The Road to Áras an Uachtaráin
In this poor, misty month that's gone
They have, unto the Uachtarán
Appointed, in a manner very
Polite and prompt, a Secretary.
But who the Uachtarán will be
Is still eluding you and me.
Dublin Opinion (December, 1937)
On November 10, 1937, irish newspapers carried the announcement that Michael McDunphy, assistant secretary to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, had been chosen to fill the newly created position of secretary to the president of Ireland. The first official to be appointed under the new Constitution, he would bring to this post, declared the Irish Times, not only the "zeal and ability" he had demonstrated in previous sensitive posts but his gift for languages, his firsthand knowledge of the Irish countryside, and his Continental contacts: personal qualities with which already he had served Ireland well. On the question of just exactly whom he would serve, Dublin journalists were more irreverent, especially as weeks of gossip and speculation failed to elicit any further announcement. The Constitution, to be sure, did not become official until December 29, the date established for
McDunphy to move to his newly appointed position. Even after that the government had 180 days—plenty of time to nominate candidates and hold an election—before it had to inaugurate a first president. But as the man chosen for the job was expected to maintain political strengths at home and foster diplomatic prospects abroad, government silence on the subject became a target of satire and a matter of curiosity and concern.
Concern increased when newspaper commentators began to speculate on the kind of office the president would occupy, given what many regarded as the vagueness of his duties and the limited extent of his discretionary powers under the new Constitution. For the most part they agreed that the man elected would be obliged to act routinely on the advice of the government. But certain functions required only that he consult the Advisory Council of State. What if he differed with the government and dominated the Advisory Council? The Constitution also obliged the president to sign bills not earlier than five or later than seven days after they had been presented to him. Could he manipulate these time limitations to the advantage of a bill he favored or the detriment of one he disapproved? What of his right to refuse to sign certain classes of bills or to refer them to the supreme court? Most important, what of his power to summon or dissolve the national parliament? Could this duty of a president be used to create a dictatorship? Many critics of the Constitution focused on this point, but some (mainly those still wary of de Valera) feared the opposite danger: that a weak and easily manipulated president might defer too much to the taoiseach (prime minister), allowing him too many potentially dictatorial powers.
For a people assuming full control over their destiny for the first time in almost eight hundred years, a new, untried Constitution inevitably raised questions about how fully the hard-won right to self-government was protected by a system of checks and balances. The candidate elected would do much to shape the answers. But who were the candidates—what was the field of choice?
In December 1937 Dublin Opinion honed its political wit on preparations for the new government, especially as these related to party alignments, personal ambitions, and popular rumor. As a seasonal variant on its usual doggerel it entertained its readers with a proposed "Christmas Celebrity Smoking Concert," featuring such program numbers as "I Know Where I'm Going" (to be sung by de Valera), followed by "The Vacant Chair" and "As I Sit Here" (by Michael McDunphy), "What are the Wild Waves Saying?" (by Thomas J. Kiernan, director
of broadcasting), "If You're Irish, Come into the Parlour" (by Tomas Ó Deirg, minister for education, a returned Volunteer who had been deported after the Easter Rising), "There's Someone in the Orchard" (by the comptroller and auditor general), and "After the Thin Man," billed as "A Play produced by Candidates for the New Senate, with Mr. De Valera in the title role." The vacant presidency was targeted also in an "Imaginary Interview with the Secretary to the Uachtarán" as it might have been conducted by a Dublin Opinion reporter:
You desire to see his Excell—I mean to say, An t-Uachtarán? said Mr. McDunphy.
But he hasn't been appointed yet—has he? said I.
"No," said Mr. McDunphy. "I'm only practising."
"I tell you what," said I. "I'll help you to practise. . . . Let's suppose I'm a distinguished foreign visitor from, say Griqualand West. . . . Er. . . . do I get a . . . er . . . drink . . . glass of wine or anything?"
"Well, no," said Mr. McDunphy; "at least, I don't think so. I'm nearly sure he'll be a teetotaler. . . ."
A candidate who did not drink? For readers wondering if this could be an insider tip, it raised doubts about one rumored candidacy and increased speculations about another.
I suppose I should just keep you going with a nice pleasant, general line of conversation until An t-Uachtarán signifies that he is ready to receive you.
"Well," I said, "perhaps we needn't bother to rehearse that. . . . By the way, if it isn't a rude question, how do those letters come to be addressed to the Uachtarán already?"
"I wrote them myself," said Mr. McDunphy, simply, "It's practise . . . Take this one . . . I signed it Mrs. McRafferty, Pallas, Co. Longford. It's asking An t-Uachtarán to get her second eldest a job as a postman . . . I'm replying immediately to say that the representations in her letter have received careful consideration but that An t-Uachtarán regrets that the matter must be left in the hands of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. . . ."
Was this another tip? Had Dublin Opinion determined that the government choice would be a team player? If so, who were the members of the new team?
It'll flatter her to have what she wrote referred to as 'representations,'—and that'll keep her fairly contented.
(. . . A ring was heard, and Mr. McDunphy picked up the telephone.)
Yes . . . Yes, Mr. De Valera . . . No, I'm afraid An t-Uachtarán cannot see you to-day . . . Perhaps if you made an appointment for to-morrow?
Now here was news: Had that been de Valera himself telephoning McDunphy? Was the nominee not only chosen but already (unofficially, of course) at work? Some presidency watchers had been assuring others that McDunphy's appointment was evidence that, behind the scenes, a presidential candidate was in fact participating in some decisions. Was Dublin Opinion guessing, or did it really know something?
"That wasn't a real ring, was it?" said I.
"No," said Mr. McDunphy, "the messenger does it outside with a bicycle bell."
"Isn't it funny," I said, "that they didn't wait for the Uachtarán to appoint his own Secretary himself."
As the secretary made no reply, the "interviewer" broached the subject more directly.
He can't be getting all the powers the newspapers were making out. Suppose he doesn't like you when he sees you? . . . Don't tell me you know who he is going to be!! . . . Or that somebody else knows?
"I have no information," said Mr. McDunphy.
Few people in Ireland believed this statement, but it remained McDunphy's standard reply to all reporters, real or imaginary, during the next three-and-a-half months. There was also skepticism abroad. Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, knew better than to underestimate Eamon de Valera. It would not be characteristic of him to leave such a choice to either chance or a committee of the Dáil. As for the newspapers, if Michael McDunphy could not or would not identify the president-to-be, there was no shortage of other front-page news. Guaranteed to attract readers throughout the English-speaking world was the developing melodrama of a British king willing to give up his throne for a beautiful American divorcée and suspenseful accounts of rising dictatorships in Germany and Italy. Meanwhile, while the Irish enjoyed the game of speculation, it was best for others not to try to play, for in 1937 Ireland was virtually unknown territory to foreign experts who used to get their information on Irish affairs from British information officers and had not yet tapped into their Irish equivalent. A case in point was Roosevelt's traveling emissary, Josephus Daniels, a former secretary of the navy (therefore Roosevelt's old boss), now United States ambassador to Mexico. Holidaying abroad in the summer of 1937, Daniels was asked by FDR to stop in Ireland to confer with de Valera and FDR's new minister to
the Irish Free State, John Cudahy, Irish-American scion of a Milwaukee meat-packing family and nephew of the man Douglas Hyde had met in California in 1906. Convinced that 1932–1937 political and structural changes in the government of Ireland were insignificant and that, on the whole, events in Europe were remote from the concerns of the United States, Daniels dismissed de Valera in a report dated August 20 as a man so preoccupied with such strictly internal affairs as his north-south border dispute that he could not pay attention to the more immediate matter of cooperating with the United States on plans for a memorial in Cobh to men of the United States Navy who had aided British destroyers based in that port during World War I. Nor did Daniels perceive any significance in the election of a president who would have, in his opinion, "about as much power as the President of France, leaving the control of the country to the Prime Minister." The most serious consequence of this election, as far as Daniels could foresee, was that John Cudahy might have to give up his newly rented home with its handsome grounds called Phoenix Park because rumor had it that "the President will live in the house now occupied by the American Minister."
More astute and much better informed despite the short time he had been in his new post, Cudahy knew that Daniels was wrong on all points, including what he thought he had heard about the house the president of Ireland was to occupy. He continued to keep his ear to the ground and report what he heard to Roosevelt as, one by one, names of possible candidates for the presidency were discussed and dropped in Dublin pubs and drawing rooms.
By the third week of April 1938, the news was out, in Ireland and abroad: the unanimous choice of all parties and factions was Dr. Douglas Hyde. His name had come up before, in June 1937, when he had received the prestigious Gregory Medal. Reaction in Ireland was overwhelmingly favorable, a signal to Irish political leaders that they had read the mood of the country correctly. The news was also well received across the Atlantic. "Douglas Hyde Slated to Head New Irish State," proclaimed the New York Herald Tribune . Even in England, Douglas Hyde was regarded as a sensible choice, although most British newspapers studiously avoided treating the announcement as world news and many did not cover it at all. In Celtic areas where the progress of Ireland's struggle for independence had been watched with interest, the event received more attention.
In Ireland, private reactions mirrored public statements. For many
among Hyde's still large and loyal following there was no doubt but that the choice was right. Others expressed their agreement with Hyde's vision of Ireland's future or noted his contribution to the making of modern Ireland in the past. Fifty years later, on the anniversary of Hyde's nomination and inauguration, reaction remained the same: "Who else was there?" was the question still asked. At the same time there was diversity in the opinions that contributed to the consensus. Some welcomed Hyde's candidacy as an important step toward reconciling diverse political factions. Some described it as a necessary political reality, a "sop" to the Protestant minority of the twenty-six counties in response to concern about the future of Irish Protestants under a Constitution that on the one hand assured separation of church and state and on the other mandated Catholic attitudes and values in family life and education. A number of close observers of the situation disputed as naive the public statement of the papal nuncio, that "the choosing of a Protestant President was a very clever move on the part of Mr. De Valera and should have a moderating influence on the whole country as well as please the Protestant pro-British element of Northern Ireland"; they agreed more readily with John MacVeagh, secretary of the American legation, that Hyde's nomination was a "fine gesture of good will toward the minority religious groups."
Analyzing the implications for Ireland's future, the American minister, John Cudahy, focused with greater perspicacity not on religious issues but on questions the newspapers had been raising. "In the opinion of this Legation, the nomination of Dr. Hyde is equivalent to an election," reported Cudahy, noting that the only other candidate being considered, Alderman Alfred ("Alfie") Byrne, T.D., the flamboyant lord mayor of Dublin, had withdrawn. Hyde's candidacy, Cudahy believed, reflected the conception of the office held by the framers of Ireland's new Constitution: "one of permanence, a symbol of Ireland, one of dignity and representation far removed from the tumult and hurly-burly of political strife." In the office as well as the man he saw a "curious analogy to the constitutional conception of the monarchy in England." Dismissing the idea that the Constitution offered any potential for presidential abuse, he noted that both executive and plenary powers granted in the document were "rendered impotent by subsequent enactments."
The chief critic of Hyde's nomination was Hyde himself. Irish newspapers quoted him as saying, "If my acceptance will be of any use to the country, I will gladly accept. My one objection is the fact that I am so old." Cynics suggested that this was the reason why he had been
selected: an old man brought out of retirement would pose no threat to de Valera. The cover of the May 1938 issue of Dublin Opinion featured a bright-eyed An Craoibhín Aoibhinn in Edwardian plus fours seated on a branch labeled "Presidency." Inside, in a satiric dialogue entitled "The Special Committee Selects An Agreed President" (byline, "As Imagined by our Grangegorman Correspondent"), name after name is brought up and objected to by one party or the other, until a Fianna Fáil representative proposes Hyde as the only name on which they are likely to agree. A member of the opposition supports the nomination, because,
Well, for one thing, his selection would certainly dispose of the possible menace of the Uachtarán becoming a dictator. . . . I can't quite imagine the old gentleman marching into Leinster House at the head of his troops.
In a page of cartoons and quips, Hyde's age and walrus mustache (a feature of his appearance with which caricaturists had a field day) were again easy targets for the lampooners:
From all accounts, Dr. Douglas Hyde is such a quiet old gentleman that we may soon be wishing for the brave old days when we had Domhnall Ua Buachalla dashing around all over the place.
The ironic reference was to Donald Buckley, a veteran of Easter 1916 and a republican who had fought in the Four Courts in 1922, who had been appointed "chief steward" in 1932 to replace the governor-general, James MacNeill, with the understanding that, far from "dashing around all over the place," he would do nothing at all in any official capacity.
Dublin Opinion also reserved some of its swipes for the Special Committee: "After all the Hide-and-Seek, it became just Seek-and-Hyde!" There was even grudging good humor in one cartoon, depicting Hyde in toga and sandals surrounded by committee members, and captioned "The New Senator Who Took His Job Seriously."
Despite all the jibes and jokes, many observers regarded Hyde's nomination as another personal victory for de Valera. John Cudahy noted that in their conversations on the subject de Valera often had emphasized to him "the importance of language in the survival of nationalism" and had told him that while of course he could not predict the outcome of the election (a qualifier Cudahy accepted with tongue in cheek), "he would not consent to any candidate who did not speak Irish fluently and . . . insist upon the importance of the Irish language
movement." De Valera was, Cudahy asserted confidently, "entirely satisfied with the selection of Dr. Hyde." Nor was this satisfaction based only on Hyde's commitment to the Irish language. In 1916 the two had differed strongly, to be sure, on how nationhood might be secured for Ireland, but de Valera never had forgotten or repudiated Hyde's vision of that nationhood, nor the extent to which his own concept of an independent, united Ireland had been molded when in 1908 as a young teacher of mathematics, he had first come under the influence of An Craoibhin and the Gaelic League.
In supporting Hyde for the office of president, de Valera honored, to be sure, his old mentor, old leader, old friend. But he also assured himself that, as together he and Hyde had shared a dream, together they might forge a reality. Others, of course, also had shared this dream—it had united advocates of physical force and cultural nationalism, coercion and persuasion, revolution and reform, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; it had stirred alike the hearts of pro-treaty and anti-treaty Ireland. Hyde's particular importance to the astute de Valera was exactly the quality about which some members of his party complained: he owed no political debts, he carried no political obligations. The appointment of Michael McDunphy, a man well known to de Valera and trusted and respected by him, had been part of the same plan. Events of the next seven years proved to de Valera that in both choices he had been right.
A full twelve years had passed since de Valera had set the course he was following in 1938. Having abandoned his boycott of the Free State government in 1926, in 1927 he had submitted to the formality of taking the oath of allegiance to the Crown required of Free State officials and legislators and had assumed his elected seat in the Free State parliament. All but a handful of his republican colleagues had joined him in this new tactic, designed to erode if not erase provisions of the Treaty of 1921 and the subsequent Irish Free State (Constitution) Act of 1922 that they found most repugnant. In their new role of political party they had assumed a new and apt name: Fianna Fáil, "soldiers of destiny." By 1932 they had secured a majority in the Dáil, and Eamon de Valera was named president of the executive Council of the Irish Free State government.
Immediately upon assuming office, de Valera predictably had taken legislative steps to abolish the oath of allegiance to the Crown and had notified Westminster that henceforth Ireland would pay no further annuities against loans dating from the Land Purchase Acts of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century. Seven months later, having forced the retirement of the governor general, James MacNeill, he virtually eliminated the position MacNeill had held by retitling it "chief steward" and installing in it Donald Buckley (Domhnall Ua Buachalla), who neither moved into the Viceregal Lodge in which other governors general had continued the Crown's symbolic presence in Ireland nor engaged in any other official act.
The British did not take issue with de Valera over his abolition of the oath or even his revision of the position of the governor general, but they did retaliate for nonpayment of the annuities by placing special duties on Irish imports into Britain. De Valera countered with a protective tariff system of his own, designed to foster the growth of new industries in the Free State as well as to reduce Irish dependence on goods of English manufacture. The fact that the British found it necessary, in 1935, to scale down the "economic war," as the tax and tariff battle was called, was both a political and public relations victory for de Valera. In England it had been popularly believed that the Irish would not be able to hold out against British economic sanctions. In Ireland, however, there were many who feared that de Valera's policies might again give the British an excuse for military intervention. De Valera himself, having had dismissed as "hypothetical" (Cudahy took this answer to mean yes) his question of whether the British would respond with force if the twenty-six counties seceded, otherwise moved cautiously during his first four years in office. Then in 1936 he and his supporters once again perceived that "England's disadvantage was Ireland's opportunity." A four-man commission was established to study the Free State Constitution. In 1937—with the British economy still convalescent following the Great Depression, the British public upset over the abdication crisis, and British ministers warily watching the Spanish civil war and the spread of fascism in Europe—de Valera introduced to the Dáil proposals for a new constitution that was, in effect, a declaration of independence.
Approved by the oireachtas on June 14, 1937, and ratified by a plebescite held seventeen days later, on July 1, 1937 (the same day as the general election in which de Valera won, as everyone had expected, an overwhelming victory), the new Constitution became the legal instrument of Irish government as of December 29, 1937. In addition to establishing the position of president for which Hyde had been nominated, the bilingual English-and-Irish text presented to the people declared Ireland (not the Irish Free State, a term that was silently
abandoned) a "sovereign, independent and democratic state" henceforth to be known as Éire. It applied this name, moreover, to all Ireland, not simply to the twenty-six counties; it dropped all references to governor general or Crown; it established a bicameral legislature consisting of a Dáil, or Chamber of Deputies, presided over by a taoiseach , or prime minister, plus a Seanad, or Senate; and it firmly established Irish as the "first official language" of Ireland, even though most of its citizens were fluent only in its second. The purpose of this clause was closely linked to the goals of the Gaelic League: to emphasize the history and heritage that linked the people of Ireland, distinguishing them from the English whose stamp, despite policies of deanglicization, they still bore, and thus emphasize their nationhood. Although a small and committed minority hailed it on the one hand as evidence that Ireland would become truly Irish-speaking (as today's Israel is truly Hebrew-speaking) and a small and fearful minority on the other hand vowed to fight such a movement, most Irish people understood and observed the clause as a symbolic rather than a practical imperative.
In the elections that followed, de Valera's party easily controlled the Dáil; the foregone conclusion was that he would serve as Ireland's first taoiseach , a fact regarded as positive by most political observers because it assured a smooth transition of government operations. Again Westminster offered no challenge, no doubt because it was clear that Ireland would not for the moment press its claim to the six counties. For many in England references to "external association" in the new Constitution were assumed to mean that Ireland intended to remain within the British Commonwealth. The truth was that any objection might have placed Neville Chamberlain (not a forceful leader or political savant in anyone's estimation) on shaky ground, for under a 1931 statute every British dominion had the right to alter its constitution, and England already had recognized Northern Ireland's exercise of this right, thereby accepting the statute as applicable to both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. In any case, of greater concern to Britain was the continuing economic war and its consequences.
Throughout the fall and winter of 1937–1938, while Dublin speculated on the composition of its new government, in dispatches and personal letters Roosevelt, his ministers, and his advisers debated how they should respond to Irish requests for American mediation of economic negotiations between Britain and Ireland. In December, as rumors of a stalemate increased, John Cudahy, a strong advocate of mediation, welcomed the news that Joseph P. Kennedy probably would succeed
Judge Robert W. Bingham as American ambassador to London. "At this time of the pending trade treaty his selection . . . is nothing less than an inspiration," Cudahy wrote to Roosevelt, describing Kennedy as one of few Americans "not susceptible to the subtle brand of British flattery." A month later, talks having been suspended, Cudahy's letters became more insistent: Roosevelt himself should intercede, he declared, warning that "if [this] opportunity of settling the Anglo-Irish hostility of seven centuries is lost, no other real opportunity will be presented during this generation." For the United States the advantage of a settlement, Cudahy argued, would be its harmonizing effect on American public opinion. The advantage for Britain would be the measure of security a friendly Ireland would afford, for no British defense scheme could ignore the Irish coast. The issue on which discussions were deadlocked was, of course, Partition. De Valera's position, Cudahy explained, was clear and unequivocal: He was not opposed to the North retaining its own parliament in Belfast provided it sent representatives to a general Irish parliament in Dublin. Without some British initiative in this matter, there would be no tolerance of British military forces on Irish soil. Cudahy's advice to Roosevelt was that he express interest in a settlement to Sir Ronald Lindsay, British ambassador to the United States, and urge Chamberlain to persuade Lord Craigavon, the Ulster party leader, that England's defense was at stake.
The extent to which developments in Ireland were being watched carefully in Washington is evident from the fact that, despite the warm and friendly tone of Roosevelt's reply to Cudahy, the text of his letter was in fact prepared by the United States secretary of state, Cordell Hull. While agreeing that any improvement in Anglo-Irish relations would be a gain "from every point of view," this letter questioned whether United States intervention would be wise or would accomplish the effect "we had in mind." It proposed instead that England might be "led voluntarily" to the kind of action Cudahy advocated, perhaps after reviewing its own national defense needs. In any case, progress toward a solution would be "healthier" if slower and if based on England's own self-interest rather than on representations from a "third power." Meanwhile, encouraged by Cudahy, de Valera himself had approached Roosevelt, in language strongly reminiscent of Cudahy's own appeals:
Another great opportunity for finally ending the quarrel of centuries between Ireland and Britain presents itself. The one remaining obstacle to be overcome is that of the partition of Ireland. . . . Reconciliation would affect every country
where the two races dwell together, knitting their national strength and presenting to the world a block of democratic peoples interested in the preservation of Peace. . . . If present negotiations fail, relations will be worsened.
Delivery of this message asking Roosevelt to use his personal influence to avoid a breakdown was entrusted not to diplomatic channels but to an old friend and former comrade-in-arms, Frank Gallagher, deputy director of Radio Éireann, the man whom de Valera had chosen to be first editor of his republican daily newspaper, the Irish Press . Confronted at home with an isolationist lobby strongly supported in Congress and a State Department that had warned against too close association with Chamberlain, Roosevelt reaffirmed his inability to act either officially or through diplomatic channels but promised that through Kennedy, his newly appointed ambassador to Great Britain, he would send a personal message to Chamberlain, urging reconciliation. Again, the respectful and sympathetic tone of Roosevelt's letter—"My dear President De Valera," he wrote, using the Irish leader's official title of "president of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State," and concluding with "As an old friend, I send you my warm regards"—contrasted with the evasiveness of his message.
It was no secret, of course, that in the spring of 1938 a threatened Britain would not have been able to stand alone against German forces, nor was Chamberlain able to negotiate from strength with Mussolini. A week after Roosevelt replied to de Valera, Cudahy sent home his report that Mussolini's "violent dislike" of Sir Anthony Eden, "common knowledge in diplomatic circles," was the story behind press reports of a British cabinet crisis. A condition Mussolini had placed on negotiations, wrote Cudahy, was that Eden be removed as foreign secretary. Rumor had it that in any case Eden was about to resign, for Chamberlain had directed foreign affairs ever since becoming prime minister, and Eden, who had had a free rein under Baldwin, had been placed in a difficult position. Their differences of opinion with regard to Mussolini were symptomatic: Insisting that Great Britain could not risk war, Chamberlain was willing to take Mussolini's good faith at face value. Pointing to previously breached agreements, Eden wanted to hold out for assurances. Cudahy agreed with Churchill, that what Chamberlain was preparing was "a meeting with Mussolini on his [Mussolini's] own terms." Such a policy, in his opinion, could be "fatal in encouraging the dangerous adventures of both Mussolini and Hitler." Awareness of this situation was reflected in the communications exchanged by Roosevelt, Cudahy, and de Valera on the subject of British-Irish eco-
nomic negotiations. The difference was that Cudahy and de Valera shared a conviction that desperate need of American help would force Britain to respond to United States pressure for an Anglo-Irish settlement; Roosevelt, warned by his State Department that the Chamberlain government could fall at any time and unwilling, in any case, to be forced into a war in Europe if direct involvement could be avoided, would not accept the bargain implicit in such pressure.
Suddenly, in April 1938—the same month in which Hyde was nominated for the presidency—the economic war ended. The compromise agreement drew mixed reactions among political observers. Some hailed it as another political victory for de Valera: he had, they said, persuaded the British to reduce punitive tariffs against Irish products without capitulating on the matter of the annuities; he also had forced them to relinquish the three ports within the twenty-six counties—Cobh, Berehaven, and Lough Swilly—still held under the Treaty of 1921. Others hailed it as a political victory for Chamberlain: he, they said, had refused to reduce British tariffs on Irish products until Ireland had agreed to pay, as final settlement against the annuities, the sum of ten million pounds. Thus he had forced Ireland to acknowledge the legitimacy of a debt it had sought to erase. Besides, they maintained, the reduction of import duties had been mutual: Ireland, too, now had to abandon its protective tariffs, to the detriment of its developing industies. As for Partition, the border remained; the Irish had won nothing.
It was on the matter of the tariff that, in 1938, de Valera was vulnerable at home. Quipped the May issue of Dublin Opinion :
We didn't want Dev to bring home the bacon. We wanted him to send out the beef.
So the battery of cameras which met Mr. De Valera in London fired the last shot in the Economic War.
Mr. De Valera went over on the "Munster" for the signing of the Agreement. Irreconcileable critics will say that he went back on the Ulster.
And now all we have to do is to sit back and listen to the disagreement about the Agreement.
A captioned cartoon depicting an angry golfer tearing up the green succinctly revealed the source of Irish dissatisfaction: "Easy on there, easy on! Even if you are a businessman hit by the Trade Agreement!" The public paid less attention to Britain's promise to withdraw from
the Irish ports, a clause that shortly was to have greater consequences for the young nation about to take its final major step toward full independence.
Hyde's correspondence of 1932–1938 indicates that he was carefully watching political and economic developments. During this period he corresponded frequently with his old friend Sinéad de Valera who had played the Fairy to his Tinker in 1901, but it does not appear (although letters may have been lost or destroyed) that he had extensive correspondence with de Valera himself. Circumstantial evidence and other documentation, however, leave little doubt that the two men were regularly in touch and had in fact collaborated on the scenario that developed.
There were, for example, Hyde's two major publications in 1937. After having concentrated for ten years on scholarly editing, folklore, literary, historical, and linguistic studies, and translating from the Irish, suddenly he dusted off, reviewed, revised, and saw through the press Mo Thuras go h-Americe (My voyage to America), his account of his 1905–1906 lecture tour, and Mise agus An Connradh (Myself and the league), his diary of his years as president of the Gaelic League. Published in 1937 (therefore prepared for publication beginning at least a year or two earlier), neither of these books has the objectivity of a backward look; both present Hyde as a strong, wise, and effective leader and ambassador. Hyde registered no surprise, made no statements, and issued no disclaimers when in June 1937 newspapers listed his name among those of possible candidates for the presidency. Although he readily agreed in 1938 to serve in the Senate (by March 31 the fact of his co-option was well established), he did not campaign for election but was returned to the Dáil through an avenue that did not involve him in a political contest—a wise move requiring cooperation and advance planning for a potential presidential candidate. Although received but "ten minutes ago," the telegram from de Valera offering this appointment had rated only offhand reference in a letter to Horace Reynolds interrupted by its arrival; he had taken time, he said, to wire his affirmative reply. Hyde's suggestion that he might be "too old" for public office had come not from the private Hyde but from the public figure, who was aware that the question would be raised and that the best way to head off criticism was to bring it up himself. In 1938 Diarmid Coffey published Douglas Hyde: President of Ireland (a revision of his Douglas Hyde: An Craoibhín Aoibhinn, published in 1917); like Mo Thuras go h-Americe and Mise agus An Connradh, it had to have been in preparation before Hyde's nomination. All three of these books are
of the kind produced to rouse public interest in a political figure or otherwise further public relations.
During 1937–1938 the people, such as Reynolds, with whom Hyde frequently communicated were for the most part those with whom he had carried on a voluminous correspondence for years: friends, former associates from his many and varied careers, scholars and writers in Ireland and abroad, former students. As always, he answered his mail promptly and was especially courteous and helpful to correspondents with whom he was not acquainted. Although Hyde now resided full-time in Frenchpark rather than dividing his time between Frenchpark and Dublin, the pattern of his life was business-as-usual. No one who knew him regarded him as slowing down or otherwise diminishing his daily activities, physical or mental. Yet no one foresaw that, having retired from the university, he was about to embark on a new and very different career. Even Lucy apparently had no idea of what was in store until, by letter and telegram, congratulatory messages began to pour into the post-office-cum-shop in the center of Frenchpark village, to be carried by bicycle the three miles out the Ballaghaderreen road to Ratra. Waiting for the news to break, conferring frequently with Lucy's physician, Dr. Kilgallen of Boyle, certainly Hyde must have wondered what Lucy's reaction would be. Often and bitterly she had expressed her feeling that he had given so much of himself to an ungrateful Irish people. Now that he was about to receive a signal honor, a signal opportunity to represent Irish Ireland on the world stage, beyond anything he could have enjoyed (or in fact did enjoy) as poet, playwright, teacher, scholar, and leader of a great national movement, would she be pleased?
Included in the first flood of congratulations that arrived in response to news of Hyde's nomination was a poem in Irish dated April 28, 1938, from Hyde's old Gaelic League friend "Torna" (Tadhg Ó Donnchadha), who had edited Iris Leabhar na Gaedhildge (The Gaelic journal) from 1902 to 1909 and who frequently commemorated events important to Irish Ireland in verse. The same post brought a letter from General Eoin O'Duffy, a controversial figure who had sided with the pro-treaty forces in 1921 and been rewarded with the post of commissioner of An Garda Síochána (Irish national police) in 1922. Dismissed by de Valera in 1933, he had then become head of the National Guard, or Blueshirts, a political-military organization that adopted a blue flag and fascist-style salute. When it was banned by the government, it had gone through several name changes but retained the same identifying characteristics, while O'Duffy had joined the new political party, Fine
Gael. In 1936 he had organized an Irish brigade to fight under General Franco in the Spanish civil war, despite the Irish government's policy of neutrality.
Having been quiet for about a year, in 1938 O'Duffy obviously was seeking a new public role. "Leader of the Irish Brigade to Spain, I greet you," his letter began. Then reminding Hyde of the position he had held in the Garda Síochána, he outlined the efforts he had made on behalf of the language in the new police force and noted the zest with which, in his youth, he had competed in feiseanna throughout the country. In his native county Monaghan, he had served as president of the local branch of the Gaelic League; in the Volunteers he had held every rank, from private to chief of staff. Hyde discouraged him, satisfied that with de Valera and the Fianna Fáil in control, there was little chance for O'Duffy to find a new perch from which to launch himself in a new enterprise.
Although almost surely the most flamboyant, O'Duffy was by no means the only favor seeker to use Hyde's nomination as an opportunity to promote himself. As Dublin Opinion had predicted, letters came not only from political hopefuls and candidates for civil service posts but from their mothers. Other letter writers sought Hyde's intercession in a variety of personal situations, some involving the government and some not. These were the kinds of letters that for hundreds of years tenants had addressed to the Big House landlord or to the resident heir to a title or to the M. P. or to the Crown itself. They reflected the continuing uncertainty among de Valera's "plain people of Ireland" about the exact nature of their twentieth-century nation and its leaders. To some observers, this uncertainty suggested a national ambivalence about relinquishing all links with royalty and depending entirely on elected officials.
Thanking well-wishing petitioners for their expressions of support, Hyde's letters apologized for his inability to influence government appointments for their benefit, circumvent the legal process on their behalf, settle their disputes with their neighbors, support their pension appeals, cut the red tape of which they complained, or otherwise assist them in bypassing the bureaucracy. A few of the people of Frenchpark were chagrined to discover that Hyde's election would not bring a bonanza to the area, nor even improve employment prospects for local people.
The election was held, but no one doubted the outcome. At 11:20 A.M. on May 4, 1938, in a simple ceremony conducted in Irish in the
boardroom of the Department of Agriculture, Government Buildings, Hyde was formally declared elected to the office of the Presidency of Ireland. From then until his inauguration, Hyde's waking hours were filled with conferences, briefing sessions, planning sessions, introductions, and consultations, all in preparation for the day that he would take office. By his side each day were the people assigned to assist, advise, and guide him, a team carefully chosen to meet specific qualifications on which he and de Valera had agreed.
Early in May 1938, shortly after the election ceremony, the president's team, as they came to think of themselves, met in Roscommon. First Lieutenant Basil Peterson of the Irish air corps and Captain Eamon de Buitléar of the Defense Command motored to Frenchpark in an army car to meet their seventy-seven-year-old chief. Their assignment was to serve as Hyde's military aides. With Michael McDunphy, who had accompanied them, they were to develop and brief him on the protocol of his and the country's new office. As taoiseach, de Valera headed the government, a political entity. On Hyde, his aides and advisers, lay responsibility for determining and establishing the image of the new nation that they would soon be called upon to project officially before the other nations of the world. The rhetoric of Irish nationhood demanded that it be regarded as an old Ireland restored to its proper place—a nation once again—but the sovereign state of Ireland in 1938 bore little political resemblance to the aristocratic order of high kings, provincial kings, and local chieftains that had ruled the land and its people from ca. 600 B.C. through the twelfth century. Ceremony and precedent were the materials with which Hyde and his aides were to regenerate the old and give patina to the new.
Introduced by McDunphy, Hyde greeted Peterson and de Buitléar in Irish at the door of Ratra. Perceiving Peterson's discomfort, he quickly switched to English, tactfully noting as he led the three men on a brief tour of the grounds, that his wife had no Irish. Outdoors he chatted amiably about shrubs and flowers, about how little or much he had paid many years ago for seedlings that were now mature trees—about anything but the business at hand, to give the young officers time to get accustomed to his manner and personality and to recover from the nervousness they unsuccessfully tried to hide on this first meeting. Although Hyde's informality did put Peterson at ease, in 1938 army uniform—boots, breeches, and green tunic with high choke collar—he continued to perspire in the unseasonably warm May sunshine. It was again with relief, therefore, that he welcomed Hyde's suggestion that
they return to the coolness of the house to meet Mrs. Hyde—a "frail woman with a waspish tongue" who seemed to Peterson to be "in no way pleased that her husband had been plucked out of his quiet retirement" to become president of Ireland. Over sherry, the talk turned to military procedures, especially those used on ceremonial occasions in which, as president, Hyde would be involved. The small party then went in to lunch. "We never saw Mrs. Hyde again," Peterson declared in a reminiscence published forty-two years later. "She refused to leave home and go to the Park. Some six months later she died."
Of the two aides assigned to Hyde in 1938, Eamon de Buitléar was the one who was to remain close to him and his family throughout Hyde's presidential career and indeed to the end of his life. A member of the Irish Republican Army before 1922, de Buitléar had served continuously in the Free State Army since its establishment. He had joined the Gaelic League at the age of sixteen; in league classes he had quickly demonstrated an affinity for the Irish language, which his instructor encouraged by introducing him to phonetics. Papers recommending his appointment to the staff of the new president described him as fluent in both written and spoken Irish, thus well able to carry out the bilingual responsibilities of his assignment. Hyde had stipulated that to the extent that it was consistent with obtaining qualified men and women, those appointed to his staff should be Irish-speaking. Taller than Hyde, slim and well-built, he was a handsome, smart-looking officer with high cheekbones and a thin, shapely nose. His attractive young wife, Máire, was also an Irish speaker and former member of the Gaelic League. Irish was the language they spoke at home, to each other and their young children.
Basil Peterson's knowledge of Irish was, by contrast, minimal, but as he quickly recognized, his appointment was essential for another reason: he was a Protestant. De Buitléar's Roman Catholic religion barred him from accompanying Hyde to the ten o'clock inauguration-day Church of Ireland worship service at St. Patrick's Cathedral scheduled to precede the oath-taking ceremony in St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle. This task was therefore assigned to Peterson, who also was asked (with the logic of the military—his duties in the air corps had been to plot aircraft traffic lanes) to plan the route of the processions that would bring Hyde through the Phoenix Park gates, across the Liffey, and in and out the narrow, twisting streets of the oldest part of Dublin to the cathedral. The starting point was to be the Viceregal Lodge, henceforth to be known as Áras an Uachtaráin, or the President's Mansion.
(Josephus Daniels had been wrong about which residence in Phoenix Park had been chosen. Far from having to give up his own newly rented home, formerly the home of the chief secretary, John Cudahy became Hyde's nearest Park neighbor.)
Peterson accepted his assignment without a word, but with many misgivings. Only once before in his life had he ever been to the historic cathedral where in the eighteenth century Jonathan Swift, now buried within its walls, had been dean. He had little familiarity with the congested areas around it beyond the fact that the valley of the Poddle (the river that once flowed there had been reduced years before to a polluted underground trickle) was home to entire families crammed into squat, one-story houses, cramped flats above or behind small shops and public houses, partitioned living quarters in once-gracious three-story residences, and newer flats built by the Iveagh Trust. In the course of a day's business thousands more crowded into streets that must have escaped the notice of the eighteenth-century Wide Streets Commission, for scarcely wider than the medieval alleys and lanes from which they had developed, they paralleled, diverged, crossed, and rejoined one another without discernible logic, still following original routes traceable on old maps. Not only was he obliged to find his way through this maze to St. Patrick's Cathedral, Peterson learned, sitting in Hyde's home in Ratra, but when the worship service ended it became his responsibility to establish a smooth progression for the procession to nearby Dublin Castle, for the formal inauguration ceremony, then back to Áras an Uachtaráin for picture taking. Later he had to make another journey through the same streets to return with Hyde to Dublin Castle where the evening reception was to be held. And all this on a Saturday! There was no use trying to explain that air-traffic control was different from land-traffic control. No one in the army would listen. In addition to maneuvering through cars and crowds, he was to draw up plans that would not conflict with whatever security measures the Garda adopted for the occasion. With glazed eyes and moist forehead he sat in Hyde's drawing room in Ratra, looking out on the fields beyond, trying to visualize the maze around St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In the weeks following their first meeting at Ratra, Hyde listened closely to Peterson and de Buitléar as they briefed him on inauguration-day arrangements and instructed him in those matters of military ceremony in which he would take part. Beginning with his inauguration, such rituals as the salute to the flag and inspection of the honor guard would be, they reminded him, a regular feature of his official public
appearances. He was no stranger to pomp, of course. Son of a Church of Ireland clergyman who often had assisted at services conducted by his father in the little church in Frenchpark, member of Trinity College's venerable "Hist," and frequent participant for nearly a quarter of a century in academic processions and other solemn rituals of university life, the seventy-seven-year-old Hyde was an experienced actor on the world's stage. Drama, he knew, was an integral part of life. It brought people together; it underscored values; it celebrated the fulfillment of dreams.
On the morning of Saturday, June 25, Hyde was ready when Peterson arrived to escort him. It was a bright day, warm but not sultry, as he stepped out the door with his daughter, Una Sealy, on his arm. She was lovely as always, with her round face and bright eyes so like his own. He was formally dressed, of course, with the dignity required by the occasion; but with his old sense of theater, admiring Peterson's new sky-blue Irish air corps dress uniform with its trimmings of scarlet and gold, its gold wings, its black cloak with scarlet lining, and its Austrian cap, he could not help but think what a fine figure he himself would cut if in such a costume he could walk into the morning's history. As their limousine moved along the route to St. Patrick's Cathedral, Peterson kept a careful eye on map and watch while Hyde and his daughter chatted, for the complicated plan required that Mrs. Sealy be delivered to a side door a quarter of an hour before Dr. Hyde arrived at the main entrance. As the car slowed near the back of the cathedral, a garda assigned to security duty eyed it suspiciously. With the seconds ticking, Peterson tried to explain quickly the arrangements that had been made and the necessity for adhering to them, but not having been informed of any exceptions to orders, the garda refused to allow the car to stop at the curb to allow Una to dismount. "For him," Peterson realized, "we were in the wrong place at the wrong time," nor could he be cajoled or bullied. Just as Peterson's watch signaled that if he did not escort Mrs. Sealy to her entrance within moments and drive around the cathedral to deliver Hyde to the main door, carefully coordinated plans would go awry, an inspector appeared, "dealt with the situation, whisked Mrs. Sealy away," and allowed the presidential car to proceed, to his great relief.
An ancient Danish structure rebuilt by the Normans in 1191 and repaired by the English between 1618 and 1671, St. Patrick's Cathedral again had been in a state of collapse when the Guinness family had undertaken a restoration in the mid-nineteenth century. At the main door
of the cathedral, Hyde and Peterson were greeted by Dr. Gregg, Jonathan Swift's twentieth-century successor, who was also the Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin. As they entered they could see that nave and transept were filled even though (as Peterson noted) certain "official representation [i.e., Catholic members of the government] was missing." Discreetly watching them, unnoticed by others, was a small boy, Liam Proud, who had stolen quietly from his seat in a front pew to peek through the door when he heard the jingling bridles of Hyde's cavalry escort approaching. Returning to his seat, he watched the procession form and make its way slowly down the center aisle to the strains of "Be Thou My Vision, O Lord of My Heart," performed by the cathedral's organist and choir. First came the archbishop, gloriously accoutred, followed by Hyde, holding his top hat over his chest. But when the archbishop stopped abruptly, Hyde, who had been looking to right and left out of the corners of his eyes with a small smile playing about his mouth, had continued forward, to young Liam's amusement: "I distinctly saw [the hat] . . . momentarily telescope under the impact. It was almost too much for a small boy, but I managed to divert my mirth into a fit of coughing."
Few others noticed the momentary shuffle, and the procession moved on without further incident to the front of the long, gray church. There the president-elect was seated in the pew formerly reserved for the viceroy, the other dignitaries around him. All through the cathedral were familiar faces. The simple worship service, much of it conducted in Irish, was for Basil Peterson "an emotional occasion." It "made me feel," he later avowed, "that at last the Irish had come into their own." First the congregation joined in the Lord's Prayer; it was followed by Psalm 121, with its antiphony, "Christ be with me, Christ within me," and its familiar text, "I will lift up mine eyes. . . ." After the lesson (Matthew 5:1–12) the congregation joined the choir in singing the Te Deum Laudamus. Then came the creed, prayers for Ireland, prayers for the president of Ireland and Christian citizenship, and finally the closing prayer, "God be in my head, and in my understanding." For Hyde, too, it was an emotional occasion, as words and music evoked echoes of the small church in Frenchpark in which, as a child, he used to listen to the familiar voice of his father speaking in an unfamiliar tone reserved for public occasions; the larger church in Mohill, where his grandfather had conducted Sunday service; the different churches of Dublin that he used to attend during his Trinity years. Like distant music, these other voices murmured in his memory. Past merged with
present and present returned to dominate the past as the archbishop pronounced the benediction and the procession re-formed: first the choir moved slowly and solemnly down the aisle, followed by Hyde accompanied by Peterson, then the clergy, as the congregation stood respectfully silent, commemorating this poignant, penultimate moment of Ireland's history. Peterson later recalled that there was another second of confusion as the choir turned left and he and Hyde began to follow, no one having instructed them to do otherwise. "Suddenly I felt a jab in my back, and a voice hissed 'Straight on, straight on.' I redirected Dr. Hyde and finally we again reached the main door where the assembled clergy bade us farewell." Outside, a crowd of Dubliners—"outspoken," in Peterson's recollection, with opinions of his colorful uniform that were "less than kind"—had gathered to ogle, to cheer, to witness, to report, to remember for children and grandchildren, what had happened and who had passed, "so close, I could almost reach out and touch him," as Hyde, smiling and nodding, walked along a colonnade of saluting gardaí to his waiting car.
Accompanied by its cavalry escort, the motorcade moved slowly to Dublin Castle, formerly the fortified seat of British authority in Ireland. A formidable structure begun by the Normans, it had been modified during the reign of George III. Through its doors until 1922 viceregal lords and attendant bureaucrats had admitted only Ascendancy Irish, loyal to the Crown, to participate in the pomp and pageantry symbolic of their surrogate power. A few short blocks away stood that other British stronghold in Dublin, Hyde's alma mater, Trinity College. A quarter century before, he had lampooned both castle and university in his satirical play The Bursting of the Bubble . As a boy Sean O'Casey had watched processions enter and leave Dublin Castle's massive gates. Now other children mingled in crowds gathered to stare at diplomatic representatives from the countries of the world who had come to pay their respects to an Irish head of state. If they were fortunate, they caught a glimpse of the president-elect himself, the grandfatherly man with the walrus mustache and the twinkling eyes whom the newspapers called "Dr. Douglas Hyde," but who was known affectionately to generations of University College students as "Dougie" and to Irish-speaking circles as "An Craoibhin."
At precisely 12:45 P.M., according to a United States State Department report filed by John MacVeagh, the car carrying Hyde and his two aides entered the Upper Castle Yard, which was the oldest part of the structure and, in the medieval plan, corresponded with the court
of the original castle. Not much more than a quarter century before, among those passing through this same yard had been the British civil servants who used to cut from the daily papers the blue-penciled items about Hyde and his Gaelic League that they pasted into the large scrapbooks in which they kept track of the activities of persons and organizations considered a threat to British law and order in Ireland. On this serene and bright June day, an honor guard of Irish infantrymen snapped to attention before the man about to become the symbol of Irish law and order in Ireland, their own commander in chief. Escorted by his aides, Hyde moved into St. Patrick's Hall, cleaned and redecorated in haste for the occasion by employees of the Office of Public Works. Ancient banners of the knights of St. Patrick hung from the walls; ladies' frocks and hats blossomed like summer flowers among the grays and blacks of formal coats and trousers. Still resplendent in his blue uniform trimmed in gold and scarlet, which he obviously enjoyed wearing, Peterson remarked how "the place shone with colour." "The only drab people there," he remarked, "were the politicians and our President-to-be."
Scarcely a half century had passed since George Moore, brother of Hyde's friend Maurice, had described St. Patrick's Hall in his own satiric passages directed against Dublin Castle and its British inhabitants in a novel called A Drama in Muslin . Now Moore was five years in his grave; thirty-six years had passed since Hyde's An Tincéar agus an tSidheóg had been performed in Moore's garden; a quarter century since—despairing that either the Irish Literary Renaissance or the Gaelic Revival could achieve its goals—Moore had lampooned their leaders as well, including Hyde, in Hail and Farewell . Now, joined by Chief Justice Sullivan, Hyde and his aides moved through the hall toward a platform where Eamon de Valera stood with his ministers. Above in a small gallery the No. 1 Army band stood ready to play not "God Save the King" but "A Soldier's Song," now the national anthem but formerly the marching tune of the Irish Volunteers, as veterans among the crowd were quick to remember. Peadar Kearney, another member of the Gaelic League, had written the words in 1907; Patrick Heeney had put them to music; Bulmer Hobson, a founding member of the Volunteers, had published it in his Irish Republican Brotherhood newspaper, Irish Freedom . Like Hyde and MacNeill, Hobson had opposed the Rising in which de Valera and Sean T. O'Kelly had fought. Hobson and O'Kelly also were in the hall, as Hyde, among a crowd of well-wishers, continued toward the platform.
From his vantage point in the block of seats reserved for diplomatic representatives to Éire, John MacVeagh, as secretary of the American legation, carefully noted details for his June 27 report to Washington, to which he added his own sometimes inaccurate observations. Apparently unaware, for example, that the man given a prominent seat on the platform was not, as he thought, "the last Governor-General of the Irish Free State," but Donald Buckley, the chief steward with whom de Valera had replaced, in person and in title, James MacNeill in 1932, MacVeagh joined his diplomatic colleagues in perceiving Buckley's presence as a gesture of goodwill on which they later commented favorably. In fact, at the time, not only was James MacNeill in London where he died in December 1938, but (a detail the American failed to note) there was no British representative among the diplomats with whom MacVeagh was seated.
The ceremony began with a fanfare of trumpets to announce the arrival of the president-elect; Hyde then took his seat with de Valera on his left and the chief justice on his right. On a table before Hyde lay the Declaration set forth in the Constitution. He leaned forward and signed the document, then rose as the chief justice administered the oath of office in Irish. Another fanfare of trumpets echoed through the hall as the chief justice presented Douglas Hyde with the Great Seal. De Valera, speaking for the government and the nation, addressed Hyde formally. Hyde's formal reply was distinctly heard in the ceremonial silence. The entire event took only fifteen minutes. As the band, to Peterson's obvious delight, "did its best to bring down the rafters with the National Anthem," Hyde, the chief justice, and Eamon de Valera, together with Hyde's aides, moved slowly from the hall for the concluding portion of the inauguration program in which, outside, as Peterson proudly remembered, "we, as military men, came into our own": "The guard of honour came to attention and then presented arms. The Presidential salute was played, the troops sloped arms and we followed the President as he inspected the guard of honour." Once more there was a moment of suspense after Hyde, having moved up and down the ranks of Ireland's first Irish-speaking battalion, stood ready for the officer in charge of the cavalry escort to dismiss his troop. The poor fellow had forgotten the Irish phrase necessary to request Hyde's permission to give the order, according to one of the soldiers present, and had to have a junior officer make the request for him and relay Hyde's reply.
From the Cork Hill gates of the Castle the president's car made its way past the Commercial Buildings and Daly's Club House, dignified
eighteenth-century landmarks, down Dame Street and College Green, to Westmoreland Street, a creation of the Wide Streets Commissioners, to the Liffey. Crowds lined the sidewalks and spilled over into the roadways, waving and cheering the old man who had become their head of state. Hyde's car moved slowly, as he waved and smiled in return, then stopped before the General Post Office. There it paused briefly for a moment of silence, the more dramatic in contrast to the cheers and shouts that had filled the air a moment before, to honor those who had lost their lives in the Rising of Easter, 1916, to make just such a day as this possible. Then, the cheering renewed, Hyde's car moved on again, past the Gresham Hotel where in 1905, as he left for America, other crowds had formed a torchlight parade to escort him to the railroad station; past Nelson's Pillar; past the Rotunda where he had so often spoken; from Parnell Square on to North Frederick Street and Berkeley Road and the North Circular Road. As the procession of cars left the center of town, the crowds began to thin, but outside of schools the numbers increased again, this time with children whose eagerness to see and be seen by their first president moved Hyde deeply. MacVeagh's report to Washington made a particular point of the large and enthusiastic crowds and the "amazement and pleasure" expressed by the officer in charge of the cavalry "at the warmth of the reception given the president as he drove through the city." MacVeagh himself had been impressed by the number of clergy of various denominations who had been present in St. Patrick's Hall and the friendliness with which they had greeted one another, a fact also apparent to the newspaper reporters, he noted the following day.
Once more the presidential car passed through the gates of Phoenix Park to the President's Mansion, over which the presidential standard now flew. After the cars had paused to let off their passengers by twos and threes, the dignitaries who had participated in the motorcade moved to the south portico where they had been asked to assemble for official picture-taking. As flashbulbs popped, Douglas Hyde, now an t-uachtarán, president of Ireland, stood flanked by the taoiseach, the chief justice, government ministers, members of the Council of State, and distinguished visitors. His aides stood at either end of the large group. Among them certainly there were some who had been guests before in this same mansion, perhaps before 1932 when it had served as the home of the governor-general of the Irish Free State (appointed by the king on the advice of the Executive Council of the Free State government), perhaps before 1922 when it was still the Viceregal
Lodge. Many more no doubt had never entered its gracious hall, had never looked south toward Dublin from its great windows, had never dreamed that one day they would pass through its doors proudly, without thought of arson or destruction, admiring its beauty, knowing it was their own.
Built in the early eighteenth century as a hunting lodge, for a while the residence of the park ranger, shortly before 1800 the Italianate mansion had become the summer home of the British viceroy, who soon demanded additions and improvements appropriate for a place that would house the monarch on occasions when the Royal Presence visited Ireland. Some of these alterations were made in 1787. Michael Stapleton, a Dublin plasterer, probably designed and executed its famous Aesop's fables ceilings. In 1807 a Doric portico was added to the north front of the building. An Ionic portico was added to the south entrance in 1815–1816, at the same time as the wings that give the whole its classical balance. In 1840 Decimus Burton, whose name is associated with the building of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Regents Park, was commissioned to design the formal gardens on the south slope of the hill from which the Dublin mountains may be seen in the distance. Victoria had slept in one of the elegant second-floor bedrooms on her royal visits. Through over a hundred years of successive lords lieutenant, in all the rooms of the mansion servants had bustled to and fro, attending titled and knighted lords and ladies. From the large center reception room, the dining room at the east end, the sitting room to the west, each with great windows open to the south, the tinkling of crystal, the clatter of serving dishes, the laughter of ladies over afternoon tea, and the murmur of British statesmen had carried down the long, wide connecting hall. Both Timothy Healy, first governor general of the Irish Free State, and James MacNeill, his successor, had occupied the lodge following the departure of the last lord lieutenant in 1922. From 1932 to 1938, under the stewardship of Donald Buckley, the house had been but minimally maintained. Despite a flurry of activity to make it livable in time for inauguration day, the newspapers noted that it was but sparsely furnished on Hyde's first official day in residence, with few chandeliers, and fewer other lighting fixtures of quality. The restoration process, in fact, was to continue through his entire presidency and beyond, to his alternate amusement and dismay.
The picture-taking over, Hyde—who had been in the public eye and mostly on his feet from early morning—rested after lunch while McDunphy and the two aides opened and sorted a stream of con-
gratulatory letters and telegrams from the four provinces of Ireland and abroad. According to Peterson, at one stage in the process, which occupied the better part of the afternoon,
there appeared a thick white envelope with the British royal arms embossed on it. Scarcely had we seen it than it was whisked away from our rude soldierly eyes and so I never learned what it contained, but I wondered a lot.
At the time we were still, in British eyes, a British dominion, so that the King could hardly address the President as an equal. The puzzle remains but maybe the document will turn up one day in State papers. [So far it has not.]
Still ahead, after the afternoon's chores had been completed, was an evening reception in the Castle, to which the diplomatic corps, the papal nuncio, ministers of state, members of the government, and a large number of men and women representing various Irish industrial, professional, cultural, and social groups had been invited. It was held in the former viceregal throne room, which had been restored and appropriately redecorated for the purposes which henceforth it would serve. The viceregal throne had been newly upholstered in St. Patrick's blue with a gold harp embroidered on the upright part of the chair.
At precisely ten o'clock, as planned, the president—now in evening dress—made his way up the stairway. Peterson, chronicler of all the day's near-disasters, later recalled that he helped avert still another, as he spotted a garter that had come undone and was in danger of tripping Ireland's first president. The garter refastened, the presidential party continued up the stairway and to the presidential chair. Smiling and waving to the assembled guests, Hyde seated himself and prepared to receive the long queue of well-wishers. First came the diplomats and dignitaries, in the order that had been established by McDunphy, whose talent for protocol, although resented by those who yearned nostalgically for the informality of former days, assured the success of each new presidential occasion for which it was required. The first-ranking guests having been seated, others wee free to come forward in random order. The line seemed endless, the time allotted for it stretching into the night, as Hyde—rejecting the usual perfunctory handshake—made a point of spending a few moments in conversation with each person. Suddenly, just as Peterson himself spotted what he patronizingly described as "a number of tanned western faces looking somewhat incongruous in not-too-well-fitting evening dress," Hyde, forgetting all protocol, jumped to his feet to greet in their native Irish his old friends from the west, faithful since early Gaelic League days, who, patting backs and shaking hands, encircled the visibly moved president. In the excitement of the moment he was utterly unaware that when he stood,
everyone else who had been seated rose too—and there they remained, on their feet, patiently waiting for him to seat himself again. Peterson felt a jab in his ribs. Behind him stood an official from the Department of External Affairs who muttered, "For God's sake, get the old bastard to sit down. The Papal Nuncio's got corns."
The marvel of the occasion for young men like Peterson was Hyde, his capacity for extracting maximum personal pleasure from each moment, his delight in the occasion, his indefatigability. Those closest to him wondered the most, for they knew that behind the ready smile and twinkling eye there was genuine worry over Lucy, who—unwell and unwilling to even try the trip to Dublin—had remained in Frenchpark. Meanwhile Annette and Una, on whom ordinarily Hyde counted for help in caring for Lucy and in keeping her company when he was away, had come with him, to assist McDunphy and other members of the presidential staff and otherwise take turns serving as the president's hostess in the absence of his wife. The truth was that nothing could diminish this momentous day for Douglas Hyde or dampen the emotions that accompanied it. Two days later, in his "Message to the Nation," printed in all the Dublin papers on June 28, 1938, Hyde tried to share his feelings with the Irish people, in the formal language required in his first presidential address:
The President has been deeply moved by the manifestations of cordiality and enthusiasm which greeted him on all sides on the day of his installation in office, both during the procession after the ceremony in Dublin Castle and on the other occasions when he passed through the streets of the capital. He feels that this generous attitude on the part of the people, which is reflected also in the numerous messages he has received from all parts of the world is a symbol of the deep-seated loyalty of the Irish people of all creeds and classes to their beloved country and of their earnest desire to cooperate with him and with each other in the furtherance of its interests.
The last lines were closest to the sentiments he was able to express more easily in personal letters to individuals: that on other than state occasions, he might always be able to move freely among the people of Ireland, in a "bond of equality with them." A favorite memento of the day was a cartoonist's version of his swearing-in ceremony, which he clipped and saved from the June 1938 issue of Dublin Opinion : The caption reads, "History Defeats Itself. Ghost of Cromwell . . . at Dublin Castle." "And 'e's from Connaught!" exclaims the glowering ghoul of the Protector, lurking in the shadows behind the walrus-mustached new president.