Mainstream U.S. newspaper support for the Anglo-Irish Treaty remained generally consistent from the accord’s Dec. 6, 1921, announcement through its Jan. 7, 1922, ratification by Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Irish-American press reactions were more volatile over the same month, especially the flip-flops of the Gaelic American and the Irish Press.
The Dec. 10 issue of the New York City-based Gaelic American contained only early wire service accounts about the agreement and no editorial statements. A week later, the paper published the full text of the treaty and offered a sampling of opinions for and against the deal. The weekly displayed its opinion in the headline “Irish-American Views on the Surrender” and description of “the misnamed Irish Free State.””Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.
Editor John Devoy based his paper’s editorial stance on the assumption that Irish leader Éamon de Valera supported the treaty. Their relationship had ruptured near the end of de Valera’s 1919-1920 American tour over the best way to leverage U.S. political muscle and grassroots fundraising to support Ireland. Davis notes, “… when it was clear de Valera in fact opposed the treaty … (the Devoy-affiliated Friends of Irish Freedom) began to change its tune. The Gaelic American began to support the Free State and the Dáil majority that voted in favor of the treaty.” Devoy wrote to Michael Collins that he was in favor of giving the new arrangement ‘a chance to do what it can for Ireland.'”Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish … Continue reading
In Philadelphia, the Irish Press criticized “fair weather friends” and “eleventh hour admirers” who had failed to support Ireland earlier in the war. The weekly ignored the divisions within republican ranks, which Publisher Joseph McGarrity helped widened through his paper’s support for de Valera. In the opinion roundup mentioned above, the Gaelic American said McGarrity “of course comes out in favor of the compromise. It was to make compromise certain that he helped to make the split.”
The first post-treaty editorial in the Irish Press said: “Regardless of the exact form that Irish Independence may finally assume, it can be accepted as an unquestioned fact that the battle is won, and that Irish energy can soon be diverted to other channels than those of war.””The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921. A week later, the editorial page said, “The fact that President de Valera has refused his approval of the treaty … must be taken as sufficient evidence that the minimum demands of Ireland have not been secured. … (If he and others) feel that Ireland’s nationhood is in the slightest danger of being sacrificed they have a perfect right to give expression to their feelings before the final word is said.””Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.
The Irish World of New York “rejected the treaty from the first; the paper bitterly denounced it, calling it the treaty of surrender,” Carroll has noted.Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147. Even after the Dáil‘s January ratification, the paper remained the organ “for the republican position in the United States and started a slanderous campaign against the supporters of the treaty and the Irish Free State.”The Irish World archive is not available online.
Seven hundred miles southwest of these East Coast hotspots of Irish activism, the Kentucky Irish American reflected a simpler, perhaps naïve, rank-and-file view of the treaty. It’s first editorial reflected general relief:
Throughout the world there is rejoicing that a treaty has been signed by the Sinn Fein and the British cabinet which grants freedom to Ireland and raises her to the status of a Free State. … For over seven hundred years the Irish nation has struggled and waited for this day, which will bring peace and happiness to Ireland and England. For both this will bring a happy Christmas, and in their prayers of thanksgiving to the God of peace none will be more earnest or fervent than the sons and daughters and friends of Ireland in Louisville and Kentucky. For all it means a new and better era.”Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.
William M. Higgins, the paper’s publisher and a member of the delegation that welcomed de Valera to Louisville in October 1919, was among the state and local officials who signed a cable of support to Collins, Arthur Griffith, and other members of the Dáil. Other supporters included Kentucky Gov. Edwin P. Morrow and Louisville Mayor Huston Quin, both Republicans.”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
In a following editorial, the Irish American editorial page said:
…however much [the treaty] may fall short of what we would wish, we must still concede that the victory won has been a great victory, particularly when we consider the tremendous odds against which the Irish have had to contend. … It is those who have borne the heat and burden of the day of strife–those who risked all and dared all for their country–who only have the right to say what terms of peace will be acceptable. … We on this side of the Atlantic, who have experienced none of the savage warfare which England waged on Ireland, have no right to disprove of those terms, however much we may dislike them.”Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
Other Irish papers in circulation at the time but not available for immediate review include the Irish News and Chicago Citizen, Illinois; National Hibernian (monthly), Indianapolis, Ind.; and the Sinn Feiner in New York. Irish papers that ceased publishing since the 1919 start of the war included: the Leader (Irish Catholic), San Francisco, Calif.; Irish Voice, Chicago, Ill.; Irish Standard, Minneapolis, Minn.; Irish Vindicator, Cleveland, Ohio; and Irish Pennsylvanian, Pittsburgh, Pa.Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.
|↑1||”Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.|
|↑2||Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish Studies), 2014, pp. 84–96.|
|↑3||”The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.|
|↑4||”Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.|
|↑5||Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147.|
|↑6||The Irish World archive is not available online.|
|↑7||”Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.|
|↑8||”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.|
|↑9||”Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.|
|↑10||Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.|