20 JANUARY 1900, Page 14



SIR,—I have just read, with great thankfulness, Mn Horsfall's letter on the above subject Ten years' work as vicar of a very poor London parish convinced me long ago that if we wish to preserve the manhood of our people, which is being sapped by the evil conditions of life in our great cities, the most practical way of doing so is to adopt universal conscription. The great number of lads in my parish who, through bad air, bad food, bad companionship, &c., grew up to manhood stunted, undeveloped, undisciplined, without acquiring the qualities of true manhood, caused me a daily heartache. The marvellous improvement, moral as well as physical, which a year's training in the Army or Navy wrought in such lads as I persuaded to go in for it, convinced me that, whatever their evils may be, these services at any rate impart certain moral qualities,—manliness, discipline, obedience, self-mastery, just those qualities which the lads I speak of lacked, and without which the battle of life can neither be won materially nor spiritually. Hence, speak- ing as a minister of Christ, I am able to advocate conscription. But I have found with great regret that no paper seemed willing to take up the matter. The truth is, most people consider it useless to propose con- scription to the English people. They would not listen to it; they think it must clash with their two most cherished devotions,—trade and liberty. But is this really the case Certainly not ; and that is my hope for my country. Only let it be proved that conscription need not interfere with either trade or liberty, nay, can be made to subserve both, and Englishmen will not refuse to entertain the subject. But the proof is ready to hand. The Germans, who take care to be always ready for war, and thereby secure to them- selves the blessings of peace, will tell you that their trade has made vastly greater strides since they adopted universal conscription than ever it did before. And, again, they say that, far from interfering with liberty, conscription imparts to their people the best sort of liberty,—that which comes out of self-mastery. It not only works wonders for their bodily health, but also imparts to their characters qualities which make for success in life. I should add that they soften its difficulties with great wisdom. Every really unsound lad and every lad who is the support of his parents is exempted; all are allowed seven years to choose from,—viz., the ages from eighteen to twenty-five; and employers make a point of keeping open, as far as possible, the places of those who are "serving."

I would, therefore, earnestly urge my fellow-countrymen to consent to the discipline of conscription. It need not inter- fere with trade or liberty ; nay, it can be made to subserve both. It will be our best safeguard against invasion, which, let me add, is not thought impossible in this country. It is the most practical method at hand to arrest the decay in our national physique caused by life in our cities. It will serve to secure to ourselves the blessings of peace, and at the same time vastly increase our influence for peace and liberty in the councils of the nations. And it will enable us to hand down intact to our children that splendid heritage of empire which we and our forefathers have built up, and of which half the world is now jealous. I will only add that although lungs damaged by work in London slums prevent me from emulating Mr. Horsfall's spirited offer of personal military service, I will, to make up for that defect, most gladly under- take to give a double proportion of my capital to what he has offered of his towards a really efficient scheme of compulsory national military training.—I am, Sir, &a,