Political Prisoners in Portugal

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Political Prisoners in Portugal is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 13 may 1913.

Political Prisoners in Portugal

The Times (13 may 1913)


Sir, — Portugal is our ancient ally, and we have given each other many mutual proofs of friendship in peace and in war. We cannot believe, however, that the present Government truly represents Portugal any more than Robespierre and his Jacobins represented France. We have before us cruelty, injustice, want of chivalry, everything which is alien to the real Portuguese nature. In protesting against it we are not wronging our old friend, but rather asking to see that friend's face once more.

No one can read without pain and anger the piteous tale of the thousands of political prisoners who have been held under the most barbarous conditions, some of them not even tried after two years, under a régime which supplies no food at all to an untried prisoner. The present condition of the Lisbon prisons seems to have been equalled only by those of Naples in the days of King Bomba. The damp, reeking, vermin-crawling cells are tenanted by men who are either entirely innocent or else are guilty only of being loyal to the régime under which they were brought up. Men are flogged - sometimes to death - and no voice can be raised in protest. Surely, Sir, if we have indeed any influence it can never be used in a better cause. But only energetic action can avail. Mere remonstrance has effected nothing.

There is a precedent in the case of Servia. That nation murdered its King and Queen under atrocious circumstances. We showed our sense of the crime by withdrawing our representative. The Portuguese — or a section of them — have also murdered their late King and his son. The present Government have made the deed their own, since public demonstrations have been permitted this very year in Lisbon in honour of the murderers. Why should we not do once more what we did in the case of Servia? It would make the powers that be in Portugal realise as nothing else would do how utterly unworthy they are to belong to the comity of nations. The mere threat of such an action might bring about an amnesty. If not, we can only show our displeasure by refusing to have any dealings with people so devoid of justice and humanity.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, May 5.