Founder of the Sinn Féin Party, signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and president of Dáil Éireann, Arthur Griffith (1871–1922) was born on 31 March in Dublin. Educated by the Christian Brothers and trained as a compositor, he pursued a career in journalism. With William Rooney, he founded the United Irishman in 1899 and pressed for a compromise between revolutionary republicanism and the constitutionalism of the Irish Parliamentary Party. His series of essays, collected and published in 1904 as The Resurrection of Hungary, outlined the abstentionist policy of Sinn Féin ("Ourselves"); however, the party set up in 1906 to pursue Griffith's ideas foundered for a decade until the government and the public misidentified the rebels of the Easter Rising as "Sinn Féiners."
Griffith then became increasingly involved in the struggle for independence, though he stood aside while Eamon de Valera assumed the leadership of the reformed party in 1917. In the first Dáil Éireann, Griffith served as minister for home affairs and, for eighteen months, as acting president, only reluctantly acquiescing in the campaign against the police undertaken by the Irish Volunteers.
Arrested in November 1920 and interned for seven months in Mountjoy jail, Griffith advised his colleagues from a distance, but his signal contribution came after his release. In the autumn of 1921, along with Michael Collins, he played a central role in the negotiations that led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed on 6 December. Although the treaty granted the twenty-six-county Free State control of its armed forces and police and fiscal autonomy, Griffith received criticism for also recognizing a separate Northern Ireland state and accepting the status of a Crown dominion. (Griffith believed that a boundary commission would rework the border and make the northern state untenable.) In December 1921 and January 1922, he, Collins, and their supporters argued that the treaty provided an opportunity for the Irish people to create their own future along "native" lines, putting the Sinn Féin ideal into practice. They carried the vote in the Dáil, prompting de Valera and the antitreaty deputies to withdraw. The remaining deputies elected Griffith president of the Dáil, and in that capacity he helped Collins to establish the provisional government of the Free State in 1922. Exhaustion overtook him as the Free State descended into civil war, and Griffith died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 12 August 1922.
SEE ALSO Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921; Boundary Commission; Collins, Michael; de Valera, Eamon; Electoral Politics from 1800 to 1921; Great War; Home Rule Movement and the Irish Parliamentary Party: 1891 to 1918; Sinn Féin Movement and Party to 1922; Struggle for Independence from 1916 to 1921; Primary Documents: Resolutions Passed at the Public Meeting which Followed the First Annual Convention of the National Council of Sinn Féin (28 November 1905); Address at the First Annual Convention of the National Council of Sinn Féin (28 November 1905); Resolutions Adopted at the Public Meeting Following the First Annual Convention of the National Council of Sinn Féin (28 November 1905); The Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921); Speech in Favor of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 (7 January 1922)
Colum, Padraic. Arthur Griffith. 1959.
Davis, Richard. Arthur Griffith and Non-Violent Sinn Fein. 1974.
Maye, Brian. Arthur Griffith. 1997.
O'Hegarty, P. S. The Victory of Sinn Féin: How It Won It and How It Used It. 1924, 1998.
Younger, Carlton. Arthur Griffith. 1981.
Timothy G. McMahon
J. A. Cannon
Arthur Griffith, 1872–1922, Irish statesman, founder of Sinn Féin. He joined the nationalist movement as a young man. In 1899 he founded the United Irishman, in which he advocated that Irish members of Parliament withdraw from Westminster and organize their own assembly. His goal was the creation of a dual monarchy of England and Ireland, like that of Austria-Hungary. His ideas found adherents who, in 1905, formed the Sinn Féin. Griffith took no part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916, but he was imprisoned several times (1916–18) by the British. Elected to Parliament in 1918, he joined the other Sinn Féiners in forming Dáil Éireann and was elected its vice president. He led the Irish delegation that negotiated the treaty (1921) establishing the Irish Free State. When Eamon De Valera, president of the Dáil, rejected the treaty, Griffith succeeded to his office. He died suddenly at the beginning of the civil war.
See biographies by P. Colum (1959) and V. E. Glandon (1985); study by C. Younger, A State of Disunion (1972).