History, Pt.4. The Civil War [184]

The political and military events that occurred during this period are far too many and complex to be addressed in a short paragraph.  Rather, in this venue, the stamps and postal stationery are of significance.  The reader should review some of the many good books covering the period.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was, as most treaties, a compromise where neither side got everything they wanted, nor lost on all counts.  Some of the salient points:
    • Southern Ireland was to be come a Free State (Saorstát Éireann), internally self-governing, but with the British managing external affairs
    • Ireland was to remain in the Empire, and swear allegiance to the British King.    (Figure 1)
    • The northern Six Counties were to remain under British rule.  The actual boundary was to be established by a Joint Commission, which never occurred.
    •Royal Navy was to remain in control of bases at Cork and some other locations, and have the right to occupy other areas in case of war.
    • Finances for agencies, such as the Post Office, were to be separated. The Irish took over postal operations in April 1922, (Figure 2) although the Postal                  Savings Bank did not transfer until 1924 since the Irish had neither the trained accountants nor the equipment.

    • The Free State would have Dominion status (like Canada).
    • Ireland was to pay the British government for lands purchased from landlords by the Irish Land Commission on an annual basis.

Needless to say, not everyone was happy.  Positions were drawn between the “Free Stater’s” who felt they had gotten as good a deal as was available, and the Sinn Fein (IRA) who wanted to continue fighting for complete independence of a united Ireland.

The Free State proponents had Dublin, the largest concentration of people, while the Sinn Fein had Cork and most of the west – a larger area but far smaller population.  As the British Forces left the Free State, they turned over much of their equipment and supplies mainly to the Free State Army.  While the IRA fought, and was defeated in conventional battle, it succeeded in guerilla warfare, which it had perfected in fighting the British army.  Notable Free State leaders were killed in the process.  Michael Collins (Figure 3) died in August 1922, while Kevin O’Higgins, the incumbent vice-president, was assassinated in 1927, as illustrated by the mourning band on official stationery in 1927. (Figure 4).

In November 1922, elections were held, and the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) was empowered.  The first stamp, (Figure 5) a 2d green with a map of Ireland was issued November 5, 1922.  It was controversial since it showed the entire island rather than just the Free State. Ireland was on the route to independence.

The Civil War was formally ended in 1923 after defeat of the IRA, although small renegade units continued to fight sporadically for a number of years.

Wikipedia, Ireland, accessed July 15, 2019.
Dulin, Dr. C.I., Ireland – Transition, The Postal History of the Transitional Period 1922-1925, MacDonnell-Whyte Ltd, Dublin, 1992.
Moody, T.W. & Martin, F.X., The Course of Irish History, 4th ed., Roberts Rinehart, Lantham, Md., 2001.