From The Gaelic American, August 19, 1916. Published posthumously in the New York Evening Mail, August 10, a week after his execution. The essay was penned just before he left Germany for Ireland in April 1916.

I have read so many explanations by others why I went to Germany that a word from myself may not be inappropriate. Since the responsibility for my action is my own, I am the person best fitted to tell the reasons for my action.

In June 1913, I resigned from the British consular service on the ground of ill health, my intention being to go to South Africa, where both climate and surroundings were congenial.

Unhappily the political condition of Ireland claimed consideration from me as an Irishman, since I had always been something more than a Home Ruler in feeling, although I had never taken an active part in politics. My views as an Irish Nationalist of the type were well known in the British Foreign Office, and in England as much as in Ireland, for I never made any concealment of them. I had stated them openly on many occasions in the press and they were known to the British Government as fully as to my own friends.

Preparatory (as I thought) to going out to the Cape for a period of repose and quiet, within which to place on record by African and Amazon experiences in the field of tropical research, I decided to spend the autumn of 1913 in Ireland to pay some farewell visits. As matters turned out I found it very hard to leave Ireland.

The Carson campaign in Ulster was then in full blast, and despite an innate and ever-recurring desire for retirement I found myself overborne by the solicitations of my friends to stay at home, for a time at any rate. In Ulster, where I was most at home, I tried to keep together the small band of ‘scattered Protestants’ there who desired friendship with their Catholic fellow-countrymen, based on an equal recognition of their common Irish identity, against which the forces of intolerance and enmity were openly arrayed.

In this effort I took part throughout the autumn and close of 1913. In November of that year came the establishment of the Irish Volunteers at Dublin. The Irish Volunteers sought to do for all Ireland what the Ulster Volunteers sought for Ulster Protestantism alone—to defend the rights and liberties common to a whole people—Protestant and Catholic.

I joined Professor MacNeill and became a member of the governing body of the Volunteers, and with him addressed the first meetings held, after the inaugural Dublin meeting, in Galway and Cork in December, 1913.

An incident at this time occurred that added weight to the conviction I already held, that no English Government whether it called itself Whig or Tory, was capable of treating Ireland with justice. I refer to the abandonment of the port of Queenstown by the large Cunard vessels on the alleged ground of its dangerous character and the subsequent action taken against the Hamburg-American Line, which had announced its intention of starting a line of steamships to call at Queenstown en route to Boston.

The exclusion of the ships of the Hamburg-American Line from Cork Harbour by the action of the British authorities was an unfriendly act to Ireland and was accomplished by an underhand diplomacy that would have been unfriendly to a foreign State. How much more significant was it when the interests assailed and the people injured by this intervention were those of ‘an integral part’ of the realm, whose government was supposedly that of a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bound as much in law and honour to the service of the one island as to the other.

Here was a great Irish port doubly injured by England, first by the English company which repudiates its public contract with the support of the Government whose duty it was to compel its maintenance; next, when a great foreign shipping company undertakes to call at this Irish port and perform services of great advantage to the whole of Ireland, the Government that had already connived at the breach of public contract by the Cunard Company, intervenes in a stealthy manner to prohibit the call of the Hamburg-American Line at the injured Irish port and succeeds in preventing the establishment of a German-Irish-American transport service.

It was clear to me that the British Government treated Ireland as a foreign State and often as a hostile State, and that, instead of advancing Irish interests abroad, the Department of State we maintained for that purpose worked incessantly against the development of Irish interests with foreign countries, and intrigued against our external trade just as if we had been, indeed, a part of the German Empire, instead of the alleged United Kingdom.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1914 the Volunteer movement in Ireland spread. In every country thousands of men were enrolling and drilling and everywhere the cry was: ‘When shall we get the rifles?’

At a personal interview with Mr. Redmond, May 7, 1914, he stated to me that the last thing he desired was that rifles should be put in the hands of Volunteers.

I had said that the first duty of those controlling the Volunteer movement was to get arms, as had been done by the Ulster opponents of Irish Nationality, and Mr. Redmond at once interjected that ‘rifles were the last thing to give them.’

At the same meeting it became clear to Professor MacNeill and myself that the Irish Parliamentary Party meant to capture the Volunteers and to use them as a sham army for political purposes on English party platforms.

When it became clear that all Ireland was behind the Volunteer uprisal which others had called into existence despite the efforts of the Irish Parliamentary Party to check the National enthusiasm, Mr. Redmond sought to lay hands upon it, so that it might be deflected from its original Irish purpose. A spontaneous national upheaval of Irish patriotism, designed solely for the defence of Ireland was to be used for purposes of English political trickery to advance the interests of one English Party with which Mr. Redmond had allied his political fortunes.

After making arrangements with a small hand of Irish friends, whom I had gathered together in London on May 8, 1914, to get a first consignment of arms purchased on the Continent and landed in Ireland, I went to America in order to complete the work of obtaining the financial support of Irish Nationalists there to get arms, just as the Ulster movement had obtained its armed support from the anti-Irish elements of England. I left Ireland in the beginning of July, 1914 (when war was not expected), and toward the end of that month I addressed meetings of Irishmen in Norfolk, Va., and in Philadelphia.

The latter meeting synchronized with the successful landing at Howth of the rifles my friends had bought abroad and landed at the points on the Irish coast I had arranged for before sailing for America—an act which led to the firing by the British garrison upon the people of Dublin on that Sunday afternoon. Were further proof needed of the unchanged and unchanging determination of all British Governments to treat Ireland as a conquered province or a hostile land held in subjection, this outrageous attack of July 26, 1914, on the inhabitants of Dublin furnished it.

At our meeting at Philadelphia on Sunday, August 2, I declared that if Irishmen did their duty by their countrymen at home, this was the last time when any British Government would ever dare to shoot down Irishmen and women in the streets of an Irish city.

Then came the war. On August 4 the British Government declared war on Germany, the pretext having been carefully arranged beforehand.

I had long believed that British fear and jealousy of German naval progress would bring war, and I had very frankly expressed in Government circles, as elsewhere, my opinions as to the rightfulness or even sanity of English antagonism to Germany.

Germany had never injured England, much less Ireland, and it was plain that she was being attacked not for the wrong she had done to others, but from the hope those others held of doing injury to her.

Ireland was being appealed to by every agency of fear, of resentment, of misplaced chivalry, of self-interest, to send hundreds and thousands of her men to a fight that, at the best, concerned her not at all.

In return for the passage of the Home Rule Bill into ‘law’ but not into fact, it was being openly urged by English ministers and by the English press that Irishmen should ‘flock to the colours.’

This so-called Home Rule Bill against which the English oligarchy (who had now declared war on Germany) had arrayed for two years all the forces of wealth, bigotry and intolerance, on the ground that even the shadow of an Irish ‘parliament’ must be prevented from taking shape on Irish soil, was now rushed through both Houses of Parliament in the openly avowed hope of entrapping thousands of young Irishmen into the British army, on the ground that England had at length granted ‘national freedom’ to Ireland.

I sought to meet this dishonest effort to betray my countrymen into the ranks of an army of aggression being massed for a dishonest attack upon a people with whom Irishmen had no just cause of quarrel, by two public letters addressed through the Irish press to Irishmen, in which I begged them to stay at home and leave England to fight her own wars of aggression.

The first of these letters reached its destination and was published in the Dublin Irish Independent of October 5, 1914. (The steps taken against myself by the British Government on the publication of this letter I must defer dealing with to a later period). This first hurried letter I followed with a more carefully drafted statement of opinion written from New York, which I hoped might appear in the Irish press and might serve to keep Irishmen from enlisting in a bad cause.

My later letter, however, failed to reach the Irish press, owing to the vigilance of the British censorship. Soon afterward I embarked for Germany. Letters alone, I saw, could not keep Irishmen at home or meet the numerous agencies of calumny and ill will that were being employed to plunge them into the shambles of a war of unparalleled misery and destruction.

My object was a peaceful, not a belligerent one.

Not to ‘foment a rebellion in Ireland,’ as some of my ignorant critics have asserted, but so far as possible to keep Ireland at peace and Irishmen out of the war was my intent by placing before my countrymen a clear and authoritative statement of German aims that might go far to meet the flood of misrepresentations being steadily poured over Ireland by the British Government. I believed that if I could reach Germany and state these objects to the German Government, I should not fail to accomplish something of what I hoped to achieve.

I hoped that the German Government might be induced to make clear its peaceful intention toward Ireland and that the effect of such a pronouncement in Ireland itself might be powerful enough to keep Irishmen from readily volunteering for a war that had no claim upon their patriotism or their honour.

With this aim chiefly in view, I came to Germany in November, 1914, and I succeeded in my purpose.

The German Government declared openly its good will toward Ireland and in convincing terms.