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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, April 30, 1933


Things are very contrary, dearest Mildred: I shall now not be able to sail for USA, at best, before about June 10–12. If you have patience to hear my tale, here it is.

I was asked, some time ago, to form part of a Delegation of 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.” to go to Athens and report on the position there.On April 10 and 22, 1933, the Greek government requested advice from the League of Nations to deal with financial problems stemming from the Great Depression. A delegation of the Financial Committee—which included Royall Tyler, Feliks Mylanarski, and Cesare Tumedei—visited Athens in May, and the committee held a special session in London, between June 6 and 14, to consider the delegation’s report. The first point of the report was that Greece should rely on domestic savings rather than on foreign loans, which was a departure from the advice offered by the Financial Committee in March 1932, when it recommended allowing Greece to borrow ten million dollars. See League of Nations Financial Committee, Report to the Council on Greece (Geneva, July 8, 1933)’ and Royall TylerThe League of Nations Reconstruction Schemes in the Inter-War Period (Geneva: League of Nations, 1945), 96–99. At that time, there was to be a delegation of 3 or 4 members, and I was told that it wouldn’t be essential that I should, after the visit to Greece, be present at the full meeting of the Fin. Ctee. which is to take place to consider the Delegation’s report.

Now, with the World Economic Monetary ConferenceThe London World Monetary and Economic Conference was a meeting of representatives of sixty-six nations between June 12 and July 27, 1933. Its purpose was to attempt to win agreement on measures to fight global depression, revive international trade, and stabilize currency exchange rates. fixed for 12 June, the other people who were to have gone to Greece are required by their Govts. for the preparation of the Conference. The visit to Greece, on the other hand, can’t be put off: there are imperative reasons why the Fin Ctee’s report on Greece must be available by the time the Econ. and Monetary Conf. meets.

Therefore, I am now met by most pressing requests that I agree to go to Greece alone—except for some technical assistants supplied by the League—and do the report myself. The most I can hope for in the way of help will be that a Member of the Fin. Ctee. may come to Athens before I leave, stay there with me for 2–3 days and create the “Delegation” which the Greeks have been promised. And then, my report done, I shall have to go to London for the Fin. Ctee. meeting which will be held there shortly before the Econ. Conf. meets. This means that I can’t sail before the meeting is over—say June 10–12.

I am greatly dashed and disappointed, but I can’t extricate myself now without causing a fearful lot of trouble. And of course my ability to sail June 10–12 would depend on how things are in Bpest when the time comes.

Whether I do go to USA then, wind and weather permitting, will depend on what your plans are. Would it be better for me to defer the trip? My first object in going is to be with you at the Oaks. If you’re not going to be there in the second half of June it isn’t worth my taking the trip just then, it seems to me. If you are going to be there, if I could have just a few days with you, I’d like to do it, on the principle “take ‘em while you’ve got ‘em” as one can’t tell when it may be possible again.

When you arrive in N.Y. I shall, in all likelihood, still be in Greece: Finance Ministry, Athens. Would you send me a cable there telling me your plans and whether you want me to come over, arriving say June 18–20, for a brief visit?

With the world behaving as it is at present, one can’t be surprised at one’s own plans being upset, but I am rather disgusted, especially as I fear Robert wouldn’t be there towards the end of June, in any case.

I can’t make much out of what is happening in the USA. One hears it said that the permissive powers to the President to water the $ 50%, etc. etc., are aimed at preventing wild legislation in an inflationist sense. This sounds to me like a racketeer argument. I don’t claim to understand the position over there, but I should have thought that, even admitting that there may be a case either for increasing prices or for depreciating the currency, there couldn’t be a case for doing both, as the effect will likely be that the one will offset the other. The whole conception looks to me like an attempt to dodge the fundamental facts that if the USA wants to export she will also have to consent to import, and that the banking and credit structure, and the standard of life, can’t with safety be maintained as they are. I don’t believe that any price or currency manipulation will in the long run get them over or round these facts.President Roosevelt declared during his inaugural speech that “I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.” Roosevelt then took the United States off the gold standard. Royall Tyler may be referring to reports of the Thomas Amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act which, when enacted in May 1933 (after the date of Tyler’s letter), conferred upon the president the power to devalue the dollar, to pursue a policy of inflation through the issue paper money, and to exercise significant influence on the conduct of open market operations. Later, at the London World Monetary and Economic Conference of 1933, the primary issue for the United States was the exchange rate of the dollar against foreign currencies, especially the British pound and the French franc. Many Americans favored a devaluation of the dollar to improve the American trade position, while France and Britain wanted to stabilize the dollar rate at a relatively high value. Roosevelt took the position of supporting currency manipulation to raise prices, and by June 15, the Americans, British, and French had drafted a plan for temporary stabilization. When the plan was leaked, the reaction in the United States was negative, and the dollar rose against foreign currencies, threatening American exports and depressing stock and commodity markets. Roosevelt then decided not to enter into any commitment and, on June 17, rejected the agreement, arguing that the exchange rate of a nation’s currency was less important than other economic values. See Elmus Wicker, “Roosevelt’s 1933 Monetary Experiment,” The Journal of American History 57, no. 4. (March 1971): 864–79.

I’m very sad about Blair Fairchild.Blair Fairchild (1877–1933), an American composer and diplomat who had settled in Paris in 1903. He was a close friend of Mildred Barnes Bliss; their friendship dates to the turn of the century, as they were clearly good friends already in 1902, the date of the first extant letter from Fairchild. Papers of Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, Harvard University Archives, HUGFP 76.8, box 16.

Bless you, dearest Mildred.

R. T.

Associated People: Robert Woods Bliss