Wednesday, 3rd October 1928

3rd October, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,

It was with the very greatest pleasure that I received and read your very long letter of the 27th August. [1] It was extremely good of you to give so much time to replying to my series of letters and to let me have such full comment on a number of matters.

You started by referring to my little illness and were good enough to give me very sound advice as regards the importance of rest. I am perfectly sure that you do not follow your own advice to any appreciable extent. I know, however, that one ought to see that one gets sufficient rest to enable one to bring a fresh mind to problems.

Please understand quite definitely that I shall not become discouraged even when I do not hear from you in reply to my letters. It is, of course, very much more pleasant to receive replies but I think I completely understand how tremendously pressed you are. It is kind of you to tell me that you continue to find my letters interesting and occasionally helpful.

As your letter deals with replies to communications from me covering the period 3rd May to 18th July, it is unnecessary for me to answer the greater part of your letter in detail.

I have most carefully studied your comments on the economic activities of the League of Nations and am very glad that on the whole you have approved of the line of country which I felt it expedient to take. [2] The more I think about it, the clearer I am that it is desirable for us to co-operate in certain directions in order that we may be in the strongest possible position to exercise a controlling influence on the whole question of what the League is to do in the economic field. Only today I have further evidence of the usefulness of this point of view. The Deputy Editor of the ‘Times’ [3], who, at the present moment, is in charge of the paper, was in touch with me today about the coming General Assembly of the International Institute at Rome and, in the course of our talk, he said that he had been told that my putting forward at the meeting of the Consultative Committee the dangers of precipitating action in the matter of tariffs had had a marked and so far lasting effect.

Major Fuhrman [4], who has just returned from Geneva, has given me one very interesting piece of information. Apparently Senator McLachlan [5], in speaking in the Assembly, adhered fairly closely to the speech which I had forwarded to him. The only two countries that definitely supported the point of view which he put forward were-according to Major Fuhrman-South Africa and Ireland. I am drawing your attention to this fact because it appears to me to illustrate, in a very striking way, the point which I referred to in my last letter [6] to you when I suggested that Geneva might be used as a means for cementing the Empire rather than the reverse.

Naturally your comments on the Report of your Tariff Committee were of special interest to me and I shall keenly await the receipt of the revised report which Brigden [7] has prepared.

Should it happen that, through some oversight, a copy of Brigden’s revise has not been forwarded to me by the time you receive this letter, I should be extremely glad if you will see that I do receive a copy. I will certainly go through it most carefully and let you have my considered comments in the same way as I did with the first edition of the report. [8]

With reference to your remarks about the development of economic research in Australia [9], I propose to write to you more fully on this subject and will try to send you a letter covering the whole of my views to reach you about a week after the conclusion of the General Election.

Your letter touches on the subject of the British Mission. I am afraid that the strike [10] followed by the General Election will make their job particularly difficult. I imagine that you will have little time to see them or to discuss things with them until after November 17th. However I suppose Gepp [11] and his colleagues will be in no way affected by the Election campaign and they will undertake the education of the men so that, as soon as the Election is over, you will be able to get down to discussions with men who will, by that time, have become fairly well acquainted with the problems that they have to face.

I should, naturally, be extremely interested to receive some comments from you on your reactions to the Business Mission after you have had an opportunity of going into matters with them. There is one thing which I feel you should have in mind. Arthur Duckham [12] is very distinctly ‘persona grata’ with Winston Churchill [13] and I hope that if Duckham comes back from Australia profoundly impressed with the importance to Great Britain of the development of the Empire, he may be able to do something to induce Winston Churchill to realise that backing of large scale Empire development schemes is not only sound from the point of view of British trade and industry but also politically wise from Churchill’s own personal point of view. There can be no doubt that Winston Churchill is a very ambitious man who desires above everything else to be Prime Minister. So long as the bulk of the Tory Party feel that Churchill is not a man who can safely be trusted on Imperial affairs, just so long it is impossible to imagine that they will agree to his becoming Prime Minister. If, however, Churchill showed a real change of heart and ‘brought forth fruits meet for repentance’-in other words if he really demonstrated in the clearest and most unmistakable way his interest in the British Empire-he would have removed the biggest stumbling block to his eventually succeeding Baldwin [14] as Leader of the Party. It is, of course, more than possible that Churchill’s known dislike of safeguarding may render such a development impossible but there can be no doubt that a change of attitude on his part in regard to the Empire would go a long way to assist his ambition.

While on the subject of the Business Mission, I unfeignedly hope that the somewhat trying younger members of Arthur Duckham’s family will not have got in the way during the visit of the Mission. I very strongly advised Duckham and his wife that the best thing to do with the young people was to keep them away from the Mission and let them get up country where they could see something of station life.

I was most interested to find that you had found my notes on a discussion which Walter Elliot [15] and I had had on ‘Poor law for safe-guarders and a developmental loan’ stimulating. As you are so keen on the idea, it is possible that you might find it useful if I were to send you a memorandum suggesting some possible ways whereby stringent conditions might be attached to a tariff system.

I will try to do something along these lines and let you have it towards the end of November.

Your mention of Walter Elliot reminded me that you had never let me know whether you had found time to read Elliot’s little book ‘Toryism and the Twentieth Century’. If you have not done so, I am quite sure that you would find an hour spent on running through it both interesting and amusing. It is not a very solid piece of work but it does contain a number of very stimulating ideas.

It is rather curious that the day before I received your letter in which you mention your action on the matter of the 75%-25% British labour and material [16]-I should have heard from Whiskard [17], of the Dominions Office, and later from Sir Edward Crowe [18], the new official head of the Department of Overseas Trade, of the very great appreciation which is felt in official circles here as to the attitude which you have adopted in regard to British trade since you took over the Portfolio of Trade and Customs. Apparently Dalton [19] has written a most enthusiastic letter about this to Cunliffe-Lister [20], who has circulated a copy to Amery. [21] There can be no doubt that there was a very unhappy feeling in official circles as to the way in which the Customs Department was treating British trade interests and the change which you have brought about is very much to the good. A constant sequence of small irritants may do more harm than most people can realise.

After reading your comments on the memorandum from the Associated Chambers of Commerce [22], I gathered that I made one mistake of omission. Apparently I should have cabled to you to inform you that a memorandum was being despatched from the British Association to the Australian Association and to have advised that you should have got into touch with the President of the Associated Chambers in Australia. Fortunately this actually happened but I should feel happier had I seen that this was the proper thing for me to have done. I was probably misled into thinking that they would accept the advice which I had most vigorously given them that the memorandum should not have been published at all.

The last part of your letter comments on the visit of Theiler [23] and Orr. [24] I have written to you several times recently on this subject so have no further comment so far as Orr is concerned, in this letter.


On Monday I saw Amery with the idea of trying to obtain his blessing on the proposition that C.S.I.R. should appoint Sir Arnold Theiler as a member of the Scientific Staff of the Commonwealth. Amery was nice about it but stressed the dependence which he felt on Sir Arnold Theiler for assistance in dealing with tropical animal diseases. I was able to tell Amery that I had already discussed the matter fully with Ormsby-Gore [25] and Elliot and that they had been prepared to agree but had also stressed the importance of Theiler being occasionally available for ad hoc pieces of work in tropical Africa. [26]

After a long talk, Amery agreed that I could cable to Australia to inform C.S.I.R. that, provided Theiler himself was agreeable, there would be no objection to C.S.I.R. appointing Theiler but that it would be very much appreciated if Australia were prepared to release Theiler occasionally to undertake an ad hoc piece of work in some other part of the Empire. Amery pointed out how such action on the part of Australia would assist towards the realisation of the idea that it was necessary to use imperial team work if we were successfully to tackle the problems of the application of science to agriculture on a really large scale. I very definitely asked Amery whether, in the event of Australia acting along the lines which he felt to be so desirable, he would, on his part, do whatever he could to obtain the temporary services of outstanding men such as Orr when we felt that it was extremely necessary. Amery agreed that this point was the obvious corollary of what he had in mind and promised his assistance.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 The twenty-four-page letter is on file AA:M111, 1928.

2 See Letters 163 and 164.

3 G. M. Brumwell.

4 O. C. W. Fuhrman, Private Secretary to the Australian High Commissioner 1922-26; secretary to many Australian delegations to the League of Nations.

5 A. J. McLachlan, South Australian Senator; Honorary Minister;

leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly 1928.

6 Letter 186.

7 J. B. Brigden, Professor of Economics, University of Tasmania.

In his letter Bruce advised that he had asked Brigden to redraft the report of his private committee on the tariff (see note 13 to Letter 130) as the original ‘would not convey very much to the ordinary intelligent individual’ and ‘of all the so-called economists with whom I have come in touch I am inclined to the view that Brigden … has the best and most practical mind’.

8 See Letter 168.

9 See note 6 to Letter 168.

10 Waterside workers took strike action in September in protest against a new provision in their award requiring attendance twice daily at pick-ups. A hastily passed Transport Workers Act, authorising licensing of waterside labour, provoked resistance to ‘dog-collar labour’ and prolonged unrest on the wharves.

11 H. W. Gepp, Chairman of the Commonwealth Development and Migration Commission.

12 Sir Arthur Duckham, chemical engineer prominent in the coal industry; leader of the British Economic Mission 1928.

13 Chancellor of the Exchequer.

14 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

15 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland; Chairman of the Research Grants Committee of the Empire Marketing Board. See note 6 to Letter 175.

16 See note 6 to Letter 169.

17 G. G. Whiskard, Assistant Secretary at the Dominions Office.

18 Former career diplomat, seconded for service as director of the Foreign Division in the Department of Overseas Trade 1924-28;

Comptroller-General of the Department of Overseas Trade from 1 August 1928.

19 R. W. Dalton, Senior United Kingdom Trade Commissioner in Australia from 1924.

20 Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade.

21 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs; Chairman of the Empire Marketing Board.

22 See Letter 177.

23 Sir Arnold Theiler, Director of Veterinary Education and Research in South Africa until his retirement in 1927.

24 J. B. Orr, Director of the Rowett Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition, Aberdeen.

25 William Ormsby-Gore, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Colonies; Chairman of the Publicity Committee of the Empire Marketing Board.

26 See Letter 186.