No. 16 NAI DFA Washington Embassy Confidential Reports 1938-9

Confidential report from Robert Brennan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(108/51/39) (Copy)

Washington, 11 September 1939

The original document drawn up by the State Department for the signature of the President on the 5th September, proclaiming the neutrality of the United States, began as follows 'Proclaiming the neutrality of the United States in the war between Germany and France; Poland; and the United Kingdom, the British Dominions beyond the seas and India'. In order to get over any difficulty about Ireland, the term 'Northern Ireland' was omitted. The President, himself, changed the wording (see cutting herewith)1 knocking out 'the British Dominions beyond the seas' and adding 'Australia and New Zealand'. This was due to the fact that Canada and South Africa had not then declared war.

At first it was thought that because of this, arms could be shipped to Canada if Canada did not declare war. The State Department, however, held that when Great Britain declares war, the whole Empire is at war, and that the Dominions have no say in this. What they have a say in is whether they will participate and to what extent. They quote regarding this view Ernest La Pointe, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada who is reported to have stated in the Canadian Parliament that Canada had powers to refuse to participate in any war, but that if Great Britain was at war it was nonsense to say Canada could be neutral. The Canadian Parliament had the right to sever their connection with the British Empire, and that was the only way they could remain neutral. They quoted also one of the South African Ministers to the same effect and also Professor Berriedale-Keith.2

[stamped] (Signed) Robt. Brennan

1 Not printed.

2 Professor Arthur Berriedale Keith (1879-1944), Chair of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology and later lecturer on the constitution of the British Empire at the University of Edinburgh (1914-44).

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