No. 105 NAI DFA EA 231/1/1929

Extracts from a Confidential Report from Timothy A. Smiddy to William T. Cosgrave (Dublin)
(M.P. 1005/6/27) (Confidential)

Washington DC, 21 July 1927

Dear Mr. President:

I attended, on invitation, the Fourth Institute of the Norman Wait Harris Memorial Foundation at Chicago University, June 21st to July 8th, 1927, at which lectures were delivered on, and Round-Table Conferences discussed, 'Problems of the British Empire'.

I gave a public lecture on the 'Position of the Irish Free State in the British Empire', a copy of which will be sent you as soon as it is published. I have already sent a favourable report thereon by Mr. Bennett. There was a large and distinguished audience consisting of professors and lecturers of historical and constitutional subjects from many American Universities and of students of the University of Chicago, a list of some of whom I enclose.1

The debate on 'Political Parties in Great Britain and the Dominions' at the Round-Table Conference was led off by Mr. John W. Dafoe of the Manitoba Free Press. The effect of Proportional Representation on the multiplicity of parties was discussed at length with special reference to the Irish Free State. It was agreed that on the whole it did not attain the results desired where it had been in operation in the Dominions.

The point was also made that the existing tendency of the three political party system in most Dominions and Great Britain to formal or informal coalition between two of the parties or a compromise among the different parties on proposed legislative measures, was modified by the fear of dissolution which normally the members of the Legislature do not desire. But it was stated that in the case of the Irish Free State such modification does not exist, and the fear of dissolution does not make waverers decide in favour of a Government measure, because the Government which has not the confidence of the Dáil cannot dissolve the Dáil, which can continue its existence for its full period of office. Hence, in the Irish Free State two essential factors are at work to create a multiplication of political parties which are not operative in the other British Dominions, viz, Proportional Representation and the inability of the Cabinet to dissolve Parliament unless with its own consent.

[matter omitted]

On this occasion I took the opportunity of renewing my acquaintance with my hosts of former occasions - local supporters of the Irish Free State, chief of whom are Rev. Father McNamee, Mr. Michael Faherty, Dr. Alexander Pope, Dennis F. Kelly, Francis Kilkenny and Kevin Kelly, who were my guests at luncheon. Mr. Faherty and Father McNamee have effective influence with the City Administration, of which Mr. Faherty is a member, being President of the Board of Local Improvements. He is a highly esteemed citizen, a large contractor and a wealthy man, and has the reputation of being the greatest driving force in the construction of Greater Chicago. On the occasion of de Valera's recent visit to Chicago, Mr. Faherty and Father McNamee went to Mayor Thompson and advised him not to accord a welcome to de Valera. The application of de Valera's Committee for a spectacular escort was refused. The reception he got in Chicago was very poor, and the following he has in that city amounts to very little.

Mayor Thompson was recently elected Mayor and Ex-Mayor Dever was defeated. The following commentary on these men is interesting:- Thompson was Mayor on a former occasion; he is a Free Mason and Protestant, whereas Dever is a Catholic. The banking and large business interests, Episcopal, Methodist and Baptist Ministers, and Free Masons supported strenuously the latter, whereas the Catholic Clergy, Catholics and Irish in general all supported Thompson. It is alleged of Mayor Dever that he had no Catholic in his Cabinet as he feared to incur the accusation of partiality by having those of his own religion in his Administration, whereas Thompson's Cabinet is composed of all Catholics and Irishmen. Thompson on asking Faherty what he thought of his Cabinet, Faherty said 'The Pope could not do better'. The Chief of Police is an Irishman by the name of Hughes, a strong supporter of the Irish Free State.

The Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago - of which Mr. Kevin Kelly is Secretary - and before whom I lectured a few years ago, is one of the most respected Clubs in Chicago. It is non-political but a strong supporter of the Irish Free State. It has had as its principal guests of honour Presidents Taft and Roosevelt. Their banquet to Cardinal O'Donnell was one of the biggest of its kind given in Chicago on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress. The Committee thereof interviewed me with the object of informing me that they were most anxious to have as their principal guest next St. Patrick's Day, the President or Vice President (Minister for External Affairs) of the Irish Free State. There is no doubt but hospitality would be tendered in a manner befitting the visit of such personage, and the City itself would manifest in a very striking and formal manner its appreciation of such distinguished visitors. I am convinced that such a visit would be productive of excellent results, and the magnitude and publicity of the reception would help to weaken the influence of de Valera. There is no doubt but Chicago will give them a reception which will be almost spectacular. There need be no fear of any manifestation of hostility from anyone in Chicago that would in any way mar the dignity of the event. I would strongly urge such a visit here next year in the interest of the Irish Free State; it will help to weaken the power of the opponents of the Free State in this country.

The Committee of the Irish Fellowship Club will tender the invitation in the near future, and I would be favoured at your convenience to know if it is likely to be accepted.

I was the guest of the Vice President of the U.S.A., General Dawes,2 to lunch. There were also present William R. Dawes (brother of the Vice President), Chairman of Chicago Association of Commerce, and Mr. Otis, President of the Central Trust Company of Illinois. While General Dawes's subject of conversation was the success of the Dawes plan and a great tribute of praise to Sir Joshua Stamp, now Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Midland Railway in Great Britain, without whom he said the Report could not have been so ably devised, he also displayed an interest in the Irish Free State, and said how much impressed he was with the ability of the Cosgrave Government to govern and rehabilitate the country economically.

Yours very sincerely,
[signed] T.A. Smiddy

1 Not printed.

2 General Charles Gates Dawes (1865-1951), Vice-President of the United States (Republican) (1924-29), Ambassador to Britain (1929-32).

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