The matter of conscience

James McDermott

in British Military Service Tribunals, 1916–18

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780719084775
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702673 | DOI:
The matter of conscience

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This chapter argues that the social context cannot be discounted when assessing tribunalists' responses to pacifist sentiments. Their hostility to expressions of conscience was often apparent; less obvious, but equally prevalent, was their anxiety not to excite local grievances by demonstrably inconsistent or inequitable judgements. The broader criticism of the Tribunals is more difficult to rebut. Defining ‘conscience’ was a further problem for the Tribunals. It is suggested that local Tribunals were dealing peremptorily with conscientious objectors. The Tribunal were prepared to take the initiative in setting the terms of their authority in cases of conscience. A conscience of palpable integrity might entice a notable degree of respect from a Tribunal. Northamptonshire was a predominantly rural county with a strong tradition of voluntary recruitment. The Tribunals' ability to bridge the resulting gap largely determined the utility of their respective policies on conscience.

Keywords: tribunalists; conscience; Tribunals; Northamptonshire; policies

Chapter.  12429 words. 

Subjects: Military History

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