No. 264 UCDA P80/424

Extracts from a letter from Desmond FitzGerald to Senator N.A. Belcourt

Dublin, 13 August 1924

Dear Senator Belcourt,

I regret very much my long delay in answering your letters of the 25th July.1 I have been hoping to be in a position to give you full information about the appointment of Professor Smiddy. That appointment is not yet completed; it was only the day before yesterday that we actually received word that the American Government were agreeable to the person of our appointment.

[Matter omitted]

With regard to the Washington appointment: perhaps I had better give you a little history of our proceedings. In the first place we wrote the British Government that we found it necessary to have a fully accredited representative in Washington, and we asked them to approach the American Government through their diplomatic channels to ascertain if the American Government would be willing to receive such a representative from us. In that despatch we also asked that if the American Government replied in the affirmative they should then be asked for their agreement with regard to Professor Smiddy as the person to be appointed, and if the American Government found Professor Smiddy persona grata we asked that His Majesty would forward to us a letter of Credence for us to transmit to Professor Smiddy.

The British Government notified this proposal to the other Dominions: Canada and South Africa approved: New Zealand disapproved and Australia thought the matter should be left for the next Imperial Conference. The British Government had made long delays, and as I impressed upon them that this matter was urgent[,] a conference was arranged in the Colonial Office. At that Conference it was agreed that the British Government would approach the American Government, and if America accepted the proposal the Free State Minister should be the official channel of communication with the United States Government for dealing with matters exclusively affecting the Free State. The principles of the resolution of the Imperial Conference of 1923 as to the negotiation, signature and ratification of Treaties, and in particular of that part of the Resolution which relates to the conduct of matters affecting more than one part of the Empire would apply generally to all questions with which he dealt, and the Ambassador would in the same way keep the Irish Free State Minister informed of any matters which might affect the Irish Free State. If any doubt should arise whether any particular question exclusively concerned the Free State, the point would, if possible, be settled by consultation between the Free State Minister and the British Ambassador. If the matter could not be settled by such consultation, it would be referred to the British Government and the Free State Government.

In order to meet the possibility that any particular question might in its initial stages be exclusively of concern to the Free State and might subsequently prove to be of concern to other parts of the Empire, the Free State Minister would keep in close contact with the British Ambassador.

While the Free State Minister would not purport to deal with matters affecting the Empire as a whole, the assistance of the British Ambassador and the Embassy staff would always be at his disposal, if desired. The Ambassador would not, however, be in any way responsible for action taken by the Free State Minister, nor would the latter be in any way subject to the Ambassador's control.

As regards credentials: the British Government had previously forwarded me a copy of the credentials which had been proposed for the Canadian Minister in 1920. There were three things in that document which were objectionable to us. In the first place the use of the term 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland' in His Majesty's title. In the second place the phrase 'to attach him to our Embassy,' and in the third place the counter-signature of the British Secretary for State.

With regard to the first point: as I was assured that steps were already being taken with a view to changing His Majesty's Title, I agreed that if the change could not be effected before the credentials were to be issued that I would agree to the Title in its present form.

With regard to the second point: the British agreed to eliminate the words 'to attach him to our Embassy.'

The third point I considered very important as it seemed to me that the counter-signature of the British Foreign Minister carried with it an implication that His Majesty could only act on the advice of the London ministers. Sir Cecil Hurst of the British Foreign Office agreed with me in this, and it was agreed that the counter-signature of the British Foreign Minister should not be included in this or in any similar documents in the future.

The British then showed me the telegram they proposed sending to their Ambassador. In due time we were informed that the American Government agreed to receive a Minister from us. We immediately asked the British to inquire if Professor Smiddy would be persona grata. They delayed doing this for a considerable time so that only two days ago did I get word that the American Government would accept Professor Smiddy. We have now asked the British Government to forward us Letter of Credence signed by His Majesty.

You will observe from above that the terms of the Letter of Credence were agreed to in conference between the British Government and me. I interpret the omission of the Foreign Secretary's counter-signature as meaning that His Majesty empowers Professor Smiddy directly on the advice of the Free State Government. We also shall forward to Professor Smiddy a letter of Authority, and the appointment of Professor Smiddy will be covered either by an Order by our Executive Council (which is our equivalent to an Order in Council), or by a Resolution of the Dáil.

As to the financial terms and conditions: Professor Smiddy's emoluments are: £2,750[.] This is subject to revision

I am unable to say so far what the full cost of our American Representation will be, but I shall be happy to forward this information as soon as I have some clear indication of it myself. We are very hopeful that as we have now arranged to have a passport control officer in New York that our receipts from visas to Americans travelling directly to the Irish Free State will go a long way to cover the cost of our American representation.

I am always most happy to give any information I have to you or to your Government. I shall write further as soon as I receive from the British Government documents I am now waiting for.

If you are likely to be in London during the next fortnight I hope to have the pleasure of calling upon you, and I can assure you that if you can see your way to come to Dublin we shall be very glad to welcome you.

Yours very sincerely,
[copy letter unsigned]

1Not printed.

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