No. 619 NAI DFA 27/18

Extracts from a letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Geneva, 16 December 1931

Re: Manchurian Question

There is little to report about the final sessions of the Council at Paris. The resolution was adopted unanimously, the Japanese delegate reserving a right to protect their nationals and troops by antibandit operations as an exceptional measure. Declarations were made by the President, Lord Cecil, Mr. Madariaga, and the three South-American delegates. The latter were concerned to proclaim the case entirely exceptional and to make reservations with regard to certain principles which had been mentioned from time to time during the discussions. These declarations were, of course, directed against the intervention by the United States in South America.

On the basis of your telegram I prepared a statement, but as I did not think it well to indulge in congratulations at this stage, and knew you did not wish me to say anything that would weaken or cast doubt upon the result; and as certain general declarations were outlined by the President, Lord Cecil and Mr. Madariaga, I considered seriously if any intervention by me could be avoided. Fotitch (Yugoslavia), Colban (Norway) and I had several discussions on this question and eventually came to an understanding that, unless the circumstances changed at the actual meeting, none of us would speak. This group of three represented a section of the Council which is by no means negligible and I had no hesitation as to which was the better thing to do.

I shall not summarise the discussion, which should be read in full (I shall forward a copy of the provisional minutes). When the last South American delegate had made his rather long declaration, I felt more assured that silence in good company had not been a bad policy.

[matter omitted]

I usually endeavour, at the end of a Conference or meeting, to place the respective parts played by the various representatives.

M. Briand displayed all his usual skill and persuasiveness, although his arguments as to the effectiveness of what had been done fell upon a good many unresponsive ears in the Committee of Twelve.

Cecil was again excellent, generally speaking.

Madariaga would be placed next. He took a very active and laudable part in the discussions.

I would place Fotitch, of Yugoslavia, in the next grade. He was very good, as was also Colban (Norway).

Scialoja, of Italy, spoke fairly often, but he has lost grip and carried scarcely any weight.

The German, when he did speak, was good.

Although I was entirely a spectator for the first week or so, I think I would rank a little above the Polish representative.

The South-Americans, with their natural preoccupation, spoke occasionally and on the side of the angels.

I should like to pay a tribute to Count O'Kelly, who gave me every possible assistance, and to the staff of the Legation, Mr. Cawley and Mr. Bailly. The preparation of my daily reports was undoubtedly an embarrassment, but I was always given priority in order that you should be fully informed of the Council Committee proceedings.

[signed] Seán Lester

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