No. 234 NAI DFA 26/75

Letter from Frederick H. Boland to Seán Murphy (Dublin)

Geneva, 10 September 1934

Dear Assistant Secretary,1

You will have received Mr. Cremins's code telegram2 about the proceedings in the Assembly this morning.

When the President arrived at Geneva at 8 o'clock this morning the position with regard to the presidency was in a state of uncertainty. Mr. Sandler, the Swedish Foreign Minister, had been strongly pushed on Sunday by a number of States, and in particular by the Great Powers. Sweden is on good terms with Russia and could, for that reason, be relied upon not to create pro-cedural difficulties to Russia's candidature. On the other hand Mr. Sandler belongs to the Scandinavian-Baltic group of States, which in other circumstances might be expected to form the backbone of the support for an Irish candidature.

When the President arrived, therefore, it looked very much as if Mr. Sandler's election was assured. Three quarters of an hour after the President's arrival, however, we received a telephone message from the Swedish Delegation to say that Mr. Sandler had decided not to stand and to support the President for election to the Presidency of the Assembly.

In view of this development our chances seemed to be extremely good, and accordingly, we all set to work to rally as much support as we could for the President's candidature without going so far as to put the candidature on an official basis. Mr. Cremins saw Madariaga, who immediately pledged his support. Hambro3 assured us that the Scandinavian-Baltic group was solidly behind us, and the Turkish, Hungarian, Swiss, Dutch and other Delegations were equally forthcoming with promises of support. When the Assembly opened at 10.30, therefore, the prospects of the election of the President were very bright. After the opening speech by the acting President of the Council, however, there was an adjournment of the proceedings for about a quarter of an hour before the Assembly proceeded to the election of its President. The Big Powers (i.e. France and England), with the support of the Little Entente States, immediately got very busy. Their efforts to find another candidate whom they could put forward against the President with reasonable prospects of success were apparently unsuccessful, and they, therefore, made a concerted attack on Sandler, bringing powerful pressure to bear on him to alter his decision not to stand. Sandler, at first, rejected their advances by saying that he did not intend to stay in Geneva very long, but that in any case he had pledged himself to support President de Valera's candidature and he could not go back on his word. After a great deal of hurried conversations in the scenes a conversation was finally arranged between Sandler, Barthou and the President. M. Barthou did all the talking. He explained to the President that Mr. Sandler had a great deal of experience of League procedure and had a knowledge of French which the French and other Delegations felt to be essential in the person who was to direct the proceedings of the present Assembly. When M. Barthou had concluded his remarks, Sandler told the President that he was not anxious to accept the position, but that in any case he would not think of doing so unless the President declared himself not to be a candidate. The President at once said that in no circumstances would he be a candidate against Mr. Sandler, and that if Mr. Sandler decided to stand he (the President) himself would support him and would not be a candidate himself. At this point, Barthou hurriedly interjected the query 'vous acceptez?' and upon the latter's nodding his head the matter was taken as concluded.

The conclusion which may be fairly drawn from the proceedings appears to be that if the President had stood (Mr. Sandler not being a candidate) he would certainly have been elected, notwithstanding the opposition of the Great Powers who, apparently, do not feel the necessary degree of confidence that the President could be relied upon to see eye to eye with them on the various matters which will come before the General Committee of the Assembly in connection with the admission of Russia. From this fact the conclusion may be drawn that our prestige in the Assembly is extremely high. It is remarkable that so much support should have developed in favour of the President's proposed candidature within an hour after his arrival in Geneva. In the circumstances, the result may be regarded as highly satisfactory. We had the next best thing to the honour of the Presidency of the Assembly, i.e. the fact of being asked not to run in order to make possible the election of the person who was ultimately elected. The British did not appear openly in the matter at any stage, but it is understood that they saw eye to eye with the French throughout the negotiations which proceeded the election.

In haste,
Yours sincerely,

1 Marginal note: 'Seen by A-Secy. Copy sent to V.P., S.G.M., 13/9/34'.

2 Not printed.

3 Carl J. Hambro (1885-1964), Norwegian journalist and politician, last President of the League of Nations Assembly in 1946.

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