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The present situation renders Conscription imperative, continued

Mr. BRANDON-THOMAS referred people who said conscription would not work to the example of France. The idea that one volunteer is worth three conscripts seemed to rankle in his mind, and he eulogised the German soldier’s fighting qualities. After a brief tirade against strikers, he resumed his seat.

The PRESIDENT deplored the lack of definition hitherto painfully evident in the speeches of the House. He considered that conscription should refer to all branches of work such as munition making, not only to active service. He fiercely resented Mr. Brandon-Thomas’s desire to win the war by hook or crook ; but conscription was not slavery, it was elementary justice. Of course we wanted more men, and there were plenty to get. If the people refused to have conscription, they must go under and Democracy be proved a failure.

The VICE-PRESIDENT wanted to know how we were to discriminate between who should go and who not. He made the extraordinary remark that our Government was as autocratic as that of Germany, citing the Prime Minister as an example.

Mr. JACKSON considered we could avoid the difficulty by letting our colonies have conscription and fight for us.

Mr. ABRAHAMS pointed out the impertinence of this suggestion. He denied that we should not be able to free ourselves from conscription after the war.

Mr. HARROD made a fierce attack on the ethics of conscription. It was Great Britain’s sacred duty to uphold the cause of freewill. She had forgotten it in America, in India. Let her not forget it again. The failure of the voluntary system would entail a defeat greater than any Germany could inflict upon us.

Mr. BRANDON-THOMAS denied this, and asked if the House considered France a country of slaves with no regard for freewill. With reference to Mr. Jackson’s remark, he waxed eloquent over the ‘ Yellow Peril.’

The Debate then resolved itself into a series of isolated quarrels, the fiercest being that between the President and Mr. Harrod on the rights of the individual.

After a final summing up by the VICE-PRESIDENT the motion was put to the House, and carried by 12 votes to nine.

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The present situation renders Conscription imperative

THE House met on Thursday, September 30, to discuss the motion ‘ That in the opinion of this House the present situation renders Conscription imperative.’

The Proposer (Mr. J. R. BRANDON-THOMAS) laid emphasis on the words ‘ the present situation.’ More men were wanted and were not forthcoming, nor were they likely to join after a year’s refusal, and this knowledge would have a prejudicial effect on our men at the Front. He did not think we had come out very well in the war so far ; we had had the usual quarrels with the Labour Party, for instance. That sort of thing didn’t happen in France or Germany. Why not ? Because the culprits were immediately called to the colours, for there is conscription in those countries. The chief difficulty, the Proposer considered, was how conscription was to be worked, and this was outweighed by its advantages. The chief of these was, perhaps, that the country had absolute knowledge of its own strength ; lack of organisation was the chief fault of the Voluntary System. He finished by commenting on the disgraceful methods of recruiting by advertisements and bribery now obtaining in this country, and poured scorn on the theory that a volunteer was worth three conscripts. Mr. Brandon-Thomas is a very fluent orator, but his speeches usually lack cohesion and arrangement.

The Opposer (The TREASURER) began by accusing Mr. Brandon-Thomas of being a militarist, and of showing the spirit against which we are fighting. Conscription, in plain words, was slavery. He then proceeded to draw some parallels from history : Germany was driven to conscription, because she was a country of small States which had to be held together by some tie. France virtually had conscription during the Napoleonic wars, and had not been able to get rid of it since, also she had Germany on her borders. Italy also had consisted of small States. Therefore all parallels from foreign countries failed in our case. Voluntary service was the only way to oppose German militarism, and the adoption of conscription after a year’s war would be an admission that the ideals of our country had been found wanting. He stated that no country could possibly put more than ten per cent. of its population in the field, and in our case this amounted to nearly four and a half millions. We had already over four millions training or in the field. England provided an immense amount of equipment for herself and her Allies, and therefore required a great industrial army. After pointing out the disruption which conscription would cause in the country, he denied the Opposer’s statement as toour lack of organisation. The Treasurer speaks with great conviction, but his delivery is halting and frequently inaudible.

The Seconder (Mr. A. ABRAHAMS) , with the help of a great many statistics, informed the House that there were at least one and a half million men who were able to join the Forces. Conscription, he considered, would be fairer and more economical all round. As to the ‘ volunteer worth three conscripts ‘ fallacy, Napoleon practically conquered the world with a conscript army. He said that the Opposer’s views were those of a sentimentalist, and, after informing the House that he knew twenty-seven slackers, sat down.

The VICE-PRESIDENT said that whatever Napoleon did with a conscript army, he was in the end beaten by Wellington with a voluntary army. He then rivalled Mr. Abrahams in the production of statistics, which entirely disagreed with any the Society had hitherto heard. He enlarged on the Opposer’s argument that we need a great industrial army. He finished by pointing out the impossibility of training so many men in such a short time.

Mr. BRANDON-THOMAS again rose and said that the ideal of voluntaryism was good, but it would not win the war. Games at School, if voluntary, were scantily attended ; some form of compulsion was necessary. He drew a somewhat confused parallel between Russian peasants and British labourers.

The debate was then adjourned till the next meeting.

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