19 May 2004
THE IRISH QUESTION AND ROGER CASEMENT
Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. Three autograph letters signed, the first to an unidentified recipient ('Dear Sir'), Windlesham, 2 April 1912, the remainder to [F.E.] Smith [later 1st Earl of Birkenhead], Windlesham, 29 June and 9 July 1916, together 5 pages, 8vo; and a letter signed to Conan Doyle on behalf of the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, 2 August 1916.
A reversal of opinion in favour of Home Rule, and support for Casement. In the first letter Conan Doyle explains why, although he had twice stood for Parliament as a Unionist candidate, he is now in favour of Home Rule: 'I am an Imperialist because I believe the whole to be greater than the part, and I would always willingly sacrifice any part if I thought it to the advantage of the whole. It was the apparent enmity of Ireland to the Empire which held me from Home Rule for many years ...'; he suggests that Nationalist adoption of the Union Jack would do much to weaken opposition to Home Rule. In the letters to F.E. Smith, the attorney-general during Casement's trial, Conan Doyle protests at the 'shame and disgust' aroused by a description of Casement's death sentence: 'Such words in an English paper are likely to do more enduring political harm than ever poor misguided Casement achieved. They will certainly be exploited by every enemy of England from Dublin to San Francisco'; he writes with more restraint on 9 July: 'I loathe Casement's crime ... [but] it is not in Imperial interests that he should be made a martyr ... That is what he very earnestly desires'. The letter from the Home Office responds to Conan Doyle's petition calling for clemency for Casement, informing him that the Secretary of State 'has failed to discover any grounds which would justify him in advising His Majesty to interfere with the due course of law'.
Casement was executed on 3 August 1916, after the failure of a petition for clemency organised by Conan Doyle. (4)
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