WHAT A SOLDIER THINKS

From The Tribunal March 7th 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

CAPTAIN GWNNE, M.p., ON CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS.

Speaking in the House of Commons on June 26th, 1917, Captain Gwynne, M.P. said:

“These are people who are not a blight upon the community; they may prove to be the very salt of the community. I am speaking now as one who has seen war. I think that everybody who has seen war has one governing desire, and that is to see war abolished from the world. I am not at all sure that these people, whom we propose to reject as outcasts of the State, may not be the best people to help in the fight to make an end of war. There is one thing that nobody can deny them, and that is courage, the most difficult form of courage in this world, the courage of the individual against the crowd. That is a courage which every State will do well to protect and guard. That is the courage which, above all others, makes for freedom. It is for that that I desire to see these men electors, and that I vote for giving them votes – just exactly as I would give votes to the soldiers – because they are the people who have shown not merely physical courage, but because they have made civic responsibility their plea. They have shown a spirit of initiative. These people, in refusing to act, have taken action which must have been extremely difficult to take, and when we are told that the good of the nation is somehow impaired by allowing these men a voice in our national councils, I ask myself. ‘What is the good of the nation’? Are you going to advance the real interests of this country, or of any country, by stamping out such people from among your full citizens? Progress, as far as I can understand, comes not with the crowd, but with individuals. Freedom in the last resort is won by individuals working against the crowd, and these are the people who make for freedom. It is in the interests of freedom during a war that is fought, at all events professedly, for freedom that I resist this attempt to limit what is the exercise of their legal freedom, and what is, I think with the Noble Lord, the exercise of higher morals.”

dove..