No. 30 NAI DE 2/245

Eamon de Valera to Arthur Griffith (for Cabinet) (Dublin)

New York, 17 February 1920

A Cháirde,
The necessity of preventing possible serious consequences from a movement now on foot here makes it necessary for me to risk sending Dr. McCartan to you. At this distance the enemy and mischief makers could create such trouble as would make it impossible to do effective work.

  • (1) I am presuming on this - that the moment the Cabinet or Dáil feel the slightest want of confidence in me they will let me know immediately. If I can, as I feel certain I can, count solidly on this then I can go on with my work without fearing that malicious persons can stir up misunderstandings.
  • (2) To ease the mind of everybody I want you to know at all times that I never in public or private say or do anything here which is not thoroughly consistent with my attitude at home as you have known it. That will enable you to judge whether anything I may by newspapers be reported to have said is true or false. Never forget that the Press is an instrument used by the enemy - garbled statements misleading headlines etc. You know the press and a word to the wise ought be enough.

Now as to differences here Dr. McCartan can explain them in full. Harry [Boland] has written you repeatedly. I have been absent when he wrote. I have not read all his letters but I am sure that the impression he has conveyed has hit off the situation correctly. This desire on our part not to appear to be unjust may have made him, as it has made me up to the present, to balance our accusatory impressions with corresponding statements as to the virtues of those we had to accuse.

It is a time for plain speaking now. A deadly attempt to ruin our chances for the bonds and for everything we came here to accomplish is being made. If I am asked for the ulterior motives I can only guess that they are

  • (1) To drive me home - jealousy, envy, resentment of a rival - some devilish cause I do not know what prompts


  • (2) To compel me to be a rubber stamp for somebody. The position I have held, (I was rapidly driven to assert it or surrender) is the following
    • (1) No American has a right to dictate policy to the Irish people
    • (2) We are here with a definite objective - Americans banded under the trade name (the word will not be misunderstood) Friends of Irish Freedom - ought to help us to attain that objective if they are truly what the name implies.

This organisation F.O.I.F. owes its life to the idea that it is an organisation to work for Irish freedom. It is not its primary object to secure in American life a prominent place for our race here. In other words the organisation is supported by the plain people primarily to help Ireland to its freedom not as a Trade Union organisation so to speak to help the group of members themselves. As a secondary purpose it can of course do that - I hope my meaning is clear.

Consistent with this position I have insisted then that as regards Irish policy I am not bound to consult any American, and secondly that those who would try to substitute any other objective for those, to secure which we have come, are no more to us, no matter how sincere, than say those Irish-Americans here who would support Plunkett's policy instead of ours.

On questions of tactics to secure our objectives of course Americans must be consulted. On the ways and means they have to be consulted - but I reserve the right to use my judgement as to whether any means suggested is or is not in conformity with our purpose.

Fundamentally Irish Americans differ from us in this - they being Americans first would sacrifice Irish interests if need be to American interests - we, Irish first, would do the reverse. It is therefore a question of finding the lines along which our interests are parallel. I claim the right to say whether in a given case a proposed line fulfils this parallel condition as regards Ireland's interest - and if it should not I do not hesitate to hold out for Ireland's interest.

It is not however from fundamentals like this the trouble arises. The trouble is purely one of personalities. I cannot feel confidence enough in a certain man to let him have implicit control of tactics here without consultation and agreement with me. As regards Harry's letter - I cannot agree with some points e.g. If the mass of the people's attitude were to be the attitude of the American Executive - it would be anti-British. But unless strange things happen it won't be - this is of course only opinion.

I fear writing you any letters - were I to write all I would like to say and exactly as I would like to say it - if captured and published such a letter might blow our work here sky high. You will understand.

I never forget Ireland must mainly rely upon herself. I never forget that it is a question of forward more determinedly now than ever before - looking neither to right nor to left. Be assured of this and believe me as ever.

Eamon de Valera

I have said all this - because it is to create the contrary impression that enemies will bend their energies.1

1 This sentence refers to the last paragraph of the letter.

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