The Minister in Ireland (Cudahy) to the Secretary of State

No. 88

Sir: With further reference to the Department’s Instruction No. 18 of February 4, 1938, and this Legation’s despatch No. 60 of February 17, 1938,22 I have the honor to report that on April 12, 1938, I called on Prime Minister de Valera at the Department of External Affairs in the Government Buildings and discussed with him at length the Irish Sweepstakes and contravention of the United States statutes by Hospital Trusts, Limited.

I emphasized that the distribution of Sweepstake tickets in the United States was a felony under Sections Nos. 336 and 387, Title 18 of the U. S. Code, and stated that while I realized there was no Penal offense under existing law of Ireland, it was hardly compatible with friendly relations between the two countries to engage in an organized enterprise to contravene these provisions of the U. S. Criminal Law.

Mr. de Valera replied that he had been opposed to the Sweepstakes from the outset, as the record showed. He realized that while financial benefits might result from the immediate effect of this enterprise, a lottery was not socially wholesome and the ultimate gain from one might be dearly paid for. He agreed that it would be advisable to curb, if not prevent, the distribution of sweepstake tickets in the United States but asked me how this could be effected, what specific measures I could propose.

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I told him that in the trying matter of enforcing our prohibition law we had, pursuant to the comity of friendly nations, secured the cooperation by appropriate treaties of neighboring countries. Canada had especially manifested a cooperative spirit in this regard. I drew attention to a law enacted by Canada in 1930 prohibiting the exportation of alcoholic beverages during the period of Prohibition in the United States, and to a 1936 decree by the Belgian Government to prevent the exportation of alcohol destined for illicit importation into the United States. I said that several governments, including Cuba, Great Britain, France and Mexico, have taken steps to require the giving of a bond for the production of a landing certificate covering cargoes of spirits in order to prevent their introduction into the United States contrary to the laws of this country. In the case of Guatemala, customs officers were instructed by the Guatemalan Government that they should neither receive nor clear alcohol or alcoholic beverages in an effort to aid enforcement by the U. S. Customs Officers to suppress smuggling. He said that was all very well, but what measures specifically could I suggest in the present situation to control distribution of tickets in the United States by a lottery legalized in Ireland? In rejoinder to my contention that a lottery was inherently pernicious, he said that its inherent unlawful character was not recognized in Ireland. On the contrary, he asserted that there was nothing morally wrong in a lottery, it did not obviously violate social order or decency; statute in the United States had made wrong something which was not wrong in itself; the distinction was between malum in se and malum prohibitum. Countries such as France and Spain had given legal sanction to lotteries, much as Ireland had done. Nevertheless, he did not want to appear out of sympathy with the attitude of the American Government. He wanted to help in any way he could, but he did not think it advisable to attempt any measures for the suppression of the Sweepstakes unless they could be effective. He was absolutely certain that any attempt of this kind would be opposed overwhelmingly by public opinion and no law opposed to public opinion could be enforced in Ireland. He said it came down to this, that the American Government was asking the Government of Ireland to enforce an American criminal law, a law which was opposed to the fundamental concept of personal liberty in Ireland. The Governments of Italy and Germany had recently protested against the adverse criticism of the dictators appearing in the Irish newspapers, but he had made reply that it was impossible to control Irish journalism since freedom of speech was the essence of democratic institutions in Ireland and that weighed with this consideration the jeopardy to most cordial relations with the governments concerned must be disregarded. I reiterated the necessity for some offer of assistance on his part in a matter that might [Page 199]cause embarrassment to the Irish Government in the United States and stated that it would be embarrassing if I were constrained to report to my Government that the Government of Ireland considered a lottery as essential to its institutions as freedom of the press. He asked me again for some specific suggestion and stressing that it was entirely my personal suggestion, I advanced the proposal of a scrutiny by American authorities in Ireland of all Irish mail addressed to the United States. I said that this would facilitate the detection of Sweepstake tickets in the mails and the sources from which they originated. Another expedient, probably more effective, I suggested would be the passage of a law by the Irish Parliament requiring all enterprises, whether commercial or otherwise, to imprint on all of their outgoing envelopes their address and some language descriptive of the character of their business. Mr. de Valera told me he did not think very highly of these expedients. Scrutiny of American mail from Ireland could be better accomplished in American ports. If necessary, he said, all such mail could be definitely earmarked and its distribution delayed while postal authorities and authorities from the Department of Justice made searching examination. A law requiring the address of the sender and the character of his business to be printed on envelopes would be immediately detected as directed against the Sweepstakes, moreover such a measure would put a great premium on corruption. Great pressure would be brought to bear on the individuals handling the American Sweepstakes mail and these individuals would not be human if they could not be induced to evade the law by using ordinary envelopes. He concluded the discussion by repeating what he had said at the outset that he personally was not sympathetic to the Irish Sweepstakes and did not approve of the wide-spread distribution of Sweepstakes tickets in the United States. He said he would take the matter very seriously under advisement and would try to find some method whereby closer cooperation with the American authorities might be found, but at the present time no feasible method occurred to him.

Respectfully yours,

John Cudahy
  1. Latter not printed.