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DIPLOMACY AS PROPAGANDA: THE APPOINTMENT OF T.A. SMIDDY AS IRISH FREE STATE MINISTER TO THE UNITED STATES TROY D. DAVIS In 1924, when Professor T.A. Smiddy was named Minister Plenipotentiary of the Irish Free State to the American government in Washington, the Free State was a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Though today the Commonwealth is seen, both by its member states and by the rest of the international community, as an association of equal and sovereign states under the symbolic leadership of the British Crown, in 1924 the exact relationship of the Dominions to Britain and the Crown was not so clearly defined. The five nations then having Dominion status— the Free State, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand—had all begun their association with Britain as subordinate territories of one kind or another, and British imperialists still thought of the Commonwealth as a category of Empire. Thus, the appointment, by an individual Dominion, of a diplomatic representative to another country represents a significant milestone in the history of the Commonwealth’s evolution.1 The effect of Smiddy’s appointment on the Commonwealth is only part of the story, however. The Free State itself, after all, initiated the Professor ’s appointment, and given the extreme domestic difficulties in Ireland during the early 1920s, it is quite unlikely that the Dublin government of the period would have taken such an initiative merely for the honor DIPLOMACY AS PROPAGANDA 117 1 Perhaps the best treatment of the Free State’s relationship with the Commonwealth is D.W. Harkness, The Restless Dominion: The Irish Free State and the British Commonwealth of Nations, 1921–31 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1969). In addition to Harkness’s book, Patrick Gordon Walker, The Commonwealth (London: Secker and Warburg, 1962); W.K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs, vol. 1, Problems of Nationality (London: Oxford University Press, 1937); and any of Nicholas Mansergh’s several volumes of Commonwealth and Irish history are also useful works on Dominion-Commonwealth affairs. of making Commonwealth history. Even the genuine desire to foster good relations with the US government cannot, by itself, explain why the trouble -plagued Free State ministry would insist on separate diplomatic representation at Washington. Trade and other connections between the two countries were simply not extensive enough to make such representation necessary. Rather, the motivations behind the appointment were primarily domestic in nature, and only to a secondary degree were foreign policy or the interests of the Commonwealth taken into account, despite the public claims of Irish ministers at the time. The “domestic difficulties” in question were problems persisting from the Irish Civil War of 1922–23. During that internecine conflict, the “Irregulars ” of the IRA, supported by their political counterparts in Sinn Féin, fought against the efforts of their countrymen to implement the AngloIrish Treaty of 1921. Under the terms of the Treaty, the Free State was to be established as a Dominion within the Commonwealth. The antiTreatyites considered the acceptance of Dominion status a betrayal. To these Republicans, anything less than the establishment of a sovereign and independent Irish Republic represented an abandonment of Ireland’s national destiny. The Civil War officially ended in May of 1923, when, at the urging of Sinn Féin President Eamon de Valera, IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken called a “cease-fire” and ordered his subordinates to hide their weapons until such time as the struggle for the Republic might be resumed. Clearly, the new Free State was far from stable at that point. The Civil War was effectively over, but its bitterness and rancor continued to plague Irish politics , and a return to anarchy seemed possible at any moment. As John J. Horgan, the Irish correspondent for The Round Table, described the situation at the end of 1923: Never was a new Government saddled with such a load as ours. A band of criminals, calling and thinking themselves patriots, have laid waste the country, and rendered necessary the creation of an army on a war footing which can only be maintained at a cost of millions. These “patriots” also avail themselves of every dispute . . . to foster enmity against the Government . They...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 117-129
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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