A Student of History

August 4, 2006

Irish Traitor or Patriot?

Filed under: Ireland,The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 1:44 pm

That is the question asked in a BBC article on Sir Roger Casement, executed for treason in Pentonville Prison 90 years ago. He was also the inspiration for Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and a man admired by writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a Knight of the Realm and a man whose morality came under attack through the publication of his so-called Black Diaries.

Sir Roger Casement

How should he be remembered?

From this site: While in British consular service, he exposed (1904) the atrocious exploitation of wild-rubber gatherers in the Congo (thus helping to bring about the extinction of the Congo Free State in 1908) and later exposed similar conditions in South America. He was knighted for these services in 1911. Although an Ulster Protestant, Casement became an ardent Irish nationalist. After the outbreak of World War I he went first to the United States and then to Germany to secure aid for an Irish uprising. The Germans promised help, but Casement considered it insufficient and returned to Ireland in Apr., 1916, hoping to secure a postponement of the Easter Rebellion. Arrested immediately after his landing from a German submarine, he was tried, convicted, and hanged for treason. To further blacken his name, some British agents had circulated his diaries, which showed him to be a homosexual. The diaries were probably genuine, but the manner of their use helped to inspire controversy about the possibility of forgery.

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