Charles R. N. Mackie to Isaac Sharpless, July 1, 1915



Christchurch, N.Z., July 1st. 1915.

Principal Sharpless,
[Haverford] College,

Dear Sir,

Our attention has been called to the attempt now being made in Pennsylvania to put forward the claims of Conscription, and the consequent opposition on the part of the Members of the Society of Friends and others to the proposal. It has been thought that a few words from us regarding our experiences of a system of Compulsory Military Training and Service might be of interest and possible use to you in what we trust will be a strong opposition to any such proposal.

In the year 1909 the Government introduced a Bill embodying the principle of Conscription in what is now known as the [Defense] Act. Previous to this there had been opinions expressed by some few Members of Parliament in [favor] of such a scheme, as, it was contended, the Volunteer System had failed and, besides, it was manifestly unfair for a small body of enthusiasts to train at considerable inconvenience and expense in order to protect the majority who <are> either too lazy or indifferent or busy to train themselves. Sir Joseph Ward, the Premier, strenuously withstood these arguments, contending that: --

(1) An adequate system of [defense] would require 160,000 men, and that the cost of training and equipping so large a force would be too great a burden.

(2) That the people did not require any such system and certainly would resist any attempts to impose it upon them.

(3) That the geographical peculiarities and the scattered industrial and agricultural nature of the Dominion would render a scheme of the kind practically unworkable. There are wide [sparsely] populated areas in the country.

This was in 1908. The very next year the Premier attended the Imperial Conference in London and when he returned he quietly introduced a Bill [page 2] for Compulsory Military Training and Service. The universal obligation Clause reads as follows: --


12 to 18 in the Senior Cadets.

18 to 21 in the General Training Section.

21 to 30 in the Reserves.

In the Amending Act of 1910 alterations were effected as follows: --

14 to 18 in the Senior Cadets.

18 to 25 in the Territorials.

25 to 30 in the Reserves.
(Sec. 42 & 44 Def. Amd. Act 1912, & Sec. 6. Def. Amd. 1910).

In the principal Act the Territorial Force was composed of the old Volunteers, but under the amending act it comes from the S. Cadets direct until the establishment is brought up to 30,000 when the surplus Cadets are transferred into the G.I. Section. Under Section [45] ALL persons liable to be trained must REGISTER. It is obvious that any system of compulsion inaugurated under circumstances as outlined by the Premier in 1908 would require severe penal laws. There are only three classes of EXEMPTIONS provided for in the Act, viz., Physical unfitness, Religious Belief, and in the case of hardship in being compelled to attend drills [etc.] to the neglect of his work. With the exception of the first mentioned it is difficult to obtain relief from the Act as the military Authorities naturally place all the obstacles they can in the way of granting exemptions. The onus of proof lies with the Defaulters.

The troubles foretold by Sir Joseph Ward actually happened when the Act was put into operation in June 1911, and in two and a half years from then no fewer than 10,245 prosecutions are recorded in the Official Handbook for 1914 which brings the statistics up to the end of 1913. In the early months of 1914 the Government enforced the Act with renewed vigor and the result was a large proportional increase in prosecutions; but we have not yet the figures officially. (William Harvey of Westtown, Pa. has this Official Hand-book, and I am sure he would willingly let you see it if you so desire). He visited us a few weeks ago.

In a few words we should like to give you some idea of the penalties provided under the [Defense] Act and for that purpose we shall tabulate them [page 3] as follows: --

1. Non-registration. A CONTINUING [OFFENSE]. (Sec. 55, Def. Amd. Act 1912).

2. Not rendering personal service. ([Sec.] 51, [Def.] Act 1909).

3. Not taking the Oath of allegiance. ([Sec.] 50, [Def. Act 1909]).

4. Obstructing Drills or Parades [etc.] ([Sec.] 57, [Def. Act 1909]).

5. Failing to appear on parade, in drills or Camps with uniforms, prescribed Arms [etc.] [Sec.] 55, [Def.] Amd. Act. 1912).

6. Failing to give notice of change of address or, on transfer, failing to report arrival at new address, [etc.] ([Sec.] 188.221, 226 "Regulations of the Military Forces of N.Z. 1913). And Section 449 of the said Regulations makes it compulsory for W.C., M.C.C., and men of the Territorials and Cadets to obtain permission from C.O., to LEAVE NEW ZEALAND. The first five [offenses] are punishable before the civil Magistrate, the last is a military [offense] and is dealt with by Officers. The maximum fine that a Magistrate can give is £5, in the case of Nos., 1, 2, & 3; and £1 in No. 4, and £5 in No. 5. In No. 6, 7/6 and £1 respectively, may be inflicted by the Officers.

In ADDITION to fines, however, in respect to Nos., 2, 3, & 5: --

"(1), When any person is convicted under sub-section one of section fifty-one of the Principal Act of any [offense] committed after the passing of this Act, the convicting Magistrate or Justices may, in his or their discretion, in addition to imposing a fine under that section, order as part of the conviction that the offender shall be deprived of civil rights for any period not exceeding ten years.

"(2), Any person so deprived of civil rights shall, during the period of deprivation, be incapable of being appointed to any office or employment whether permanent or temporary, in the public Service, and shall not be entitled to be or remain registered on any electoral roll under the Legislative Act 1909.

"(5), No such deprivation of civil rights shall affect the obligation of the offender to render personal service under the Principal Act, and the Act shall continue to apply to him in all respects as [if] no such order of deprivation had been made." (Section 56, Def. Amd. Act 1912).

It will be seen from this section that the Defaulters may be fined over and over again, notwithstanding that they have actually lost their civil rights, and, presumably, they can be deprived of their civil rights for each subsequent [offense] for a term of ten years. No such instance has yet occurred, but one lad has [page 4] been deprived of his civil rights for two terms of three years.

Should the lad refuse to pay the fine an attachment order may be made upon the EMPLOYER for the amount and some lads have in this way had to forfeit large sums of money. Should the lad leave his employment, as many have done, he can be imprisoned in a common jail or detained in a Military Fortress for a period not exceeding 28 days for each [offense]. Whilst in detention he can be required to perform the same class of military duties for which he is being punished and if he refuse he must be brought before the Magistrate and can be sentenced to a further term of 28 days and if he should prove insubordinate in any other way he is liable to a further 28 days. (Sec. 2, 6, 8, Def. Amd. Act 1912). The periods of detention are cumulative. It should be remembered that the Defaulters are liable to this form of punishment FOR EVERY DEFAULT so that a lad could easily, if the Authorities liked, be continuously in detention for years. As it is we have had cases in which lads have been continuously in detention for over 90 days! According to the Commandant's last Report there have been 234 lads in detention in the twelve months ending April 30th, 1914. About 100 lads have been sent to the common jail since the [Defense] Act came into force, but that form of punishment is not now resorted to.

There is a very [debatable] clause in the Act which provides EQUIVALENT SERVICE for all lads receiving exemptions on the ground of their Religious Beliefs. The Government have so far been entirely unable to enforce this clause as it is practically impossible to provide EQUIVALENT Service for military training and military service. Public Bodies have been appealed to by the Minister of [Defense] but nothing came of that and a large number of suggestions have been made but likewise without success. We are opposed absolutely to either what is called equivalent service and training. We disagree with militarism altogether and we can have nothing to do with any substitute.

Our main objections to the system are contained in a leaflet, enclosed, which we issued at the first, but we would [emphasize] the very serious nature of the disenfranchisement of OBJECTORS. Here we have the principle set up that the Minority must have its only means of remedy withdrawn and that in a very large number of instances BEFORE the age of 21 when this right of citizenship can be exercised!

We also object very strenuously to the infringement of educational privileges as per leaflet enclosed, and we feel that no protest can be too strong in this regard.

We have written thus lengthily because we [realize] the importance of the matter and the subtlety of the military in introducing what at first appears to be a [quite] [page 5] harmless measure but which, like the snow-ball, grows as it rolls along. The people have been told repeatedly that such a system is excellent physical training and is good for discipline. It has not proved itself to be so here, but even if it had these results could have been gained less expensively and much more efficiently in other ways.

You are at liberty to make what use you like of this letter, and we trust in conclusion that you will oppose any and every measure which has for its object the increase of militarism and the subjugation of the manhood of the country to <a> military caste.

Yours faithfully,

Chas. R. N. Mackie. [signed]