25th March, 1926


(Due to arrive Melbourne-24.4.26)

My dear P.M.,

This is merely the lighter side of Geneva. I had a little amusement with Theodoli [1] (Chairman, Permanent Mandates Commission) at lunch one day. At a convenient time during the meal, I asked him how the Mandates Commission would view a treaty between Australia, as mandatory power for the Territory of New Guinea, and the Dutch, by which say 100 square miles of the mandated territory were to be ceded to Dutch New Guinea in return for accommodation elsewhere. His grasp of English is a little weak and he got the immediate impression that he was being 'tried out' on an actual case. He sprang into the air and said: 'No, no; you cannot do it, you cannot do it; these things have first to be reviewed by the Mandates Commission.' I then asked him what was the difference between our acting in this way and the Jouvenal Treaty [2] between Syria and Turkey. He then saw the point and smiled and said: 'Ah yes, but that is just the point. The Mandates Commission take the view that the Jouvenal Treaty cannot function until it has been passed by the Commission. At the moment we do not know the terms of the Jouvenal Treaty and in any case we will have to review its terms.'

He then took the simile to its extreme and instanced Australia as Mandatory for T.N.G., ceding part of the Mandate to Australia, as administrator of Papua.

M. da Costa [3], the Portuguese Delegate, became President of the Assembly at Geneva by virtue of no one else having thought it worthwhile to intrigue for the job for such a short Assembly. He gave a large and expensive dinner party to 100 delegates and their entourages, at which I found myself sitting between the Latvian Minister at Rome and the Colombian Minister at Madrid-M. Schumans [4] and M. Urrutia. [5] The Lett was a decent clean-looking Northerner and the Colombian was a dissipated looking old Southerner, whom I should think had been dropped by his nurse in his early days. We had a little French and German in common-but complicated on both sides by Slav and Spanish pronunciation respectively. Two contretemps marked the dinner for me. The Lett and I had agreed (with great linguistic difficulty) that we didn't hold with academic intellectuals and he had got off the German proverb:-

'Funf und siebzig Professoren Das Vaterland ist ganz verloren' which, in due course, I repeated to the Colombian. However, it didn't go very well because as I learnt later he was a Professor himself in real life!

Later on, the Colombian was telling me what a wonderful sporting country Colombia was, birds of prey and sporting birds everywhere- you just had to kick them out of your way if you wanted to get along at all. One bird in particular was apparently particularly plentiful, but he couldn't tell me its name in anything but Spanish. He appealed unsuccessfully to Chu [6], the Chinaman, and Morales [7], the Dominican (whose looks belie his name, by the way!) who sat opposite to tell him the English or French for this Spanish bird. Just then a dish was pushed under his nose and his face worked convulsively for a moment; he impaled one of the small birds on his fork and thrust it at me. 'Voila, par exemple, un de nos oiseaux sportiffs'-a quail!

One of the ribald stories of the Assembly hinges on the person of Jimmy James, the well-known representative of the 'New York Times' in Paris. James had had a terrific party with a young Spaniard at a Geneva Assembly a couple of years ago-the young Spaniard being Yanguas [8], then attached to the Spanish Delegation in a minor capacity. By a turn of the political wheel, Yanguas has become Spanish Foreign Secretary and at this Assembly was Chief Spanish Delegate. On the first day of this Assembly, Jimmy James encounters Yanguas in the lobby of the Bergues Hotel, remembers him only as his one time boon companion and, in his well-known booming voice addresses him: 'Well, well, Buddy. What d'you know about my meeting you again-Isn't it time we went out and got drunk together again!' Yanguas was hurried away by his staff before Jimmy James could say anything worse.

One of the same gentleman's remarks that added a little to the otherwise not very noticeable gaiety of the Assembly was in connection with Stresemann's [9] build, and the German application for a permanent Council seat. 'Why, the man's got a perfectly good seat. The only trouble is that he's got nowhere to put it!' As a suitable finish to this Assembly someone said it should be known as the FrancoMellodrama.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 The Italian Marquis Theodoli.

2 In the post-war dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey lost to French-controlled Syria a small southern coastal region, the Sanjaq of Alexandretta, which contained the ancient city of Antioch. The French mandatory administration of Syria allowed the region to some degree a separate identity, with official status for the Turkish language, but Turkish resentment remained and Turkey encouraged border guerrilla activity. Facing considerable discontent elsewhere in Syria, France sent Henri de Jouvenal (editor of Le Matin and a distinguished French representative at Geneva) to Syria in late 1925 as High Commissioner. To defuse the simmering conflict with Turkey he negotiated a Franco-Turkish agreement providing for arbitration of disputes, benevolent neutrality in case of conflict with a third party, co-operation in suppressing border violence and, as a price, making some border adjustments in Turkey's favour in the Sanjaq region. The agreement was initialled on 18 February 1926, signed on 30 May and finally sealed on 12 August.

3 Dr Affonso da Costa, formerly Portuguese Prime Minister.

4 Vilis Schumans, in fact Latvian Minister to the Holy See.

5 Dr Francisco Urrutia.

6 Zhu Zhaoxin (Chu Chao-hsin), Chinese Minister to Italy.

7 Angelo Morales, Dominican Minister accredited to France, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.

8 Jose de Yanguas Messia.

9 Dr Gustav Stresemann, German Foreign Minister.