No. 368 NAI DFA 26/95

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(X.12/20) (Secret)

Geneva, 5 May 1930

A Chara,1

I beg to acknowledge receipt of your L.N. 80/97 of the 16th ultimo.2

Canada, Cuba and Finland will be retiring from the Council.

For the Scandinavian Group, the choice has been left to Denmark and Norway to decide by agreement; the decision has not yet been made, but I believe that Norway will be a Candidate. Denmark is not particularly anxious to go forward,3 while Norway has shown such anxiety on previous occasions, for example at the last Assembly, when she got, I think, 22 votes.4 I have not been able to see any of the Representatives of the Baltic States, but I should be very much surprised if there will be a candidate put forward at the same time as Norway.5 I shall take an opportunity to meet the Estonian Minister and obtain more authoritative information. While the Scandinavian Group is disinclined to include the Baltic countries, I do not believe they can resist the re-grouping which would be necessitated by that arrangement.

The so-called South American seat will be vacated by Cuba. I understand that in this group there has been an arrangement by which the more northerly States will have a seat, leaving two for the more properly speaking South-American States.

There has been during the past year or so a strong effort to get Mexico to join the League. I have not heard anything of this from the Secretariat, but the Cuban Minister here said that the American bloc were particularly anxious to get Mexico in. He has told me that the present President of Mexico, as well as the Candidate he defeated, are partisans of the League, and that furthermore Señor Calles, the ex-President, when in Paris some short time ago, said he would use his influence also to get Mexico to join. If this statement of the views of the three principal men is correct, it would seem that that hope may be realised. Three or four months ago, the Mexican Government appointed an Observer at Geneva, but the winter climate was too much for him and he has been seriously ill since his arrival. Now, if Mexico joins the League before September, the South American group have 'undertaken' to see that she is directly elected to the Council. I do not suppose that in such circumstances there would be any inclination in any quarter to challenge such an arrangement. I shall keep the question of Mexico in mind and try to tap further sources of information. It has to be remembered that owing to the original failure to invite Mexico to be a Member, the Mexican Government has since refused to have anything to do with League Conferences, Conventions, etc. Should Mexico not be available, one or other of the Central American States will be the Candidate: Panama possibly or Costa Rica. There appears to be no doubt that China intends also to be a Candidate.6 As you are aware, she will require a two-third's vote in order to be made re-eligible. If the Irish candidature is going strong when the Assembly meets, I should not be surprised if China reconsiders her decision. That will obviously depend upon circumstances in China as well as at the League.

I saw the Secretary General on the 2nd instant, and took the occasion to inform him that the Saorstát's candidature would be supported by the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African Governments amongst others. I said that we had learned that China was again to offer herself for re-election, but that while my Government had duly considered the remarks he had made on a previous occasion and attached due weight to his views, there was no question but that we should go forward. Sir Eric Drummond recalled that he had made reservations when talking to me previously as to the possible effects on the Chinese situation of another defeat in the Assembly. He was still inclined to think that there was danger of such an incident turning the scale in China towards Bolshevism and against the League, but he could not even yet quite definitely commit himself to such opinion. He repeated that the passing of a few more months might bring a more definite clarification in the situation. He had put, and would continue to put, any information on the matter at the disposal of the Irish Government. As a matter of fact he had all along been endeavouring to dissuade the Chinese Government from going forward, but so far had not succeeded.7

That very morning the Chinese Minister at Berlin, General Tsiang-Tso-Ping who is attending the Committee on Arbitration and Security, had been to see him and Sir Eric had pointed out to him that the consequences of a defeat would be worse than the failure to go forward.

The Secretary General made no comment on my statement that the other Dominions would support us, but as I had already mentioned this to his principal private secretary, I assumed he was already acquainted with it.

On leaving Sir Eric Drummond, I said that, of course, if China did go ahead, we would expect the Secretary General to be perfectly impartial whatever his personal views. Sir Eric said that of course that would certainly be the case, and indicated that his frankness in discussing the situation with me should not be misunderstood.8

While I agree that any partisan activity by Sir Eric Drummond in connection with an election would be highly objectionable, I cannot help thinking that as the Principal Official of the League he carries a responsibility, especially in regard to the extension of the League's influence. I would suggest that if his activity went no further than to discuss with two parties who seem to be primarily concerned the advantages and disadvantages to the League of a certain course of action, he would not be going beyond his proper mandate. If, on the other hand, he were to use his influence to obtain votes for or against any candidate, he would be acting against the interest of the League, and should be publicly denounced. I have been making extremely careful inquiries in one or two directions, and have not learned that the Secretary General has taken any active steps to advance China's candidature.

While I have formed the opinion that Drummond is an exceptionally internationally-minded Official (he had this reputation also with Mr. MacWhite and has publicly declared that if the British Government attempted to give him any instructions he would immediately resign) I shall not fail to be on the look out for any signs of objectionable activity.

With reference to the High Commissioner's statement, I understand that M. Avenol, the French Under-Secretary General, was sent to China in 1928 at a time when a visit from a League Official was considered necessary to maintain the interest of the Chinese Government in the League. M. Avenol has the reputation of being extremely discreet, and while it seems to be quite likely the question of China's re-election to the Council was discussed, I should be surprised if, either by direction of the Secretary General or on his own part, he were so indiscreet as to give any sort of undertaking. In this connection, you will bear in mind that the re-election of China in place of Persia in 1931 is more than likely.

[signed] Seán Lester

1 Handwritten marginal note: 'Seen by Secretary, Mr Cremins', 'F.T.C. 8/5/30'.

2 See No. 363.

3 Handwritten marginal note: 'Denmark went up last year (1929) and recd. 1 vote. F.T.C.'.

4 Thirteen in the original has been crossed out and replaced by 22.

5 Handwritten marginal note: 'Lithuania went up last year'.

6 Handwritten marginal note: 'China retired from Council, in 1928 she sought a vote of re-eligibility, but failed to obtain the necessary 2/3rd majority. F.T.C.'.

7 Handwritten marginal note: '2nd paragraph of Mr Lester's note 4/2/30 on this file'.

8 Handwritten marginal note: '2nd paragraph of Mr Lester's note 4/2/30 on this file'.

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