1921 – Treaty Negotiations.

Arthur Griffith in London writes to De Valera updating him on the difficult negotiations.

A E[amon], a chara:

Tonight at 5 o’clock Messrs. Barton, Duffy and myself met Messrs Lloyd George, Chamberlain, Horne and Lord Birkenhead at Downing Street by their appointment.

I first raised the question of an alteration in a covering letter from Mr. Lloyd George to myself in which he suggested I had agreed with the Southern Unionists to base the constitution of a Second Chamber upon the plan of the 1920 Act. I pointed out I had not done so, nor had the Southern Unionists suggested it. I had told them I would secure them a fair representation in the Second Chamber by some scheme of proportional representation and that for the constitution of the Upper Chamber we would consult them and secure that their interests got representation. Lord Birkenhead confirmed what I said and Lloyd George admitted he was mistaken and asked me to write him a letter correcting his.

Turning to our proposal I said that we did not take any responsibility for the Ulster proposals. They were theirs, not ours. They agreed but said that if Ulster refused them they intended, nevertheless, to go on with them. I had said I would not let them down on them as against Craig. I confirmed this. I had given them my personal assurances but we were not responsible for putting them forward and could not be placed in such a position. They agreed.

I said I had written them a letter in which I conditionally accepted association with the British Empire and a recognition of the Crown in exchange for essential unity. Craig should now write them a letter accepting essential unity. I was seeking here if the break was to come making it come on Ulster rather than the Crown.

They said Craig would not write such a letter, for he was going to refuse the proposals but they would nevertheless go ahead with the Treaty.

I then read out the counter proposals as suggested by the President at the Cabinet meeting. I told them the Cabinet as a body was prepared to recommend the Dail to ratify a Treaty thus amended. They asked questions on some of the proposals, particularly on Trade, in which Lloyd George and Chamberlain engaged with Mr. Barton for some time. They then said they would retire for a few minutes to discuss them.

They returned in about ten minutes. Lloyd George made a long statement. He said the amendments were such a complete going back upon the discussions of the last week. They had offered us that we should come willingly inside the British Empire, like other Nations which had fought equally gallantly, like the Boer Republics and they felt that the Cabinet must confirm their impression that although they might have considered some change in the form of the oath, this was a refusal of the fundamental conditions.
The amendments constituted a refusal to enter the Empire and accept the common bond of the Crown. They were but the same proposals which had already been discussed and rejected.

I pointed out there was a distinct effort to meet them in the proposals and instanced the oath which brought in the name of the King. A discussion followed. Mr. Barton argued that a permanent peace based on good-will was what was needed, and what was offered by us. Mr. Gavan Duffy argued that for all purposes essential to them the proposals provided the necessary connection. I tried to work back on Ulster. They were asking us to give up our best ground without even a guarantee that Craig would accept the unity of the Irish Nation. There was nothing tangible in our hand. How could Ireland trust the faith of the British Government, etc?
They replied that if we signed the Treaty they would immediately call Parliament together and pass the ratifying Act before Christmas. They would hand us over Dublin Castle and withdraw their troops from the country.

In the ensuing discussion they declared that their own Dominions would denounce them if they even considered our proposals. No English Government could entertain them. I worked on Ulster again but could not get it into its proper place. They talked of their difficulties. We said we had just as many. We had tried to meet them. They asked what was the difficulty about going in like Canada in the Empire? Gavan Duffy said that we should be as closely associated with them as the Dominions in the large matters, and more so in the matter of defence but our difficulty is coming within the Empire.

They jumped up at this and the conversation came to a close, we undertaking to send them copies of our proposals tomorrow and they undertaking to send in a formal rejection tomorrow. They would, they said, inform Craig tomorrow that the negotiations were broken down. We then parted.

Mise do chara,
Arthur Griffith

19761

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