32

8th October, 1925

CONFIDENTIAL

(Due to arrive Melbourne-7.11.25)

My dear P.M.,

This letter will contain nothing that you need read prior to the Election. [1] It will be simply a collection of impressions of the League Assembly.

I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to attend an Assembly. My impressions of the League are quite materially different from what I had previously thought about it.

1. One is continually asking one self the question-What is the value of the League? It has been called a first-class international Debating Society; a mirror held up in which the world will be able to see the aggressor and the aggressed in any dispute; an altruistic ideal, impossible of any real achievement while human nature is what it is; a league of two powerful nations with a big rag-tag and bobtail crew also present-and many more comments of the same kidney.

You cannot say that the L. of N. is the result of a worldwide popular movement; it is rather the result of an attractive ideal conceived by a few statesmen, seized on by their Governments as being at least something worth trying, and which is gradually (one hopes) soaking into the minds of the mass of the peoples making up the nations.

One speaks often of increasing the prestige of the League: does not this mean in practice, firstly, preventing it making mistakes;

secondly, giving it continual opportunity to do things within the limits of its strength; and, thirdly, bringing its functions and potential importance home to the peoples, so that they will in time, when faced with certain problems vis-a-vis their neighbours, automatically look beyond their own domestic Governments to the League, just as, in Australia, unions look to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court rather than to the State Court in industrial disputes which spread beyond the limits of one State.

2. There are at least two sides to every argument, and frequently both have distinct point. Without some international fairy godmother like the League, the plus and minus of each side's argument never see the light in time to enable the moral force of public opinion to prevent a word and a blow. Very few people and, presumably, very few nations are case-hardened against a hostile public opinion. The League gives the opportunity to let air and light into disputes. It is surely true that there are very few non-criminal disputes the edge of which is not taken off by public debate before an interested and intelligent audience.

One asks oneself three questions: firstly, are the delegates on the whole individually earnest and capable, or have they, as someone or other once said, got their forensic tongues in their forensic cheeks; secondly, are their common deliberations and conclusions wholeheartedly welcomed and accepted by their Governments-and, thirdly, by their peoples? I think the answer might well be said to be progressively in the affirmative as time goes on.

The Representatives of Nations are bound to take a reasonable attitude in the Assembly and in the Committees. There is considerable moral pressure on them to be reasonably consistent in their action between Assemblies, which must have an influence on their general policy. This is a good tendency.

3. The role of Great Britain would appear to be that of a brake on the bounding enthusiasm of the other and smaller and more irresponsible nations. She is really the saviour of the League, because if she were to allow their repeated attempts at achieving an immediate millenium to come to a head, the League would be branded with a series of glorious essays in theory and miserable failures in practice, which would stamp it before very long as a League of visionaries and fabricators of schemes found impractical under present day conditions.

Generally the presence of Chamberlain [2] and Briand [3] has had the good effect of ensuring the attendance of no less than eighteen other foreign ministers, all of which goes to help the League along. The increasing attendance of such people of importance is, I suppose, one of the few yard sticks one can put up to gauge the supposed increase of prestige of the League as years go by.

Sir Eric Drummond [4] has a good reputation here and is spoken of fairly generally as being a remarkably good official head. His appearance is not impressive however. I have heard since I have been here that the position was offered to Hankey [5] in the first place but that he turned it down as he thought the League would not persist and that he would be left stranded and branded with some responsibility at least for a failure. It is curious that Hankey himself has never mentioned this to me-it may not be true of course -but he may be rather sore at having missed such a plum.

[6] I met Drummond several times and was, for what it is worth, singularly unimpressed.

I asked one of the heads of sections of the Secretariat recently why the South American States took the League so seriously, as they could never really suppose that any one of their number would get any serious support from Europe against the aggression of their neighbours. He said that there were several reasons:

firstly, that their subscriptions were comparatively small;

secondly, that their representatives becoming presidents of commissions under the League reflected a supposed prestige on the Government that sent them to League Assemblies, and so assisted their Governments in subsequent elections; thirdly, that it pleased their pride to belong to a world organisation to which the United States did not belong, and so gave them a reply to the implied and rather patronising protective interest that the United States is supposed to have over them and which is exemplified in the Monroe Doctrine [7] and in the Pan-American League; and, lastly, that the League was undoubtedly able to open up to them the advantages of modern thought in sociological, health and other non-political directions.

One wonders if Canada's successful effort to get Dandurand [8] (Leader of Liberal Party in Canadian Senate) made President of the Assembly, may not have been done by Mackenzie King [9] with an eye to the prestige his Government might get on the eve of their elections.

Dandurand in his capacity as President of the Assembly made a practice of always addressing the Assembly in French and having his remarks subsequently interpreted. He speaks good English and even if he is more at home in his native Quebec French, I think it should be realised that English is the predominant tongue in Canada and that Canada is a part of the British Empire. In his first address as President he made nothing but a passing reference to the Empire.

There are two men in the Assembly whose reputation as expert lobbyists is well known and established-Aguero y Berthancourt [10], the Cuban, and Sokal [11], the Pole. They are what the Americans call 'good mixers' and make a point of cultivating and knowing all the small States representatives. When a list of names has to be put forward to the Assembly for Presidents of Commissions or for Vice-Chairmen of the Assembly, it is always these two who come forward with a cut and dried list of names and a list of States whose representatives will support this list.

They are expert at vote swapping and at knowing all the cross currents that are going on amongst the small fry.

There is, to my mind, not nearly enough collaboration between the British and the Dominion Delegations. They are first of all spread over four hotels, which puts a gratuitous and unnecessary difficulty in the way of active liaison. There is quite an atmosphere of formality between the British delegations, which should not exist. We should take two or three floors in one hotel and have our offices next door to each other, and make use of the month during which the Assembly meets to mix very considerably more than we do-in fact, live in each other's pockets for a bit and get inside our reciprocal skins. I blame the British Delegation most for the existing state of 'playing gentlemen' between the English-speaking delegations. The Dominion delegations recognise that the British Delegation knows a great deal more about all the subjects under discussion, and there is, I think, a feeling that they do not wish to make the first move towards any more cordial reciprocity, owing to not wanting to display their comparative ignorance.

I personally knew all the British Delegation fairly well and spent a good deal of time with them, but it was only with difficulty that I managed to get our people together with them.

It was interesting to see the attitude of the Irish delegates, which was generally correct and polite. They attended all meetings of the combined British delegations in a friendly, if perhaps non- committal, way. In private conversation they stated that they admitted that their prosperity and security depended almost entirely on that of Great Britain, and that the mental attitude of the I.F.S. towards Great Britain was, with careful nursing by the present Irish Government, being normalised. They reminded one of the oppression that their people had been under for hundreds of years and that they had been-at war with the forces of the Crown in recent years. The memory of these things, they said, was not to be wiped out in a moment, but that they hoped that, with the gradual passing of the present generation, the memories of the Black and Tans would pass.

They protested publicly on one occasion (in Committee when accession to the optional clause of the International Court was being discussed) against Sir Cecil Hurst's [12] form of words in which they thought that it might be implied that he was speaking for the Empire and all its component parts. This happened on the occasion of an important prepared speech of Hurst's, which should, of course, have been previously discussed with the other Empire delegates. The Irish had some reason for complaint, as they have to think of their public opinion at home. Hurst, to my mind, said too much. However, he was tremendously busy all through the Assembly as his advice was constantly sought on all manner of questions and this particular speech was probably made without sufficient careful consideration.

The Irish address all their communications to the League in French and have written to the Secretariat asking that they may be addressed in French in all written communications.

However, in spite of one's petty criticisms, there is no doubt that the League is a good thing. If for no other reason, it promotes the meeting and free mixing of parliamentarians of all countries who would otherwise meet but seldom and then very formally. After all, more or less the same people are in and out of office for twenty years in every country, and after men have met time and again at Geneva and elsewhere at Conferences inspired by the League for year after year, it will become in time more difficult for them to have differences and misunderstandings.

I say this with the full knowledge that there is considerable 'lobbying' and that delegates do not give voice in public session to all their real opinions. This is made clear by Mr.

Chamberlain's short but exceedingly interesting memorandum on his impressions of the Assembly, which I have already sent you.

Lobbying, petty intrigue and not a little dissimulation, is apparently a European habit of mind, and it is useless to criticise it however underhand one may think it. We cannot do likewise as, firstly, we are no good at it and would be outmanoeuvred, and, secondly, it would be misunderstood and suspected.

Many times during Assembly and Committee meetings I was reminded of the small boy's query to his mother during an interminable sermon: 'Estce-qu'il parle autant qu'il veut?' An amusing incident happened in a conference of the British Empire delegations. After outlining the position with regard to the possible resuscitation of the Protocol and on Security and Disarmament generally, Lord Cecil [13] turned to Smit (South African High Commissioner) and asked him if he had any suggestions to make as to the individual or combined British attitude towards Security; Smit roused his burgher mind sufficiently to reply: 'No, I'm afraid I haven't thought about Security!'

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Federal elections were held in Australia on 14 November 1925.

Bruce's Coalition Government was returned with an increased majority.

2 Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

3 Aristide Briand, French Foreign Minister.

4 Secretary-General of the League of Nations.

5 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

6 Hankey had been tempted by the Geneva prospect but the counsel of confidants and his own patriotism urged otherwise. Moreover, he had regarded United States membership as vital to the effective functioning of the League and when, in April 1919, he decided that congressional acceptance of the League Covenant was unlikely he at once opted for a continuing career in London. See Stephen Roskill, Hankey: Man of Secrets, Vol. II 1919-31, Collins, London, 1972, p.

79.

7 See note 3 to Letter 98.

8 Raoul Dandurand, Canadian Minister without Portfolio.

9 William Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister.

10 So expert in lobbying for candidates for League offices as to earn in Geneva the title of the Great Elector.

11 Francois Sokal, Polish Minister and Permanent Delegate accredited to the League of Nations.

12 Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office.

13 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but mainly concerned with League affairs.