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December 5

In 1921, threatened with a renewal of "terrible and immediate war" by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George if they failed to sign the Treaty at once, Irish delegates terminated negotiations at 22 Hans Place and returned to Dublin to consult the cabinet according to their instructions.

A terrible and immediate warAs the principal Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins was fully aware that his direct participation in the negotiations had been life-threatening; his explicit approval of an Irish Free State would mean "signing his own death warrant" whereas rejection would lead to arrest and execution by the British. In his diary that evening Winston Churchill would note that "Michael Collins rose up looking as if he was going to shoot someone, preferably himself. In all my life, I have never seen so much passion and suffering in restraint".

However Lloyd-George recalled that "From the very outset of our conversations [in June 1921] I told you that we looked to Ireland to own allegiance to the Throne, and to make her future as a member of the British Commonwealth. That was the basis of our proposals, and we cannot alter it. The status which you now claim in advance for your delegates is, in effect, a repudiation of that basis. I am prepared to meet your delegates as I met you in July, in the capacity of 'chosen spokesmen' for your people, to discuss the association of Ireland with the British Commonwealth".

Collins and Griffiths had sensed disunity and perhaps even design and intent when Éamon de Valera sent Irish plenipotentiaries rather than attend in person. As the self-styled President of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, he would probably reject the Treaty whereas Collins once identified could no longer continue as he had. Also, it appeared unlikely that a consensus would form around the controversial sanctioning of a twenty-six county Dominion within the Empire, and the creation of a statelet (Northern Ireland) comprising the other six counties under the British Crown. And therefore Collins was presented with a stark choice between a continuation of the War of Independence, or a Civil War. Although many feared that rejection of the Treaty would postpone any form of independence for a generation, Collins sensed otherwise because even The Times had also turned against the Irish war, saying in an editorial as early as 1919, "We deplore the fact that the authority of the British name in Ireland has come to rest upon military power".






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