• Full title:   A Petition to the Prime Minister on behalf of Roger Casement by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. From CASEMENT PETITION PAPERS.
  • Created:   1916
  • Formats:   Letter
  • Creator:   Arthur Conan Doyle , Clement K. Shorter
  • Held by:   British Library
  • Copyright:   © ff 2-3, 7, 9, 37 | © Reproduced with the kind permission of The Conan Doyle Estate Ltd; ff 4-6, 8, 13-22, 55 | © Clement K. Shorter
  • Usage terms:   Some rights reserved
  • Shelfmark:   Add MS 63596


Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist and human rights campaigner. Whilst working for the British Foreign Office he investigated human rights abuses and reports of atrocities in The Congo and South America. His investigations lead to many improvements for indigenous people and he was knighted for his efforts in 1911.

After the outbreak of the First World War, Casement travelled to Germany to try and gain support for Irish independence. He returned to Ireland in 1916 aboard a German U-boat and took part in the Easter Rising. There he was arrested by the British government, charged with high treason and sentenced to death.

Arthur Conan Doyle, who had worked with Casement on raising awareness of crimes in The Congo, campaigned against this sentence. This petition, written in Conan Doyle’s own hand, argues that Casement’s actions were due to the 'severe strain' put on him whilst in service for the crown as well as the effect of 'several tropical fevers'. Conan Doyle also felt that the British government’s use of slander against Casement during the trial was unfair and unjust.

The campaign was supported by many literary figures, including W B Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy but was eventually unsuccessful and Casement was hanged in 1916.


  1. Telegrams: Windlesham,

    Crowborough. Crowborough,

    Nat. Tel. No. 77. Sussex.

    July 2.

    My dear Shorter

    Your writing, like my own, does not improve with the years and I found some difficulty in deciphering it all. There are some words I am still in doubt about, but I got the general sense.

    There seems to be time enough without telegrams as there is still the appeal and then a space before the execution so we have some weeks. Casements crime, excluding madness, seems absolutely the last possible one, aggravated enormously by his taking government money all his life. Personally I believe his mind was unhinged, and that his honourable nature would in a normal condition have revolted from such an action.

    But on the ground of expediency I am entirely against his execution. I am sure it is wrong. It seems to me that the line to go upon is to
  2. absolutely acknowledge his guilt & the justice of his sentence and at the same time urge the political wisdom of magnanimity. It should be signed so far as possible by men who have shown no possible sympathy for Germany or [pacific] leanings.

    I draft here in a rough way my idea of what I would think effective & what I would be prepared to sign. Of course it is open to modification, addition & subtraction.

    With all remembrance

    Yours sincerely

    A Conan Doyle.

    I cant help thinking that the Government would not be sorry to be pressed on the matter

    Donald of the Chronicle would be a good adviser in the matter.
  3. 1

    We, the undersigned, while entirely admitting the Guilt of the prisoner Roger Casement, and the justice of his sentence, would desire to urge lay before the Prime Minister some reasons why the extreme sentence of the law should not be inflicted.

    1. We would call attention to the violent change which appears to have taken place
    in the prisoners [previous] sentiments towards Great Britain (as shown for
    example in his letter to the King at the time of his his knighthood) from
    [ ] those which he has exhibited during the war. Without going so far as to urge
    complete mental irresponsibility, one can we should desire to point out that the
    prisoners had for many years been exposed to severe strain during his
    honourable career of public service, that he had endured several tropical fevers,
    and that he had experienced the strain worry of two investigations which were
    of a peculiarly nerve-trying character. (For these reasons it appears to us that
    some allowance may be made in this case for an abnormal physical and mental