No. 183 NAI DE 2/304/1

Memorandum entitled 'Notes on the British Memo' by Erskine Childers

(S.F.C. 21)

London, 27 October 1921

'The Crown is the symbol'.
This is the true position. The expression lower down that the Crown is 'the keystone of the arch in law' (as well as in sentiment) is only technically true of the free nations of the Commonwealth. The Curtis Memo admits this. The Crown acts automatically, or symbolically, in response to the demands of free and separate governments. 'Allegiance' to a 'symbol', is only a picturesque phrase. Allegiance implies submission to authority. A symbol has no authority. Actually the crown symbolises two things (1) the partnership of Britain and the free Dominions like the seal of a Corporation and (2) by its method of working, the freedom of each individual nation in the partnership, i.e. the direct opposite of authority.

Otherwise the terms 'complete control of their own destinies' (Bonar Law) and 'controls its own destiny in the fullest sense' (Lloyd George on South Africa at Paris June 1919) have no meaning.

Ireland's status should be defined in actual technical terms. A formula expressing some form of 'external' association with the Commonwealth seems to be the only way of doing this.

The whole of this is abstract law inconsistent with the modern status of the Dominions, which have won the right to separate foreign relations and a separate international existence. That they can be neutral in a war appears to have been admitted by the British Government in Article 5 of the Treaty between France and Britain of June 28th 1919.

'The present Treaty shall impose no obligation upon any of the Dominions of the British Empire unless and until it is approved by the Parliament of the Dominion concerned.'

This is in accordance with the separate ratification of the Peace Treaty by the Dominions and with their separate representation on the League of Nations.

It may be answered that neutrality might imply secession from the British Empire. True or not, that is not an answer to the Irish claim. We do not ask for Dominion status but we do claim a status not lower than a Dominion which has 'control of its own destiny in the fullest sense'.

'No treaty shall bind Ireland which shall not have been ratified by the Irish Parliament' — would give in identical terms a parallel right.

Users who read this document also viewed...

  • Document No. 160 Volume 1 (7 October 1921) Instructions to plenipotentiaries from the Cabinet (Copy) Read more...
  • Document No. 134 Volume 1 (18 June 1921) Michael Collins to George Gavan Duffy Read more...

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO