“What is needed is a short sharp and decisive conclusion”: Attorney General

Saturday Law Room, Dublin Castle

Dear Sir Matthew Nathan

In view of the developments of the situation to-day I wish to place in hand my opinion, already verbally communicated to you, of the steps that should immediately be taken.

In the first place it is vital & essential that no terms of any kind other than unconditional surrender should be offered or to be accepted from any person who has taken part in armed rebellion whether in the city & county of Dublin or elsewhere in any part of Ireland. In the case of the armed parties in the Country who have shot down a practically defenceless police force anything short of an unconditional surrender by the whole body without distinction will result in a fatal miscarriage of justice. Secondly all persons taken prisoner up to date or during the existence of Marshall Law should be dealt with by the military authority under Military Law. What is needed is a short sharp and decisive conclusion as to the measure of guilt and arrangement appropriate punishment in each case & to leave them to be dealt with hereafter by the Civil Tribunals of this country could prolong uncertainty and state of unrest and result in abortive prosecutions and a failure of justice. Thirdly there are as is well known in the city of Dublin in the vicinity, several persons in …. Aided & abetted this rebellion in different ways. These persons should be made amenable without an hour’s delay as it is certain that they are too possessive of incriminating documents & evidence which in the … of delay would undoubtedly be destroyed and justice then partially defeated. I should esteem it as a favour if you will … my views in these points submitted to the military authority and to his Excellency and the Chief Secretary.

James H Campbell A.G.

IMG_0892.jpg

Advertisements

2 thoughts on ““What is needed is a short sharp and decisive conclusion”: Attorney General

  1. This letter, dated Saturday, 29 April 1916, from the Attorney General, James H. Campbell, to Sir Matthew Nathan, Under Secretary, is highly significant!
    It constitutes the legal advice at top level that unconditional surrender of all participants in the rebellion was to be insisted on. As can be further seen from the preceding letter (Nathan’s letter of the same date to the Chief Secretary, transmitting this memorandum), it was circulated to the Lieutenant General Officer Commanding (the British military forces) and to the Chief Commissioner of the DMP. Thus, all parties at the highest level – administrative, legal, military, police, were aware of the contents of this legal opinion: unconditional surrender, military law to be applied, “a short sharp and decisive conclusion”. It is only a short step to conclude that this led to the executions the following week.

    Outside Dublin Castle, surrender negotiations between the representatives of the Provisional Government, via Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell, and Brigadier-General Lowe, commenced on this same Saturday, 29 April, from about 1.45 pm onwards. We don’t know whether the Attorney General’s memorandum was written before or after the negotiations commenced: he does open his memo by referring to “developments of the situation today . . .”.

    On this website (even using different browsers), I can only view page one of the Campbell memorandum. With a view to filling some of the gaps in the above transcribed text, I have about ten or twelve different readings interspersed throughout the memo. Rather than listing these one by one, hereunder is my reading for page one:

    Saturday Law Room, Dublin Castle

    Dear Sir Matthew Nathan

    In view of the developments of the situation to-day I wish to place on record my opinion, already verbally communicated to you, of the steps that should immediately be taken.
    In the first place it is vital & essential that no terms of any kind other than unconditional surrender should be offered to or accepted from any person who has taken part in armed rebellion whether in the City & County of Dublin or elsewhere in any part of Ireland. In the case of the armed parties in the Country who have shot down a practically defenceless police force anything short of an unconditional surrender by the entire party without distinction will result in a fatal miscarriage of justice. Secondly all persons taken prisoner up to date or during the existence of Martial Law should be dealt with by the Military Authority under Military Law. What is needed is a short sharp and decisive conclusion as to the measure of guilt and consequent appropriate punishment in each case & to leave them to be dealt with hereafter by the Civil Tribunals of this country would prolong indefinitely a state of unrest and result in abortive prosecutions and a failure of justice. Thirdly there are as is well . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Seamus, thank you for all your careful edits — they have been acknowledge on the Roll of Honour. I’ve added the second image above. I plan to make the full raw images available asap.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s