Letters - a hundred years ago

From conscientious objection to our young men

Conscientious Objection

…A number outside our Society who feel it wrong to take human life are prepared to undertake service under the military authority which does not involve this, and a number of Friends have already taken the same view; a very large number are eager to do service which does not promote the military ends of the war; while some conscientious objectors, whose view I am not able to share, feel that they cannot agree to undertake any specific service which the State may require of them in war time, lest by so doing they should contribute to its greater efficiency in war. There are also those who feel a Divine call to the particular work on which they are engaged, and cannot lay this aside to take up other duties at the demand of the State. It is well that we should realise these different standpoints…

T Edmund Harvey
21 January 1916

For alternative service

I hope that Friends will very carefully consider their position before they reject the suggestion of Alternative Service in connection with the Conscience Clause in the present Army Bill. The recognition of the universal duty to give public service is one of the most satisfactory developments of religious life during the last one or two generations, and it appears to me that the repudiation of any form of alternative service may seriously endanger the position already reached in this direction.

It seems almost impossible to select any form of public service which is quite free from the charge of assisting the war, and on the other hand the non-combatant work of the army and its allied auxiliaries carries with it much that is useful from a civil standpoint, and the refusal to take part in any of these directions as an alternative will, I think, be regarded by most people as an unnecessary and futile straining after complete consistency. At present there are many people who, while they do not share the views, respect the sincerity of others who refuse to fight. The attitude of those who decline any alternative service will go far to jeopardise this respect…

William Darby
21 January 1916

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