MANIFESTO OF THE ABSOLUTISTS AT WAKEFIELD

From The Tribunal September 26th 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 further extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

It is not generally known that there are to-day over 1,500 Conscientious Objectors in prison. Of these nearly 700 have served sentences amounting to two years’ hard labour. The Government is now transferring those long sentence men to Wakefield prison, and instead of granting them the absolute exemption which is their right, is trying to induce them to administer their own punishment by working a scheme of Industrial Conscription. in the following manifesto the men set forth clearly their reason for refusing to surrender the principle for which they have already suffered two years’ imprisonment.

H.M. Prison, Wakefield, Sept. 14, 1918

In view of the misunderstanding and misrepresentation concerning the principles of the Absolutist Conscientious Objectors, we issue the following brief statement:-

1. Our vital principle as Absolutists is not a refusal to serve the community. It is that we cannot accept either Military Service or any compulsory work, organised to facilitate the prosecution of the war.

2. Therefore, we cannot accept any scheme of work, involving our actual or implied consent to the carrying out of any such purpose.

3. We are faced with a situation, submission to which may involve the complete denial of our principles, by implicitly introducing an element of voluntary or semi-voluntary co-operation on our part.

4. It appears the Government still misunderstand our principles, in that they take for granted that any safe or easy conditions can meet the imperative demands of our conscience. No offer of schemes or concessions can do this. We stand for the inviolable rights of conscience in the affairs of life. We ask for liberty to serve, and if necessary to suffer for the community and its well-being. As long as the Government deny us this right, we can only take with cheerfulness and unmistable determination whatever penalties are imposed upon us.

We want no concessions. We desire only the liberty to serve.

Signed on behalf of the Absolutists in Wakefield Prison:

WALTER HE. AYLES, Chairman
P.T. DAVIES, General Secretary
W. H. THOMPSON
E.P. SOUTHALL
HENRY SARA
J. SCOTT DUCKERS
GEO. HORWILL (Members of the Advisory Committee)

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