No. 67 NAI DFA LN 65

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)
(M.L. 03/0191)

Geneva, 9 March 1927

A Chara,

I beg to enclose you a copy of the Declaration1 made by Sir Austen Chamberlain at a meeting of the Council which was held this morning relating to the form of treaties to be negotiated in future under the auspices of the League of Nations.

After carefully studying this Declaration, it appears to me that if it is generally accepted the Status of the Saorstát as a Member of the League will be considerably affected. Under the system hitherto practised each Dominion was considered to be a separate, independent, State, apart altogether from its relationship to the British Commonwealth of Nations. At more than one League Conference the British Delegates endeavoured to have a different interpretation put on Dominion Status but without avail. Sir Cecil Hurst did not convince the Barcelona Conference,2 nor Sir Archibald Bodkin the Conference on Obscene Publications, that the Dominions were on a different footing to other members of the League. It is because of their failure in this respect that they insisted on the Inter se clause, which we successfully opposed at two or three conferences.

It seems now from the Chamberlain declaration that the Imperial Conference accepted the interpretation of Dominion Status which the British delegates failed to carry at any International Conference since the League came into existence.

In accordance with the Chamberlain Declaration, the name of the Saorstát cannot, in future, figure in the preamble to a League Treaty, except in a subordinate position. The British may say that we are on a footing of equality with Great Britain and Northern Ireland in this respect, nevertheless our inequality with all the other Members of the League cannot escape the notice of International Jurists and other interested parties.

After reading his Declaration, Sir Austen added that the Covenant omitted to take notice of the fact that there existed an entity called Great Britain. The different Dominions were represented in the League of Nations, but Great Britain was not. He, Sir Austen, however, represented the British Empire. It is unnecessary to emphasise the importance of this assumption in view of the Statements made at the last Assembly on behalf of Canada and the Saorstát.

Mise, le meas,
[signed] M. MacWhite

1 Not printed.

2 The Barcelona Transit Conference of 1921 at which the inter se doctrine was first pronounced.

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