CONSCIENCE DEFINED

From the Tribunal 12th October 1916
This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s jounal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_ For other extracts go to:_ http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Barratt Brown, being a Quaker, has a conscience, Chamberlain, not being a Quaker, has not. – Q.E.D.

A. Barratt Brown and W.J. Chamberlain appeared before the Birmingham Local Tribunal on Friday last. Barratt Brown’s appeal was taken first. He based his claim for absolute exemption on the ground that he believed all war – however noble the aim – to be both un-Christian and immoral. He understood the teaching of Jesus to mean implicit faith in God and unalterable love of man. He could not reconcile this with Dreadnoughts and high explosives. The Military Service Acts were intended to organise the national resources for war. He could not allow his services to be conscripted – however indirectly – for such a purpose. Civil alternatives would be a bargaining and compromise of conscience. To give up working for the welfare and liberties of his fellow-citizens and for peace among the nations would be disloyalty to his country and his God.

Appellant, questioned as to his connection with the Society of Friends, said he was a member of various committees connected with that body. The Chairman said he regarded appellant as a danger to the State, but he thought that his type of man had caused the Government to put the conscience clause in the Bill. He granted exemption, though he disagreed with the statements made.

W.J. Chamberlain’s case was heard immediately after. He said he believed with an intensity such as no power on earth could overrule in the Brotherhood of man, and the doctrine of non-resistance as enunciated by the Christs of all ages. He was a Socialist, believing that Socialism and Christianity, rightly interpreted, were identical. He held the view that the best service he could render his fellows was to strive to his utmost to advance the cause of peace, and to endeavour to bring about a recognition of the fact that the only hope for humanity was that the peoples of the world, realising their brotherhood, would refuse to be lead the shambles for mutual massacre. He could not accept any form of alternative service. He claimed that his present work in connection with the N.C.F. was of vital national importance.

In reply to the Chairman, he said that he was not a member of any religious body as he was not aware of any such body to which he could conscientiously belong – members of all the alleged Christian bodies were at present slaughtering their fellows in the name of the Prince of Peace.

The Chairman said the decision was to refuse the appeal. He did not look upon appellant as a conscientious objector, and his work was not considered of national importance. Appellant asked leave to make a statement but the Chairman refused to hear him, remarking “I am not going to enter into any arguments!”

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