Volume 2 1922~1926

Doc No.

No. 139 NAI DFA D3601

Extracts from a memorandum prepared by Joseph Walshe for the Imperial
Conference on the Irish Free State’s position regarding the signature of treaties
by Dominions

DUBLIN, undated, but autumn 1923

Though Canada has been making Treaties since 1874 the Halibut Treaty with the U.S. of 2nd March, 1923 was the first which was not signed by the British Ambassador.

The usual procedure prior to the Halibut Treaty was to enter into negotiations with the foreign country and to keep the British Ambassador informed of the progress being made. He was then invited to sign with the Dominion Plenipotentiaries.

The following is a resumé of the events leading up to the exclusion of the British Ambassador at the signing of the Halibut Treaty.

It should be remembered that the United States not being a signatory to the Versailles Treaty and not being a Member of the League of Nations was not a party to the international recognition of the Dominions implied (according to the Dominion view) in the position given to the Dominions as signatories of the Treaty and as Members of the League. It was therefore particularly necessary for Canada to make use of the first opportunity to get her international position recognised by the U.S.A.

On June 27th, Lapointe, 1 Minister of Marine and Fisheries, definitely claimed to have obtained that recognition. 'I claim that by signing and accepting the signature of Canada on that Treaty the United States have recognised the international status of Canada, and it should not be the part of Canadians to criticise that status'.

There has been no contradiction of this statement from English or American authorities.


[Matter omitted]


What the Halibut Treaty has effected.

1. It has broken down the theory of Lloyd George, Hughes, Massey, Curzon,2 and the other reactionaries that the diplomatic unity of the Empire was to be maintained by making the British Foreign Office the sole executive agent of all the Commonwealth Nations in all matters of external policy.

2. It has broken down what was in effect the practice of the British Cabinet to occupy towards Dominion Cabinets the position which it rightfully occupies towards the British people, i.e. of the King's substitute.

3. It has made impossible the continuance of the present system whereby the Governor General is a subordinate of the Colonial Office instead of being a personal Representative of the King.

4. It has opened the way for the independent appointment by each Dominion of Consuls and Ministers Plenipotentiaries with full appropriate powers.

It is therefore of the utmost importance to give the strongest support to MacKenzie King3 when the question of signing Treaties is being discussed. It is the only item on the Agenda of the Political Conference which really matters. New Zealand and Australia will take the reactionary side.


1Ernest Lapointe, Minister for Marine and Fisheries (1921-24).

2David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister (1916-22); Charles Evans Hughes, United States Secretary of State (1921-25); W.F. Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1912-25); Marquis Curzon of Kedleston, British Foreign Secretary (1919-24).

3W.L. MacKenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary (1921-26).