Conscientious Objection to War

August 17, 1939

Report Outline
Consription and Conscientious Objectors
Conscientious Objection in the Civil War
Conscientious Objection in the World War
Post-War Pacifism; New British Conscription
Special Focus

Consription and Conscientious Objectors

Nearly 4,000 young men subject to conscription in Great Britain, under the new law for compulsory military training, registered themselves as conscientious objectors. The provisions in the law governing treatment of such persons reflect the experience gained with the problem of conscientious objectors in the World War. During consideration of the Military Training bill in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Chamberlain said: “I want to make it clear here that in the view of the Government, where scruples are conscientiously held, we desire that they should be respected and that there should be no persecution of those who hold them.”

Conscientious objectors, although relatively not numerous, were a source of considerable difficulty to military and civil authorities in both Great Britain and the United States in the last war. In these countries, which had no tradition of compulsory military service, the problem was virtually a new one, and lack of understanding of the position of the conscientious objector, on the part both of the authorities and of the public, resulted in subjection of many so-called absolutist C. O.'s to punitive treatment of an extremely severe character.

Recent Rise and Decline of Pacifist Sentiment

After the war, various organizations were formed to promote the war-resistance movement, but their activities attracted little attention during the decade of world-wide prosperity. With the growth of international tensions in the depression, and with failure of the Disarmament Conference and renewal of the arms race, pacifist sentiment became more vocal. Thousands of persons, particularly in colleges and universities, swelled the ranks of potential conscientious objectors by subscribing to peace pledges whereby they promised never to participate in another war.

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Aug. 17, 1939  Conscientious Objection to War
Military Draft
War and Conflict
World War II