23rd February, 1928


My dear P.M.,

I send you reprint of Low's [1] cartoon-'Tales of the Dominions'-a few copies of which the Editor of the 'Evening Standard' let me have. I tried to get the original but the Prime Minister [2] got in ahead of me. It was lying on a table when the Cabinet were assembled two days ago and Hankey [3] tells me he heard Birkenhead [4] say, 'You know, I don't like this fellow Low; he always makes me look as if I had been found drunk'. Bridgeman [5] said, 'I quite agree, and do you notice that he gives me a most unpleasant overfed look too'.

You may have seen in the Press that half a million was given anonymously to accumulate for a long term of years and then be applied towards the extinction of the National Debt. The gift came through Lord Revelstoke [6], the head of Baring Brothers. It was followed by a few similar sporadic amounts towards the same end, and there it stopped. It has occurred to me that it might be possible to catch the popular imagination by the donation of a series of comparatively small sums sent from various parts of the Empire, say to the Editor of 'The Times', towards a fund for this same object. I would be prepared to put up a certain amount to be subscribed in the names of fictitious people in Australia and England, accompanied by a few letters written in carefully chosen terms. I know that I could induce a certain number of people in Australia, and a few in both Canada and America, to do the same.

It is possible that one might start a movement that would grow- especially if one worked the thing well by stressing the 'Empire' side. I have spoken to Hankey about it and he is going to speak to Winston. [7]

A peerage in this country has a definite commercial value and the holders of peerages cannot be blamed for allowing human nature to take its course, by capitalising on their asset. Lord Clarendon [8], who was for a year Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, is a very pleasant fellow with a certain degree of culture, but quite ineffective at affairs. After demonstrating clearly to the world that he had no real ability at the Dominions Office, he was translated to be Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation at about 3,000 a year. Lord Thomson [9], who got his peerage from the Labour Party, makes a good income by writing for the press in this country and America, and by lecturing in America. I think nobody would deny that his name is the bait.

A peerage means the certainty of a permanent forum in the House of Lords and it means the practical certainty of lucrative Directorates. This country still loves a Lord and America adores them.

When time has eliminated all trace of the gallant deed (or what not) that gave rise to any particular peerage, then the succession from father to son goes on without much comment, but when a peerage has been awarded to individuals for some signal service to the Crown-such as Haig [10], Kitchener [11], French [12]-then it comes as something of a shock to hear of their sons or other relatives going about embellished with the great man's hardly-won title. It must make the new holder somewhat self-conscious.

I have not time to follow the deliberations of Parliament and public bodies on the condition of agriculture in this country, but one meets with one aspect of it that interests me. The value of English agricultural land is such that the net return to the owner of broad acres, who lets out his land to farmers, is much below bank interest. I believe that this condition obtains over the greater part of England and that it is no new situation but existed before the War and, in varying degree, as far back as people remember.

This position was understandable before the War, when the country was largely held in big estates and when the dignity of being a landowner compensated for the very low return. But the day of the big landowners is passing, and the land (like everything else) may be expected to pass into the hands of people who look on it as a business proposition.

It is apparently true that, in general, the leasehold farmer now pays a reasonable rental for this land and that not appreciably more can be screwed out of him. What then is the solution? A steady drop in the capital value of the land would seem to be the only answer. But this is only one aspect of a very big question, the consideration of which is outside my scope and time.

The same situation exists, to a lesser degree, in the Western District of Victoria, where people have been willing in the past to pay such a high price for land that the net return is, in many cases, less than bank interest. This is not quite a parallel, as there is but a limited area of this 'garden' pastoral land available, and the demand for it by pastoralists who have made money in less accessible and less pleasant parts of the Commonwealth is sufficient to keep the price up-and rising-so that a buyer, although he gets only a small return, can reasonably look for a capital increase.

The above profound remarks have, I am afraid, little to do with Foreign Affairs.

I forward, under separate cover, a large roll of coloured posters produced by the Empire Marketing Board. Several of them are, I think, very good indeed. When you have seen them, if you do not want them personally, you might pass them to Henderson [13] for the embellishment of the bare walls of the offices of the External Affairs Department.

If you care for a mixture of psychology and philosophy in a reasonable form, I should prescribe William McDougall's [14] 'Character and the Conduct of Life', which I think is exceedingly good.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 David Low, a New Zealander who had worked for the Sydney Bulletin.

2 Stanley Baldwin.

3 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

4 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India.

5 William Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty.

6 Lord Revelstoke (John Baring) was also a director of the Bank of England.

7 Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

8 Chief Conservative Whip in the House of Lords 1922-24 and in 1925, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Dominion Affairs 1925-26.

9 Secretary for Air in the Labour Government of 1924.

10 Field Marshal Lord Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces in France and Flanders 1915-19.

11 Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War 1914- 16.

12 Field Marshal Lord French, Commander-in-Chief of Expeditionary Forces in France 1914-15.

13 Dr Walter Henderson, Head of the External Affairs Branch.

14 British-born Professor of Psychology at Duke University in North Carolina. His book was Character and the Conduct of Life:

Practical Psychology for Every Man, Methuen, London, 1927.