No. 65 NAI 2006/39
London, 17 June 1937
General Hertzog told me today that from the point of view of South Africa the Conference just finished was the most satisfactory Imperial Conference which he had attended. This was his fourth Conference. I asked what particular feature or features of the Conference afforded him such satisfaction.
He said that there was a marked improvement in the general attitude of the United Kingdom Government towards the other members of the Commonwealth. He thought more than at any other Conference the United Kingdom Government had accepted the conception of 1926 and all that it implied, whether actual or potential. There was no trace at any time of the United Kingdom wishing to assume any attitude other than that of complete equality with the other Governments.
General Hertzog said that he had had a farewell conversation this morning with Earl Baldwin and had told him that although he came to this Conference not without misgiving he was going away feeling happier about the reality of the co-equality of the Governments in the Commonwealth than he had ever felt before.
The talks on defence had been very illuminating. The British, as far as he and his colleagues could see, had shown the completest frankness and candour in discussing world, and particularly European, affairs.
He did not think he could say that any real progress had been made on economic questions. The pivotal question in the economic sphere was the trade relations between the United Kingdom and the United States which were now under discussion. He hoped that these discussions would produce a satisfactory agreement because he felt that it was of immediate and obvious importance to all the countries in the Commonwealth. In reply to my enquiry he said that this was the view taken at the end of the Conference by Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand - the two last named had in the earlier stages of the Conference shown reluctance to take the line adopted by the others but in the end had agreed. The position was now that all the Governments were prepared to make some sacrifice to achieve the objective of a United States-United Kingdom trade agreement.
In answer to his questions I gave him a brief outline of the position of the President in relation to the British Commonwealth.
Although Ireland had not been mentioned in any of the discussions, General Hertzog had talked privately with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald who made no concealment of his desire to reach an early settlement with the President, and further, admitted that in his view the United Kingdom people in the last few years had made mistakes in dealing with Ireland.
He asked me to convey his best wishes to the President. He doubted whether his Government could ever do much in the way of helping Ireland in the clearance of her difficulties with England, but if they could not help directly they would certainly never hinder.
[copy letter unsigned]
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....