Self-Determination and Minorities
We have seen the complications that beset the diplomats as a result of appeals to the principle of self-determination, which in the diplomacy of Europe had served less as a moving force than as a formula that was useful in coping with existing circumstances.
American policy in 1919 was subject to particular stress from two minorities that appealed to Wilson's predilection for self-determination. Advocates of Irish independence and those of a Zionist establishment in Palestine, wielding a political influence in the United States that was disproportionate to their numbers, looked eagerly to the delegates at the Peace Conference for sympathy and support.
Irish-Americans, determined to aid their kin who were in revolt against the British government, 1. had tried unsuccessfully to induce McAdoo to represent them at Paris, and both Tumulty and Creel had importuned the president to give heed to their cause. 2. Wilson, however, deemed it unwise to press the matter. On January 26 the president cabled: "I frankly dread the effect on British public opinion ... of a Home Rule resolution by the House of Representatives.... It is not a question of sympathy but of international tactics at a very critical moment. " 3. The conflict between responsible diplomacy and political expediency was embarrassing.
Nevertheless, when agitation for Irish independence rose to a crest on St. Patrick's Day, the House of Representatives passed a resolution asking that the Peace Conference "favorably consider the claims of Ireland to self-determination." There was danger that if the American commission at Paris failed to act aggressively to get a hearing for the rebels, the Irish in America would oppose the League of Nations. 4.
While in Washington in February the president gave assurance to Lord Reading that he would do nothing that could commit the British government in any way to bring the Irish question before the Peace Conference. At the same time, Reading____________________