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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, June 15, 1933

League of Nations
Monetary and Economic Conference

It hurt to have to send you that cable,See telegram of June 12, 1933. dearest Mildred, but I had no choice.

I had hoped that when the Greek business was over here I should be free to get away for a month, but some serious Hunk questions have now blown up on the horizon.Beginning in June 1932, Hungary defaulted on its loan from the League of Nations and negotiated contractual rates for repayment. In 1933, when the Hungarians met with the league loans committee in London, repayment was reduced to fifty percent, and for the service year 1933–1934, there was a reduction of ten percent of the face value of the unpaid portion of the loan. See Royall Tyler, League of Nations Reconstruction Schemes in the Inter-War Period (Geneva: League of Nations, 1945), 64–65. I shall have to be here some time yet, and may even have to return some where in July. As you are coming over soon I feel less badly about it, and I trust I shall have better luck next time, which we’ll plan for when we meet.

I have just got a good report on Greece through the Fin. Ctee.,On October 25, 1920, the League of Nations had appointed an Advisory Economic and Financial Committee composed of two sections of ten members each and tasked with “the working out of measures of an economic and financial nature which have been submitted for adoption by Members of the League in accordance with the Covenant of the League.” with the full agreement of the Greek Govt.—very satisfactory indeed, and leaves a good taste in one’s mouth after the very strenuous work one put in on it, in the last six weeks, in Athens and here.

The President’s initiative on the DebtsIt is not entirely clear what Royall Tyler refers to here. But in June 1933, Franklin Roosevelt effectively repudiated the foreign debt obligations of the United States Treasury, a move that was supported by a resolution of the Congress and later upheld by the Supreme Court. The president and the Congress depreciated the currency and withdrew the option to pay debt in gold, when, on June 5, 1933, the Congress passed a “Joint Resolution to Assure Uniform Value to the Coins and Currencies of the United States.” Debt holders thereafter received only depreciated paper money. The resulting lawsuits were taken up in 1935 by the Supreme Court, which upheld the ability of the government to refuse to pay in gold by a vote of 5 to 4. The effect of these policies was summarized by Justice McReynolds, writing on behalf of the four dissenting justices: “Congress really has inaugurated a plan primarily designed to destroy private obligations, repudiate national debts, and drive into the Treasury all gold within the country in exchange for inconvertible promises to pay, of much less value.” See Thomas Wilson, The Power “To Coin” Money: The Exercise of Monetary Powers by the Congress (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), 215–18 and passim. Tyler may be referring to The Economy Act of March 20, 1933, which was submitted by Roosevelt to Congress to cut $500 million from the $3.6 billion federal budget by eliminating government agencies, reducing the pay of civilian and military federal workers (including members of Congress), and slashing veterans’ benefits by fifty percent. See James E. Sargent, “FDR and Lewis Douglas: Budget Balancing and the Early New Deal,” Prologue 6 (1974): 33–43; and Kelly McMichael Stott, “FDR, Lewis Douglas, and the Raw Deal,” The Historian 63, no. 1 (Fall 2000), 105–19. was a great move, and it has opened vistas of hope which one had feared might remain closed for a long time yet. The Senate’s action on the Veteran businessVeteran benefit payments constituted a quarter of the federal budget at the time. See Stephen R. Ortiz, “The New Deal for Veterans: The Economy Act, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Origins of New Deal Dissent,” The Journal of Military History 70, no. 2 (April 2006): 415–38. comes as an unpleasant reminder that all is still uncertain in that quarter—but it’s a lot that the President should have shown such courage and sense of reality.

Our delegation here isn’t making a good impression, on the whole, and some of its members have given plenty of ammunition to those who wanted it.The World Monetary and Economic Conference opened in London with a battle for the chairmanship of the Monetary Committee. The American delegation insisted on the appointment of James Middleton Cox (1870–1957) against the French nomination of Georges Bonnet (1889–1973). After Cox’s election, the committee attempted to reach agreement on stabilization of American, British, and French currencies, but President Roosevelt and his undersecretary of the treasury, Dean Acheson (1893–1971), repudiated this position, including a temporary stabilization during the conference, to the anger of the other committee members. In addition, the Economic Commission proposed that all tariffs in all nations be cut ten percent, a proposal which the Conference Secretariat released with the heading: “Submitted by the American Delegation.” But this proposal was disavowed by the United States delegate, senator Key Pittman (1872–1940), who said that the American delegation had made no such proposal. The Conference Secretariat produced a letter signed by chief delegate Cordell Hull (1871–1955) authorizing the ten percent tariff slash proposal. Pittman insisted that it was “unofficial.” See “World Conference: Disgust,” Time, June 26, 1933.

I’m pretty tired after the Greek business, and disposed to slide over the HunkRoyall Tyler’s term for Hungarian. business as easily as possible, without getting to grips, for the moment. As I’ve had to give up the USA trip, I expect to be back in Bpest by the end of this month, do my report and hope to be able to get away for a bit towards end July. As you are going to be in that part of the world, I beg you to come to Bpest and see the Nat. Museum, and my Hunkies.

Bill has just finished his schools, except for the viva-voce,Oral examination. which only takes place late in July. Only in Aug. shall we know how he has done. It has been arranged that he is to go to N.Y.—to the Guaranty Tr. Co.—in October.William Royall Tyler became an employee of the Guaranty Trust Co., New York, in 1934 and worked there until 1938. He looks forward to it with equanimity.

Pining to hear from you, dearest Mildred, and to know when we can meet.

Fondest love
R. T.

A little grey birdOne of Royall Tyler’s nicknames for Arthur Salter. is playing a big part in the Conference—that’s an element of hope.

 
Associated People: Arthur Salter; William Royall Tyler
Associated Places: Athens (Greece); Budapest (Hungary)
Associated Concepts: League of Nations