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From the archive: On compelling shirkers to do their duty

The Spectator’s stance on conscription, January 1916

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

From ‘The Position of the Government’, The Spectator, 15 January 1916: Any man who knew the nature of Englishmen, or rather, let us say, of the English-speaking race, during war, would have been able to foretell that an enactment to compel shirkers to do their duty would be certain of something like universal acceptance… Our people is a brave people in deeds, if not in words. It is, however, the disconcerting way of Englishmen to be perfectly illogical at times of crisis. For example, they feel not the slightest difficulty in telling you that they are dead against ‘conscription’ and will never agree to it, but that they are quite determined to compel men by law to serve their country in arms if they show any signs of shirking their duty in that respect.


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