4th April, 1929


(Due to arrive Canberra 3.5.29)

My dear P.M.,

Easter has cut this past week in half The Easter holidays are regarded as sacred dies non in this country, no doubt because they give people the first taste of spring after the long winter. And the winter this year has been a hard one.

One is being constantly reminded of the many Imperial anachronisms that exist. One reads and hears them debated, in many cases most ably, by jurists and publicists in this country and abroad. The most recent example is that of Mr. J.H. Morgan, K.C., in the Rhodes Lecture of a fortnight ago, copy of which I enclose. [1] (I have already sent a copy to the External Affairs Department.) This is a most able disquisition on the niceties of Imperial constitutional relations-a subject that delights the precise and tidy legal mind. But the reiterated discussion of the technicalities of the Imperial position leaves me rather cold. It has got to be discussed, of course, and paper anachronisms have got to be rectified when they become too glaringly out of step with present day actualities.

The last Imperial Conference was the beginning of this rectification and the next will concern itself with a bit more tidying up. But the Empire is not strengthened or weakened by such matters. If the Empire exists anywhere, it exists in the minds of men.

It seems to me that the next Imperial Conference will be the proper time and place for a broad statement of old-time patriotic imperialism on the part of some Dominion Prime Minister (which, of course, means you) putting the legal niceties in their proper position-leaving the lawyers to join the ends of all the little threads they like-stating again quite clearly that the obligations of this country to the Dominions are a counterpart of the obligations of the Dominions to this country.

I know that you will say that one must not take the autonomy talk in South Africa and the Irish Free State at face value, and that these dominions would be just as loyal to this country in time of war as they have ever been. But I think this point of view can be stressed rather too much. The 'doubtful' Dominions have been getting rather too doubtful for comfort in this last year or so and it seems to me that some corrective is necessary.

Re Antarctic sealing. I have met and talked to C. V. Sale, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. He confirms what I said last week [2] and there is nothing new at present to tell you-other than that he is also interested in developing the fur seal industry off Tasmania. So I have turned McDougall [3] on to them.

Following ancient precedent and in a belated attempt to revive the glories of the past, would not a good name for an Antarctic development company be 'Company of Australian Adventurers Trading into the Antarctic'!

I enclose leading article from the 'Times' of 3rd April, reviewing your past session.

I enclose cutting from 'Financial Times' of 3rd April summarising General Motors' report for 1928. They are by far the biggest single organisation making a line of cars in America, and Australia is unfortunately the biggest individual market for American cars in the world-so that what they have to say about 'opportunity for progress in overseas countries' has a meaning for Australia-we will probably be included in a drive to secure more business to compensate them for the threatened flattening of their domestic sales curve ...

Although the Corporation has a dominating position in practically all overseas countries, it is hoped and believed that this position can be strengthened still further. The policy of making the Corporation a real factor in the industrial life of each country in which it operates will be continued. This means the establishment by the Corporation of local organisations supported by assembly plants as increasing volume justifies.

Wilkins is going on with his submarine Arctic project [4] in spite of the damper that I tried to put on it by telegram and letter.

You will have seen all about it in the press.

The world is awaiting with some anxiety the proposals of the new United States Administration with regard to their customs tariff.

There are rumours that they will include increases in items which will affect Canada. It would probably be a very good thing from an Empire point of view if the American market were to be made more difficult for Canada. It might make her rather more sensible of the existence of the Empire.

The Principal Supply Officers Committee (P.S.O.) of the Committee of Imperial Defence is (even after years of work) only at the beginning of a scheme of industrial mobilisation. Their task is to discover what raw materials will be necessary for the prosecution of a major war-both for the armed forces and for the civilian population. Then they have to ascertain which of these materials come from abroad-do a little subtraction and find the quantity and the type of essential imports in war. This, together with such problems as investigation into sources of essential supply within the Empire-the possibilities of substitutes-schemes for the apportionment of materials between civil and military needs-and related problems, will make work for many years. Similar work is going on-with varying enthusiasm-in the Dominions. The final result may possibly be an imperial balance sheet of war necessities and resources-but this is a long way ahead. The task is being tackled by the part time effort of individuals in Government Departments-and in the last few weeks by the enlistment of the promised co-operation of Imperial Chemical Industries.

Obviously this is only the first step in getting all the leaders of industry interested in the problem and represented in the investigation-which is really a huge national-possibly later imperial-stocktaking. The initiative for all this comes from this office-and I can tell you (or your advisers) as much or as little as you want to know about it-either in the shape of official documents or in more human form-but as it is rather out of my normal line of activity, I will not send you more on the subject unless you tell me that you want it.

The question of the style and tone of official communications is an interesting one. Much reading of the ordinary coldly official documents and telegrams leaves me rather flat and uninterested.

The vulgar human touch-the lowly simile-the touch of everyday slang-in a telegram or despatch wakes one up to the fact that the fellow at the other end is, strangely, a human being who has something to communicate to you and is not above underlining what he has to say in a conversational way. Lampson [5] (in China) and Humphrys [6] (lately in Afghanistan) have developed this common touch, and whatever they have to say is much more readily understood in consequence. I am all for the vulgarisation of official communications-and I look forward with enthusiasm to the far distant future when some healthy-minded diplomat will find that he cannot adequately colour what he has to convey without the use of the homely expression 'bloody'!

For your most confidential information-the Irish Free State have broken out in a new place. They have written privately to the Dominions Office saying that they intend shortly to make known their intention officially to submit documents direct to the King for ratification and signature, and not through the Dominions Office. They say that as they are only a few hours away from London, they propose that their President or another Minister should visit London for this purpose quarterly or whenever it is necessary and have audience with the King, no British Minister being present. This is their means of avoiding the question of the King being advised on matters that affect their Dominion, on the advice of a member of the British Cabinet. As you will realise, this is a difficult hole for Amery [7] to get out of, and at the moment the Dominions Office can think of nothing to say, other than that the King will have to be assured that the acts they contemplate asking him to ratify have no effect, even indirectly, on any other part of the Empire.

So that the King may be thrown back on to the advice of his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, and the position is liable to arise about which I wrote you in January 1928-and from which letter I venture to quote a paragraph:-

Now that we have imperial equality all round and the King is to take the advice of his Dominion Ministers on Dominion matters on its merits, and without (at least obviously) submitting their proposals to his local Ministers in London for their advice and approval-now very much more than ever before should the King have wise personal counsellors. The rather artificial degree of imperial equality that you enshrined in print at the last Imperial Conference is likely to grow into reality with the passage of possibly only a very few years. As the feeling grows, so will the resentment at British Ministers advising the King on Dominion matters. From this one gets to imagining the King of the future surrounded by a body of wise (and not necessarily aged) imperial elder statesmen-a real 'Privy Council'-drawn from the whole Empire-people whose names and whose service to the Crown place them above party and above reproach. [8]

A man in the British Embassy at Washington sends me enclosed cutting from the New York Times, describing the splendid effort of the Australian boys on tour in America [9]-they managed somehow or other to run an Australian flag up the Senate flagpole in Washington while Hoover was being installed into office!

The boys seem to have made a splendid impression from what I hear and from the enthusiastic press cuttings that I have been sent. My friend says: 'I hear on every side that it is not only their physique that is greatly admired, but also their extraordinarily good manners. This I believe to be a matter in which American youth has much to learn, and it is a secret satisfaction to hope that Australia may be the means of teaching the latter how to behave.' I have also heard from other quarters the same vague rumours as one heard when the last party of boys visited the States-that the man in charge of them seemed to expect as a matter of right that contributions should be made towards the funds of the expedition by all and sundry in America wherever they went-and that this became not far short of begging their way. I don't suppose you have any control over matters of this sort, but it sounds unpleasant, although I have nothing more than hearsay to go on.

I am enclosing to you a copy of a most pathetic document-a pamphlet sent by Tom Jones [10] to his friends and to those who contributed to the fund for the memorial to his small boy who was killed a few months ago by a motor car. The fund has been given to Harlech College, an institution founded by the energy and enthusiasm of Tom Jones for the education of working men. T.J.'s small boy was, I think, the most outstanding child that I have encountered. It is a most heartrending document but I think you would like to read it if you happen to have time.

You will be interested to read in attached cutting of Australia's connection with the origin of the war.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Professor of Constitutional Law in the University of London, Morgan was inclined to minimise the international status of the Dominions and on this occasion he stressed that whatever status the Dominions did enjoy came as a side-benefit of British activity. For a report of Morgan's lecture see The Times, 16 March 1929.

2 See Letter 187.

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

4 Sir Hubert Wilkins, Australian polar explorer. See Letter 186.

5 Sir Miles Lampson, Minister to China.

6 Sir Francis Humphrys.

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

8 Letter 86.

9 One hundred and fifty Young Australia League cadets attended President Herbert Hoover's inauguration in Washington on 5 March 1929 during a tour of the United States.

10 Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.