Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Casement, Roger

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CASEMENT, SIR ROGER (DAVID), an Irish revolutionist; born in Ireland, Sept. 1, 1864. He was of English parentage and a Protestant, though, just before his death, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In the early part of his career he was an able and faithful official of the British Government, serving in various capacities in many parts of the world. From 1892 to 1895 he was in a minor post in the Niger Coast Oil Rivers Protectorate, and in the latter year was appointed consul in the province of Lourenzo Marquez. During the Boer War he did such excellent service at Cape Town that he was decorated with the Queen's medal. In 1906 he was consul for the state of São Paulo, Brazil. He became consul-general at Rio de Janeiro in 1908. From 1909 to 1912 he made a searching investigation into the rubber atrocities, and his report attracted attention throughout the world. The honor of knighthood was conferred upon him in 1911, and in 1913 he was retired on a pension. It seemed the climax of a peculiarly useful career. However, after the outbreak of the World War, rumors began to filter through to England that Casement was in Germany going from place to place without guard or surveillance and apparently in the full favor of the German Government. The full story of Casement's activities in Germany came out later, supported by documentary evidence that left no doubt of the facts. In the early days of the war a large number of British soldiers, including a great many Irishmen, had been captured by the enemy and imprisoned in camps in various parts of Germany. Casement was permitted by the German Government to move freely among these camps and to address the prisoners. He invited the Irish prisoners to join the “Irish brigade” that he was forming. Those who joined would escape the rigors of imprisonment, would be regarded as guests of the German Government and would be transferred to Berlin, there to wait a favorable opportunity to be transferred to Ireland. In the event that this proved impossible, each man would be furnished with a sum of money and free passage to America after the war, and thus escape the vengeance of the British Government. Casement made slight progress in this propaganda. Pending the transfer of the “Irish brigade,” Casement, with a few confederates, made a rash attempt to land munitions on Irish soil. In April, 1916, Casement and two confederates embarked on a German submarine at Wilhelmshaven, which sailed around the Shetlands and the west coast of Ireland. Near Tralee, when the submarine had reached as near the coast as she dared to go, the adventurers were put into a collapsible boat, which overturned, however, before they reached the land, compelling them to wade to shore. They buried their revolvers and ammunition in the sand, and two of the voyagers made their way to Tralee, while Casement sought a hiding place near by and waited for the coming of the ship loaded with munitions that the German Government had promised to send. On April 21 the British ship “Bluebell,” patrolling the coast, sighted a ship which looked suspicious. It was a small Wilson liner, disguised as a timber ship and flying the Norwegian ensign. She declared, on being signaled, that she was the “Aude,” sailing to Genoa from Bergen. Not satisfied, however, the British commander ordered the strange ship to follow him into the harbor to be examined. Seeing that the game was lost, the ship suddenly raised two German ensigns and blew up, the crew rowing to the “Bluebell” and giving themselves up. It developed later that the ship had been carrying millions of cartridges, 20,000 rifles, 10 machine guns and a large number of bombs and other munitions. In the meantime an Irish farmer had found the collapsible boat. He reported his discovery, and a search was made by the authorities, who unearthed the box that had been buried in the sand containing pistol cartridges. Further search revealed Casement hiding in a place that was known as McKenna's Fort. He described himself as an author, Richard Morton by name, and claimed residence in Buckinghamshire, England. He was arrested, nevertheless, and while on his way to a neighboring barracks to be examined, dropped a paper which was picked up by his captors and discovered to be a code in cipher. Sentences about “explosives” and “cannon” deepened the impression of his guilt. He was taken to London and handed over to the authorities, to whom he then confessed his identity. He was tried before a jury, and on June 26, 1916, was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. During his trial Casement bore himself with great dignity and fortitude. Efforts were made by many prominent persons in Great Britain and the United States to have the sentence commuted or modified, some on the ground of his previous services to the Empire and others on the possibility that his mind was unbalanced. Their pleas, however, were ineffectual, and Casement was hung at Pentonville prison, Aug. 3, 1916.