Pádraig Pearse’s letter to his Mother.

Patrick_PearseBorn in Dublin on Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), he was educated by the Christian Brothers at Westland Row, before taking a scholarship to the Royal University (University College Dublin) to study law.

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He was one of only 30 people to know that the Rising would take place in the days building up to Easter 1916. Pearse, who had been secretly planning the insurrection for two years beforehand, even kept his plans hidden from the highest leaders in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, including Eoin MacNeill, the Chief of Staff of the IRB.

When the Easter Rising eventually began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, it was Pearse who read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from outside the General Post Office, the headquarters of the Rising. Pearse was the person most responsible for drafting the Proclamation, and he was chosen as President of the Republic.10411373_10204883272621713_7276958758852942451_n

After six days of fighting, heavy civilian casualties and great destruction of property, Pearse issued the order to surrender.

Pearse and fourteen other leaders, including his brother Willie, were court-martialled and executed by firing squad. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh and Pearse himself were the first of the rebels to be executed, on the morning of 3 May 1916. Pearse was 36 years old at the time of his death. Roger Casement, who had tried unsuccessfully to recruit an insurgent force among Irish-born prisoners of war from the Irish Brigade in Germany, was hanged in London the following August.

On May 1st, 2 days before his execution Pearse wrote the following letter to his Mother.

“My dear Mother, You will I know have been longing to hear from me. I do not know how much you have heard since the last note I sent you from the G.P.O.

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On Friday evening the Post Office was set on fire and we had to abandon it. We dashed into Moore Street and remained in the houses in Moore St. on Saturday evening? We then found that we were surrounded by troops and that we had practically no food.
We decided in order to prevent further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, to ask the General Commanding the British Forces to discuss terms. He replied that he would receive me only if I surrendered unconditionally and this I did. I was taken to the Headquarters of the British Command in Ireland and there I wrote and signed an order to our men to lay down their arms.surrender

All this I did in accordance with the decision of our Provisional Government who were with us in Moore St. My own opinion was in favour of one more desperate sally before opening negotiations, but I yielded to the majority, and I think now the majority was right, as the sally would have resulted only in losing the lives of perhaps 50 or 100 of our men, and we should have had to surrender in the long run as we were without food.
I was brought in here on Saturday evening and later all the men with us in Moore St. were brought here. Those in the other parts of the City have, I understand, been taken to other barracks and prisons. All here are safe and well. Willie and all the St. Enda’s boys are here. I have not seen them since Saturday, but I believe they are all well and that they are not now in any danger. Our hope and belief is that the Government will spare the lives of all our followers, but we do not expect that they will spare the lives of the leaders. We are ready to die and we shall die cheerfully and proudly. Personally I do not hope or even desire to live, but I do hope and desire and believe that the lives of all our followers will be saved including the lives dear to you and me (my own excepted) and this will be a great consolation to me when dying.
You must not grieve for all this. We have preserved Ireland’s honour and our own. Our deeds of last week are the most splendid in Ireland’s history. People will say hard things of us now, but we shall be remembered by posterity and blessed by unborn generations. You too will be blessed because you were my mother.
If you feel you would like to see me, I think you will be allowed to visit me by applying to the Headquarters, Irish Command, near the Park. I shall I hope have another opportunity of writing to you.
Love to W.W., MB., Miss Byrne, . . . and your own dear self. P.
P.S. I understand that the German expedition which I was counting on actually set sail but was defeated by the British.”expedition

The letter to his Mother weren’t his last written words. On the day of his execution he wrote a poem called the Wayfarer.

It reads:

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, 
This beauty that will pass; 
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy 
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree 
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk, 
Or little rabbits in a field at evening, 
Lit by a slanting sun, 
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by 
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown 
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven; 
Or children with bare feet upon the sands 
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets 
Of little towns in Connacht, 
Things young and happy. 
And then my heart hath told me: 
These will pass, 
Will pass and change, will die and be no more, 
Things bright and green, things young and happy; 
And I have gone upon my way 
Sorrowful.

The executioner claimed that Pearse whistled as he came out of the cell.

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Roger Casement-Irish Hero and the Congo

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Roger Casement was born in Sandycove, County Dublin in September 1864 and raised in Ballycastle County Antrim following the death of his parents..

between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours, was an Irish-born civil servant who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat, and later became a humanitarian activist, Irish nationalist, and poet. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru. He then made efforts during World War I to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.

On this day in 1916 he was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising.

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However I will not go in to his involvement in the Easter Rising in this blog, my focus will be on his Congo report known as the Casement report.

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The Casement Report was a 1904 document written  detailing abuses in the Congo Free State

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which was under the private ownership of King Leopold II of Belgium.

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This report was instrumental in Leopold finally relinquishing his private holdings in Africa. Leopold had had ownership of the Congolese state since 1885, granted to him by the Berlin Conference, in which he exploited its natural resources (mostly rubber) for his own private wealth.

For many years prior to the Casement Report there were reports from the Congo alleging widespread abuses and exploitation of the native population. In 1895, the situation was reported to Dr Henry Grattan Guinness (1861–1915), a missionary doctor. He had established the Congo-Balolo Mission in 1889, and was promised action by King Leopold later in 1895, but nothing changed. H. R. Fox-Bourne of the Aborigines’ Protection Society had published Civilisation in Congoland in 1903, and the journalist E. D. Morel also wrote several articles about the Leopoldian government’s behaviour in the Congo Free State.

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On 20 May 1903 a motion by the Liberal Herbert Samuel was debated in the British House of Commons, resulting in this resolution: “.. That the Government of the Congo Free State having, at its inception, guaranteed to the Powers that its Native subjects should be governed with humanity, and that no trading monopoly or privilege should be permitted within its dominions, this House requests His Majesty’s Government to confer with the other Powers, signatories of the Berlin General Act by virtue of which the Congo Free State exists, in order that measures may be adopted to abate the evils prevalent in that State.

Subsequently, the British consul at Boma in the Congo, the Irishman Roger Casement was instructed by Balfour’s government to investigate. His report was published in 1904, confirmed Morel’s accusations, and had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Casement met and became friends with Morel just before the publication of his report in 1904 and realized that he had found the ally he had sought. Casement convinced Morel to establish an organization for dealing specifically with the Congo question. With Casement’s and Dr. Guinness’s assistance, he set up and ran the Congo Reform Association, which worked to end Leopold’s control of the Congo Free State. Branches of the association were established as far away as the United States.

The Casement Report comprises forty pages of the Parliamentary Papers, to which is appended another twenty pages of individual statements gathered by Casement as Consul, including several detailing grim tales of killings, mutilations, kidnappings and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Copies of the Report were sent by the British government to the Belgian government as well as to nations who were signatories to the Berlin Agreement in 1885, under which much of Africa had been partitioned. The British Parliament demanded a meeting of the fourteen signatory powers to review the 1885 Berlin Agreement. The Belgian Parliament, pushed by socialist leader Emile Vandervelde 

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and other critics of the King’s Congolese policy, forced a reluctant Leopold to set up an independent commission of enquiry.

 

Its findings confirmed Casement’s report in every detail. This led to the arrest and punishment of officials who had been responsible for murders during a rubber-collection expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national who was given a five-year sentence for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives).