Letter sent by A. Fenner Brockway to the Central Tribunal declining to make any application to it.

Date

1917-01-17

Title

Letter sent by A. Fenner Brockway to the Central Tribunal declining to make any application to it.

Date

1917-01-17

Description

Letter declining alternative service

Subject

reasons for declining alternative service by WWI British C.O.

Coverage

Great Britain

Creator

Brockway, A. Fenner

Source

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Publisher

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Rights

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Format

image/jpg

Language

English

Type

letter / document

Identifier

BrockwayLetterToCentralTribunal.jpg

Transcription

LETTER SENT BY A. FENNER BROCKWAY TO THE CENTRAL TRIBUNAL AFTER DECLINING TO MAKE ANY APPLICATION TO IT.

January 17, 1917

J.W. Reading, Clerk to the Central Tribunal.

Some explanation is due to the members of the Central Tribunal as to the reasons which led me to decline to make an application to it when invited to do so yesterday. I do not want this action to be interpreted as an act of discourtesy.

The letter inviting me to attend the Tribunal is couched in the terms of an ultimatum, and threatens me with being "returned to the control of the Military Authorities." No doubt the Tribunal imagines that imprisonment will have broken the spirit of those who receive this invitation and that such language will frighten them. If so, it is mistaken. The Government may imprison my body, but it cannot imprison my mind and spirit. They are as free as ever they were.

Before I was sentenced to imprisonment, I declined to undertake "work of national importance" as a means of escaping military service. I declined, because acceptance would have represented to me a bargain with militarism. I could not conscientiously purchase my freedom from military service by agreeing ot do other work imposed by the Tribunal. Since I have been in prison I have thought a great deal about the question, and my opposition to Alternative Service has been strengthened.

The taunt most frequently levelled against C.O's. is that they they are prepared to remain at home in safety, whilst others lay down their lives to maintain the security which they enjoy. If C.O's acquiesced in the prosecution of the War, I think this taunt would be justified, but when they protest, as they do by all the means in their power against the continuation of the War by a single hour, it seems tome the force of this criticism disappears. I believe the C.O's. who have accepted Alternative Service feel that protest as sincerely as those who have declined it, but for me, at any rate, the acceptance of Alternative Service would imply acquiescence in the War, would imply by the very fact that I agreed to accept for myself an alternative that I concurred in others being sent to fight. Hence, it is quite impossible for me to accept any form of Alternative Service.

And even if I were in favour of Alternative Service in principle, I could not accept that form of Alternative Service which the Central Tribunal in its prison-revising capacity is allowed to offer. Before I took up the work, I would be required t sign a document by which I would agree to work under any conditions the Home Office liked to enforce. There is only one word by which work so imposed can be described -- that word is slavery.

Holding these views, and the genuineness of my conscientious convictions having already been admitted by the Central Tribunal when it considered my application for Absolute Exemption before I was handed over to the military authorities, I felt it fruitless to ask the Central Tribunal to hear me again, since on this occasion it does not possess the right to give that Absolute Exemption which will alone meet my conscientious convictions.

Faithfully yours,

Citation

Brockway, A. Fenner, “Letter sent by A. Fenner Brockway to the Central Tribunal declining to make any application to it.,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed November 14, 2018, http://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1193.

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  1. BrockwayLetterToCentralTribunal.jpg