25th March, 1926


(Due to arrive Melbourne-24.4.26)

My dear P.M.,

This sets out to be a letter on the Geneva Assembly on points other than the main issue of getting Germany in.

2. A League meeting at Geneva serves as a useful barometer to indicate how imperfect our Imperial co-operation is. We all live at different hotels and it is quite a business to get all the delegates together for any combined consultation-several hours' notice is required and messengers and telephone calls have to be sent all over the town. It is not possible at half-an-hour's notice to get people together for a ten minutes' talk to transmit some piece of confidential news that may alter some situation in which all are interested.

3. Nearly every question that arises at Geneva has a history. The British Delegation have complete records of all past negotiations, as well as a trained staff who are familiar with them. They bring experts to advise on technical questions. They have press, clerical and messenger staffs of requisite size. They are completely equipped to deal with all questions that may arise. No Dominion Delegation is in a position in any way approaching this- not even those Dominions who have permanent representatives at Geneva.

4. In order to attempt to cope with the agenda in an intelligent way, Dominion Delegations have to rely to a great extent on the advice of the British Delegation. There is no existing means for disseminating this advice except very occasional combined meetings of the several delegations. The value of these meetings is much diminished by the almost complete ignorance of the subject under discussion on the part of the Dominion representatives. Study of League questions and preparation of the minds of Dominion delegates to deal with them intelligently and constructively cannot begin at Geneva. It is then too late to do more than say to them (in the kindest way possible) that the history of the question is such that those whose business it has been to study it have come to the conclusion that such and such is the best line to take. Sometimes it may be possible to traverse briefly the arguments and to present a reasoned argument to Dominion representatives as to why a particular line is being taken.

5. The study of League questions, which are only another aspect of the general study of Foreign Affairs, has to be continuous from year to year and not merely a dose to be administered each September before the Assembly.

6. For many years to come, the British Dominions will not possess the expert staffs necessary to cope with League questions ab initio. They will have to rely on the researches and the co- related knowledge of the Foreign Office, as the groundwork, at least, on which to base their opinion. This expert knowledge is not to be had at Geneva, but in London. The Dominions will have to keep close and continuous touch with the Foreign Office on League matters. Their individual interests may not always allow them to agree with the British opinion on a subject, but for the facts on which the opinion is built they will have to go to the F.O. A permanent Dominion representative at Geneva is a luxury. A permanent Dominion representative dealing with League matters in London is a necessity.

7. I have been but little impressed with the value to Canada and the I.F.S. of their permanent representatives at Geneva.

8. To my mind the Dominions, as at present represented at Geneva, carry but little weight and are regarded as rather voiceless ghosts of Great Britain. They do not entertain, they make no effort to get to know the representatives of foreign states or the press, and they consequently live by themselves and see no one but themselves, and so lose a great deal of the educative effect of Geneva.

9. As Sir Austen Chamberlain [1] said in confidence to one of his staff (and which was repeated to me in confidence) apropos of one of the combined British Delegation meetings: 'Yes, I'm delighted to see and talk to the Dominion representatives, but I think that under existing circumstances it is rather a waste of time. If the Dominions want to take a hand in the conduct of Foreign Affairs, in Geneva or in London, then they must learn something about the subject. I haven't time to teach them the A.B.C. of it all. Look at last night's meeting. Some of the Dominion representatives' questions showed that they hadn't even read the Covenant. I come back to my hotel mentally and physically tired out, and then have to set to and talk for half-an-hour and then answer another half hour's questions, most of which are elementary. By all means let us have co-operation in the conduct of Foreign Affairs but the Dominions will have to produce some people who know the subject with whom I can co-operate.'

10. The above is all rather by the way and just to indicate, although it is not really necessary, as you must know it, the unsatisfactory state of the present position. I will make an analysis of the position as I see it as a whole, together with my personal suggestions for betterment, in the course of the next few weeks.

11. The question of the scope of representation of Chamberlain as delegate of the 'British Empire' on the Council came up for discussion, rather cursorily, at a meeting of the combined British Delegations.

12. Dandurand [2] (Canada) and Smit [3] (S.Africa) said quite clearly that their Governments did not recognise that Sir Austen Chamberlain represented them on the Council, and further that their reading of the meaning of 'British Empire' meant Great Britain and the colonies but not the Dominions and India. They both said that they regarded it as possible that a British Dominion might aspire to a seat on the Council at some time in the future. Chamberlain and Cecil [4] both admitted that this was so.

Well then, said Dandurand and Smit, how can we have double representation on the Council? Desmond Fitzgerald [5] did not join in the argument although one knows that his views are those of Canada and South Africa. Sir Joseph Cook [6] and Sir James Allen [7] took the opposite point of view that 'British Empire' on the Council included representation of all the Dominions as well.

13. Dandurand went on to say that Canada, as a member of the League Assembly, counted herself represented on the Council by the six nonpermanent members of the Council. Chamberlain then in the most courteous way (and rather indirectly) inferred that if this was the point of view of the Dominions, what justification was there for these combined British Delegation meetings?

14. The truth, I think, is that Chamberlain represents Great Britain on the Council except insofar as he is authorised by the Dominions to speak also in their name.

15. In subsequent conversation with Smit, he defended his point of view and said that 'British Commonwealth of Nations' (a term which, he says, was coined by Smuts [8]) indicated the whole lot of us. I did not say so, but I think that the authority of Smuts for the use of any such term in such an important connection is rather weak. I asked Smit when this big constitutional change had come about, whereby the well-known title 'British Empire' was so altered in its meaning. When had the British Dominions, individually and collectively, seceded from the 'British Empire', to which they undoubtedly belonged before the War? He said that the change might be said to have come about at Versailles when the Dominions signed the Peace Treaty separately. He went on to say that no one had seceded and that the show would run successfully if there was cooperation all round. I said that even a co- operative society had to have an executive head. He asked what was going to happen when there was not unanimity of opinion. I said that I thought that in every body of people banded together voluntarily for their own good, there had to be some give and take and that perhaps every decision could not exactly represent what all the individuals would like, but if we were to stick together, it must be in bad times as well as in good.

16. In subsequent discussion on similar lines with Desmond Fitzgerald (Foreign Secretary, I.F.S.), he said that one must recognise that every kitten one day becomes a cat. Apart from this enlightening remark, his point of view is almost identical with that of Smit.

17. Batterbee [9] of the Dominions Office, took the opportunity of Desmond Fitzgerald's presence at Geneva to discuss with him the question of the King's description, which has been a sore point with the Irish these last two years. As you know, it now stands 'King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas'. This is now considered by the I.F.S. to be a description derogatory to their new status.

Fitzgerald suggested as a compromise palatable to them, 'King of the United Kingdom, and of Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas'.

18. Batterbee was rather pleased with this as it is a tacit admission of the King's sovereignty over Ireland that the Dominions Office would be glad to have.

19. In discussing it with him, I pointed out that, although possibly the point was a small one, it placed Ireland in a privileged position with regard to the other Dominions. Why should she be singled out for special mention and the other Dominions be merely lumped together?

20. The Mandates people at the League Secretariat talk about the possibility of Spain attempting to come to some arrangement with the League under which they would be relieved of part at least of the responsibility for the Spanish Zone in Morocco. A scheme apparently has been talked about whereby the League would appoint a High Commissioner for Spanish Morocco, who would probably in the first place be a Spaniard, and that Spain would bear the expenses of administration and keeping order up to a certain sum, after which the League would become responsible. Spain would accept the responsibilities as regards the welfare of the native inhabitants as defined in the usual form of mandate, although the term mandate would not be used.

21. I can't see this scheme coming about, but I pass it on as one of the things that are being talked about. Several such schemes have been talked about in the past, such as a mandate for the Soudan, and for Tangier.

22. I talked again to Walters [10] (Assistant to Drummond [11])in regard to the possibility of getting another Australian on the League Secretariat. To my surprise he said that he thought there was not less but more chance, and he has again said that he will bear my request in mind when next the Secretary-General is considering new appointments.

23. Sir Herbert Ames, the head of the Financial Section, is about to retire. He is a New Zealander. [12] I heard privately from a friend in this section that the proposal to put an Australian in his place had been tentatively and privately discussed.

24. Before it became apparent that this Assembly was to be a fiasco [13], I asked an intelligent member of the League Secretariat how he viewed the progress of the League. He said he thought its moral prestige was increasing, and likened it to the growth of public authority in these last several hundred years. It was once possible for an English landlord to have a tenant or a servant summarily beaten for an alleged misdemeanour. By slow degrees the law in this regard came to be recognised and it became bad form to inflict one's will on those of lesser importance and power. The law came to be recognised as the proper authority to settle this and all other forms of dispute between individuals of whatever state in life. The justice and fairness of the new method of dealing with disputes became gradually self-evident. So with the League.

25. The French have a peculiarly agile political conscience. Time and again their representatives attend secret meetings with our people, and after both sides agreeing that complete secrecy is to be maintained, they promptly go and give their version of it to the press. This has even happened at meetings at which only Chamberlain and Briand [14] have been present. They apparently do not consider it unfair to give to their press such a version of any current negotiation that will arouse their own public opinion to our disadvantage, and subsequently quote this deliberately aroused public opinion as a factor which they cannot ignore. They use their press to circulate opinions whereas H.M.G. give the press only facts, and very few of them.

26. To my mind, our people treat the press in rather too cavalier a fashion. No one mistrusts a press man more than I do, but the press exists as a considerable force in all countries; he has to fill his columns and make an effort to satisfy the curiosity of his readers.

27. The story is told of an American press man who came up to one of the British Delegation and said: 'I expect the situation is the same as before?' 'Yes, just the same.' 'Well, what was it before?'

28. At this Assembly one of the comparatively minor items of business has been the decision to build a new Secretariat building and a new Assembly Hall to house the League for all time. This presumably anchors the League to Geneva for ever. Cecil at one time made a more or less serious suggestion that Monaco should be the seat of the League. It certainly would have been a more pleasant spot than Geneva.

29. I talked to several people at Geneva to see if I could get any light thrown on the mutual antipathy of France and Italy. The following suggestions that I got are probably all constituent factors:-

1. French decrease and Italian increase of population will tend to make Italy overshadow France in importance as years go on. France is even now to a certain extent dependent on Italy for a considerable yearly influx of labour to maintain and increase her agriculture and industry.

2. Jealousy over their respective North African colonies.

3. Italian threat to France's lines of communications across the Mediterranean.

30. The next Assembly begins on September 6th. If you intend to come to it yourself and are pressed for time as you probably will be, I would suggest that there is but little necessity for you to arrive at Geneva until say September 11th, as the first four or five days are always formal and without real value. Also there would be no necessity to wait until the end, which would be at latest October 2nd.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Foreign Secretary.

2 Raoul Dandurand, Canadian Minister without Portfolio.

3 Jacobus Smit, South African High Commissioner.

4 Lord Cecil, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

5 Irish Free State Minister for External Affairs 1922-27.

6 Australian High Commissioner.

7 New Zealand High Commissioner.

8 Lt Gen Jan Smuts, South African Prime Minister 1919-24 (and later 1939-48) but presently out of office.

9 Harry Batterbee, Assistant Secretary at the Dominions Office.

10 Francis Walters; later, in 1939-40, given the title of Deputy Secretary-General.

11 Sir Eric Drummond (from 1937, Earl of Perth), Secretary-General of the League of Nations 1919-33, Ambassador to Italy 1933-39.

12 In fact, a Canadian; formerly a Canadian M.P. and banker.

13 Convened for the admission of Germany, the special Assembly session of March 1926 was frustrated by the insistence of the Locarno powers on their trying privately to settle the controversy over permanent Council seats (see note 6 to Letter 54). They failed and the Assembly dispersed.

14 Aristide Briand, French Prime Minister.