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We feel that these facts are sufficient basis to merit for our requests the consideration which we are sure you, sir, will give them, Please accept, Mr. President, the assurance of our great esteem.
EAMON DE VALERA,
LETTER EROM THE IRISH DELEGATES APPOINTED BY DAIL ERREANN TO PRESENT
MANSION HOUSE, DUBLIN, May 26, 1919. To the CHAIRMAN,
Council of League of Nations, Paris. SIR: The Irish people share the view that a lasting peace can only be secured by a world league of nations pledged, when a clash of interests occurs, to use methods of conciliation and arbitration instead of those of force. They are consequently desirous that their nation should be included as a constituent member of such a league.
Therefore, we, the delegates of the nation, chosen and duly authorized for the purpose by the elected National Government of Ireland, desire to intimate through you that we are ready to take part in any conversations and discussions which may be necessary in order that the foundations of the league may be properly laid, and we ask the commission to provide us with an opportunity for doing so.
Apart from the general grounds of right, the Irish nation has a special and peculiar interest in the league at present proposed.
In the form in which the covenant is now drawn up it threatens to confirm Ireland in the slavery against which she has persistently struggled since the English first invaded her shores, and to pledge the rest of the civilized world, which has hitherto done us no wrong, to discountenance in future our just endeavors to free ourselves from the régime of implacable and brutal oppression under which we have suffered so long.
Ireland is a distinct and separate nation with individual inalienable rights which any league of nations founded on justice is bound to recognize. Accept, sir, the assurance of our great esteem.
EAMON DE VALERA,
O'KELLY'S LETTER NO. 1 TO PREMIER CLEMENCEAU AND ALL THE PEACE CONFERENCE
PARIS, February 22, 1919. Sir: As the accredited envoy of the provisional government of the Irish republic, I have the honor to bring to your notice the claim of my government, in the name of the Irish nation, for the international recognition of the independence of Ireland, and for the admission of Ireland as a constituent member of the league of nations.
The Irish people seized the opportunity of the general election of December, 1918, to declare unmistakably its national will ; only in 26 (out of 105) constituencies of the country was England able to find enough “loyalists" to return members favorable to the union between Ireland and Great Britain; for the remaining 79 seats the electors chose as members men who believed in self-determination; of these, 73 who now represent an immense majority of the people went forward as republican candidates, and each of these republican members has pledged himself to assert by every means in his power the right of Ireland to the complete independence which she demands, under a national republican government, free from all English interferences.
On the 21st of January, 1919, those of the republican members whom England had not yet cast into her prisons met in the Irish capital in a national assembly, to which, as the only Irish parliament de jure, they had summoned all Irish members of parliament; on the same day the national assembly unanimously voted the declaration of independence appended hereto and unanimously issued the message to the free nations, likewise appended.
The national assembly has also caused a detailed statement of the case of Ireland to be drawn up; that statement will demonstrate that the right of Ireland to be considered a nation admits of no denial, and, moreover, that that right is inferior in no respect to that of the new States constituted in Europe and recognized since the war; three members, Eamon de Valera, Mr. Arthur Griffith, and Count Plunkett, have been delegated by the national assembly to present the statement to the peace congress and to the league of nations commission in the name of the Irish people.
Accordingly, I have the honor, sir, to beg you to be good enough to fix a date to receive the delegates above named, who are anxious for the earliest possible opportunity to establish formally and definitely before the peace conference and the league of nations commission now assembled in Paris Ireland's indisputable right to international recognition for her independence and the propriety of her claim to enter the league of nations as one of its constituent members. I have the honor to be, sir, Your obedient servant,
SEAN T. O'KELLY, Delegate of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.
O'KELLY'S LETTER-NO. 2.
PARIS, March 31, 1919. To Premier Clemenceau and all the peace conference delegates.
SIR: On behalf of the Irish nation, whose accredited representative I am, I beg to draw your attention, and through you the attention of the peace conference, to the following statement with regard to Ireland :
Ireland is a nation which has exercised the right of self-determination in harmony with the principles formulated by President Wilson and accepted by the belligerents as the only sure foundation for a world peace. It is not only in the past that Ireland, generation after generation, has striven by force of arms as well as by all pacific means to regain her national freedom. At the general election last December the issue, and the only issue, placed before the Irish people was the independence of their country, and by a majority of more than three to one the representatives elected by the constitutional machinery of the ballot box are pledged to the abolition of English rule in Ireland. In none of the small nationalities with which the peace conference has hitherto occupied itself is the unanimity of the people so great; in none has the national desire for freedom been so great; in none has the desire for freedom been asserted so unmistakably and with so much emphasis. Following upon the general election, an Irish National Assembly has met; an Irish Republic has been constituted and proclaimed to the world; a President has been appointed, and with him ministers to direct different departments of state; a program of domestic policy has been issued ; and an appeal has been addressed to the nations of the world to recognize the free Irish State that has thus been recalled to life. But while the national will has been declared and the mechanism of free government is ready, the former is being stifled and the latter paralyzed by England's ruthless exercise of military power. The President is a fugitive; the Irish Parliament is forced to conduct its business in secret ; the most elementary civil rights are abrogated; the courts-martial are sitting at every center; and the gaols are filled with prisoners, victims of cvery brutality and indignity, whose only offense is that they have sought the freedom of their native land. It is in these circumstances that the Irish nation, through me, addresses the peace conference.
Ireland manifestly comes within the scope of the principles that have been indorsed by the civilized nations, and it is for the application of these principles that the peace conference is now sitting. Ireland is weak; England is strong. Ireland in every possible way has asserted her right to freedom, which England, by sheer militarism, is intent now, as always in the past, to destroy. It is only by the exercise of tyrannical power that Ireland's right to freedom can be denied. It is to the great principle of national freedom, represented and embodied in the peace conference, that Ireland, exhausted by the cruelties of English rule, her population annihilated by one-half within living memory, her industries destroyed, her natural resources wasted, her civil liberties ended, her chosen leaders proscribed and treated as felons, now makes her appeal.
Article 10 of the draft covenant of the league of nations is framed to secure national independence against the aggression of an external power. Its terms are as follows:
"The high contracting powers undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all States members of the league. In case of any eggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the executive council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled."
Ireland, as a nation that has declared its independence and is pledged to the principles of freedom, justice, and peace, desires to subscribe to the covenant of the league and to claim as against England the protection of article 10. I submit to the conference with profound respect that Ireland's claim is clear and can not with any shadow of justice be refused. Should it be rejected, the consequences would be as follows:
1. Ireland henceforth must rely for her deliverance wholly upon her own efforts. No such rule has been laid down with regard to any other of the smaller nationalities whose emancipation has been made the care of the conference.
2. Nations which never have denied the right of Ireland to freedom will deprive themselves for the future of the power of countenancing her claim, and will in consequence be bound, for the first time in history, to leave her unaided to her own resources as indicated in the preceding paragraph.
3. Article 10 will impose upon all nations as a condition of membership of the league the obligation to guarantee to Great Britain a title to the possession of Ireland and dominion over the Irish people.
Against the imposition of such slavery upon Ireland, and especially against the giving of such a guaranty of title to Great Britain, I enter on behalf of the people of Ireland, in whose name I have the honor to speak, the most emphatic protest.
Great Britain's title to Ireland rests solely upon “the military power of a nation to determine the fortunes of a people over whom they have no right to rule except the right of force."
The combined guaranty of such a title against the declared protest of Ireland would constitute a definite denial of “the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether strong or weak," and without the acceptance of that principle - no part of the structure of international justice can stand."
The guaranty of such a title would be subversive of “ the reign of law based upon the consent of the governed and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind.”
The guaranty of such a title would constitute recognition of the right of a strong power to serve its own material interest and advantage through the exercise of its “exterior influence and mastery.”
The guaranty of such a title would give Great Britain a warrant to make a nation weaker than herself “ subject to her purposes and interests." It would confirm the claim of Great Britain to rule and dominate the people of Ireland * even in her own internal affairs by arbitrary and irresponsible force."
Any guaranty under article 10 of territorial integrity and political independence as affecting Ireland can rightly enure only to the benefit of the people of Ireland themselves.
In the name, therefore, of the people of Ireland I ask that the Irish nation may be invited to give their adhesion to the covenant of the league of nations, and that membership of the league-a membership available under article 7, even to colonies who have freely and legislatively subscribed to the supremacy of the English Imperial Parliament-shall not be denied to the government of a free, independent Irish republic. I have the honor to be, sir, Your obedient servant,
SEAN T. O'KELLY, Delegate of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF IRELAND'S CLAIM FOR RECOGNITION AS A SOVEREIGN
Ireland is a nation not merely for the reason, which in the case of other countries has been taken as sufficient, that she has claimed at all times and still claims to be a nation but also because, even though no claim were put forward on her behalf, history shows her to be a distinct nation from remotely ancient times.
For over a thousand years Ireland possessed and duly exercised sovereign independence and was recognized through Europe as a distinct sovereign state.
The usurpation of the foreigner has always been disputed and resisted by the mass of the Irish people.
At various times since the coming of the English the Irish nation has exercised its sovereign rights as opportunity offered.
The hope of recovering its full and permanent sovereignty has always been alive in the breasts of the Irish people, and has been the inspiration and the mainspring of their political activities abroad as well as at home.
English statecraft has long and persistently striven in vain to force the Irish people to abandon hope. The English policy of repression, spiritual and material, has ever been active from the first intrusion of English power until the present day.
English policy has always aimed at keeping every new accretion of population from without separate from the rest of the nation, and a cause of distraction and weakness in its midst.
Nevertheless, the Irsh nation has remained one, with a vigorous consciousness of its nationality, and has always succeeded sooner or later in assimilating to its unity every new element of the population.
The Irish nation has never been intolerent toward its minorities and has never harbored the spirit of persecution. Such barbarities as punishment by torture, witch burning, capital punishment for minor offenses, etc., so frequent in the judicial systems of other countries, found no recognition in Irish law or custom. Twice in the seventeenth century-in 1642-1648 and in 1689when, after periods of terrible persecution and deprivation of lands and liberty, the Irish people recovered for a time a dominant political power, they worked out in laws and treaties a policy of full religious equality for all dwellers in the island. On each occasion this policy of tolerance was reversed by the English power, which, on recovering its mastery, subjected the Irish race to further large confiscations of property, restrictions of liberty, and religious persecutions. More recently, notwithstanding the English policy of maintaining as complete a severence as possible, when Irish Protestants became attracted to the support of the national cause, the Catholics of Ireland accorded political leadership to a succession of Protestant leaders.
The Irish have long been a thoroughly democratic people. Through their chosen leaders, from O'Connell to Parnell, they have provided the world with a model of democratic organization in opposition to the domination of privileged classes.
If Ireland, on the grounds of national right and proved ability to maintain just government, is entitled to recover her sovereign independence and that is her demand-the recognition of her right is due from other nations for the following reasons:
(1) Because England's claim to withhold independence from Ireland is based on a principle which is a negation of national liberty and subversive of international peace and order. England resists Ireland's demand on the ground that the independence of Ireland would be, as alleged, incompatible with the security of England or of Great Britain or of the British Empire. Whether this contention is well or ill founded, if it is admitted, then any State is justified in suppressing the independence of any nation whose liberty that State declares to be incompatible with its own security. An endless prospect of future wars is the natural consequence.
(2) Because England's government of Ireland has been at all times and is conspicuously at the present time an outrage on the conscience of mankind.
Such a government, especially in its modern quasi-democratic form, is essentially vicious. Its character at the best is sufficiently described by a noted English writer, John Stuart Mill (Representative Government (1861) chapter 18): “The Government by itself has a meaning and a reality, but such a thing as government of one people by another does not and can not exist. One people may keep another as a warren or preserve for its own use, a place to make money in, a human cattle farm, to be worked for the profit of its own inhabitants. But if the good of the governed is the proper business of a government it is utterly impossible that a people should directly attend to it.” Consequently the people of England devolve the power which they hold over Ireland upon a succession of satraps, military and civil, who are quite irresponsible and independent of any popular control, English or Irish, and represent no interest of the Irish people. Recent events show that the essential vices of the government are as active now as in former times.
(3) Because the English temper toward the cause of Irish national liberty produces atrocious and intolerable results in Ireland. Among the results are a depopulation unexampled in any other country however badly governed ; wholesale destruction of industries and commerce; overtaxation on an enormous scale; diversion of rents, savings, and surplus incomes from Ireland to England; opposition to the utilization by the Irish people of the economic resources of their country, and to economic development, and social improvement; exploitation of Ireland for the benefit of English capitalists; fomentation of religious animosities; repression of the national culture; maintenance of a monstrous system of police rule, by which, in the words of an English minister, all Ireland is kept “under the microscope"; perversion of justice by making political service and political subservience almost the sole qualification for judicial positions ; by an elaborate corruption of the jury system by the organization of police espionage and perjury, and the encouragement of agents provocateurs, and recently and at present by using for the purpose of political oppression in Ireland the exceptional powers created for the purposes of the European war. Under these powers military government is established, some areas being treated as hostile territory occupied in ordinary warfare; a war censorship is maintained over the press and over publications generally; printing offices are invaded and dismantled; the police and military are empowered to confiscate the property of vendors of literature without any legal process; persons are imprisoned without trial and deported from Ireland; Irish regiments in the English army are removed from Ireland, and a large military force, larger than at any previous time, with full equipment for modern warfare, has been maintained in Ireland; civilians are daily arrested and tried by courts-martial and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment,
What are England's objections to Ireland's independence ?
The one objection in which English statesmen are sincere is that which has been already mentioned that the domination of Ireland by England is necessary for the security of England. Ireland, according to the English Navy League, is “the Heligoland of the Atlantic," a naval outpost, to be governed for the sole benefit of its foreign masters. This claim, if it is valid, justifies not only the suppression of national liberty, but also the weakening of Ireland by depopulation, repression of industry and commerce and culture, maintenance of internal discord, etc. It can also be held to justify the subjugation of any small nation by a neighboring great power.
The proximity of Ireland to England furnishes another plea. But Ireland is not as near to England as Belgium, Holland, Denmark, etc., are to Germany. Norway to Sweden, Portugal to Spain. In fact, it is this very proximity that makes independence necessary for Ireland as the only condition of security against the sacrifice of Irish rights to English interests.
A further plea is that England, being a maritime power, her safety depending on her navy and her prosperity depending on maritime commerce, the domination of Ireland is for her a practical necessity-a plea involving that Ireland's natural harbors, the best in Europe, must be kept empty of mercantile shipping, except for such shipping as carries on the restricted trade between Great Britain and Ireland.
Ireland can not admit that the interests of one country, be they what they may, can be allowed to annul the natural rights of another counry. If England's plea be admitted, then there is an end to national rights, and all the world must prepare to submit to armed interests or to make war against them.
We may expect also to find the plea insinuated, in some specious form if not definitely and clearly made, that the English rule in Ireland has been and is favorable to the peace, progress, and civilization of Ireland. We answer that, on the contrary, English rule has never been for the benefit of Ireland and has never been intended for the benefit of Ireland; that it has isolated Ireland from Europe, prevented her development, and done everything in its power to deprive her of a national civilization. So far as Ireland at present is lacking in internal peace, is behind other countries in education and material progress, is unable to contribute notably to the common civilization of mankind, these defects are the visible consequences of English intrusion and domination.
The Irish people have never believed in the sincerity of the public declarations of English statesmen in regard to their “war aims," except in so far as those declarations avowed England's part in the war to have been undertaken for England's particular and imperial interests. They have never believed that