No. 197 UCDA P150/2179
Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 26) (Secret)
London, 16 June 1938
Mr. J.H. Thomas, whom I had not seen since his resignation1, lunched with me on Friday last.
He spoke of his real pleasure in the recent Agreements though he would be less than human if he didn't express his deep regrets that the British Cabinet had, long ago, turned down his own proposals for a not essentially different settlement. His terms were much the same as those agreed upon except that his annuity figure was £20 millions. More than any other Cabinet Minister Lord Hailsham2 was responsible for the rejection of this plan. Several months later he lost much of his influence in the Cabinet through his holding on so long to the Lord Chancellorship when it was unmistakeably clear to the least observant that he was physically unfit to do the work of that office.
He told me that one of the people most pleased with the Agreements was the present King. The latter, and a different person altogether, Mr. J.L. Garvin3, had both said to him within the past few days that they would like to meet An Taoiseach.
Lord Baldwin and Lady Baldwin recently stayed for a week-end with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas at their house in Sussex. 'I welcomed him' Mr. Thomas told me, 'by saying to him - "here is the luckiest politician alive coming to stay with the unluckiest".' 'I did not have to come all this way to learn that, Jim' was Lord Baldwin's answer.
After a eulogy of Lord Baldwin - 'one of the most honourable and fair-minded men God ever made' - there followed some remarks about other former colleagues. Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Thomas it appears throughout their membership of the British Cabinet sat side by side in the Cabinet meetings. Frequently Mr. Chamberlain in undertones would make remarks in the Cabinet to Mr. Thomas about Mr. Baldwin which no colleague should have made about another. Mr. Thomas said he was the intermediary between Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Chamberlain on the subject of the latter's succession to the Prime Ministership. He mentioned this as showing the close and friendly character of his relations which Mr. Chamberlain. Yet he feared he must describe him as a pure opportunist with no grasp of principle. (As the conversation went on Mr. Thomas showed great bitterness about the fact that although Lord Baldwin had been to stay with him, Mr. Chamberlain had left him completely alone since his resignation - a circumstance to be borne in mind when considering Mr. Thomas's criticisms.)
Sir John Simon was an enigma. Some of his colleagues doubted even his veracity. Despite his great ability he would never win the trust even of his small party much less the House of Commons. Lord Hailsham was slowly dying and counted for little nowadays. Of the younger men in the Cabinet he thought Mr. Walter Elliot the most promising. Lord Stanley was as decent and as straight a man as you would meet but most certainly not a man of brains.
It was a pity he was sent to the Dominions Office where the senior staff were not really big or progressive-minded as was the case in a number of other Departments such as the Treasury, the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade. When he went to the Dominions Office he did not get the support he expected and which he had received elsewhere. 'Didn't you know that I sacked Harding? Only for Warren Fisher and Baldwin I would have succeeded. He was so reactionary and unsympathetic to my ideas not only on Ireland but on other matters that I felt my position almost impossible. Batterbee, being his brother-in-law, was merely an echo of Harding. The papers sent to the Cabinet often revealed a difference of opinion between senior people in the same Department and these different points of view were of great help to Ministers. Though they became less reactionary and we got on moderately well, Harding and Batterbee continued to hold the same view on practically every question.'
About his political downfall he said few men had ever known such bitterness of spirit as had been his. All he said to Sir Alfred Butt4 was a kind of 'leg pull'. Sir Alfred Butt had asked no question. He is a very rich man and Mr. Thomas said he had told Sir Alfred Butt, in a tone of banter, that he and other big capitalists like him who thought they could get armaments piled up without paying for them would be disillusioned. 'I am, and always will be, a gambler' Mr. Thomas said, 'So is Butt. On that jesting remark Butt goes straightaway and insures against a Budget rise and right enough makes a bit of money as lots of others did'. Would not the general public conclude, I asked, that Sir Alfred Butt had special information whereas the others insured on their own interpretation of the Budget position. 'The answer to that' Mr. Thomas said, 'is a letter I hold from a leading firm of Lloyds saying that Butt had regularly taken Budget insurances with Lloyds for over twenty years and had usually been on the right side!' I record the immediately foregoing only for its relation to what followed.
'We all know' Mr. Thomas said, 'there isn't any gratitude in public life. I accept that. But what makes me feel suicidal is that I have been publicly disgraced for giving away a secret I never gave away - I who probably hold more secrets locked up in my direct personal experience than half the members of the Cabinet put together. When Lady Astor's5 son was in trouble for homosexuality6 who got that put right with complete secrecy? Jim Thomas. When the Prince of Wales was outraged because his nomination of Mr. Simpson7 to a Masonic Lodge had been turned down because the Lodge said Mrs. Simpson was the Prince's mistress and this was a "blind" for the Prince, who brought the Prince before the three blackballers of His Royal Highness's own nomination, and got an emphatic denial from the Prince about his relation with Mrs. Simpson and consequently secured Mr. Simpson's election, thus saving a most embarrassing situation for the country? The answer again is Jim Thomas. Who was called in when the Duke of Kent8 was terribly and, as it seemed to his mother, inextricably involved with a notorious Society prostitute - a scandal that would have altered history had it been revealed? Who got the incriminating letters and photographs at a fourth of the price the prostitute demanded when she was in a position to demand almost any figure? Jim Thomas is again the answer. Isn't it the irony of ironies that I who hold and have never given away any of these real secrets am damned for ever because they say I gave away a supposed Budget secret which I never did.'
Queen Mary, the King, and Lord Baldwin had shown consistent sympathy and solace to Mrs. Thomas and himself in their great distress.
[signed] J.W. DULANTY