No. 603 NAI DT S5340/19

Letter from Patrick McGilligan to J.H. Thomas (London)

Dublin, 21 November 1931

My dear Thomas,

The High Commissioner will tell you that the President has written a letter to the Prime Minister1 concerning Friday's Debate on the Statute of Westminster and especially on the statement made by you that the Government would be asked to consider the whole situation in the light of the Debate that had taken place.

There is no need for me to emphasise the grave statement made by the President in his letter to the Prime Minister, but as you and I are particularly concerned in our respective posts with the matter under discussion I think it my duty to repeat to you in brief some of the considerations set out by the President.

The dominating factor on which there can be no shadow of disagreement is the necessity for maintaining the status of peace and goodwill in the relations between these two countries. On that, to a large extent, depends the prosperity and happiness of both. I cannot conceive anyone except the most rabid reactionary desiring to reopen old sores and recreate the feeling of unrest and disturbance between our peoples all over the world. I do not believe that Mr. Churchill has that desire. If he had he would not have signed the Treaty. But I do know - and I have said it more than once - that there are forces at work in both islands whose hatred for this country is so bitter that no consideration of general interest would stop them in their endeavour to overthrow the institutions built up here with so much toil and difficulty. Nothing would be of more powerful aid to them in their design than the proposed amendment because it strikes at the whole basis of goodwill and free cooperation on which alone the Treaty can be securely founded.

I wish to state also most emphatically that there should be no need at this stage to argue that the universal acceptance of the Treaty position in this country depends exclusively on its maintaining the character of a pact freely entered into which contains in itself the most complete freedom for the fullest development of this country politically and economically within the Commonwealth group of nations.

Our people are realising that the Treaty has these potentialities and if their belief in it as an instrument of the fullest freedom is now going to be shaken by a deliberate act of the British Parliament the consequences cannot but be of the gravest. I think furthermore that the exceedingly undemocratic principle underlying the amendment would, if accepted, be of the greatest detriment to the future relations of the peoples of the Commonwealth with Great Britain.

The Treaty will be observed by the people of this country so long as it is a free instrument. If it becomes overshadowed by the slightest suspicion of external legal restraint it loses its free character, is no longer the same instrument and must inevitably defeat its original purpose.

In conclusion I should like to associate myself with the President when he assures the Prime Minister that we do not believe that your Government would contemplate accepting the Amendment.

Yours sincerely,
(sgd) P. McGilligan

1 See No. 602.

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