This Week in the History of the Irish: December 6 - December 12

DOMHNAIGH -- In the early morning hours of December 6, 1921, representatives of the Irish government appointed by President Eamon de Valera, and those negotiating for the Crown signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, ending the Irish War of Independence against Great Britain.

(Above, right: Michael Collins signature (in Irish) on the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Immediately after he signed it, he commented to a member of the British negotiating team that he had just signed his own death warrant. He would die at the hands of his former comrades in the IRA within the coming year.)

It was then, and remains, one of the most debated moments in Irish history. The British negotiating team, led by Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Lloyd George, was composed of old masters at the game of politics. Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins led the Irish team; they were brave and intelligent, but had nowhere near the political acumen of the British side.De Valera, a shrewd, experienced politician, may have been the only man in all of Ireland who might have matched them, but he refused to join the negotiations. With less reluctance about forcing their political opponents to negotiate "with a gun to their heads" than they appear to have developed recently, the British gave the Irish an ultimatum on the evening of Dec. 5: Sign the treaty as is, or face military annihilation in three days. (See quote below.) The treaty Collins and Griffith had signed contained several clauses that de Valera and his supporters would reject. Chief among them was the treaty's partition of the country and its requirement that Irish officials must swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown. The cabinet split 4 to 3 in favor of the treaty, and in January, the full Dáil Eireann accepted the treaty 64-57. The stage was set for the brutal Irish Civil War and the seeds of the tragic political mistake known as Northern Ireland were sown. Ever since Irish historians have debated how events might have turned differently. Was Collins right to accept anything less than full Irish independence? Were the British bluffing? Did the world's -- especially America's -- revulsion at the atrocities of the Black and Tans make impossible the threat of Lloyd George's threatened siege of the Irish population? Would further resistance by the Irish have resulted in the dreamed-of 32-county republic, or might it have resulted in a continued 32-county colony? We will never know, and will always wonder.

The executioner of King Louis XVI shows the head of the King of France to the crowd. The king -- and Tipperary native William Bulkely -- were only two of the thousands of victims of the French Revolution's "Reign of Terror."

LUAIN -- On December 7, 1768, William Bulkely, an officer in the Irish Brigade of France, was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary. In 1785, the young Bulkely went to France. His uncle, Richard Butler, who had been a colonel in the Irish Brigade, used his influence to retain a spot for William in Walsh's regiment. William later married a well-to-do French widow. Like most of the Irish soldiers in France, Bulkely opposed the French Revolution and left the army when the republicans seized power. In 1793, he took part in the royalist insurrection, commanding the district of La Roche, near his wife's estate. He led an attack on the rebels at Les Sables, but the attack failed. Bulkely continued to fight for the royalist cause through 1793, and finally he and his wife were captured by the republicans and taken to Angers. While fighting the republicans, Bulkely's men had captured a number of prisoners and many of the royalists -- including his wife -- had urged him to shoot them, but Bulkely refused. Now a captive, Bulkely would not be so lucky. He was quickly tried by a military tribunal and condemned to death. On January 2, 1794, 25-year-old William Bulkely suffered the same fate as a number of other former officers of the brigade that shed much blood in the service of France: he was taken to the guillotine and bled for France one last time, another victim of the Revolution's bloody "Reign of Terror."

MÁIRT  -- On December 8, 1831, James Hoban, the architect of the White House, died in Washington, D.C. Hoban, a native of County Kilkenny, was educated as an artist by Thomas Ivory in Dublin. He worked as one of the architects on a number of buildings in Ireland, including the Customs House, before emigrating to the United States in 1785. In 1792, Hoban won a competition for the design of the President's house in the new national capital.

(Right: Smithsonian Institute - James Hoban and George Washington inspect the unfinished White House in 1798. Washington would never live in it.)

One of the men he beat out for this prestigious assignment may very well have been none other than Thomas Jefferson, who is thought to have competed under a pseudonym. If so, Jefferson would have to be content with one day being the second president to live in the White House designed and built by Hoban, rather than being its architect. (Jefferson would make a few changes to the design when he moved in; whether out of practicality or jealousy, history does not record.) The cornerstone was laid in October 1793, and Hoban was also given the job of supervising the construction. Though it was not quite finished when President Adams arrived in 1800, he and Abigail moved in as its first residents. Hoban's finished product bore a striking resemblance to Leinster House in Dublin. Hoban continued to have a successful career as an architect around Washington, and when the British burned the White House in 1814, near the end of the War of 1812, Hoban was brought in to restore the gutted structure. It took him three years, but Hoban fully restored the building. James Hoban found great success in his adopted homeland. He and his wife Susannah lived out their days in Washington, raising ten children. James was a wealthy man when he died there in 1831.

DEARDAOIN -- On December 10, 1710, the Irish regiments in the service of Spain fought in the battle of Villaviciosa during the War of Spanish Succession. France and Spain had fought since 1701 to have Louis XIV's grandson, Philip of Anjou, placed on the Spanish throne. They were opposed, however, by the forces of England, Holland, Austria, Portugal and Prussia, who were attempting to place the crown on the head of Archduke Charles, son of Hapsburg (Austrian) Emperor Leopold I.

(Left: Uniforms and colonel’s flag of the Hibernia Regiment.)

The war had been raging across Europe; Italy, Spain and Holland, among other countries, had seen numerous battles. Archduke Charles landed in Spain in February 1704. The battle of Villaviciosa took place as Charles and his allied army retreated from Madrid, which they had managed to hold for several months. Three Irish regiments fought with the Spanish army in this battle, commanded by Col. Don Demetrio MacAuliffe, Col. Don John de Comerford and Col. Don Reynaldo Mac Donnell. This last became known as the Hibernia Regiment. Though all three regiments had fought well, it was later said that the dragoons of Count Daniel O'Mahony, a cavalry commander in Philip's army, as well as those of Marquis de Val-de-Canas saved the battle for Philip by flanking the allies' left and getting into their rear just as it appeared Philip's army had lost the battle. O'Mahony also damaged the allies on their retreat by capturing 700 of their pack mules, laden "with all the plunder of Castile."

VOICES

'Here are the alternative letters which I have prepared, one enclosing the Articles of Agreement reached by His Majesty's Government and yourselves, the other saying that Sinn Fein representatives refuse the Oath of Allegiance and refuse to come within the Empire. If I send this letter, it is war - and war within three days. Which letter am I to send?'
        -- British Prime Minister Lloyd George to the Irish negotiating team on the evening of December 5, 1921

'Our Holy Mother Guillotine is busy at work. Within the last three days she has shaved 11 priests, a general and a man (William Bulkely) of splendid physique of 6 feet, whose head was too large for the guillotine; it is now in the sack.'
        -- The mayor of Angers, France, January 1794

December - Nollaig

BIRTHS

6, 1886 - Alfred Joyce Kilmer, journalist, poet and World War I soldier in the 165th Inf. (69th NY) (New Brunswick, NJ)
7, 1768 
- William Bulkely (Officer in the Irish Brigade of France - Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.)
8, 1860
Amanda McKittrick Ros, ('World's Worst Poet’ - Drumaness, Coo Down.)
10, 1822 - Thomas Devin (Union General, son of Irish immigrants - New York City.)
10, 1960
- Kenneth Branagh (Actor and director.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

6, 1820 - Spanish Gen. Diego O'Reilly defeated by Peruvian revolutionaries.
6, 1876
 - Jack McCall was convicted for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok and sentenced to hang.
6, 1921 
- Signing of Anglo-Irish Treaty.
7, 1688 
- The Apprentice Boys of Derry close the gates against King James' troops.
7, 1972
 - "Special position" of Catholic Church removed from Irish constitution.
8, 1831
 - James Hoban, architect of the White House, dies in Washington D.C.
8, 1922 – Irish Republicans Liam Mellows, Rory O'Connor, Joseph McKelvey and Richard Barrett, are executed by the Free State forces.
9, 1710 - The Irish "Hibernia" regiment and other Irish units of Spain fights at the battle of Brihuega.
10, 1605 - John Lee founds the Irish College in Paris.
10, 1710 - Irish in Spanish service fight at the battle of Villaviciosa.
10, 1920 - The British authorize “official reprisals,” which had been going on unofficially for months already, against civilian property in Ireland.
11, 1809 - The Spanish garrison at Gerona, including the Irish Ultonia regiment, surrender to Napoleon's troops.
11, 1799 - Charles Edward Kilmaine, Gen. in the French army, dies in Paris.
11, 1920 - Black and Tans and Auxiliaries go on a rampage of burning and looting in Cork, following ambush.
12, 1714 - Thadeo O Daly, is appointed a colonel in the Portuguese Army by King Dom Joao V.

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Tags: Europe, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day, United States

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