DE VALERA IN AMERICA
THE tremendous electoral victory of Sinn Fein aroused great enthusiasm in America. Mellows felt deeply the honour of his election as a representative and confessed to a sense of unworthiness. McCartan by contrast, with longer experience and less humility, behaved as if the status was something inherent in himself. In a mood of expectancy and excitement he yielded to the urge to “do something”. The wisest course would have been to cable congratulations and request instructions. Instead, so far as can be ascertained, without consulting Mellows he approached McGarrity and Dr. Maloney, and these induced Judge Cohalan to invite leading figures in the Friends of Irish Freedom to a discussion at his house. Those who had borne the brunt of the struggle during the war were not even informed.
The proposition was that the Friends of Irish Freedom should organise meetings to express their congratulations to the Irish people. In the general rejoicing McCartan had worked out roles for himself and the Judge. As envoy of the Provisional Government he proposed to issue a proclamation pointing out the significance of the Sinn Fein victory. In addition he would inform the State Department and foreign legations in Washington that Ireland had severed all political connection with England. As for Cohalan, he wished him to cable to De Valera and Eoin MacNeill his congratulations “on the peaceful establishment of the Republic”. McCartan, of course, regarded himself as the envoy of a Republic already established. Cohalan was a practical man. Not unnaturally he reacted against the doctrine that the election result established it again without any further overt action in Dublin. This was wishful thinking pushed too far.
McCartan’s haste arose from elements in the American situation, and a failure to appreciate that the action taken in Dublin was now internationally decisive. On nth December 1918, Richard Dalton, regarded as Cohalan’s personal representative at Washington, had accepted the deletion from the Gallagher resolution of the words “freedom and independence” and after stating that the phrase “self-determination” was adequate, agreed that this implied that a plebiscite must be held. McCartan was anxious to commit the Judge and his associates to the acceptance of the election as a plebiscite.