The following is an address that was prepared by Sir Roger Casement addressed to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II in August 1914. The letter was signed by all members of the executive of the Clan na Gael, including John Devoy.
NEW YORK, August 25, 1914.
His Imperial Majesty,
The German Emperor.
The undersigned, representing many millions of the people of this country, either of Irish birth or Irish descent, desire very respectfully to place before Your Majesty what we believe to be the view of the vast majority of Irishmen not only in the United States but throughout the world.
In the first place, we seek to give voice to the feeling of Irishmen in America. That feeling is chiefly one of sympathy and admiration for the heroic people of Germany, assailed at all points by an unnatural league of enmity, having only one thing in common, a hatred of German prosperity and efficiency. We feel that the German people are in truth fighting for European civilization at its best and certainly in its less selfish form. We recognise that Germany did not seek this war, but that it was forced upon her by those jealous of her military security, envious of her industrial and commercial capacity, and aiming at her integrity as a Great World Power that was capable, if peace were maintained, of outdistancing the competition of all her rivals.
Since peace was essential to the fullest German development, and since in the realm of peaceful rivalry Germany could not be overcome, those who were jealous of her growing prosperity and were themselves incapable of matching it by peaceful means, determined to destroy by war what they could not meet by peace. This we believe to be the reason, and the sole reason, for the present combination of armaments against Germany. For this reason we assert that Germany is fighting the battle of European civilization at its best against European civilization at its worst.
We wholeheartedly hope for the success of the German people in this unequal struggle forced upon them. Just as they have overcome by peaceful means the competition of their trading rivals, so we pray they may now overcome by armed manhood the unfair combination those rivals have substituted for lawful effort.
This said on behalf of our countrymen in America, we would bring before Your Majesty the condition of our countrymen in Ireland, and draw Your Majesty’s attention to the part that Ireland necessarily, if not openly, must play in this conflict and in every conflict where sea-power is at stake.
The British claim to control the seas of the world, rests chiefly on an unnamed factor. That factor is Ireland. It is by the sole possession of Ireland that Great Britain has been able for two centuries to maintain an unchallengeable mastery of the seas and by this agency to convert a small trading community into the wholly arbitrary judges of war and peace for all mankind.
If Europe would be free at home, she must be free at sea. If Europe would have peace within her borders she must deprive Great Britain of the means to provoke or precipitate war whenever, as in the present case, it may suit the interests of that power to substitute war for peace.
There cannot be peace in Europe until Great Britain’s claim to the mastery of the seas, that great highway of the Nations, has finally been disposed of.
We are profoundly convinced that so long as Great Britain is allowed to control, exploit, and misappropriate Ireland and all Irish resources – whether of men, material wealth, or strategic position – she will dominate the seas. Thus the freedom of Ireland becomes of paramount, nay, of vital importance to the larger question of the freeing of the seas.
Hoping as we do that Germany will win this war so unrighteously forced upon her by a combination of assailants, each lacking the courage to act alone, we earnestly commend to Your Majesty’s attention this fundamental fact that to restore the equilibrium of sea power so grievously injured by Great Britain, to the detriment of the whole world since the Napoleonic wars, Ireland must be freed from British control.
While the fortune of war may not bring German troops to Ireland, the hearts of thousands of Irishmen go out to the German shores today. Thousands of Irishmen are prepared to do their part to aid the German cause, for they recognise that it is their own.
Should God grant victory to the German people in this struggle of brave men to keep the freedom they have so dearly won, we hope that Ireland may be permitted to contribute something to the triumph of that good cause. We beg Your Majesty to reflect that a defeated Great Britain, still retaining Ireland, is really a victorious Great Britain.
We beg Your Majesty to reflect that an Ireland freed by German victory over Britain becomes the sure gage of a free ocean for all who traverse the seas.
On these grounds alone, did not natural sympathy and admiration for a people fighting against such heavy odds lead us to address Your Majesty, we should hope for a German triumph over an enemy who is also our enemy. We pray for that triumph for Germany, and we pray with it Your Majesty may have power, wisdom, and strength of purpose to impose a lasting peace upon the seas by effecting the independence of Ireland and securing its recognition as a fixed condition of the terms of final settlement between the great maritime Powers.