Primary Documents - British Government Reaction to Sir Roger Casement's Conviction of Treason, 29 June 1916

Sir Roger Casement Reproduced below is the reaction of the British government - given by Lord Robert Cecil - to the conviction on 29 June 1916 of Sir Roger Casement on grounds of treason.

In his statement Cecil argued that Casement was patently guilty of the charge of inciting Irishmen to mount an armed uprising against the British government.  He further stated that there were no reasonable grounds for clemency in Casement's situation.

Click here to read the speech given in court by Casement following his conviction.

Official British Government Statement by Lord Robert Cecil on the Conviction of Sir Roger Casement, 29 June 1916

No doubt of Casement's guilt exists.  No one doubts that the court and jury arrived at the right verdict.

The only ground for a reprieve would be political expediency, a difficult ground to put forward in this country.  This country never could strain the law to punish a man for the same reason that it could not strain the law to let one off.

The Irish rebellion began with the murder of unarmed people, both soldiers and police.  No grievance justified it, and it was purely a political movement organized by a small section of Irish people who still hate England and were assisted by Germany.

There was and is in this country the greatest possible indignation against these people.  There is no doubt that Casement did everything possible to assist this rebellion in cooperation with the Germans.  There can be no doubt that he was moved by enmity for this country.

The contention that he landed in Ireland for the purpose of preventing the rebellion is demonstrably false.  No such assertion was made by counsel at the trial.

Casement was much more malignant and hostile to this country than were the leaders of the rising, who were caught with arms in their hands.

He visited military prisons in Germany with the intention of persuading Irish soldiers to throw off their allegiance.  All sorts of promises were made for the improvement of the conditions of these men to induce them to join the Irish legion.

An enormous majority thus approached refused and thereafter were subjected to increased hardships by the Germans.  From among these Irish soldiers a number have since been repatriated as hopeless invalids, and they subsequently died.  They looked upon Casement as their murderer.

Nor is there any ground, public or private, so far as we know, which can be quoted in mitigation of Casement's crime, and I do not think any Government doing its duty could interfere with the sentence which has been passed on him.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A respirator was a gas mask in which air was inhaled through a metal box of chemicals.

- Did you know?

Primary Docs