More opinions on the Irish question, October 1919

Ten months after the separatist Sinn Féin established the Dáil Éireann parliament in Dublin, and four months after Éamon de Valera arrived in America to raise money and political support for the Irish Republic, U.S. newspapers were packed with opinions about “the Irish question”. This is my second post of excerpts from by-lined columns that were published in October 1919. The first post featured three Irish writers.

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Howard

Wesley O. Howard (1863-1933) was an American lawyer and justice of the Third New York Judicial District Court when he wrote the piece below. As a member of the U.S. Republican Party, he was a political opponent of President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. In the post-war Treaty of Versailles, Article Ten was a provision that required members of the League of Nations to help each other if any came under attack. The U.S. Senate, which Wilson needed to ratify the treaty, worried the provision would draw America into more overseas wars similar to the one just ended. The Senate rejected the treaty a month after this article was published. 

The Shackles of Ireland–Erin and Article Ten, from The Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 12, 1919

…the great Powers of the earth are solemnly pledged under Article X of the League of Nations to send their armies, their navies and their resources to the shores of Erin to crush the hopes of the Irish people. And the American republic, with its millions of Irish blooded citizens, is to be urged to enter this compact for the obliteration of Ireland. The League of Nations should be known as the Magna Carta of Coercion.

The Irish people had hoped that President Wilson would stand as their champion at the peace table. His noble words gave the sons of Erin hope. … The Irish people thought that [Wilson’s words about] “the privileges of men everywhere to choose their way of life” included Ireland, but they were wrong. There is no privilege in Ireland under the League of Nations to choose anything. Their only privilege is the privilege of living “within the empire” and being the subject of a foreign prince.

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Whyte

Alexander Frederick Whyte (1883-1970) was a British civil servant, politician, and journalist. He was a founding editor of The New Europe: A Weekly Review of Foreign Politics. Use the linked title to read “How France Views the Irish Question” , November 1919, page 207; and “What Will Ulster Do?” , December 1919, page 302.) Whyte later headed the American division of the British Ministry of Information in the Second World War.

On the Road to Peace For Ireland, from the Christian Science Monitor1

Ireland is once more becoming the storm center of British politics. Even the turmoil of industrial disputes cannot drown the insistent, clamorous demand for a settlement of the Irish problem … The Irish question is the Achilles’ heel of the British commonwealth. It disturbs the normal development of politics in the United Kingdom; it distracts the energy of Irishmen from their proper task of exploiting the resources of their own rich island; it poisons the relations of Britain and America; and if it is not settled quickly it may result in yet worse consequences.

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Sir John Foster Fraser (1868-1936) was a Scottish journalist, travel writer and publicist. He is best known for an 1896 three-continent, 17-country, 19,237-mile bicycle trip around the world with two friends, documented in the book Round the World on a Wheel. He was knighted two years before writing this piece for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, which is considered the first U.S.-based distribution network for American and British writers. 

Ireland From an Englishman’s Point of View, from the McClure Newspaper Syndicate2

No Briton can travel throughout the United States without being conscious that in the mind of a vast section of the American people there is much more than an impression England stifles the aspirations of the Irish race. Those Americans, loving freedom, do not hesitate to declare there is something radically wrong. At the same time it must seem strange, almost contradictory, that England, which has been the most successful colonizer in the world, should be so unsuccessful in regard to governing Ireland. …

The majority of the people of Ireland, 70 percent, demand self-determination. When self-determination is being given to a number of small peoples in central Europe, why should it not be given to Ireland? The people of the British Isles are not averse from Ireland managing its own domestic affairs. The Home Rule Act was passed by the late Parliament. Then why is it not in operation?

[This article is] a polite hint that the fault is not at the doors of the English and that there would be no Irish question if Irishmen themselves were of one mind and did not threaten rebellion whether Ireland has self-determination or whether it has not. It is not true that Ireland of today is badly treated. Ireland is better treated than either England or Scotland. … The great thing is to try to understand the other point of view, not exaggerate, not to misrepresent and to remember that if England is sometimes stern and thinks of her own interests it is because she recalls the friendliness of so many Irish patriots toward the German cause during recent years.

See more post in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, including a similar opinion roundup from April 1919.

  1. Accessed from The Nebraska State Journal, Oct. 19, 1919.
  2. Accessed from the Saskatoon (Canada) Daily Star, Oct. 25, 1919.

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