No. 75 UCDA P80/557

Handwritten letter from Edward J. Phelan to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)

Geneva, 3 April 1927

Dear Desmond,

Many thanks for your letter of 24th March.1 I would have answered it before but we have had a long and troublesome meeting of the Governing Body all this last week. I was glad to hear of the Senate discussion and the opportunity it gave you to put our position clear. I have since been able to read the discussion and your statement in full and I think you put it admirably well.

I understand the difficulties of the Imperial Conference. Hertzog of course did not realise what was involved and Australia and New Zealand are all for the fetters of imperial unity. The report is most cunningly drafted. Balfour is a master at the art of drawing up a document which seems to mean clearly one thing and is subsequently found to mean another.We should therefore watch carefully every point and try to accumulate precedents in the sense in which we accepted the report and not in the sense it may be twisted. For example Keith2 is already arguing that the G.[overnor] G.[eneral] is still in certain respects the representative of and acts on the instructions of the Imperial Government. He also argues that a Dominion plenipotentiary can only get full powers to sign a treaty on the recommendation of a British Minister. I interpret the Report in quite the opposite sense, and I think you do too. But British draftsmen are adept in giving one not the right one seeks but only the right to discuss whether or not the right has been given, and we've got to get it realised and confirmed by practice. I hope you agree with the interpretations I have given in my article on the Sovereignty of the Irish Free State. The Imperial Constitutionalists won't like it but the international lawyers here have been very interested in it and tell me they regard the reasoning as sound.

With regard to Chamberlain's statement we ought of course to get a public correction. But don't you think the best reply would be to continue our candidature for the Council. Canada wouldn't go forward and so we began. Moreover Canada sits permanently on the Governing Body of the I.L.O. (which ranks next after the Council of the League) and she can hardly claim a monopoly of international honours. So if some other Dominion should have the first chance at the Council surely no one has a better claim than ourselves.

I am going down to Cannes in the car next week for a few days rest. I suppose there is no chance of you being in those parts.

I was amused by Kevin's joke about the hiccup in the Vox Populi. But perhaps his early closing Act will diminish its tendency to syncopation of that kind. Anyway best wishes in the contest. I hope the result will be that you will be out here in September.

With all best wishes,
E.J. Phelan

1 See No. 70.

2 Professor Arthur Berriedale Keith.

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