Guest Blogger: Postcard from Geneva

Salle de la Reformation. The official opening of the League of Nations. Photo obtained on Wikimedia Commons: “This file is a digital replica of a document or a part of a document available at the National Library of Norway under the URN no-nb_nansen_2488.

The new
League of Nations held its first General Assembly in Geneva on November 15, 1920.  My great uncle Loring Christie was there as part of the Canadian delegation, and wrote about it in letters to his parents.  Below are some excerpts, written in December, 1920.

"I am writing this in the Assembly Hall & I hope you will forgive the pencil.  The speeches are not very inspiring this morning and I seize the moment to send love & Christmas greetings …

The Assembly has now been going since Nov. 15; people are getting fed up & tired of each other; there is a general determination to bring the thing to an end, and I think it certain that we shall be through by the end of next week i.e. the 17th or 18th. I shall be heartily glad.

It is an interesting meeting in many ways though it has no outstanding figures like the Peace Conference had. There are many good men but none of the very first rank. Still the way in which the session has worked gives fairly good ground for hope. Simply as a machine it is going, and that is a significant fact, for public institutions, once they get going, have an inertia that carries them a long way in itself. What is produced by the machine is another matter and depends upon what people want it to produce.

Canada has taken a prominent place through Sir George Foster, Mr.Doherty & Mr.Rowell. The United States not being here we have had to carry the burden of representing the North American view point. I do not think any delegation whatever has contributed more to the best work of the Assembly than the Canadian. Our men by training and experience show up with the best and far outrank the great majority.

Geneva is a quiet secluded spot which must be very attractive in other seasons. But the weather has been unpleasant - not cold but foggy & raw. I have had little chance to look around - we have been so busy. Last Sunday I had a tramp in a nearby mountain and happened on some very fine views."


"I am so sorry I did not get off more letters from Geneva. It was not that the work was so hard; it was simply continuously confining - an unending succession of Assembly & committee meetings. I shall not attempt to prophesy about the League. It has a terribly hard task to justify itself; there is so much bad will between nations, and without good will on the part of the peoples no machinery or governmental organization can do much. The results of this meeting give some small ground for hope, but it will be a long slow growth before the League takes a really effective place, if it ever does, in the governance of mankind."



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