#OTD in 1921 – Ongoing correspondence between Lloyd George and Éamon de Valera to bring a halt to the War of Independence sees De Valera write a powerful response to Lloyd George.

The official letter was dictated and sent in Irish.


The anticipatory judgement I gave in my reply of August 10th has been confirmed. I laid the proposals of your Government before Dáil Éireann, and, by an unanimous vote, it has rejected them.

From your letter of August 13th it was clear that the principle we were asked to accept was that the ‘geographical propinquity’ of Ireland to Britain imposed the condition of subordination of Ireland’s right to Britain’s strategic interests as she conceives them, and that the very length and persistence of the efforts made in the past to compel Ireland’s acquiescence in a foreign domination imposed the condition of acceptance of that domination now.

I cannot believe that your Government intend to commit itself to a principle of sheer militarism destructive of international morality and fatal to the world’s peace. If a small nation’s right to independence is forfeit when a more powerful neighbour covets its territory for the military or other advantages it is supposed to confer, there is an end to liberty. No longer can any small nation claim a right to a separate sovereign existence. Holland and Denmark can be made subservient to Germany, Belgium to Germany or to France, Portugal to Spain. If nations that have been forcibly annexed to empires lose thereby their title to independence, there can be for them no rebirth to freedom. In Ireland’s case, to speak of her seceding from a partnership she has not accepted, or from allegiance which she has not undertaken to render, is fundamentally false, just as the claim to subordinate her independence to British strategy is fundamentally unjust. To neither can we, as the representatives of the Nation, lend countenance.

If our refusal to betray our nation’s honour and the trust that has been reposed in us is to be made an issue of war by Great Britain, we regret it. We are as conscious of our responsibilities to the living as we are mindful of principle or of our obligations to the heroic dead. We have not sought war, nor do we seek war, but if war be made upon us we must defend ourselves and shall do so, confident that whether our defence be successful or unsuccessful no body or representative Irishmen or Irishwomen will ever propose to the nation the surrender of its birthright.

We long to end the conflict between Britain and Ireland. If your Government be determined to impose its will upon us by force and, antecedent to negotiation, to insist upon conditions that involve a surrender of our whole national position and make negotiation a mockery, the responsibility for the continuance of the conflict rests upon you.

On the basis of the broad guiding principle of government by the consent of the governed, peace can be secured, a peace that will be just and honourable to all, and fruitful of concord and enduring amity. To negotiate such a peace, Dáil Éireann is ready to appoint its representatives, and, if your Government accepts the principle proposed, to invest them with plenary powers to meet and arrange with you for its application in detail.

I am, Sir,

Faithfully yours,

Éamon de Valera

Photo: Éamon de Valera entering Downing St

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