British diplomacy with America and Ireland, an Ambassador's letters, 1909-1962

Correspondence for 1909-May 1918

You are here: British diplomacy with America and Ireland, an Ambassador's letters, 1909-1962 : Correspondence for 1909-May 1918

This first part shows Murray's involvement in Irish politics and his position as Treasurer of the Home Rule Council. Other interests included correspondence with Walter Runciman, then President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, over his Bill to end the traffic in worn-out horses (Runciman to Murray, 19 Dec 1913). From July 1914 onwards the letters are concerned with the domestic political situation and the onset of war in Europe, and Murray's military service. In August 1917 he was appointed Assistant Military Attaché to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.Murray was one of several new faces brought in to strengthen British representation following the US entry into the war in April 1917. Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, the ambassador since 1912, was close to leading Republicans and was critical of the Democratic Administration and President Woodrow Wilson's policy of neutrality. Following America's declaration of war on Germany, Lord Balfour led a British War Mission to Washington to discuss Anglo-American cooperation. A permanent mission to the United States was established, headed by Lord Northcliffe, the press baron, with the Earl of Reading negotiating the finances of cooperation.Murray arrived in the USA in September 1917, and was soon on good terms with colleagues at the British Embassy and other contacts, including Arthur Willert, The Times correspondent in New York. He wrote positively to Eric Drummond, Private Secretary at the Foreign Office, about Reading's work (Murray to Drummond, 18 Sep 1917) but, like Willert, was concerned about the lack of rapport between Spring-Rice and Wilson and the nature of a UK representation divided at such a crucial time between Reading and Northcliffe. He felt Reading should become the Mission's supreme head (Murray to Drummond, 1 Nov 1917).Franklin Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary to the Navy in Wilson's Administration, is first mentioned in November 1917, when Murray wrote approvingly to a conversation with him (Murray to Swinton, 25 Nov 1917). Since 1914 Roosevelt had supported greater US preparedness for war and aid to the Allies, and had privately been rather critical of Wilson's policy of strict neutrality. Not surprisingly therefore he got on well with members of the British mission. Murray also knew many others in the US Administration, including Frank Polk, Counsellor to the State Department, William Phillips, Assistant Secretary of State, and Colonel House, Wilson's foreign policy advisor and an admirer of Sir Edward Grey.In April 1918, Murray returned to London, to the Political Intelligence Dept of the Foreign Office, headed by William Tyrrell. He kept in touch with William Wiseman (British intelligence, based in New York). Wiseman was on close terms with Colonel House, met Wilson regularly at the White House, and corresponded in code (see img 299) with Murray, who passed intelligence on to Drummond (e.g. Murray to Drummond, 31 May 1918). Murray also received telegrams directly from Reading, now both Head of the British War Mission and ambassador.The situation in Ireland remained damaging to Anglo-American relations throughout the war. A bill granting Home Rule had been introduced in 1912 by Asquith's Liberal Government, of which Murray was a member, but it met with stiff opposition from the Unionists in Ulster and Conservatives such as Sir Edward Carson. Blocked by the House of Lords, the bill finally became law in 1914, only to be suspended on the outbreak of war. To make matters worse, the execution of ringleaders of the Easter Rising of April 1916, including Sir Roger Casement, was much criticised in the USA, as was the proposal to introduce conscription in Ireland. Reading urged the government not to do so by force (Reading to Murray, 7 May 1918), believing it Ireland needed a generous measure of Home Rule, but with safeguards for Ulster (Reading to Murray, 12 May 1918). He welcomed the proclamation of 18 May on voluntary recruitment but feared that the "psychological moment" to bring in Home Rule had been lost (Reading to Murray, 24 May 1918).

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Showing 1 documents Correspondence for 1909-May 1918

MS 8805

  • Contributor: National Library of Scotland
  • Reference: 1491-8805
  • Keyword:  british usa warfare war ww1
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