Invisible Evidence

I

In the extensive literature on Casement there is at least one aspect which has gone unexamined and has been misunderstood. It is widely believed that the notorious diaries were shown to influential persons in 1916 in order to deflate the campaigns for Casement’s reprieve. What follows is a scrutiny of the evidence for this belief. That ‘diary materials’ were exhibited in 1916 is undisputed but what exactly were those materials? Among the many who saw ‘diary materials’ were:

Artemus Jones. Junior Counsel to Casement’s defence lawyer Sullivan. Jones was passed typescripts by a junior counsel on instruction from Casement’s prosecutor, F. E. Smith and was told to pass them to Sullivan who refused them. [1]

Alfred Noyes. Author and professor of literature. While working in the Foreign Office, Noyes was briefly shown typescripts by Stephen Gaselee (Foreign Office). To Noyes’ comments, published without his knowledge as propaganda in the US, was added a false statement of his authentication. [2]

F.E. Smith. Attorney General and politician. Casement’s prosecutor was in possession of the typescripts before the trial and he passed these to Jones hoping that Sullivan would allow them as evidence thereby authenticating them, then plead an insanity defence in vain.[3]

Ben Allen. US journalist in London. Allen was shown a roll of handwritten pages “of almost legal size” by Hall several times in May; later Hall showed him typescripts. Allen was skeptical because Hall declined to allow him to verify with Casement.[4]

John Harris. Baptist missionary. Harris had known Casement in Congo. He was shown typescripts by Blackwell on July 19.[5]

Henley Henson. Anglican bishop. Henson was shown typescripts in July by King George V.[6]

King George V. Typescripts were in the monarch’s possession from May onwards and he showed them to Henson in July. Most believe that Smith left the typescripts with the monarch but this has not been confirmed. Others think that Hall’s Room 40 colleague Herschell was responsible.[7]

Walter Page Hines. US ambassador in London. Hines, a close friend of President Wilson, was shown typescripts and given two photographs of same by Thomson in London on 26 July.[8]

Cecil Spring-Rice. UK ambassador to US.  Unspecified typescripts were sent by diplomatic bag on 21st July to Captain Gaunt for Spring-Rice. On 28th July unspecified photographs of handwriting were sent by diplomatic bag to Spring-Rice.[9]

Doctors Percy Smith and Maurice Craig. Psychiatrists. As part of the corroboration plan, they were shown the 1911 typescript and reported their medical opinion on Casement’s mental state on July 10.[10]

All of these saw typescripts which had been typed by the Metropolitan Police; both ambassadors also saw photographs. Many other influential persons were shown typescripts; they include John Redmond, H. W. Nevinson, various MPs and leading journalists. But no evidence can be found which records the showing at that time of any of the bound volume diaries now in the UK National Archives. On 17 July, 1916 Ernley Blackwell, legal advisor to the Home Office, wrote in a Memorandum “Casement’s diaries and his ledger entries covering many pages of closely typed matter …” which is not a description of the bound volumes.[11] In 1959, the Home Office Working Party stated it had no record of the bound volumes being shown at that time.[12] In 2017, officials at the UK National Archives confirmed that they do not know of any documents which record the showing of the bound volumes in 1916. [13]

It follows from these facts that no verified evidence of showing the bound volumes in 1916 has been produced in 100 years. This absence of evidence means that there is no evidence of their existence during Casement’s lifetime. Since they certainly exist today, this means it is possible that at least two bound volumes came into existence after 1916 and before February 1922. The third bound volume diary could not be found in Scotland Yard after an exhaustive search in 1921.[14] The first official description of the bound volumes came only on 23 July, 1959 when Home Secretary Butler announced in Parliament “The Casement Diaries consist of five volumes found in a trunk …”; moments later, Butler listed the dates of these volumes.

In a court of law none of the above listed persons could testify on oath that the typescripts they had seen were true copies of original documents unless they could also testify on oath that they had seen the original documents. Failing to testify to this latter, a court would demand that the original documents be produced for examination and authentication. The court would distinguish between belief and knowledge, between faith and evidence.

Any proof for the material existence of the bound volumes in 1916 must be of the same standard as the proof given for the existence of the typescripts at the same time: independent witness testimony. Without that testimony, belief in the contemporaneous existence of the bound volumes is merely a reasoned supposition based on an untested belief that the typescripts are copies. It is therefore necessary to identify the grounds for that untested belief and determine the sufficiency of those grounds.

There are two principal grounds. Firstly, those showing the typescripts were officials in authority who spoke for the state. Secondly, the narrative in the typescripts contains detailed information which appears to illustrate Casement’s experience recorded in diary form.  The first ground can be dismissed as insufficient since the word of those officials rested on blind trust and could not be verified. The second ground appears more convincing as a basis for belief that the typescripts are copies of authentic original diaries. The detail is such that skepticism is rendered difficult and for many perhaps impossible.

Therefore the grounds for skepticism arise not from the detail in the typescripts but from the extraordinary fact that the intelligence chiefs did not show the bound volumes or, more precisely, that they left themselves without any evidence of such showing and therefore without evidence of their existence. It is obvious that showing the bound volumes at that time would have crushed any possible skepticism about the typescripts.

It has been argued that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is, absence of evidence does not entail that no evidence exists. It entails only that evidence has not been produced. However, the willful non-production of evidence requires explanation by those who claim to possess the evidence. In law, a court can demand disclosure. In the matter of the typescripts and bound volumes no explanation has been given by the intelligence chiefs or by anyone else for non-production of the necessary evidence.

On the hypothesis that the bound volumes were in police possession in 1916, the following reasons can be proposed for the failure to disclose them:

A – oversight – the intelligence chiefs forgot to show them,

B – showing them was not considered necessary,

C – there was a legal impediment,

D – reasons of state security.

Only one of these has any credibility – B. But this reason would be the result of a decision predicated upon the calculated anticipation that proof would not be asked for. It remains to be explained why the intelligence chiefs would make that quite unnecessary calculated anticipation when they had irrefutable proof to hand – unless calculated anticipation is a euphemism for hope.

In order to further examine why the bound volumes were not shown, it is necessary to find credible reasons for the extraordinary decision to produce the typescripts rather than simply show the bound volumes. It is undisputed that the typing operation required several weeks during May and June and that several Scotland Yard typists were deployed in typing the many thousands of words. These typists had to decipher handwriting which is often cramped and difficult to read with many words in foreign languages all of which made errors inevitable. That this remarkable labour intensive and time-consuming operation was undertaken demands explanation when one considers that the intelligence chiefs had two alternative options. The first was to show the bound volumes, pure and simple, which would have been both the easiest solution and the most immediately effective. The second option was simple photography of the bound volume pages which would have occupied one photographer for a day or two at most. The advantages of photography are obvious; photographs can be reproduced indefinitely, photographs reveal an image of the original handwriting and an image of the material reality of the original page. Casement himself used photographs in his investigations to record the reality of the experiences he was reporting. Despite the fact that photography is easier, faster, more economical, reliable and more convincing, the intelligence chiefs rejected that second option as they had inexplicably rejected the first. They decided that only typescripts would be prepared and shown.

II

Of all those who saw ‘diary materials’ it appears that only John Quinn was shown photographs of handwriting. This unique event took place on 23rd August when the influential New York lawyer was shown one or more photographs by Captain Gaunt of Naval Intelligence; this was three weeks after Casement’s execution and some ten days after Quinn had published a 4-page eulogy to the deceased in the New York Times Magazine. Quinn’s own letters of 24th August testify to the showing but give no details of what he saw. [15] Quinn reported that the very small handwriting in the photographs bore a resemblance to Casement’s hand and this resemblance shocked and confused him. Nonetheless, that resemblance was not sufficient and Quinn wrote “I don’t want to be quoted to anybody as vouching for the authenticity of the diary … I am going to put a handwriting expert on the photographic copies.”  But no expert ever set eyes on the handwriting because Gaunt informed Quinn that he was already in breach of Grey’s explicit veto against showing diary materials. So far as can be determined these photos have never been seen since that day.

Quinn’s letters reveal his over-confidence, firstly by thinking it would be easy for him to identify the handwriting as forged and secondly by imagining Gaunt would allow him possession of the photos for expert inspection. In his letter of 24th August to Spring-Rice, Quinn penned eight lines of admiration for Gaunt whose charisma had proved effective; a man spontaneously liked and respected does not stoop to deception. Quinn’s earlier certainty was confused by a double resemblance – that of Gaunt to a clean, decent person and that of the photographed handwriting to Casement’s hand. Having convinced Quinn of his integrity, Gaunt’s task was complete. That task was to confuse Quinn, not to convert him; out of his depth, Quinn forgot that Gaunt was one of those who, as Quinn wrote on 22nd August, “pretend to be gentlemen … should go to the sewers for their arguments.”  It was too late for Quinn to recover from the error of viewing the photographs in the first place. Gaunt, head of an intelligence network, duly interpreted Quinn’s confusion as a tacit authentication sufficient for immediate purposes.

However, an important dimension emerged from the event. On 21st August Quinn wrote to Godkin; “I am going to see the British Naval Attache in a day or two by appointment at his request. I am told that he has certain pages of the alleged diary or what purport to be photographic copies of it. Of course they are forgeries. … I am told that London has had this alleged diary for months, since shortly after he went to Germany. Then was the time to use it … it would have alienated Irish sympathy from him … would have kept him out of Ireland. Then it would indeed have made him a man without a country. But they did not use it then … If I can get the photographic copies of the diary, I will submit them to a handwriting expert here, because I have plenty of genuine specimens.” (Italics added) On 24th August, Quinn wrote to Spring-Rice; “Why the thing [diary] wasn’t used when he was in Germany, which would have kept him there, is a mystery.” (Parenthesis added)

The use of the locution “I am told” when writing to Godkin indicates the un-named informer is a third person – not Godkin. The absence of that locution when writing to Spring-Rice on 24th indicates that the recipient already knows the identity of the source who need not be referred to because the source is the recipient – Spring-Rice. The secret nature of the information, true or false, is not the scandal about Casement but concerns the significance of when a diary was found. This highly reserved information would only be revealed on a need-to-know basis, for example to convince an influential person hostile to the scandal. Quinn had known Casement personally and consistently vouched for his moral integrity. He was on good terms with Spring-Rice and both had sought a reprieve for Casement. It is unthinkable that Quinn had heard this reserved information and Ambassador Spring-Rice had not. Thus Quinn’s letter to Spring-Rice on 24th August indicates already shared knowledge requiring no explanation; “Why the thing [diary] wasn’t used when he was in Germany … is a mystery.” The ‘mystery’ is predicated upon the following; at the time of writing to Spring-Rice, Quinn believed a diary existed and had been shown in London and believed that the photos shown to him in New York were evidence of this although he still suspected forgery. But even if forged, Quinn could not understand why the diary had not been exposed in 1915 to neutralise Casement and render him  “a man without a country”.  Quinn assumed that a handwritten diary, forged or genuine, had been shown in London.  But in one hundred years no evidence has been produced which records the showing of any of the bound volumes before 24th August 1916.

That Quinn remained unconvinced is evident in his 9th September letter to Gavan Duffy, ignored by the biographers; “… I was finally shown what purported to be photographic copies of his diary and the handwriting looked like his … the Naval Attache told me that he had received a peremptory cable from Gray [sic] under no circumstances to show the diary.”

There is no way of knowing what the photographs showed. The archive files refer to them as “photographic reproductions of parts of Casement’s diary” without specifying exactly what the images displayed.[16] Quinn failed to take note of the content and without knowledge of the content, no facts about this writing can be determined so that the event leads only to further conjecture and interrogatives.

It cannot be determined if these photographs were destroyed or are today among the sub-files and 14 documents still classified for security reasons. Whether concealed or destroyed, they are no longer available for inspection and none of the principal biographers claim to have seen them or to have enquired for them. If they have seen the photographs viewed by Quinn, they do not record the fact. More precisely, they do not record having seen the evidence upon which they place so much faith.

And this leads to a crucial consideration. It is the destruction or concealment of the photos which is indicative of deception. If the photos shown to Quinn were of compromising Casement diary handwriting, they were evidence for authenticity of both photos and diaries; it follows that there was no reason to destroy authentic evidence which would have constituted solid proof of the diaries’ existence at that time. The typescripts were kept although they were weaker evidence of their existence. The photos were destroyed (or concealed permanently) so that they could at no future time be checked against the bound volumes. Since the archives testify both to the existence of the photos and the use made of them to denigrate Casement after his death, it is not plausible to argue that they were destroyed in order to eliminate evidence of their use. The archive files clearly reveal that intention and the preservation of those files exposes the destruction of the photos they refer to. Thus, these photos, by virtue of their disappearance, become invisible evidence.

Hence the photos were not evidence of the volumes at that time, whether or not they were photos of Casement’s handwriting. In short, if the photos had been authentic images of scandalous Casement diary writings, there was very strong motive for their preservation as evidence, even stronger than the motive for preserving the typescripts as alleged copies of the bound volume diaries. If there was good reason to destroy the photographs, there was even more reason to destroy the typescripts which were proof positive of the smear campaign. But the typescripts had to be preserved since they were the texts to be later forged into the bound volumes. There was no other reason to preserve the typescripts. The destruction of evidence is always suspicious; the destruction or concealment of allegedly conclusive photographic evidence which proves one’s case can only be explained by a need to conceal the falsity of that evidence. To paraphrase Inglis; “… no person or persons in their right mind” destroys or conceals the conclusive evidence which proves their own case.[17] That the evidence was destroyed or concealed by state officials in their right minds demonstrates that the photos were not authentic.

III

If the bound volumes are considered primary evidence, the typescripts are secondary evidence. However, evidence, by definition, must be seen and since the bound volumes were not seen they cannot constitute evidence unless the surreal concept of ‘invisible evidence’ is accepted. Therefore, the typescripts were the real primary and only evidence. While it remains unexplained why the intelligence chiefs based their smear campaign exclusively on this primary evidence, it also remains unexplained why typescripts were produced rather than photographs of the bound volumes. None of the principal biographers (Inglis, Sawyer, Reid etc) have addressed either of these questions.

The decision being taken, the laborious typing process began and the first typescripts were shown to journalists in late May by Captain Hall, head of Naval Intelligence. Before then, the smear campaign had spread like an uncontrollable viral infection transmitted by rumour, gossip, whispering. But the showing of the lethal typescripts was a tightly controlled exercise aimed at corrupting specific influential persons in both Britain and America.

Casement was condemned to death on 29th June but there remained three possibilities of reprieve: an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, an appeal to the House of Lords and lastly the Royal Prerogative. The first failed on July 18th and Smith refused the second. The third depended formally on a request to the monarch from the cabinet which was under pressure from both Smith and Blackwell to “allow the law to take its course”.[18]

At this point the attitude of the US administration became critical; a Senate appeal for reprieve seemed probable and a negative response might consolidate or prolong US neutrality in the war. In this delicate situation the two ambassadors Page and Spring-Rice had to be ‘handled’ with care.  Page was a personal friend of President Wilson and Spring-Rice believed a reprieve would be to Britain’s advantage.

Casement’s life was still in the balance when US Ambassador Page asked to see diary materials. On Wednesday 26th July, he met Thomson in London who provided two photographs of extracts from the 1911 typescript.[19] On 21st July unspecified typescript material was sent by diplomatic bag to Captain Gaunt for UK Ambassador Spring-Rice in Washington and on 28th July unspecified photographs of handwriting were sent by diplomatic bag to the ambassador.[20]Almost incredibly but yet again the intelligence chiefs rejected the option of showing the bound volumes or photographed pages from these. The typescripts had sufficed for the monarch and they (plus two photos of handwriting) would have to satisfy US opinion. And it would be better if no Senate appeal was made.

It is exceedingly strange in view of what was at stake – a possible end of US neutrality – that this second opportunity in late July to photograph for the ambassadors a few original pages of one of the bound volumes was also rejected; perhaps the same ‘inhibition’ which had excluded photography of the bound volumes in May was still mysteriously effective almost three months later. This inhibition seems to have been of an absolute nature, a kind of taboo – unthinkable – or even an impossibility. If indeed impossible, the search for credible reasons has led to the only explanation which commends itself to common sense; it is impossible to photograph something which does not exist.

Footnotes

 

[1]   PRO HO 144/23481-199. Papers of Artemus Jones, Bangor University, BMSS/28093-28094; letter 1 March 1933 to W. Maloney.

[2] The Accusing Ghost by Alfed Noyes, 1957, Gollancz.

[3] PRO HO 144/23481-199. Papers of Artemus Jones, Bangor University, BMSS/28093-28094; letter 1 March 1933 to W. Maloney.

[4]Affidavit by Allen dated 19 August, 1960, NLI MS 13,452; letter from Allen to Maloney, 2 December, 1932, NLI MS 17,601(1).

[5]PRO HO 144/1636 … 3A.

[6] Letter from Inge to Alfred Noyes 24 December, 1953 cited in MacColl p 280.

[7] Letter from Inge to Alfred Noyes 24 December, 1953 cited in MacColl p 280.

[8] PRO HO 144/23481, History of the Casement Diaries. March, 1959, Working Party.

[9] PRO FO 395,43

[10] PRO HO 144/ 23481-202.

[11] PRO HO 144/1636. 15 & 17 July, 1916.

[12]  PRO HO 144/23481, History of the Casement Diaries, para 4.  March, 1959, Home Office Working Party.

[13] Communications to the author from TNA officials in August & September 2017.

[14] Facsimile copy of the Gaselee letter in MEPO 2/10672 from TNA contains Carter’s handwritten note; also available online.

[15] Quinn’s letters here cited are held in the Quinn Papers at New York Public Library.

[16] References to various PRO files can be found in B.L. Reid The Lives of Roger Casement p 421.

[17] Roger Casement, Brian Inglis, 1973. London.

[18] Memorandum of 19 July to cabinet cited by B.L. Reid in The Lives of Roger Casement, p 418.

[19] PRO HO 144/23481. “The Ambassador was given photographs of two passages from the typescript.” History of the Casement Diaries. March, 1959, Home Office Working Party.

[20] References to various PRO files can be found in B.L. Reid The Lives of Roger Casement p 421.