No. 401 NAI DFA EA 231/3/1930

Confidential Report from Timothy A. Smiddy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Secret and Confidential) (Copy)

London, 22 August 1930

In accordance with the instruction over the telephone today I called on Mr. te Water and tendered through him the invitation to General Hertzog from my Government to be their guest in Dublin.

Mr. te Water expressed his appreciation of the invitation but very much feared that it would not be possible for the General to accept it as his programme was filled for the short time he would be in London. The General will go to Lossiemouth tonight and will be back in London next Tuesday morning. On the following Monday he intends leaving for Amsterdam.

Subsequently I called with Mr. te Water on General Hertzog. After being introduced by Mr. te Water the latter withdrew. The General asked me to convey his thanks to my Government for their kind invitation but said that he would find it very difficult to visit Dublin. I urged very strongly upon him the many reasons for visiting it and discussing matters of mutual interest with the Minister for External Affairs. He said he would think the matter over and endeavour to find time to accept the invitation if at all possible. He will let me know on his return from Scotland. Meanwhile I have asked Mr. te Water to use his influence to get him to visit Dublin.

Soon after preliminary courtesies General Hertzog asked me 'How was the Irish Free State in its attitude towards its present constitutional position'. I asked if he meant the Government, or the people as a whole. He said he would like very much if I could give him an idea of the attitude of both. I told him that in my opinion - and it was a purely personal one - the vast majority of the people were satisfied with our position within the British Commonwealth in view of the constant evolution in our status towards absolute coequality with that of Great Britain in practice as well as in theory. There was a section of the people (and one to be reckoned with) whose object was a Republic and the severing of all connexion of a political integral character with Great Britain.

As regards the attitude of my Government I thought they were substantially pleased with the manner in which the development towards real and effective coequality and sovereignty was taking place, though naturally they would like to hasten the realisation of this goal.

General Hertzog paid a great tribute to the acumen, foresight, and tact which my Government showed in helping this development.


Right To Secede

I remarked that I had read his recent speech in which he emphasized the right to secede. He said the right to secede followed logically from the guiding principle laid down at the Imperial Conference of 1926 - from the principle of coequality. He said 'Who was to prevent the right of any Dominion to secede?' If Great Britain or the other Dominions were to say they had no such right, and were to prevent it, then there existed somewhere an over-ruling authority to which the other and each member of the Commonwealth were subject. In that case the principle of equality did not exist. He did not mind whether the British did or did not make a declaration of our right to secede if we wish, he said it was there and it was sufficient that he would declare and assert that right. He referred to the statement made by the late Lord Balfour at Edinburgh soon after the Conference of 1926, viz: the absence of any authority above a member of the Commonwealth to which it was subject.


Inter Se Relations

As regards the British claim that inter se relations among the members of the British Commonwealth can have no international status General Hertzog did not seem to attach much importance to this view. Again, he gave as his grounds the principle of coequality and the right to secede. These are the fundamental principles on which is based the league of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Granting these principles the members of the Commonwealth can choose to make their disputes and relations what they choose by consultation and co-operation. Hence, if they make any relations as applying only to the members of the Commonwealth and not international, there is nothing that detracts from their sovereignty in so doing. Provided the full sovereignty of each Dominion is kept inviolate, then any restrictions on the international activities freely entered into by the members of the Commonwealth present no obstacle to him. He said that he will take every occasion while he is at the Conference to assert the full independence of South Africa and its full sovereignty and right to secede. In accordance with the principle of coequality there is no power to contradict that right.

He seemed pleased with the Report of the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation. With regard to the statements in paragraphs 54 and 55 of the Report, he said there is no reason why a Dominion should not consent if it so chooses to have a Law made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom apply to a given Dominion with the consent of that Dominion.


Anglo Irish Treaty

Commenting on the Treaty made in 1921 between Great Britain and Ireland he said that the principle of coequality and the consequences that follow from that principle override any restrictions in the Treaty incompatible therewith.

I inferred from my general conversation with General Hertzog that he is imbued with the Continental idea of law - first principles and the observance of the conclusions that follow therefrom. His idea of law is too strictly logical to have validity with the British idea of constitutional law where one has in most cases to proceed empirically and one step at a time. In the time spent - somewhat over an hour - with General Hertzog there was no opportunity of discussing with him some of his statements and ascertaining if he fully worked out the consequences and took into consideration the many legal but often effective figments with which British constitutional lawyers will counter his statements by.

I did not get an opportunity of obtaining his ideas at length on the subject of a unitary versus a several King. But it seemed to me that he did not attach great importance to it. The principle and status of full sovereignty and coequality governed all these issues in his estimation.

He paid a great tribute to the work of the delegates of the Irish Free State and Canada at the last Imperial Conference and said that South Africa, Canada, and the Irish Free State see eye to eye on the fundamentals of international status, while Australia and New Zealand had a different view point.

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