Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)NCLAdd/131
TitleLetter from Neville Chamberlain to Sir George Joseph Ball with signed autograph postscript
Extent2 items
DescriptionPhotocopied letter with envelope, dated 28 October, addressed in two hands, to Major Sir Joseph Ball KBE, [1885-1961], Kinnaird House, [London]. Chamberlain writes addressing him as 'My dear Joseph'. This is a lengthy and important letter, written only twelve days before Chamberlain's death, to his close friend and political confidant and it concerns his fall from power, public and political perception of the Munich Agreement and the current state and future of the Conservative Party.

It is marked 'private and confidential', delivered by hand and written in reply to a letter of support from Ball dated 12 October. Ball's first letter, together with a second, dated 5 November (a letter written in response to this valedictory letter of Chamberlain's) can be found in Neville Chamberlain's personal papers, NC 13/18/788-789. A pencil note on the latter indicates that Chamberlain never saw this second letter.

The letter responds to Ball's suggestion that he take active measures to counter 'the "vendetta" against me personally and the conspiracy against the Conservative Party'. He provides a harrowing account of the illness which is killing him from which he thinks that Ball 'will now understand that in this condition it would be out of the question for me to take up anything which required concentrated or continuous mental application'. However, he continues by stating that he is not 'disturbed' about his personal reputation in respect of the Munich Agreement, nor does he fear 'the historians' verdict'; and he also responds to Ball's fears about 'a mass of papers relevant to these events' by stating that he had no papers or notes and had not kept a diary. He comments on the existence of the Cabinet papers as a source for the history of these 'great days' which a Cabinet Minister is no longer able to take away with him on retirement.

On turning to the Conservative Party, Chamberlain agrees with Ball that 'it is in a parlous state' and indicates his awareness of the effect of the Labour Party propaganda. However, he does not consider it wise to start a campaign 'which would give colour to the accusation that it was the Conservative Party who were trying to make capital out of the war' and he also expresses some admiration for the Labour MP [Ernest] Bevin (1881-1951). He expresses his view 'that it would be impossible to destroy the Conservative Party' and feels that there is a possibility that it will 'go through a period of eclipse' but that this will be temporary.

The two page autograph postscript is a very personal message to his friend, praising his ability to put practical ideas into effect and fondly recalling their shared love of fishing.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryThe owner of the original of the letter (which was purchased at auction in 1997) has kindly supplied this photocopy and agreed to allow it to be made available for consultation and also for copies to be made for bona fide researchers


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