5 JUNE 1909, Page 3

The Westminster Gazette of Tuesday quotes a very striking utterance

of George Meredith's on the question of national service. Here are his words :—

" The fear of death is the real cause of the English objection to conscription. Men come to me and say their trade would suffer, or they could not spare two years from their apprenticeship. Their real meaning is that they are afraid of being called out and getting shot at. So they pay others to do the killing and dying for them. Every manly nation submits to universal service. In the present state of the world it counts among the necessities for safety. But nothing short of an invasion and the capture of London would induce England to think of it seriously. As it is 80,000 Germans could march through England from end to end."

The alleged capacity of the eighty thousand Germans is of course a great exaggeration. Again, Englishmen do not fear death more than other people. But their fault is in not recognising the fact that all men desire to avoid the risk of death. We are apt to pretend the contrary.