The Earl of Perth
Drummond circa 1918
|1st Secretary General of the League of Nations|
|Born||17 August 1876|
|Died||15 December 1951 (aged 75)|
|Spouse(s)||Angela Mary Constable-Maxwell|
James Eric Drummond, 7th Earl of Perth[a] (17 August 1876 - 15 December 1951) was a British politician and diplomat who was the first Secretary-General of the League of Nations (1920-1933). He later became British ambassador to Rome (1933-1939) and then the chief adviser on foreign publicity in the Ministry of Information (1939-1940). In 1946, he became deputy leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords.
He died of cancer at his home in Sussex.
Drummond was born into a Scottish family of aristocratic origin, the Clan Drummond. His father was James David Drummond, 10th Viscount Strathallan (1839-1893), an army officer of Machany in Perthshire who had three children with his second wife, Margaret Smythe, the daughter of William Smythe of Methven Castle in Perthshire. James Eric Drummond was the eldest and the only son but Drummond had two half-sisters and one half-brother, William Huntley Drummond, from his father's first marriage to Ellen Thornhill. Drummond's brother William succeeded their father as Viscount Strathallan in 1893 and, in 1902, succeeded their distant cousin, Geeorge Drummond, 5th Earl of Perth, to become the 6th Earl of Perth.
On 20 August 1937, Drummond's half-brother died and so Drummond became the 7th Earl of Perth and inherited these titles: Lord Drummond of Cargill and Stobhall, Lord Maderty, 12th Viscount Strathallan, Lord Drummond of Cromlix, Hereditary thegn of Lennox, Hereditary Steward of Menteith and Strathearn and Chief of Clan Drummond.
He was raised in a Protestant family but converted to Roman Catholicism in 1903, allegedly became a hindrance during his career such as Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's veto of Drummond, who had been a candidate as ambassador at Washington around 1933. His conversion was most likely caused by his wish to marry a Roman Catholic, the Hon. Angela Mary Constable-Maxwell (1877-1965), the daughter of Marmaduke Francis Constable-Maxwell, 11th Lord Herries of Terregles and Hon. Angela Mary Charlotte Fitzalan-Howard (daughter of the 1st Baron Howard of Glossop), which he did on 20 April 1904. They had four children:
Drummond was educated at Eton College, where he graduated in 1895. There, he learned French, which later would become an important tool in his international diplomatic career. His upbringing in the British establishment helped to pave the way into the diplomatic world as a civil servant.
Throughout his career, Drummond is mostly known for his 13 years as secretary-general in the League of Nations. Before accepting that prestigious position, however, he had served mainly as a private secretary for various British politicians and diplomats, including the former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.
From 1906 to 1908, he was the private secretary of the under-secretary to Lord Fitzmaurice. Between 1908 and 1910, he occupied two functions: précis writer of the foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey and the private secretary of the parliamentary under-secretary, Thomas McKinnon Wood. From 1912 to 1918, Drummond worked as the private secretary of respectively: the prime minister, H. H. Asquith, and the foreign secretaries, Sir Edward Grey and Arthur James Balfour. In April to May 1917 he was a member of the Balfour Mission, which was intended to promote cooperation between the British and the Americans during the First World War. Between 1918 and 1919, he was a member of the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, where he was engaged in the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Lord Robert Cecil, who played an important role in drafting the Covenant and organising the League initially wanted a political character for the post, but despite the existence of several candidates, none accepted Cecil's proposal.
Cecil believed that only somebody of the highest ability would be sufficient for this role. However, after the office would not be given as many powers as initially thought, he reconsidered and sought to find somebody who was a well-trained civil servant and less known as a big political figure. He first approached Maurice Hankey, who for some time showed interest in the position but in the end rejected the offer only ten days prior to the Paris plenary session.
As early as 1915, Drummond expressed himself favourably towards the establishment of an international organisation. As such, Drummond was involved in negotiations regarding the establishment of the League of Nations. In addition, he was also a British national, which Cecil valued very highly. Drummond was an experienced diplomat and had earned a high reputation during his 19 years at the Foreign Office, which helped him to be considered the best choice available. After some initial doubt in which Drummond expressed anxiety about organising the League, he finally accepted the proposal. At the Paris Peace Conference's plenary session on 28 April 1919, the conference accepted the appointment of Drummond as the first secretary-general of the League of Nations.
One of the secretary-eneral's major deeds was the establishment of a permanent and strictly-international secretariat. No such thing had ever been attempted, and prewar secretariats had largely been confined to the national sphere in both the context of who supplied them and the civil servants who worked there.
The creation of an international civil service was not without problems, and administrative leaders thought it unthinkable that such a body would ever be united, loyal or efficient. By August 1920 the secretariat was fully established.
The personnel staffing the secretariat derived from over 30 countries that differed in language, religion and training, all of whom were appointed by the League, not by national governments. That once again underscored the difference between the new international body and previous national secretariats.
In total, the secretariat came to consist of seven sections: a Mandate Section, an Economic and Financial Section, a Section for Transit and Communication, a Social Section, a Political Section, a Legal Section and an International Bureau Section.
Drummond approached the role conservatively. His somewhat-subdued role in the British Foreign Office easily transferred over to the position of secretary-general. He was not a major political figure and so did not seek to turn the office into a reflection of his personality.
Drummond set about creating the administrative divisions for the League of Nations. He took no risk in his appointments to senior positions in the League of Nations and chose to appoint only members who supported their nation's government and gave the positions only to members of leading states.
Drummond was regarded as taking great care with issues and taking his position very seriously. He would read everything that came to his desk and would often call meetings regularly to discuss various issues. The meetings would often take place with various members of governments, which managed to established contact by his appointments to the League. Drummond thus became aware of sensitive information from various governments and nongovernmental organisations but became someone who could be trusted by various politicians worldwide.
He was widely regarded as shying away from the public and political spotlight, despite the high-profile nature of his position. He, however, was believed to be highly political behind the scenes but was often forced to do to appease various nations and because of often lacking support from many governments. One example was his 1920s dealings with Benito Mussolini's policies towards the Balkans, Africa and Europe. Drummond was unable to condemn any of Mussolini's policies publicly, as he did not have the backing of Britain and France. He wanted to maintain good relations with Italy, which helped to render him somewhat impotent.
Drummond had to perform his function behind the scenes of the League of Nations. He took great care to maintain world peace, as was hoped during the creation of the League, but he also appeased nations, rather than keeping them in check against international law. Despite the limitations coming from outside the League, he largely decided how he would run the office since he was very seldom under any kind of supervision. Drummond became regarded as a central hub within the League of Nations for most issues, and he would often pick the ones that interested him the most and delegate the lesser issues to his staff. He could thus be regarded as a leader who used the office for his own political interests.
The ideal underpinning the secretariat and those working there was one much resembling a Weberian understanding of bureaucracy that was also seen in Protestant-secular rationalism, the idea of a non-political, neutral, effective and efficient bureaucrat. Drummond admitted, "It is not always those who secure public praise to whom thanks are mainly due, and the work unknown to the public which is done behind the scenes is often a large factor in the success which has been obtained".
The ideal was not always upheld, and national preferences were never really abandoned. New under secretary-generals who were appointed were more often than not of the same nationality, with candidates of smaller powers excluded. Drummond dis not practice what he preached, which created small national islands from which the appointed officials conducted national, rather than international, politics..
In 1929, the Assembly decided to make a thorough investigation of the secretariats, the International Labour Organization and the Permanent Court of International Justice. The minority report showed that the political influence in substantive issues by the secretariats and its main officers was enormous and could not be overlooked. However, that was not recognised by Drummond before the 1950s and until then had readily defended the notion of nonpolitical character of international secretariats.
Despite the political character of the international civil service, the Secretariat came to be widely recognised as an instrument of the highest efficiency and the structural framework became a model for future international civil services, such as seen in the United Nations.
During Drummond's secretary-generalship were several crises that called for his attention. The League of Nations' Council relied on the willingness of its members to use their militaries to apply its collective security mandate during crises. Many of them centred on border disputes from the collapse of empires after the First World War. As the League got involved in such matters throughout the 1920s with members and non-members alike, Drummond was at the centre of the talks and the negotiations. The League was involved in disputes in Latin America, the Baltics and then China. Peter Yearwood argues that although Drummond was an idealist, as were most other people, he also 'made use' of his connections in politics. Drummond was widely regarded as somebody who shied away from the public and political limelight, despite the high-profile nature of his position. He managed to achieve that but was believed to be highly political behind the scenes. He was often forced to appease various nations because he often lacked support from governments.
One example was his dealings with Benito Mussolini's policies in the 1920s towards the Balkans, Africa and the rest of Europe. Drummond was unable to give a public condemnation of Mussolini's policies, as he had the backing of neither the United Kingdom nor France and wanted to maintain good relations with Italy. That was one of the many reasons that helped to render him a somewhat-impotent leader.
Drummond had to perform his function behind the scenes of the League of Nations. He took great care to maintain world peace, as was hoped during the creation of the League of Nations, but he appeased nations, rather than keep them in check against international law. Despite the limitations coming from outside the League of Nations, he largely decided how he would run the office within it since he was very seldom under any kind of supervision. He became regarded as a central hub within the League of Nations for most issues and would often pick the ones that interested him the most and delegate the lesser issues to his staff. He could thus be regarded as a leader who used the office for his own political interests.
Another issue that partly drove Drummond's ambitions and his way of handling the crises presented before him was his religion. A devout Catholic, that had a significant impact in his dealings with the Polish-Lithuanian War early in his career. He strongly urged for a plebiscite to which Poland could agree, most Poles being Catholic. Aldo, Drummond seemed to be pro-active. On the crisis between Russia and Finland over the latter's independence gained after the First World War, Drummond was one of the first to consider a possible solution.
Another important factor of his secretary-generalship was his willingness to step beyond the boundaries given to him in his position. During the crisis over the Chaco War near the very end of Drummond's career at the League, he was praised for being a helpful mediator and for doing more than his position allowed.
One of the less successful moments for Drummond's was one of the most prominent crises of Drummond's career, the Mukden Incident. China allegedly blew up part of a railroad, which Japan then used as an excuse to invade Manchuria. China appealed to the League for measures against Japan.
According to Michael E. Chapman, Drummond's initial response was not that of an imperialistic western leader but that of a bureaucrat. Somewhat limited in his powers, he looked towards the two most powerful Western nations in the region, the United Kingdom and the United States, which more or less stated that they were 'too busy' to deal with the crisis at hand.
When the crisis reached its peak, Stimson advised Drummond to "strengthen and support treaty obligations" the Japanese action had caused British discomfort. He was advised to try not to arouse nationalist feelings in Japan. Drummond wanted to be an active player in the crisis but was mostly outplayed by Stimson Hugh R. Wilson.
After leaving the League, Drummond was chosen as candidate to the post of British ambassador to Washington, but his candidacy was vetoed by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, allegedly because Drummond had converted to Roman Catholicism at 27. Rather, he was appointed British ambassador to Rome in October 1933 and he served there until he left Italy in April 1939. He retired from foreign politics a month later, in May 1939.
Throughout his time in Rome, Drummond found it "difficult to get close to Mussolini". He noted that "[Mussolini]... had to be treated with great caution when he [was] in 'a highly sensitive condition'"
The Italian foreign minister, Galeazzo Ciano, thought that Perth, as he had now become, was convinced that the harsh attitude of France towards Italy was unreasonable. Furthermore, Perth tried to convince the Italians that the British government was "conciliatory" and even went so far as "[...defending] Italian policy." Ciano, whose Italian secret service efficiency allowed him to read many of Perth's reports, states in his diary that the British ambassador had been opposed to the fascist regime when he came to Rome but had developed into a "sincere convert" who "understood and even loved Fascism". Caution must always be employed in using Ciano's statements, but Perth's reports suggested that there was a certain amount of truth in the remarks:
During the Second World War, Perth worked for the controversial Ministry of Information as a highly-ranked bureaucrat. After the war, he served until his death as a deputy leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords. His involvement with party and domestic politics did not prevent its declining electoral and ideological influence.
It is useful to make an overall assessment of Drummond's working career within the framework of the institutions, such as the limitations and restrictions put by the guiding principles and contradictions of the institutions and his liberal ideological background, upbringing and character traits.
For a fair evaluation of his leadership as the first secretary-general of the League of Nations, his leadership could be judged in two areas: the traditional political issues concerning security and national sovereignty and the softer technical issues.
In regards to the security role of the League, his role could be assessed as negligible, especially for the second half of his tenureship, which was characterised by the systematic undermining competition of the great powers, notably Britain and France and the security structure impaired by 19th-century imperialism of the League: its Council. His pragmatic and co-operative approach resulted in some successes in the early years of the League, but his role is considered inadequate when it was confronted with issues such as the Manchurian Crisis.
His involvement in setting the organizational infrastructure in areas such as the dealing with refugees, the minority regime and the mandate system could be seen more positively since during his time, especially during the first half of the 1920s, had some successes in resolving and tackling issues, such as the 1925 Greek-Bulgarian Conflict in 1925 and the 1932-1933 Colombia-Peru War.
However, it was the technical issues, such as humanitarian aid and the supervision of a series of "technical organizations and committees", in which he had the most enduring positive legacy. Drummond was part of an international technocratic elite of experts that favoured the initiation of international standards in health and labour issues, the gathering and the sharing of statistical information and a spirit of internationalism to deal with problems.
After his post at the League, he was assigned to the post of ambassador of Fascist Italy. A combination of his own restricted ability to see the overall situation and Britain's strategy of appeasement of fascist regimes that he served could account as a failure and quite possibly the darkest period of his career. The non-resolution of the Ethiopian Crisis had the effects of undermining League's security role and sening the wrong signals to both Mussolini and Hitler. Drummond, as the British ambassador to Italy, was one of the actors who failed to anticipate the negative results of the British appeasement policy:
The above assessment of how Drummond's pragmatic and contemplative character had a positive impact on League's administration, notably the Secretariat, can be contrasted with Drummond's ideas of liberalism, anticommunism and internationalism and with his flirting with fascist ideas. His career and life followed a similar trajectory with the broader ideological, imperial and internationalist ideas.
The Second World War signalled the defeat of liberal politicians and of their declared vision of peace, as well as the prevailing of fascist and nationalist ideas over the international vision that Drummond had tried to materialise with the League.
During his life, Drummond received a variety of titles for his accomplishments. He was awarded the following by King George V:
William, The Lord Tyrrell
| Principal Private Secretary
to the Foreign Secretary
Robert, The Lord Vansittart
Sir Ronald Graham
| British Ambassador
Sir Percy Loraine
|Positions in intergovernmental organisations|
|New institution|| Secretary-General of the League of Nations
Joseph Louis Anne Avenol
|Peerage of Scotland|
William Huntly Drummond
| Earl of Perth
John David Drummond