15th February, 1928


My dear P.M.,

A criticism of the work of the British Diplomatic Service abroad that has occurred to me from time to time is that it continues to confine itself too narrowly to diplomacy.

As one goes back into the past, long before the War, the work of an Embassy or Legation abroad was confined to contact with highly- placed individuals and an interpretation of their thoughts and probable actions, for, in those days, the few influential people at the head of a State were the State to all intents and purposes.

However, as democracy developed, it brought with it the factors of public opinion and the Press, which have obviously become increasingly important in the relations between States.

The field has widened tremendously in consequence. In my opinion, the modern diplomat abroad has to be a man of many more parts than formerly. He has to keep himself informed of the balance of public opinion on international questions as reflected in the press, and he has to have a clear picture of the country to which he is accredited, which entails a lot of travelling and of constantly meeting people of all shades of opinion and of all walks of life.

This entails a life of searching activity on the part of the Ambassador and of his entire staff, and it is an interpretation of the diplomatic function that I do not think the old style European-trained diplomat is, in most cases, capable of accepting.

Apart from its comparatively simple function as the diplomatic mouth and ear of its country at a foreign capital, I see the modern Embassy or Legation as an 'Intelligence collecting centre', which should have its lines of information coming in from all parts of the country and from all spheres of the country's activity, being digested and checked by experts and coming before the Ambassador or Minister regularly, so that he can at any moment tell his own government how any proposal is likely to be received, not only by the Government to which he is accredited but by the country. It should not be impossible, in addition, to have means at its disposal for the dissemination of ideas and opinions.

It is my impression that in a great many cases the Embassy staff confine their attention too closely to meeting members of the Government and their colleagues. It may be due to lack of staff or to lack of ability or too specialised diplomatic training on the part of the staff. But, as I say, it is my impression that our diplomatic posts abroad have not always kept pace with the necessities of the day.

This is a generalisation that is obviously untrue in certain cases-but again, I think, is obviously true in others. It is probably all a question of the individual.

I asked Hankey [1] what he thought about the above and he said that he realised that the criticism had grounds. In going on to speak of successful Ambassadors, he mentioned D'Abernon (Berlin) [2], Geddes (Washington) [3], Lloyd (Cairo) [4], and possibly Crewe (Paris) [5]-none of them 'career' men. This did not mean that there were not outstanding men amongst the diplomats proper, but he remarked on the value of non-diplomatic training.

In this regard the remarkable tribute paid to D'Abernon by his successor in Berlin (Sir Ronald Lindsay), in a recent despatch, is worth quoting:-

One event in Germany in 1926 has received no mention in this report, namely, the departure of my predecessor. With Lord D'Abernon's actual work you are familiar, and on it I need not expatiate. I may, however, allow myself to refer to the quite extraordinary position he acquired in the country to which he was accredited. His deep knowledge of the art of government, his vitality and keen interest in every branch of life, his reasonableness and readiness to talk politics when other representatives would talk in terms of peace treaties; all these qualities, combined with the chaotic conditions prevailing in Germany during his years of office, enabled him to command extraordinary authority in the land. I have never heard of any Ambassador in any modern Western European country who attained to such a position as that of Lord D'Abernon in Germany.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

2 Lord D'Abernon, Ambassador to Germany 1920-26.

3 Sir Auckland Geddes, Chairman of the Rio Tinto Company, had been Ambassador to the United States 1920-24.

4 Lord Lloyd, High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan 1925-29.

5 Lord Crewe, Ambassador to France 1922-28.