Bowen, Ralph Henry, 1919-
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of History
Casement, Roger, Sir, 1864-1916
Much has been written about and many accolades given to Irish humanitarian Roger David Casement for his activities as an Irish patriot in the Easter Rebellion. However, the problem of his motives for becoming (or attempting to become) a revolutionary patriot has rarely been raised. Second, and directly related to the question of his patriotic motives, is the problem of his being acclaimed a hero and a revolutionary of the Raster Rebellion because of his activities in Germany and Ireland immediately before the rising. It is the purpose of this paper to put Casement in perspective and separate the man from the myth. There is enough evidence to indicate that Casement was not the highly principled patriot he is often made out to be, and that in fact he had motives other than a desire to free Ireland for attempting to become a revolutionary patriot. His movements in Germany were extensions of these motives. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that Casement's activities in Germany and Ireland prior to the rebellion deny him any claim to the mantles of hero, patriot, or revolutionary. Casement, once an exemplary Foreign Office employee who touted Britain's imperialism whilst serving in Africa, underwent a political metamorphosis during the years 19014 to 1906. This change developed because he considered Foreign Office criticism of his methods of inquiry and of his conclusions in the investigation of the Belgian Congo atrocities personally abusive. His trenchant denunciatory remarks concerning the Foreign Office were shortly transferred to Britain and the British people. His diaries and correspondence indicate that his motives for attempting to became an active Irish patriot and revolutionary stemmed not from a love of Ireland or a desire to see her independent, but from his intense hatred of the Foreign Office, specifically, and of Britain generally. As the Irish Nationalist representative to Germany Casement ultimately came to be so distrusted by both the Germans and the Irish Nationalists who had endorsed him that great attempts were made to keep him in Germany when the rebellion was due to take place. However, Casement foiled the Irish Nationalist attempts to keep him in Germany, and upon reaching Ireland, counter to many interpretations, subverted the rising rather than aiding it as he had been pledged to do. Such behavior, as testified to by Casement himself and such men as John Devoy, the Irish-American co-ordinator of Irish-German affairs and one of the major planners of the rebellion, hardly qualify Casement for the mantle of hero of the Easter Rebellion - much less an Irish Nationalist or revolutionary. Roger Casement was, at his death, what he had long been - a complex, at times dubious and petty, man; but he was also always the sensitive humanitarian. In fact, there is a strong basis for believing that, in the final analysis, when he saw the amount of blood the Easter Rebellion would cost, he went against his professed separatist views and preferred saving lives to gaining independence. Casement was a humanitarian par excellence. He was not a revolutionary or hero, and his motives for assuming an identity as an ardent Irish patriot and Nationalist are disappointing if not dishonest.
Bingham, Alan, "Roger Casement, man and myth" (1967). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 4776.
iv, 91 pages
Northern Illinois University
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