No. 110 NAI DFA ES Box 32 File 16

Précis of Mr Simpson's report1

Chile, October 1921

Strength, Influence And Organization Of Irish
Number of Irish throughout the country about 300.

An Irish organization already exists at Santiago which has forty members on its books, all in influential positions, and some of them in direct contact with the President and the American legation.

There is no organization at Valparaiso and the formation of one offers many difficulties. British influence is very strong and the Irish, though patriotic and well-meaning, are mostly superior employees of the great British importing houses and in fear of losing their positions. About twenty Irish 'of the right colour' in Valparaiso.

Chile being an intensely Catholic country, and the Irish temperament resembling the Chilean more than the British does, Irishmen are much more readily absorbed into the national life than Britons. Active participation in Chilean politics is, however, strictly confined to those who are native born.

Favouring Irish Cause.
1. Several of the chief leaders in Chile's struggle for independence - O'Higgins, McKenna, Lynch - were Irish.
2. Public opinion is usually on the side of the weaker party in an exterior struggle. Chile has been pro-Boer, pro-Japanese and pro-German.
3. Public men are friendly. So is Labour, Irish priests, nuns, and teachers are very keen, and religious generally, who have much influence are friendly. There is no specific hostility to Ireland in any quarter.

British Influence.
British influence is powerful and far-reaching. The firm of Gibbs and Co., of London is said to 'control Chile'. British capital preponderates in the Nitrate of Soda, which is the great national industry and the main source of national revenue. The Borax industry, Nitrate railways, and Coastwise shipping are also heavily financed by England. The Anglo-South-American Bank and the British, London, and River Plate Bank have branches in every part of the country and shares in all industrial enterprises.

The British have earned a reputation in Chile for reliable and honest dealing which makes it hard for Chileans to believe accounts of their doings in Ireland. Chileans like to hear themselves described as 'the English of South America'.

The U.S., however, is increasingly tending to become the dominating influence through its hold on railways, banking, finance, etc. There is considerable ill-feeling among British residents against the U.S.
Causes Predisposing And Encouraging Unfriendliness To England.
1. Owing to the action of the syndicate of British nitrate buyers (including Gibbs and Co) in bringing pressure to bear on the nitrate producers and government in order to keep up prices the Chilean works are closed down. Thousands are idle and have to be fed by the Government, and the Nitrate tax is producing no revenue. Naturally this has not increased Britain's popularity.
2. British intrigue led to the downfall and death of President Balmaceda in 1891 because he wished to nationalise the nitrate industry. The party now in power and likely to remain inherits his ideas, and the methods - since completely exposed - by which the British secured his overthrow still rankle. (The British Ambassador is probably not aware of this).
3. Chile wishes to reserve her coastal trade - now mostly British - in her own hands. A measure is passing through Congress with this object, but it cannot prevent England constituting shipping companies under the Chilean flag, so that the question is likely to remain a source of irritation.

Recognition of Republic by Congress could not be expected at present (Oct. 1921), nor is there any chance of a successful loan.

The three largest papers are:-
El Mercurio - Pro-British. Controlled by Edwards, Minister in London, who is regarded as a coming President. Personal sympathies of editor Irish, but has to think of his advertisements. Publishes offensive dispatches from one Charles Grant in London.
Diario Illustrado - Conservative and Church organ. Largest circulation in country. Most sympathetic. Puts space at disposal each day for propaganda work.
La Nacion - Sympathetic, good circulation, proprietor Mr Ellidoro Yanez is likely to be Chilean Minister in Paris.
Pacific Mail - Subsidised by British Government and anti-Irish.


1. Irish cause could be forwarded by using Irish influence, especially in the U.S., to get a fair and impartial hearing for Chile's case against Peru. (The Chile-Peru boundary dispute has been referred to the arbitration of the U.S., January 1922).
2. The Irish Government could buy Nitrate of Soda direct from the Chilean Government and distribute it themselves or sell it to one distributor. This would be a good advertisement and great help to our cause and would do out the English middlemen.

1 Simpson's identity remains unknown.

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