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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 20, 1924

Reparation Commission
General Secretariat
131, Champs-Élysées
Paris 20 Feb. ‘24Wednesday.

Dearest Mildred.

Your letterThe whereabouts of this letter is not known. gave me great joy—indeed what fun we shall have talking about it all and contemplating the two objectsThe paten (BZ.1924.5) and chalice (BZ.1955.18). together. Please don’t omit to let me know as soon as the thing is done so that I may go and salute the paten as a member of the family. But I am grievously distressed that you should have to lie up for a time—my feelings would be somewhat mingled if you were to come to Paris for the purpose. There’d be plenty to talk about, besides the usual crop of stories and limericks, of which latter this one pleases me—

There once was a girl from Australia
Who went to a ball as a dahlia,
but the petals revealed what they should have concealed
and the ball—as a ball—was a failure.

The work of the experts is going really well—rather slowly, which is a good thing, but well. There is a prospect of an agreed settlement, which the world is badly in need of.In accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, the Reparation Commission was directed to estimate damage done by Germany to Allied civilians and their property during the First World War and to formulate methods of collecting assessments. The Reparation Commission fixed German liability at 132 billion gold marks (the equivalent to $33 billion) to be paid in annual installments. Inflation and growing unemployment forced the German government to default on its reparations by the early 1920s. In 1923, the Reparation Commission created “Expert Committees,” and Charles G. Dawes, an American banker, was asked to investigate the problems of payments. His report, published in April 1924, proposed that annual payments of reparations be paid on a fixed scale. The Dawes Plan was initially a great success because it stabilized the currency, brought inflation under control, and lowered unemployment in Germany. See Rufus Cutler Dawes, The Dawes Plan in the Making (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril, 1925).

As you may imagine, people here are pretty excited about the exchange. It’s sinister to think what may happen to the middle class—which in so many senses is France—if the process goes as it has gone elsewhere. And it’s sinister to see the same mistakes being made that were committed elsewhere: attempts to stop the sale of francs by means of legislation, vexatious interference with trade abroad etc. The result of such measures is chiefly to convince foreign holders of francs that they’d better get rid of them—and the inside holders always end by finding means to defeat prohibitions.After the First World War, France abandoned artificial control of exchange rates in order to bring about the gradual restoration of the normal functioning of the international exchanges. Due to the adverse balance of payments, however, it retained an embargo on gold shipments to prevent heavy outflows of gold. This resulted in a sharp fall in exchange rates from approximately $0.19/franc in 1919 to around $0.06/franc in 1924. Harold Glenn Moulton, “Financial Organization and the Economic System,” Journal of Political Economy 47, no. 3 (1937): 71–72.

However, the fundamental economic position is all right here, and I should think there must be a good chance of setting the Treasury position right, doubtless by making a pretty heavy sacrifice and by a radical change of policy.

Elisina sends you much love, she’s leaving this afternoon with Gioia, who is well, for the South, to stay with Miss NorrisMay Norris (d. 1938), an American interior designer who opened her home, Château de Gourdon, to her American and British friends between 1918 and 1938. She was a friend of Edith Wharton. See Allyson Hayward, Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer (London: Frances Lincoln, 2007), 200 and 270. and then Edith at Hyères.Sainte-Claire du Château at Hyères in the south of France, the winter home that Edith Wharton began renting in 1919 and purchased in 1927.

Much love, dearest Mildred, and also to Robert.

R. T.

Associated Places: Paris (France)
Associated Artworks: BZ.1924.5; BZ.1955.18