30th July, 1925


(due to arrive Melbourne-29/8/25)

My dear P.M.,

I met Signor Nitti [1] at lunch recently. He is short and stout and hardly the figure of hot blooded romance that he is rumoured to be. You will remember that the Fascists tried to assassinate him, but he got away and now lives at Zurich, practically banished until the Fascist movement ends. He told me that Mussolini was incurably ill with cancer complicated with the rather serious remnants of youthful indiscretions. Dr. Mayo [2], the great American diagnostician and surgeon, has been to Rome, but was afraid to operate. He says his maximum term of life is eighteen months. (I checked this all up with the F.O. afterwards and they confirm it all.)

Nitti says his death-or his relinquishing of power-will be followed by a short period of rioting and general disturbance, after which constitutional government will come into its own again. He mentions Giolitti [3] (although a very old man) as possibly taking hold, although no doubt he has ambitions himself Nitti says that Michelis [4] has left the post of Director of Italian Migration to take charge of a big National Insurance scheme. I have not yet had time to check this statement, but if it is true it is good news, as he is the active thorn in the side of the British Companies shipping Italian migrants to Australia.

Dr. Nicolas Murray Butler the President of Columbia University (New York) was at this same lunch. He is said to be a great force in America, both academically and politically. He is very far removed from our ideas of the head of a great university. He is not unlike Sir John Monash [5] in appearance, restless minded, very well informed, a keen 'politician' and apparently very strongly opinionated on all subjects that interest him. A Republican and a violent anti-prohibitionist. Very distinctly a man for you to meet when next in America.

Amery's [6] statement in the House of Commons on 27th July (I send Hansard with official letter) with regard to my appointment was satisfactory in that it established the position in the eyes of the world of my seeing Cabinet and other papers.

I gather that Amery's proposed trip to Australia and other Dominions is off as far as this year is concerned. He still hangs on to the idea to the extent of having it in mind to go to Canada in December, but his private secretary tells me he thinks it will all be put off until next year. The 'Dominions Office' will be older by then and a little better established and besides better able to look after itself in his absence [7], his audiences in the Dominions will be by then better educated as to what the new Dominions Office means.

The rubber boom, generated by the Stevenson [8] arrangement of limited exports from British rubber-producing countries, has annoyed the American rubber people almost past endurance and they have had the matter of its amendment taken up by the State Department through Mr. Houghton, their Ambassador here, with H.M.G. It touched them on the raw even two years ago when I was in America when the rubber price was comparatively low; now that it is nearly 5/- a pound, they are like a lot of wild cats about it.

I understand that the difference between the pre-Stevenson price of the British rubber imported into U.S. and the post-Stevenson price, is of the same order as the interest on our American Debt! The very fine imperial spirit of Lord Milner's 'credo' which you will find in this week's cuttings from the 'Times', has been the subject of much comment in the press and in public speeches in the last few days. [9]

In conversation with Boughey [10], the Secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute, he says that he assumes that Sir Frederick Dutton [11] must have been speaking without the book, in having led you to understand that the R.C.I. was about to change its name, to eliminate the word 'Colonial'. Such a change has been under consideration for some time, but they have never been able quite to make up their minds about it and it would need a referendum amongst their members. The Colonial Office splitting into 'Dominions' and 'Colonies' gives added point to the necessity for a change, but it is far from being an accepted innovation yet.

It is a pity the title 'Imperial Institute' is not available.

Apparently there are a number of queer people who like to use the letters 'F.R.C.I' after their names. 'F.U.E.I' (Fellow of United Empire Institute) is not quite so impressive!

The unfortunate Lord Stonehaven [12] must have a remarkable constitution to keep his health and strength through the last ten days of feasting and junketing that he has been subjected to. Sir Joseph Cook [13] in a speech called it 'Stonehaven week'. He marries a daughter off on 17th August and leaves for Australia on 29th August by the Cape. He has asked me to go and stay at his place in Scotland before he goes, but it is rather too far, I think.

In conversation with Sir Joseph Cook recently he gave the opinion that Theodore [14] would have great trouble to oust Charlton [15] from the leadership of the Parliamentary Labor Party. He said that what Labor always wanted was a respectable figurehead, which Charlton provided, and that people coming from State Politics, however able, were not welcome.

He also thinks that an R.C. Labor Leader would not be politic as the majority of the Labor vote is Protestant.

I met Sir Samuel Hoare (Air Minister) today. He hopes that the Ismailia-Karachi Air Route will be started by the end of the year.

He says that the extension at this end from England to Egypt is more difficult. It entails either flying over a number of European countries, which raises political difficulties, or the development of a seaplane suitable for the purpose which is not yet quite feasible. The extension from Karachi to Calcutta to Burma to Singapore is simpler and will, he thinks, be a natural development, although it is unlikely to take place for two or three years.

The long distance government airship for experimental trial on the Australian route will be laid down before the end of the year and he hopes it may be in the air early in 1927.

Hoare emphasises his statement that the Egypt-India air service, the experimental airship scheme, and the light aeroplane movement that they are fostering, are not 'stunts' but are serious and important movements, about which they would welcome sympathetic interest on the part of Australia.

I have never yet mentioned to you the project of getting the Australian League of Nations work into this office. I have thought about it and I think it would be quite practicable to do so if and when you feel able to give me a good assistant. I believe that Herbert Brookes [16] and Sir Littleton Groom [17] will have spoken to you before this about Major Fuhrman [18] leaving Sir Joseph Cook and coming to this office at full time on League of Nations work. I did not inspire this, and indeed have only just heard about it. However, in view of your remark in a recent letter that you do not intend to make any change in existing arrangements until after the next election, I will not burden you with my ideas on this proposal, other than to say that it is a reasonable one.

However, when the time comes I hope to put forward to you, in one letter, my suggestions as to the extension of this liaison work generally.

I enclose a short summary that I have made of Bywater's book 'The Great Pacific War'. [19] Unless you are particularly attracted by the ideas on which it is based as indicated in the summary, I don't think the book is worth your time to read.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Francesco Nitti, Italian Prime Minister 1919-20.

2 Dr William Mayo, Chief of Staff of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

3 Giovanni Giolitti, five times Italian Prime Minister between 1892 and 1922.

4 Guiseppe de Michelis in 1925 founded the National Credit Institute.

5 Lt Gen Sir John Monash, commander of the Australian Army Corps in France in 1918, ViceChancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1923 until his death in 1931.

6 Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

7 See note 6 to Letter 23 8 Sir James Stevenson, Chairman of the Rubber Investigation Committee of 1921, sponsored a scheme whereby rubber prices were maintained by limiting production in British territories, including Malaya. One unforeseen effect-apart from irritation to the United States-was a heightened effort to manufacture synthetic rubber.

9 It was found after Lord Milner's death on 13 May 1925 that his papers included a 'Credo-Key to My Position'. Published in The Times on 27 July 1925 (and subsequently in pamphlet form), much of it concerned his devotion to the British Commonwealth.

10 Sir George Boughey, Secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute 1916-29; the narnechanged to the Royal Empire Society in November 1928.

11 A solicitor, Vice-President of the Royal Colonial Institute.

12 Governor-General designate of Australia.

13 Australian High Commissioner.

14 E. G. Theodore; see note 2 to Letter 14.

15 Matthew Charlton, Leader of the federal Labor Opposition 1922- 28.

16 Melbourne manufacturer, pastoralist, political activist (a Liberal, he had helped in the creation of the Nationalist Party in 1917), and an Australian delegate at the 1923 session of the League of Nations Assembly. In 1929 he succeeded Sir Hugh Denison as Australian Commissioner-General in the United States.

17 Commonwealth Attorney-General.

18 Major Osmund Fularman, Private Secretary to the Australian High Commissioner 1922-26, frequently served with Australian delegations at League of Nations meetings.

19 See note 25 to Letter 27