_h3. From The Tribunal September 21 1916
This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
for other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal
An interview with Mr. Norman Angell has been printed in several American papers. Including the “New York Times,” on the struggle of the conscientious objector. He says he believes the conscientious objectors are doing their country and English tradition a very real service.
“In handling the problem of the conscientious objector,” he says, “the Government has managed somehow to get itself in the ridiculous position: it bears most heavily upon precisely those about whose genuineness of conviction there can be no possible doubt.” Dealing with conditions of exemption, he says:-
“The position under the law is that the Military Service Act grants exemption from military service to those who have conscientious scruples against it. The problem is to see that is not made a loophole for shirkers and cowards. Very good. Under the most recent instructions the way is made relatively easy for those who will accept ‘Alternative Service’- work on the land, or what not; but for those who refuse any task which facilitates the military machine, Mr. Lloyd George has announced his intention of making their path as hard as possible. So, if you will accept alternative service it is relatively easy to escape the trenches; if you refuse this alternative service – to which no risk is attached – into the ranks you go! So, for the man who refuses this easy escape – whose very refusal to accept is is proof that his main motive is not cowardice – that man goes to hard labour or the military prison, or is condemned to death. The Government in effect say: “If you want to save your skin we will make your way easy. But, if your object is obviously at whatever cost to register as a conscientious objector – well, we intend to make your way hard.’ It is admirably designed to create cowards and make sincere men suffer.
“There is of course one way out of the whole trouble: to grant absolute exemption from military service to those who have conscientious objection to it. A few shirkers would slip through – they do now. The government would lose the civilian services of a few men. It loses them now: nearly two thousand conscientious objectors are at present in jail. If the Government is determined, as Mr. Lloyd George seems to hint it is, to smash their spirit, it may be able to do son, but it will be at the price of methods it will have to borrow from Prussia, at the sacrifice of principles which really are worth more than the labour of a few thousand unwilling men. The practical point that we shall sacrifice things of very much greater value than those which we shall obtain.”