Correspondence: Release or Imprisonment/

From The Trinunal March 21st 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

To the Editor of The Tribunal

Dear Comrade, – I am taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to me by the brief interval between the sentence of imprisonment which I have just completed and the one which I will begin in a few days, to impress upon the readers of the “Tribunal” the grave and urgent necessity of continuing with greater vigour than ever before the agitation and demand for the release of the absolutists.

I have just finished reading the two letters which appeared under the above heading in the issue of the “Tribunal” for February 28th, the one by Douglas Bishop, and the other by Oswald Clark. With the letter of Douglas Bishop I am wholeheartedly in agreement, and on behalf of many hundreds of absolutists C.O.‘s , as well as their relatives, I give him my sincere and hearty thanks. But with Comrade Clark’s demand that we should place “Peace” before “Release” in our programme, I cannot at all agree. The No-Conscription Fellowship is not merely a Peace Association. It is true that we earnestly desire, and are willing to work for peace, but the Fellowship did not come into existence merely as a Peace Society; it had a special object in view. The first and foremost object of the No-Conscription Fellowship is, and ought to be, as its name suggests – no conscription. Our purpose and an N.C.F. must be the defeat of conscription, and one of the surest ways to defeat conscription is to obtain the early and, if possible, the immediate release of the absolutists.

Apart from the defeat of conscription, both the N.C.F. and the Friends’ Service Committee believe in the sacredness of life. Knowing this, as I do, I am not only unhappy, as Douglas Bishop says, but I am surprised and amazed to read of the recent decision of the Friends’ Service who maintain that “it is better for absolutists to remain in prison until public opinion is in favour of their release rather than that those outside who hold similar views should demand the release of these men.” For what does that decision mean? It means this. The absolutists who are now in prison will have to remain in prison for many years to come, and at the end of that time I am afraid that many of our comrades will have passed to life beyond, and may others will be complete physical and mental wrecks. I have spent the last eighteen months in and out of prison in studying closely the absolutist question, and I do not make that statement without full and careful consideration.

What the Friends’ Service Committee ought to do, in my opinion, is not to wait until the public is in favour of their release,” but instead to make the public acquainted with the facts. For there is a large section of the public who do not know of the stand of the absolutist, so careful is the Government and Press to give publicity only to the men who accept the scheme.

There are some among our comrades whose temperament is such that prison life has little effect on them, and others who believe in suffering for suffering’s sake, but these comrades should not say “do not agitate for us,” they are only entitled to say “do not agitate for me.” If something is not done withing the next twelve monts the services of many of our friends will be last to causes of progress, but perhaps that is the object of the Government. – Yours fraternally,
Arthur L.G. Williams,
No.7 Hut, N.C.C., E2 Lines,
Park Hall Camp, Oswestry,
March 9th, 1918

dove..