, Lord President of the Council; Prime Minister 1902-05.

11 Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Secretary for War.

12 Lord Salisbury, Leader of the House of Lords.

13 William Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty.

14 Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, Minister of Labour.

15 Minister of Health.

16 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India. He retired later in the month.

17 See note 1 to Letter 141.

18 See note 2 to Letter 141.

19 In a speech which was anything but clear (as the contemporary press complained) Bruce had seemed to propose abandoning the Navigation Act as a means of protecting wages and standards in the Australian merchant marine, preferring tariff discrimination of some kind for British and foreign ships engaged in the coastal trade and complying with Australian standards.