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THE CASE FOR
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO
DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



THE CASE FOR

COMPULSORY
MILITARY SERVICE



BY

G. G. COULTON



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1917



COPYRIGHT



GLASGOW : PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. LTD.



TO THOSE WHO

WITHOUT COMPULSION, HATRED, OR FEAR
HAVE STAKED OR LOST THEIR LIVES

IN OUR DEFENCE
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED



447045



AUTHOR'S PREFACE

THIS book was originally written for the Garton
Foundation, an institution intended for the im-
partial publication of documents and discussions
relating to important questions of war and peace.
For reasons into which it is unnecessary to enter,
the project for its publication by that body fell
through, and I now therefore turn in the ordinary
way to the general public.

The present volume may claim, perhaps, to be
the first attempt at a discussion of this great
national question on the firm ground of historical
and political facts. The most extraordinary errors
have hitherto been made by the most distinguished
men. Lord Salisbury, on the one hand, imagined
our own bowmen of Cr4cy and the modern Swiss
riflemen to be volunteers, while Lord Haldane
supposed that England was under a voluntary
system in the days of the Spanish Armada.
When, after the war, this question is finally settled
at leisure, it is essential that the general public



viii AUTHOK'S PKEPACE

should have no excuse for ignoring incontrovertible
historical facts : the author will therefore be glad to
accept rectifications, if necessary, from any quarter,
and to acknowledge them either in a second edition
or (if no such opportunity occur) on a sheet of
errata.

GREAT SHELFORD, CAMBRIDGE,
July, 1917.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

INTRODUCTION - 1

I. CONSCRIPTION IN THE ROMAN REPUBLIC - - - 11

II. VOLUNTARISM IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE - - - - 20

III. ITALY, FLANDERS, FRANCE AND ENGLAND -32

IV. FRANCE AND ENGLAND (Continued) - - 51
V. CONSCRIPTION AND CAESARISM IN FRANCE 63

VI. CONSCRIPTION AND CAESARISM IN GERMANY (I.) - 78

VII. CONSCRIPTION AND CAESARISM IN GERMANY (II.) - 90

VIII. BRITISH DEMOCRACY AND VOLUNTARISM IN THE

GREAT FRENCH WAR. (I.) THE INITIAL BLUNDER 101

IX. BRITISH DEMOCRACY AND VOLUNTARISM IN THE
GREAT FRENCH WAR. (II.) " PAPERING OVER

THE CRACKS" 115

X. BRITISH VOLUNTARISM SINCE 1815 - 125

XI. AMERICA AND MODERN FRANCE - 135

XII. THE Swiss MILITIA - - 157

XIII. SWITZERLAND AND BRITAIN - - 170

XIV. PRINCIPLE OR EXPEDIENCY - - - - 187



x CONTENTS

CHAPTBR PAGE

XV. VOLUNTEER RECRUITS - ... 202

XVI. VOLUNTEER FIGHTERS - - - 220

XVII. NON-MILITARY OBJECTIONS - - 239

XVIII. EDGED TOOLS - - 255

XIX. LAST OBJECTIONS - - 264

XX. CONCLUSION - - . - - 292

APPENDICES - - 300

INDEX 371



INTRODUCTION

So far as modern times are concerned, the compul-
sory system began with the French Revolutionary
levies of 1793. Since then, compulsion has gradually
been adopted in all European states except Great
Britain, and in all civilized countries except the
U.S.A. and some British Colonies. In America
military compulsion has never been seriously con-
sidered since the Civil War. In Britain, though
it had been advocated as early as 1871 by such
eminent thinkers as John Stuart Mill and Pro-
fessor J. E. Cairnes, and though Lord Roberta's
propaganda had made considerable headway during
the ten years preceding this war, the majority of
political Liberals thought themselves compelled,
on principle, to refuse it all serious hearing. We
therefore find two extremes of thought on this
subject. To Americans at one end of the scale,
compulsory soldiering seems almost as unthinkable
as compulsory religion. 1 Throughout the Continent

1 It seems best to let these words stand as they were written in Dec.
1915, since the subsequent turn of events has emphasized the author's
contention that, for the large majority of thinking men, this question
of compulsory service is at bottom one of military expediency. Many
of the most determined converts to compulsion, during the last two



2 COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

of Europe, on the other hand, the voluntary system

has scarcely more support for the army than for

/^ taxation; and there are practically no opponents

/ of compulsion but those few extremists who

advocate total disarmament. Britain stands (or

stood, before this war) between these two extremes,

but inclining far more to the American than to the

Continental view.

Why this wide divergence, among nations so
nearly equal in civilization, upon one of the most
essential functions of a state ? The Man in the
Street will at once give three reasons for the
British-American exception, which seem to him
conclusive, but which will not bear serious examina-
tion. We reject compulsory service, he will say,
in the name of Freedom, of Democracy, and of
Anglo-Saxon traditions.

But no serious thinker will define freedom, for a
civilized community, as " absence of legal com-
pulsion." The Briton lives under more and stricter
laws than the Bushman ; the main difference is,
that the free man recognizes these laws as just
and beneficent, and therefore has no serious wish
to break them. John Stuart Mill, in his essay On
Liberty, twice specifies military service as a thing
which the civilized state has a right to demand
from any citizen (chaps, i. and iv.). No law can
be combated in the name of civilized liberty, so

years, have been among those who strove hardest to keep out of war,
but who recognize that war, if it must como, demands no half-measures.



INTRODUCTION 3

long as that law tends towards the well-being of
the state and of mankind. Is it beneficial to the
state and to mankind that armies, like taxes, should
be raised by law ? This is the real question,
which the Voluntarist has no more right to beg
than the Compulsionist has. In other words, the
discussion of liberty depends entirely on deeper
questions of justice and world-peace ; and, as a
matter of fact, the fight for liberty has generally
been won with the aid of compulsory levies. 1

Democracy, again, will not serve the objector's
turn. It was the first French Republic which
invented Compulsory Service, and the present
Third Republic reintroduced it, after the Bourbons
and Napoleon III. had falsified the original principle.
The Prussian autocracy followed the French example
slowly and unwillingly, and has become less auto-
cratic, on the whole, since its introduction. The"
one country which did not need to imitate France,
having retained the compulsory principle since the
dawn of history, was Switzerland, then as now the
" laboratory of democratic experiments." It will
presently be seen that, in history, compulsory
service has been the usual note of democracies,
while despots have preferred a paid army. It is
an obviously democratic principle that all necessary s
burdens of the state should be shared, as equally
as possible, among all citizens ; and even those

1 This, and similar historical assertions, will be supported by detailed
evidence in the body of the book.



4 COMPULSOKY M1LITAEY SERVICE

objectors who lay most emphasis on the inequalities
of continental conscription will not attempt to
assert that, on the whole, it is as unequal as our
voluntary Territorial system, under which one man
trains for the sake of eight or nine others who are
often better able to afford the time or the money.

Lastly, it is not really contrary to Anglo-Saxon
traditions. The years 1300-1600, which laid the
foundations of modern England, and carried us
far beyond other Powers in civic and political
liberties, were years during which compulsory ser-
vice was a far greater reality here than elsewhere.
If the Armada had landed on our shores, the
overwhelming majority of the levies sent to meet
the Spaniards would have been compulsorily re-
cruited. Later on, during the long fight for freedom,
our Compulsory Militia system was always looked
upon as a bulwark of national liberties ; and it
survived, in principle, into this century. British
common-law still demands that every man should
come forward when called upon for home defence ;
and it was in virtue of that common-law, upon
which American law is based, that Washington
and Lincoln were able to levy troops by force.
To assert that Compulsory Service is alien to the
Anglo-Saxon spirit, is to ignore all history, and to
talk as if the world had been created when we
ourselves happened to be born.

There is one important distinction, I believe,
which will account for the divergence of American



INTRODUCTION 5

and Continental ideas to choose the two furthest
extremes. Freedom is not the real distinction,
since we find America standing here on the
side of petrified China, and separated by a whole
horizon from Republican France or Switzerland, or
from Radical Australasia and Norway. Secondly,
democracy cannot account for it ; for Compulsory
Service saved the French democracy, and saved,
even in America, what Lincoln called the principle
of " government of the people by the people for
the people." Thirdly, if it were incompatible with
the Anglo-Saxon genius, the great Anglo-Saxon
nations would not have adopted it in every great
national crisis. Freemen, democrats, Anglo-Saxons,
have been obliged by every great war to face a
question which they have often tried to ignore in
times of tranquillity. Is not, this, then the real
difference ? Is it not mainly a question of adapta- -
tion to actual circumstances ? On one point both
parties would agree, that Compulsory Service is
certainly no easy course ; that it is no line of least
resistance ; that nothing but very strong resolu-
tion, or very great pressure, will ever bring a
nation to adopt it. Baron Stoffel, writing from
Berlin in 1868 to impress upon Napoleon III. the
urgent necessity of reverting to the French revolu-
tionary traditions of Compulsory Service, added
sadly : " Like individuals who correct nothing in
their lives, except taught by the stern laws of
experience, Nations never improve institutions



6 COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

which govern them, until compelled to do so by
the rudest trials." Colonel Seely, as Secretary
for War, spoke almost to the same effect in the
House of Commons a year before this present war
(April 11, 1913), admitting that the whole-
hearted acceptance of the compulsory principle
in Switzerland is due to that country's experiences
of disastrous war in the past. 1

Here, then, we have the real clue to the Anglo-
American exception. Britain behind her fleet, and
America still more naturally in her vast and distant
continent, have looked upon themselves as free
from serious danger of invasion. That danger, on
the contrary, has stood constantly and insistently
before the eyes of all Continental peoples. More-
over, of recent years .it has become distantly
visible to our oversea Dominions ; with the result
that Compulsion has already been introduced in
Australia and New Zealand, though these are not
less free, democratic, or Anglo-Saxon than even
the United States to say nothing of China, the
only other great state which holds to the Voluntary
system.

In other words, the deciding factor is the military
problem, the recognized chances of invasion. What-
ever Jbe the social jmd political merite^or demerits
of the Compulsory system^mjtself (and these will
be fully discussed later on), they are subordinate

1 See full quotation in chapter xii. below ; also Stoffel, " Military
Reports," trans. Home (H.M. Stationery Office, 1872), p. 145.



INTRODUCTION 7

to the_main ^ .jguestion jpf^ national security, without
which no_jgongistent social ^advance is pqgaJSleT"
Under Compulsion a nation may progress as
rapidly as France has progressed since 1793 ;
under Voluntarism it may stand still as China has
stood still during this same period. Mr. Asquith,
Lord Haldane, and Colonel Seely, as will be seen
later on, have freely acknowledged in peace-time
that this debate must be decided mainly on military
grounds. No man, therefore, has a right to shut
his ears to the plea for Compulsory Service on
so-called Liberal principles. It is true that Com-
pulsionists are still in the minority among Liberals
here and in America. But, if we get rid of insular
prejudices and take the general opinion of all
democrats in the world, wp sTifl,]! find VolqrLfcari&ts
ni^vp.ry rlftp.jflp.rl fpi'nnn'fy There is no Liberal
principle which permits a man to shut his ears to
the arguments even of a minority ; though too
many so-called Liberals do in fact adopt this
essentially Conservative attitude. But for a
Liberal to stick blindly to his own preconceived
ideas, without considering contrary ideas which
are held even by the majority of his fellow-Liberals,
is an insult alike to truth and to common-sense.
As a Liberal I assert without fear of contradiction
that the refusal of my fellow-Liberals, in the past,
to discuss this question seriously, is answerable for
the fact that so many indefensible falsehoods are
still current. They have been exposed hundreds



8 COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

of times ; but more than half the electorate have
carefully stopped their ears.

I entreat, therefore, all fair-minded readers to
follow me patiently through a brief plea for the
principle upheld by the majority of Liberals in
the world. In a rapid survey of the past we shall
see how strong is the general rule that democracies
have preferred the Compulsory system. Then,
coming to modern times, we shall find that con-
tinental democrats are Compulsorists on principle,
and not (as is often falsely asserted) from mere
opportunism. Then, again, taking the Swiss
Militia as a type, I shall attempt to show its military,
political and social working, and to anticipate the
probable operation of such a system among us.
Lastly, I shall bring arguments to meet the main
objections gathered during sixteen years of public
discussion, beginning from a time when no League
had been formed and when only a few propagan-
dists were working independently from private
conviction. The experience of those sixteen years
has been illuminating. In 1900, newspapers seldom
thought the subject worth discussing, whatever
their political complexion. On the other hand, my
first audience was among working-men in the North,
and was quite sympathetic. Gradually, as the
question forced its way to the front, one class of
papers began to favour it ; their opponents began
to show proportionate disfavour ; and finally the
average working-man, hearing it daily dinned into



INTRODUCTION 9

his ears that the whole thing was a " Tory job/ 5
set his face more and more against it. Now that
party distinctions are to some real extent obliterated,
there is more chance of a fair hearing for both
sides ; but all readers who follow me to the end
will probably admit that many quite indefensible
misstatements have already got a long start, and
are likely to die hard.



CHAPTER I
CONSCRIPTION IN THE ROMAN REPUBLIC

To write history with absolute detachment is
impossible. The historian's task is to select only
significant facts ; and the significance of every fact
depends upon the reader's state of mind. We do
not point out that William the Conqueror was a
year older at the end of 1087 than at the end of
1086, because we trust the reader to see this for
himself. On the other hand, we do emphasize
William's parentage (though we cannot be so
mathematically sure of this as of the other fact),
because it adds something to the reader's previous
knowledge, and helps to interpret certain important
points of William's career and character. Every
history, therefore, must to some extent reflect the
preconceived ideas of both author and reader ;
and we need not be surprised to find even educated
British readers ignorant of historical "facts which
are well known in France, or vice versa. The
connexion of Universal Service with Democracy
would seem to be a case in point. In France,
their close historical connexion is taken for granted ;



,12 -COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

yet to the average Briton this idea comes with a
sense of real surprise. Fifty years ago, it was as
yet unfamiliar to the average Frenchman. When,
in 1870, the new French republic reverted to the
strict compulsory principle, one of the greatest
living French historians was compelled formally
to remind his compatriots that this was in accord-
ance with true republican traditions ; that Roman
freedom had flourished side by side with the com-
pulsory citizen-army, and Roman despotism had
been marked by the steady rise of the professional
soldier. 1 Even educated Frenchmen in 1870, like
Britons of to-day, had been tempted by their
political experience of the last two generations to
look upon a strong army as necessarily inimical to
democratic freedom ; they failed to note that the
size of an army is far less important, in this con-
nexion, than its social quality. With a mere
handful of professional soldiers, Napoleon III. had
overthrown the Second Republic : the defeat of
his professional soldiers was the main factor which
rendered the Third Republic possible. Events are
now compelling us to face these historical facts,
which, forty years ago, were painfully forced upon
the notice of Frenchmen.

This connexion between Democracy and Univer-
sal Service may be clearly traced in Greek history,
though the multiplicity of different states renders

1 Fustel de Coulanges, in the Eevue des Deux Mondes for Nov. 15,
1870.



CONSCRIPTION IN EOMAN REPUBLIC 13

generalization more difficult in this field. Delbriick
gives good reasons for supposing that Marathon
was a victory won by the citizen-levies of a free
democracy over the piofessiona] army of a despot.
Athens, in her literary and artistic prime, relied
upon all her citizens to fight ; more than once the
levee en masse was decreed, and with a thoroughness
beyond that of any modern state. 1 Other states
went upon similar principles. Naturally, as wars
grew more complicated and more distant, the
professional soldier came into greater prominence ;
but the first thoroughly professional army was
formed by the first ruler who made himself despot
of all Greece Philip of Macedon. Alexander and
his equally despotic successors relied upon pro-
fessional armies ; Greece, in the days of her
decline, had lost the principle of the Nation in
Arms.

But Rome supplies an even clearer example ;
we have here a state whose military system we
can trace continuously, and in considerable detail,
for a period of ten centuries. The main features
of this evolution are admirably described in Fustel
de Coulanges's article, and in the first two chapters
of L'Arme'e a travers les Ages, published under the
direction of E. Lavisse (Paris, 1899. 3 f . 50).
The details are given far more fully by Delbriick,

1 H. Delbriick, Oesch. d. Kriegskunst, Berlin, 1900, vol. i. pp. 15-23,
39, 119, 140, 201. Delbriick reckons that, in Periclean Athens, only
7,200 were excused from service out of a male population of 36,000.
Compare W. Riistow, Gesch. d. Infanterie, Gotha, 1857, vol. i. pp. 4, 9, 21.



14 COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

under the article Dilectus in the great Encyclo-
pedia of Classical Antiquities, edited by Pauly and
Wissowa (1903).

Rome, like the Greek states, raised her armies
on the compulsory principle. Livy tells us that
ServiugTullius, about 550 B.C., compelled the citizens
to arm themselves with different degrees of elabor-
ation according to their income ; and that he
imposed no military service at all upon the " pro-
letariate " that is, upon the poorest class, the
men who had nothing. Delbriick, following in the
footsteps of other scholars, gives strong reasons
for believing that Livy is here mistaken, and that
the proletariate were not really freed from military
service, but were used when required for the lowest
duties, which brought with them no right of
suffrage such as the other classes enjoyed. Thus
they bore some, at least, of the labours of war,
and only lacked the corresponding political pri-
vileges. 1 However this may be, there is no doubt
that the proletariate were excused only so far as
they were not actually needed ; and that, in great
crises like the Punic Wars, the Romans armed not
only the poorest classes but even slaves. The
Roman army, therefore, which drove out the
kings and founded the Republic, was essentially
ia citizen-army. In so far as any citizen legally
escaped service, it was only because he did not
enjoy full civic rights ; and, even so, he might

l l. 225-7; 383-4.



CONSCRIPTION IN EOMAN REPUBLIC 15

always be commandeered when the state had
need of him.

This gave a most efficient army so long as the
Romans remained a state of warrior-farmers, like
the Boers of to-day, and so long as they extended
their frontiers only by a gradual advance. But
the longer and more distant campaigns, which
their rivalry with Carthage forced upon them,
broke this organization down. It is true that
the system of citizen-levies enabled the Republic
to wear Hannibal down, just as Republican France,
by the mere superiority of numbers which com-
pulsion gave her, wore down the armies leagued
against her ; and just as Lincoln, when the Draft
Law gave him the numbers he needed, wore down
the Southern States. 1 But Rome's wars against
Carthage, like the French Revolutionary wars,
lasted so long that the citizen-soldier became
a professional. Let us look a little closer into
this.

When Hannibal first invaded Italy, Rome put
into the field about 3 J per cent, of her total popula-
tion that is, the same proportion as Prussia
brought against France in 1870. After the disas-
trous defeat of Cannae (216 B.C.), Rome at once
raised such vast levies that (if we are to believe
Delbriick) she had soon 8j per cent, in arms

1 We must, of course, take into account also the enormous services
rendered to Home by her tributary states. But for the fact that she
raised levies from free subject-states, as from her own, she would
probably never have worn Hannibal down.



16 COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE

indeed, if we count the losses already suffered, she
had by this time armed 9j per cent, of her total
population, or nearly the proportion which Ger-
many has probably armed to-day. 1 This effort
seems to have been kept at its full height for four
years, and to have relaxed only gradually in pro-
portion as the military outlook grew brighter ; an
effort perhaps unexampled in history. These men
had hoped to come back to their farms ; but, at the
very end of the war, we find that the backbone
of the Roman legions was still formed by men
enlisted fourteen years before, after Cannae ; just
as Napoleon's Old Guard consisted largely of
peasants who had joined in 1793. The armies were
led no longer only by amateur citizen generals,
but by Scipio Africanus, a man whose command
had been unconstitutionally prolonged from year
to year, who had become a complete professional
soldier, and of whom old republicans complained
that he " behaved like a king." This process went
on at an accelerated pace. The State, accepting
still wider military responsibilities as time went on,
drifted more and more in the direction of the pro-
fessional army, until Marius inaugurated a new

1 Delbriick, p 309. This levy, in figures of present British population,
would be equivalent to our arming nearly 4 J million out of our 45 million
souls. Professor J. S. Reid would very considerably reduce these
figures, emphasizing the fact that, by reading between the lines of
historians like Polybius, we can see that many citizens did in fact escape
service. But the most sceptical critic would not dispute the facts that (1)
every citizen's legal liability to serve was fully recognized, and (2) Rome
did, in fact, succeed in raising such numbers as to wear Hannibal down.



CONSCRIPTION IN ROMAN REPUBLIC 17

epoch by emphasizing and stereotyping a movement
which had begun long before his time. 1

How far the change had already begun, and how
far it was due to the sole initiative of Marius, need
not concern us here. The essential fact is that
Marius, from 107 B.C. onwards, ignored for recruiting
purposes all remaining distinctions between the
proletariate and the men of fuller citizenship
distinctions which had already been much weakened
by the lowering of the property qualification. At



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonThe case for compulsory military service → online text (page 1 of 25)