Wednesday, 4th September 1929

4th September, 1929


[Written from Geneva]

My dear Prime Minister,

So far little of importance from the economic point of view has arisen at Geneva. The arrangement is that the Committee dealing with economic subjects should start its work on Friday, on which day Graham [1] the President of the Board of Trade will arrive in Geneva. He, I think, intends to speak in the Assembly on Saturday so I have asked the British Delegation to arrange for a meeting of the British Empire representatives on No. 2 Committee (economic and technical questions) to be held on Friday evening in order that we may have an opportunity of discussing with Graham the line of country which he is going to adopt in the League’s economic activities.

MacDonald [2] in his speech yesterday made sweeping reference to his desire to see the League strengthen its efforts for the reduction of tariffs, but his statement on this matter was extremely woolly-headed and no one quite understood what it meant.

I have been in touch with O’Sullivan [3] of the Irish Free State, de Villiers [4] of the South African Delegation and with two of the Canadians. I shall also make a point of having a talk to one of the Indian people and also with SirJames Parr [5] of New Zealand before Friday in order that I may put into their minds the point of view that an extreme anti-tariff attitude by the League of Nations is incompatible with the attitude of our respective Governments in regard to the subject.

With regard to the Imperial Conference I am much interested in the reply to the cable which I believe Casey [6] sent you last Thursday. I have had a talk with Sir Sydney Chapman [7] who expressed a very considerable leaning towards Ottawa for the Imperial Economic Conference, his main reason being that he thinks it would be a magnificent gesture of the real significance of Dominion status. I pointed out to him that a conference on imperial economic affairs which was not attended by the British Prime Minister or the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [8] would be rather a farce. He said that that was a point with which he entirely agreed, but he thought it ought to be possible to arrange for MacDonald to attend at least part of the conference held at Ottawa. I rather expect that you have found yourself in a somewhat awkward position owing to the Canadian invitation [9] and that you may not feel at all able to agree in the suggestion that I should make any formal representations to Graham here.

The matter of MacDonald’s speech yesterday in the Assembly does not come within my province, but you may be interested to have a note of my impressions of his manner. It seemed to me on the whole very ineffective. Half a dozen times he worked himself up into a passion of righteousness, and although so far as I was able to judge, the matter of the first half of his speech was sound, he went all to sea on the subject of Palestine and what he had to say was so righteous as to be almost ridiculous, and this also applies to what he had to say on the subject of tariffs.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 William Graham.

2 Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister.

3 J. M. O’Sullivan, Minister for Education and Member of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State; Professor of Modern History, University College, Dublin.

4 Daniel J. de Villiers, South African Trade Commissioner in Europe.

5 New Zealand High Commissioner in London.

6 R. G. Casey, Commonwealth Government’s Liaison Officer in London. See Letter 254.

7 Economic Adviser to the British Government.

8 Philip Snowden.

9 On 3 September the British Government advised Bruce that it had accepted the Canadian invitation to an economic conference in Ottawa, though the date was still subject to discussion. On 9 September Bruce replied that an economic conference would only be effective if held in Great Britain, and on 18 September urged that the matter be held in abeyance pending the Australian General Election. The cables are on file AA:A461, H326/1/4- See also note 14 to Letter 248.