THE F.S.C. APPEAL

From The Tribunal July 11th 1918

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

Our readers will remember that on May 24, Harrison Barrow, Edith M. Ellis and Arthur Watts, Chairman and Secretaries of the Friends’ Service Committee, were sentenced under D.O.R.A. 27c, for not submitting to the Censor their leaflet, entitled “A Challenge to Militarism.” This led to a very interesting appeal at the Guildhall on July 3.

The endeavour to shut out the public, although the London Sessions are public courts, was typical of the far from impartial treatment that was meted out to Harrison Barrow (who was conducting the case for the appellants) by the Bench all the way through. He overcame this difficulty by gentle persistence and throughout met all the obstacles which were put in his way with great ability and a sweet dignity which bore testimony to his very real faith in the pacifist way of life. It was made perfectly clear by Harrison Barrow himself and by all the witnesses he called, that the Friends’ Service Committee took full responsibility for their refusal to submit leaflets to the Censor, and were guided in their action by the deepest religious conviction and a strong sense of their duty towards humanity. That this position is endorsed by the Society of Friends is amply proved by the fact that on the passing of 27c the Society publicly proclaimed their decision not to submit any leaflets to the Censor. In further evidence of the feeling of the Society on this point, John H. Barlow, Clerk to the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, went into the witness box and read a Minute passed on May 22 at the Yearly Meeting, after proceedings against the F.S.C. had been instituted, supporting the Committee’s action.

It had been said by the prosecution at the formal trial of the case, that no class or sect could be exempted from complying with the regulation, but Harrison Barrow brought forward evidence that there is a privileged class which is exempt, a class which includes the Liberal Publication Department, the Labour Party, Lord Grey, etc., but this was disallowed.

Although Sir Alfred Newton (Chairman) and the other magistrates had appeared very restive and impatient during the hearing of the case, as soon as Harrison Barrow began his own statement the force of his own personality and his very evident sincerity seemed to to take hold of them and they became silent and attentive. Edith Ellis than made her statement; she spoke calmly and impressively and a deep note of conviction rang through every word she said. The rapt attention of the magistrates and those present in court lasted throughout her speech and that of Arthur Watts, which was full of fire and intentsity. Such was the impression created in the Court by the obvious earnestness of the speakers, that one felt that the Bench could not fail to understand such testimony to the power of truthm and it came somewhat as a shock to hear Sir Arthur Newton announcing that he could “hardly contain his indignation” at the way in which the defendants had “deliberately flaunted the authorities and gloried in it.” He dismissed the appeal with costs.

Just as the court was adjourned, Cecil Whiteley (Barrister) arose abd said that he represented a large number of the Members of the Society of Friends who wished him to say that they were law-abiding subjects of the realm and did not identity in any way with the views of the appellants. Although Mr. Whiteley’s remarks were entirely out of order, Sir Alfred Newton expressed himself delighted to hear them.

Edith Ellis was quite firm in her re-refusal to pay her fine (£100 and £50 costs), but the authorities are about to try and obtain the money by distraint. Harrison Barrow and Arthur Watts were taken off at once to serve their six months in Pentonville, where we are sure the thoughts and sympathy of all our readers will follow them.

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