Wednesday, 18th September 1929

18th September, 1929


[Written from Geneva]

My dear Prime Minister,

This week we have the sudden departure of Major Marr [1], and the fiasco which ensued. We have had oceans more oratory, for to my great surprise, I find that set speeches are the Assembly Committee style, and I have had to suffer several, of from three- quarters of an hour to an hour. No one seems to be able to move a resolution or even to correct some minor drafting mistake, without protesting his love for the League, and assuring his bored colleagues of his country’s attachment to the spirit of Geneva.

Since Major Marr left, I have been taking the Budget Committee-no.

4, in addition to no. 2. On the economic side of the Second Committee, matters move in a rather interesting way. The resolutions in favour of a Tariff Truce and an International Conference for tariff revision has led to some interesting statements.

I spoke on Friday and will send you a copy of my speech when I receive a corrected, draft. I moved two resolutions, one for an Economic Survey, and one (at the request of the Secretariat) for the keeping up to date of a collection of papers on Monetary and Central Banking Laws, the original printing of which will be paid for by a Rockefeller grant.

I made a very strong plea for the recognition of the fact that while the oversea State Members of the League did not desire to make it difficult for European countries to come to arrangements for the mutual adjustment of their tariffs, we could not in the present stage of our development be expected to take the same view. I also spoke against the tendency to speak of the League of Nations as being tied to the economic doctrine of Free Trade.

Ireland and Canada have taken similar lines, and India will do so to-morrow.

Much the most interesting development, however, is the move towards economic solidarity in Europe. Here Great Britain stands in a curious position. She desires the lowering of European tariffs but is not at all happy over the idea of this being associated with a series of European industrial ententes. London, however, is insistent that France will not be a party to a Tariff holiday without the ententes. This came out very clearly in the private meeting of the no. 2 Drafting Committee, of which I am a member.

I think the economic tendencies apparent this year are so important that I shall draw up a special report on the subject and send it to you, although I do not think it can be done until after I return from Rome.

As I promised in my last letter, I am enclosing verbatim copies of Graham’s [2] speech, and that portion of Major Marr’s speech which deals with the economic questions. I do not expect you will have time to read them, but it may prove useful to the Government to have them available. I have marked those portions of Graham’s speech where he emphasises the British Empire point of view that the proposals to lower tariffs are the affairs of Europe.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Charles Marr, Minister for Home and Territories 1927-28;

Honorary Minister and leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations Assembly 1929. Marr returned to Australia because of the impending General Election.

2 William Graham, President of the Board of Trade.