Powerful and Historically Important Typed Letter Signed
Place Published: London
Date Published: 1936
Description: 2 pages (front and back), 10 x 8 inches, Goring Hotel, S.W. London, January 3, 1936. Written to powerful New York attorney Frederic R. Coudert, this is the very letter that is cited and referred to in many texts and publications for its quote: "May You Live In Interesting Times." In October 1935, Benito Mussolini sent 400,000 Italian soldiers into Ethiopia and was able to overrun the country within a short time. Chamberlain, though in retirement, made several sensational speeches in support of the League of Nations, encouraging sanctions against the Italian Government. In December 1935, just days before this letter was written, the people of England and France heard about The Hoare-Laval Pact and learned that their respective Governments had proposed dividing Ethiopia into two countries -- an Italian sector and an Abyssinian sector. Mussolini was prepared to agree to the Pact, but news of the deal was leaked and both the British and French public violently protested against it. The British Government was in chaos and faced a Parliamentary Rebellion but it would be Chamberlain and his strong opposition to the vote of censor that was instrumental in saving the Government from defeat on the floor of the House. In part: "...Obviously at this moment the League is being submitted to a very severe test and its weakness as well as its strength is apparent. It is surely a remarkable thing that so many nations have joined in the economic sanctions, particularly the refusal to buy from Italy, but it is true that they show a not unnatural reluctance to take action which would definitely lead to war...Until this crisis is past it is difficult to say what inferences should be drawn from it, but I think it shows the truth of what I said in my speech in the House of Commons, namely, that whilst the League is a very effective preventative of what I called 'accidental' wars, it cannot at present restrain a determined aggressor and that only overwhelming force can do it. Here in Europe...effective action could be secured but only through regional pacts for military assistance...coupled with economic sanctions...as is the case of Abyssinia. Such are the concussions I draw for the moment. Some time ago a diplomat here told me that there was a Chinese curse, which took the form of a saying: 'May you live in interesting times.' Our generation seems to have incurred this curse. The security for which we are all seeking seems farther off than ever." Natural folds; tiny hole in the top margin; several handwritten corrections. Very good condition.
Comments: British statesman and Foreign Secretary who was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike his half-brother Neville Chamberlain, Austin opposed appeasement. Ironically, he died four weeks after Neville became Prime Minister of Great Britain.Signed: Y
Book ID: 227561