Dear General Smuts:
I crossed you on my voyage home and was not able to thank you for your intervention in favour of Ireland; it was a wonderful advantage to us, and indeed to England, that the truce was established. We owe you gratitude for this, which I hope will be the beginning of a permanent peace, with liberty for our Country.
I would not, however, be frank if I did not add, that the publication by Lloyd George of your letter2 of advice to the Irish leaders, has caused embarrassment and bitterness, and made it most difficult to extricate ourselves from the six qualifying points of his letter. Courage and determination has got rid of them for the present, but I do not know if they will be brought forward again during the Conference. They will never be agreed to and may even cause the renewal of War. They were so wide and indefinite and might be made to include so much, even the military occupation of Ireland, that our liberties would always be at the mercy of the English Government. Nor can we accept the proposition, when it means the loss of our Nationality, that 'What is good enough for the Dominions ought to be good enough for Ireland'.
As to Ulster we feel quite confident that we can deal with that problem without a resort to arms; means are available, and Ulster is already feeling the weight of our pressure. In any case we can never permit those parts of what is called Northern Ireland, where Nationalist majorities reside, to be coerced and separated against their will from the rest of Ireland, nor can we permit the religious minorities in the other parts to be terrorised, ill-treated, driven from their employment and murdered.
You may remember that, both in speaking to you and in my notes, I urged that you should advocate a position for Ireland at least equal to the Higher Status you claimed for South Africa, and that we considered the 'Repeal of the Union' Act of 1800 would in the simplest and easiest way bring about this position. Moreover, this is the historic method, and there are no points about it to discuss; it is just 'Yes or No'.
I do not know if our Representatives will abate their claim to a Republic, but if they do, I feel confident they will not accept less than what we call Grattan's Parliament, otherwise Repeal of the Union, that is a Free State.
Possibly the Conference will break on this point, but I do not anticipate that the English Government will be able to begin another war on the Irish people if their representatives have accepted the King and therefore a place in the Empire. I doubt if the English people would agree in the present state of feeling, and the present difficulties surrounding England.
I cannot anticipate the course of events; but it may happen that you will be asked to arbitrate, or to give friendly advice in one capacity or another. If so, we shall look forward to obtaining a position not less than the Higher Status of South Africa without any 'points' or conditions. We have a strong Republican party here, young men fanatically opposed to a King or an Empire; for years they have been promised a Republic by their leaders and many have died for that cause. They bitterly resent any backing down, and are determined to fight. They were very successful in the last campaign, and are far stronger now, and better trained and equipped. Undoubtedly they will gain some successes at the outset, whatever may happen afterwards. We all sincerely hope that another outbreak may be prevented, but it can only be by the Leaders presenting these young men with a Constitution so complete that they will be persuaded to peace.
The independence of Ireland must be accepted whatever form of Government - Republicanism or Kingship - may be established.
It was a great pleasure to me to see South Africa again and to renew old friendships. I knew it first during the Kaffir war in 1877-8-9, and spent some of the happiest days of my life at Cape Town, Wynberg, &c. hunting, racing &c. Later I suffered in mind and conscience for doing what I knew was wrong, and for which I owed and tried to make some small reparation. This year I have been comparing my new experience with my old memories, and noting the changes, some for good, some for what seemed to me the worse. Cape Town is more cosmopolitan than it was forty years ago and though many beautiful roads have been cut round the mountains, I missed the beauty of the old Wynberg road and the wildness of the flats, now to a great extent built over. Very few of my old friends remain; Sir John Graham and Mr. Lyster are almost the only two of that generation. I bear back however pleasant memories of what I suppose must be my last visit to Table Mountain.