COURTMARTIAL DEFENCE

From The Tribunal July 18th 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

Of H.R. Cudbird, July 2nd 1918, at Blackdown Camp

“I resist conscription because I am opposed to war and every form of militarism, and after two sentences involving over 18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour, I am still resolutely opposed to any compromise whatever with compulsory military service, whatever the consequences, and I feel I am doing a work not only of national but of international importance.

I do not hold myself liable to observe military law; my inner conviction of what is right is the truest and best guide to conduct and the only one to which I feel allegiance. It is because loyalty to conscience is my true defence that it meets with no recognition by a military Tribunal, since military law knows no truth.

Both religion and morality, however, have a social value greater than their importance to the individual. To be faithful to the vision of a better humanity, to preserve freedom and justice, it is imperative to override military necessity, or military necessity reduces the best ideals to futilities. Conscription is the indispensable tool of militarism wherever it is found, and militarism, like every evil, has its roots in false ideals, the extensions of which cut right across national geographical boundaries. And the increasing extension, likewise in all countries, of those whose humanitarian feelings are outraged by war is also not confined to any artificial territorial divisions. The growth of the collective human spirit is widespread, and it is fostered by a religious faith and a social altruism greater than national sentiment.

If I had obeyed the alleged order I could not justify myself. I do not require to defend disobedience; there is no valid reason why I should obey. This Tribunal administers certain laws, but what is the justification of these laws? They enact conscription, they have militarised British rule, they have destroyed in a few years the whole fabric of religious and political liberty which the genius of England had built up by centuries of struggle. They have combined with the military licence of other countries to devastate Europe, to destroy lives and break numberless hearts; is it not time they were disobeyed. The war has immeasurably increased every danger it was intended to avert. The peoples in Russia, in Ireland, and in Austria, cry aloud that the laws must be broken if humanity is to be saved from the projects of selfish imperialism, the rivalry of ambitious powers and the intrigues of diplomats, and the cry finds an echo in every part of Europe. All the world sees now the futility of war war and longs for the break-up of the military machine, yet hesitates through pride an servility and fear to adopt the only way. This court cannot consider a plan of justification in those proceedings, but history will confirm that such a plea is based on a high conception of the true interests of humanity.

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