on our own account. It is strange that Louis, Otto and I, in spite of
the fact that we have parted with our business, still behave as if we
were the owners and worry if our advice is not taken. We have a
lifelong experience, are conscientious in helping in every way and we
can do no more. We are foolish to get so worried. There is no doubt
that we know the business better than anyone else; we know that the
goodwill of the outside business is ours and we must not lose it and
that no solution of diamond problems can be found without controlling
the outside contracts.
us just examine what can happen if. . . the Government ran the
business. We would be driven ovit and be free to become merchants
again. History would repeat itself, we would make outside contracts and
slowly arrive back at the point at which we are now. But we would be
infinitely stronger in experience (and so would Stallard and Granger)
and with our cash resources have a much easier task than Louis &
Otto and I had at the beginning.
let us tender the best advice, do all we can to convince the Government
(my colleagues support me absolutely), and if a course contrary to our
advice is taken, 'wait and see' until we are driven out. I do not want
to start a new business, but I would not lie down and become (anyone's)
It is in that spirit that I shall resume the negotiations with Stallard. It will be the greatest fun.
Oppenheimer, in fact, took considerable pains to remove the suspicion
that he had great personal interests at stake in the 'outside'
producers and that he was, consequently, biased in their favour. He had
said as much to General Smuts15 in an interview on 30 October 1941, before he had seen Colonel Stallard:
told General Smuts that I personally had no direct interest in
diamonds, but had an indirect interest through my shareholding in the
Anglo American Corporation. I explained that the diamond interests of
the Anglo American Corporation appeared in their books at -£1,000,000
(having been written down from time to time) and that this interest was
represented chiefly by shares in the De Beers group of companies. It
was clear, therefore, to any unbiased person that my interest in
diamonds was certainly not large enough to warp my judgement and induce
me to do anything against the interests of the South African industry.
General Smuts fully concurred and asked me particularly to mention this
fact to Colonel Stallard.
and other extracts referring to General Smuts are taken from a document
entitled 'Discussion between General Smuts and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer
at Pretoria on Thursday, 30th October, 1941 at 3.00 p.m.', clearly
written immediately after the interview by Ernest Oppenheimer himself.
The references to the interview with Colonel Stallard are taken from a
letter to Harry Oppenheimer dated 2 November 1941, when the matter must
still have been very fresh in his mind.