Sir Roger David Casement
Casement, Sir Roger David
CASEMENT, SIR ROGER DAVID
Sir Roger David Casement pursued an illustrious career in the British Foreign Service. His achievements were overshadowed by his campaign for Irish nationalism, which eventually led to his trial and execution.
Casement was born September 1, 1864, in Dublin, Ireland. From 1892 to 1904 and from 1906 to 1911, Casement made several noteworthy contributions to the field of British consular service. His investigation of the brutal working conditions of the Congolese on rubber plantations owned by Belgium led to drastic reforms in Africa. He subsequently performed a similar service for workers on British rubber plantations in South America. In 1911 he was knighted for his humanitarian efforts and in 1912 he resigned from foreign service due to illnesses contracted during his work in foreign countries.
"Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law."
—Sir Roger Casement
Casement returned to Ireland and became interested in the movement for Irish freedom from British rule. He journeyed to Germany and the United States seeking support for an Irish insurrection. In April 1916 Casement received a
pledge of aid from Germany but it proved inadequate. He returned to Ireland hoping to curtail the planned Easter Rebellion, but British authorities apprehended him upon his arrival.
Accused of treason, Casement was put on trial. To add to the sensationalism of the proceedings and the case against him, several of Casement's diaries were publicly distributed. These diaries contained accounts of practices considered to be homosexual in nature. Casement was not given the opportunity to confirm or deny the validity of the diaries and the genuineness of the papers is still in question today.
The evidence against Casement was sufficient for a conviction and he was sentenced to be executed. Originally a Protestant, Casement converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death. On August 3, 1916, he was hanged in Pentonville Jail in London, England.
Casement, Sir Roger David
Sir Roger David Casement, 1864–1916, Irish revolutionary. 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 (1910–13) exposed similar conditions in South America (but was ultimately unsuccessful in ending them). He was knighted for his humanitarian work 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 (see Ireland). Arrested immediately after landing from a German submarine, he was tried, convicted, and hanged for treason. To further blacken his name, British agents circulated his diaries, which showed him to be a homosexual. The diaries were probably genuine, but the manner of their use led to controversy about the possibility of forgery.
See biographies by P. Singleton-Gates and M. Girodias (1959) and B. Inglis (1974); J. Goodman, The Devil and Mr. Casement (2010).
Casement, Sir Roger