Last Thursday, the Concordia centre for Canadian Irish studies organized a lecture by Angus Mitchell, about the emergence and betrayal of western foreign policy last century.
The theme of the discussion was Under the Guise of Law: Imperial resource wars and popular agitation for an ethical foreign policy in the Atlantic world (1884-1913).
The main axis for this examination was the comparison of two largely forgotten men who played significant roles in world affairs.
They are James Bryce and Roger Casement, Irish natives. Mitchell aimed at comparing their imperial experiences, and highlighting Casement’s transgression from loyal imperial servant into anti-imperial revolutionary.
Bryce compromised humanity to defend the British Empire, whereas Casement criticized the system for its breakdown in moral foundations.
The Berlin Act of 1884 legitimized Europe’s advance into Africa, under the pretext of extending philanthropy, free trade, and Christian teachings.
Humanitarianism, according to Mitchell, was a buzzword in that period, comparable to today’s jargon-ethical globalization.
“The humanitarian action and rhetoric lay behind the abolition of the slave trade; a convenient mask to disguise economic motives,” said Mitchell.
“If humanitarianism and empire go hand in hand, so do then empire and extermination.”
In 1884, Casement was posted to Africa for multiple projects of the Congo Free State.
Soon after, as Mitchell pointed out, populations across central Congo discovered that the European law differed from what it espoused.
In 1903, Casement made known the brutality of King Leopold II’s free state, which was nothing but blind slaughter.