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Discrete CollectionsPolitics, economics and social science collections
Title[Hot Springs diary, 1943]
Ref NoROBBINS/6/1/1
Extent1 folder
DescriptionThis is the diary kept by Lionel Robbins during his time in America in 1943. This includes time in Washington prior to the Hot Springs conference, the Hot Springs conference itself, and time in Washington after the conference. The diary was intended as a report for War Cabinet and other colleagues back in Britain. The folder includes a circular from Robbins marked 'most secret' and sent to Sir Edward Bridges, Sir Wilfred Sady, Mr N Brock, Mr Gorell Barnes, and the Economic Section explaining the purpose of the diaries (ROBBINS/6/1 - 6/3).

There is also a letter from L S Pressnell to Robbins thanking him for the loan of his journal (meaning the three diaries) and saying how interesting he has found them, 21/12/1977

7 May
Delays and detours on flights from Scotland to Washington.
On arrival in Washington straight to an important party at Redver Opie's where he met Richard Law and Dean Acheson. He gives his impressions of Acheson and says agreements have been made for strictly informal British/US discussions of procedures and objectives.

8 May
Day spent in small conferences discussing food shortage problem and nature and functions of the proposed Food Office. He also had discussions with John Maud, Opie and Phillips re tactics of introducing the British Commodity Scheme.
In the evening Robbins left Washington to visit his sister.

9 May
Praise for the Pennsylvanian countryside on his visit to his sister. He observes that although he's been talking about the war all day it was very different to at home, 'there was no continuing presence' and that this may be one of the main difficulties of the American situation, 'it is all happening elsewhere'.

10 May
Return to Washington where he spent the day in meetings. Reported that they had to change their tactics about how to introduce their commodity scheme as they found out the American's were going to produce a document of their own. They arranged to meet with Acheson to explain their ideas informally before the conference. Robbins had to write up a short report of their scheme and says 'we are best to confine ourselves to generalities'.
Dinner with Edward Twentyman.

11 May
He spent the morning working on a paper to give to Law on the underlying economic issues of the conference.
Lunch with Brand - discussed the move to the right in America. Says British can't afford to wait around.
Evening - dinner with John, Brand and Walter Lippman, a journalist, where they talked about the American administration.

12 May
Attended a meeting chaired by Will Clayton. Also present were Paul Appleby and a number of American experts. He said the atmosphere was friendly and they (British delegation) made their usual points about importance of considering the period of shortage immediately post- war as well as thinking long-term. The meeting talked about commodity policy which he said showed up a division in the American Administration between Clayton - not wanting to make plans now for later regulation - and Wheeler - who didn't want to rule out control in the long term. Robbins used this chance to air the British view that accepting a general expansionist policy didn't necessarily mean there would be chronic surplus. By the end of the day they had reached a number of common points of agreement with the Americans.

13 May
Had lunch with Opie and Penrose and discussed commodity regulation. Robbins explained that the British delegation did not want to come away with a set plan, but rather with a set of agreed-upon principles.
At dinner he spoke with Pasvolsky.

14 May
In the morning he saw Alvin Hansen (Harvard and Federal Reserve Board) who had a very negative view on post-war economics and recovery. Dinner with Aaron Director (Chicago economist) whose views were more optimistic.

15 May
Lunch with Lee and Clive Baillieu, where they discussed the Commodity Plan.
Afternoon - Loveday joined them, upset not to have been asked to Hot Springs and apprehensive of the setting up of a new statistical institution. Robbins talks about the problems besetting the League of Nations.
Evening - Robbins went with Law Maud to a party given by Paul Appleby. Guests included Henry Wallace, Felix Frankfurter, [Mordicai] Wzekiel and Coombs. Main topic of conversation was President's reluctance to go to Hot Springs to deliver opening oration.

16 May
Most of the day spent preparing for an official conversation with Pasvolsky about the Commodity Scheme and Robbins reported he seemed pleased they had taken him into their confidence.
Dinner with Maud and Acheson, who gave them a draft of American resolutions to be put forward at Hot Springs.

17 May
Long train journey to Hot Springs. Robbins talks of the luxury of their accommodation and the good food.

18 May
Lunch with Stinebower where he laid out the British apprehensions re differential prices and international redistribution. In the evening there was a plenary session to open the conference.

19 May
He reports that regret has been expressed by some American's re British refusal to consider a two-tier system. Robbins says he doesn't see this as a problem and doesn't think American's will officially suggest a two-tier system due to lack of support. The day was spent doing lots of organising for the conference. In the evening he attended a cocktail party with the Russian delegation.

20 May
Afternoon meeting of the committee set up to deal with redistribution.

21 May
Distribution committee meeting where Robbins reports on discord between British and Americans due to British attempts to focus attention on shortages in immediate post-war period.
Afternoon committee meetings where they discussed Commodity regulation. Latin American countries all called for quantitative regulation.
In the afternoon he went a horse ride with Law.

22 May
At the meeting today Robbins spoke on commodity regulation. There was a stenographer present so he has included his whole statement in the diary with a note 'only Eady need read this part'.

23 May
First diplomatic incident when law and his secretary Paul Grey, bumped into Acheson who started off friendly but then got angry over British views on powers of the permanent body which is to be the outcome of the conference and about British attitude to buffer stocks. Everything was sorted out by the end of the day though.

24 May
Robbins and Opie had an interview with Collardo where Robbins outlined British opposition to any plans to invest the permanent body with extensive functions or power. He talks about the division in the American delegation between the State Department, who agree more with the British, and the Department of Agriculture.

25 May
Meeting in the evening with Law and Appleby. Robbins reports that the French, Chinese and Polish all expressed levels of support for the British argument re commodity regulation.

26 May
Reports that everything has worked out and that the advocates of restrictionism haven't brought it to an issue. He says the report is very general and everyone should be able to agree upon it. He says he sees very clearly the hand of Clayton and the State Department in coming up with this compromise.

27 May
Reported problems with the drafting committee on international redistribution, the first draft 'proposed, broadly speaking, that the wealthier nations should act as Santa Claus forever.' However by the end of the afternoon it was sorted out.

28 May
In the morning they ratified the resolutions of the committee discussing the general economic background of food policy. Robbins talks about the usefulness or not of the resolutions but says they are reasonably happy with the results.

29 May
Reports that they are now in the process of tidying up and drafting their own section (that of section 3 of the conference - redistribution) of the report.

30 May
More work on the final report of the redistribution committee. Maud and others, including US officials, have been drafting a general declaration of the conference. Robbins says he wasn't that enthusiastic about the final report but was just glad it was over. However the American's decided they wanted to alter it so another meeting arranged.

31 May
Early morning Robbins and Law went to seek advice from Stinebower who showed him other drafts which the American's had come up with and a different draft was agreed upon. Talks about the various intrigues of the American delegation between the State and Agriculture departments.

1 June
Relates a story of dispute over wording of the policy. Some nutritional experts in section 1 of the conference had recommended an optimal diet with a sugar intake one third the size of that currently normal in the US. This led to a mass lobby by representatives of the sugar producing states which was sorted out by changing the wording of the report.

2 June
Reflections on the conference. He says that the British delegation have stuck by the instructions they were issued with so from their point of view it has been successful. However in terms of advancement of concrete interests he is not so sure. He goes into details about each section of the conference and what, if anything, the British have got out of it. 'On balance, therefore, I should say that we have advanced some of our interests a little way. But in general I am clear that our main gain is in the general diplomatic field. We have tried out a team. We have gained self-confidence'.

3 - 7 June
Conference wound up with a plenary session on the 3rd.
Robbins went from the conference to spend a long weekend with his sister in Pennsylvania.
Goes on to list observations about various delegations - the Russians, the Chinese, the Latin Americans, the Europeans. Talks of lack of a common economic policy in the Commonwealth and his reflections on the conference.

8 June
Arrived back in Washington from Philadelphia to news that the Canadians are planning to put forward a new plan at an informal meetings of experts to be held at the US Treasury. Lionel records his worry over the suddenness of this meeting.
Lunch with Alphand and Istel. In the evening he attended a reception at the Embassy for Congressmen interested in food and agriculture.

9 June
Spent some time with Paul Grey discussing the most appropriate form for Law's report.
Lunch with Fritz Machlup where they talked about concerns re the American administration.

10 June
Spent the morning doing corrections of his speech on Commodity.
Lunch with Refat Tirana (old pupil of Robbins'), talked about post-war reconstruction in Germany.
Dinner with Robert Brand and Chester Davies where they discussed the problems of the OPA. After dinner he spoke with Maurice Hutton about the enlargements of the Combined Boards.

11 June
Visited Lubin at the White House where they talked about price policy and post-war reconstruction.
Lunch with an old friend, Herbert Feis (State Department). Late in the afternoon Robbins' and Opie talked with Hansen. In the evening Opie and Robbins met with Pasvolsky and they talked about international reconstruction policy.

12 June
Had lunch with Conyers Road (historian working for the War Department) where they talked about the India question.

14 June
He spent time reading up on literature as he has been invited to join the monetary conversations tomorrow. Lunch with Rob Hall. Dinner with Opie and Adolph Berle, includes Robbins's opinion on Berle.

15 June
Beginning of the monetary discussions. Talks about informal nature of the meetings - said the morning was very disorganised but improved in the afternoon with a speech from Jack Viner re differences between the Keynes scheme and the White Scheme. This was followed by a cocktail party hosted by the Canadians, then dinner.

16 June
Session of the Monetary Conference in the morning - gives his impressions on which scheme various countries will support. Lunch at the Brookings Institute with Hardy, Nourse, Goldenwieser and others.
Late on he bumped into Rasminsky and the Canadians - talked about the present conference and why it had been called. Dinner with Lubin and others at the Press Club where they talked about the success of the British stabilisation policy.

17 June
Talks about what he sees as the futility of the monetary discussions although he says there was one good result - the Americans realised without British support they won't make much progress. Met with Rasminsky who confided that the Canadians had been told to support British plan for commodity policy. Talks about the administrative muddle in the US.
Spent the evening with Jack Viner. Robbins has impression that the talks were all Harry White's idea. With Viner he discussed many aspects of post-war economic reconstruction, including general prospects of UK exports, as well as discussing US/UK relations.

18 June
Lunch with Ted Acheson. He then spent the afternoon with Butler and his assistants 'trying to create some sense of perspective concerning Hot Springs and its resolutions.' He had dinner at the Opies with Phillips and a trio from the State Department - Pasvolsky, Stinebower and Harry Hawkins. Discussed the recent renewal of the Trade Agreements Act, commodity policy and importance of some preliminary agreement between US and UK.

19 June
In the morning he went to the Bureau of the Budget to talk to a group of younger officials re Stabilisation policy. Lunch with Sir Girja Begpie, whom he had previously met at Hot Springs.

20 June
Another visit to his sister and her husband in Philadelphia.

21 June
Had a long talk with Maurice Hutton re present position on relief and the combined boards. In the afternoon attended a meeting Phillips had organised with the European financial experts and says that although most of them would prefer the British scheme they would support the American scheme if Americans insisted upon it.
Dinner at the Opie's with Joe Davis (Stanford Food Research Institutes).

22 June
First day of resumed monetary discussions. Robbins reports that they were much more satisfying than the previous week's discussions. They discussed adjustment of exchange rates and problem of multiplicity of currencies. At lunch he met Walter Lippman and talked about public opinion re the peace settlement.

23 June
A final talk with the Americans where they asked the Americans for a frank view as to the way in which the British scheme would need to be changed in order to be accepted. Discovered the heart of the problem is the question of subscriptions versus overdrafts and concludes 'I came away convinced that there exists the basis of a settlement. The difference between our scheme as we should have to modify it and their scheme as they are prepared to modify it ought not to constitute an insurmountable obstacle to men of good-will. The last two days have been easily the most significant and important of my whole stay in American, and I leave for home with much greater hope than I came'
Access StatusOpen
Former Reference NumberROBBINS/131
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