883.05/420: Telegram

The Chargé in Great Britain (Atherton) to the Secretary of State

10. In conversation today Foreign Office read me substance of a memorandum of conversation between Sir Percy Loraine and Minister Jardine on December 7th2 and laid stress upon the following views indicated by the High Commissioner:

No country is entitled “by right” to more than three judgeships.
British support of particular candidate is based on qualifications and not on the principle of equality of representation.
The High Commissioner is not conscious of any coalition of Latin countries beyond joint representations towards extension of the mixed civil jurisdiction.
The pay of a mixed court judge is low and often more tempting to a highly qualified European than similar American, although in the case of Judge Wright it would appear that Egyptian Government was singularly fortunate in finding a highly qualified man who for reasons of health desired to live in Egypt.
Foreign Office laid stress upon reference to correct text of Sir Henry Elliot’s letter3 explained by Loraine apparently to Minister Jardine’s satisfaction.

Foreign Office understood following points were not mentioned by Loraine:

After British support had been lent in securing appointment of Judge Wright, subsequent and early vacancy was offered to a Swede. It was not until this Swede had refused the post that the judgeship was offered to the French (Foreign Office questioned whether in two vacancies occurring so near together British could in both instances have supported an American candidate). There has been under discussion for some time the next new post which is to be created at Mansourah, and in January 1931 the Egyptian Government informed the British of its intention to appoint an Austrian. [Page 622] British made no objection at the time and Foreign Office does not feel they can raise a “kick” these months after.
Subsequent to the appointment of this Austrian in any vacancy arising, which Foreign Office admits is somewhat indefinite, the British High Commissioner will be prepared to lend his benevolent support to an American candidate (note: Foreign Office points out usual practice is for interested country to nominate two or three candidates and I infer from my conversation that British support would be far stronger to American candidate whose qualifications were admittedly able) provided (I quote Foreign Office words)
  • “(a) In giving this conditional promise we are in no way committing Egyptian Government nor pledging ourselves to exert any undue influence on the latter which will be contrary to our policy in matters of this kind since 1922.
  • (b) As we are speaking of a hypothetical appointment in a hypothetical future we must safeguard ourselves by stipulating that we would not wish to use any influence on the Egyptian Government at a time or in a manner which would seem to amount to an attempt to impose upon them the doctrine of parity or of right in these appointments, and still less to prejudice their chances of securing the consent of the interested powers to that substantial modification of the capitulations which we at some future time hope to be able to assist them to obtain.”

In amplification of above proviso (a) Foreign Office stated that possibly influenced by the fact that they were allies, appointments had been given to French and Italians during the war when Egypt was a British protectorate and conditions there different from today, since British position versus Egypt had changed since 1922 with Egyptian declaration of independence. Today any drastic British intervention in Egyptian affairs was reserved for matters arising under four reserved points.

Foreign Office stated proviso (b) was made envisaging action under some possible future British Egyptian treaty to seek agreement from powers concerned of capitulatory modifications.

Repeated to Cairo.

  1. See telegram No. 109, December 9, 1931, 5 p.m., from the Minister in Egypt, ibid., p. 147.
  2. Dated May 26, 1873; ibid, 1873, vol. ii, p. 1118.