AN ENTHUSIASTIC MEETING. CRITICISM OF OUR DEFENCE SYSTEM. A public meeting under the auspices of the National Defence League was held last evening in St. James , Hall, the object being to support the movement in favour of universal training of the young men and boys of the country to cope with invasion contingencies. The chair was taken by his Worship the Major (Mr C. Grey), and seated on the platform were a number of gentlemen interested in the movement. In opening the proceedings, the chairman drew attention to the necessity shown by the recent volunteer manoeuvres of a more comprehensive scheme of military training. It was to the end of asking the Government to introduce compulsory military training that the meeting had been called. Dr. T. Hope Lewis then moved the following resolution: "That while congratulating the Government on its desire to introduce a national system of defensive training, this meeting believes that nothing short of universal and compulsory military training of the youth of the country can prove effective for the defence of the Dominion." This was a country of extraordinary natural advantages and possessing a stamp of men who, properly trained, would be perfectly capable of defending it, said the doctor, but the raw material was no good unless it were trained. At the present time the political outlook in Europe was serious and menI acing, and in tile event of a war an outlying country like New Zealand would of j necessity be left much to its own resources for defence. Every child should be inculcated with soldierly principles and be trained to a soldierly bearing. The Dreadnought gift would be considered in two ways, one by our friends admiring the magnificence of the gift and the other by our enemies, who would surely consider such a country as could present such a gift well worth possessing. He believed that the best gift we could make the Empire would be to train all our young men to defend this corner of the Empire (Loud applause.) Mr F. G. Ewington said it was the duty of a young man to help himself even if he could not help his mother. We must be prepared to show that we could help ourselves and stand and fall with the Motherland. (Applause.) To do or die in resisting the enemy. (Loud applause.) He (the speaker) had taken part in the early Maori wars, and now, at 65 years, although he was unable to bear arms, yet would he be prepared to assist in hospital or other work that he could perform in his country's service in the hour of need. (Applause.) He contended that it was physically and morally desirable and that it was necessary to bring about compulsory military training. (Applause and voice "No.*") Let them look at a gTeat number of their young men as they slouched up the street with bottle shoulders, and say that it was not physically desirable. (Loud applause.) And it was morally desirable aa a lesson in respect to discipline and to their superior officers and consequent increase of their own self-respect. (Applaiise.) The present volunteer force was utterly inadequate. Consider tfie position of Japan, whose men were perhaps the best soldiers in the world. Voice: "They are our allies." "Yes; and they may be our enemies in five years." (Applause.) The speaker went on to draw a telling picture of what might result in a conflict between our volunteers, with a smattering of military knowledge, and the highly trained and efficient soldiers of the Kaiser or the Mikado. And he pointed examples to the superb discipline and military efficiency of the men who fought at Balaclava and at Omdurman. Mr F. E: Baume. M.P., urged that it was not only loyalty to the Motherland but loyalty to the noblest and greatest Empire the world had ever seen that demanded its sons to gird themselves- for contingencies. (Loud applause.) No man desired the bloody arbitrament of war; it was the last supreme test, only to be resorted to when all else had failed: And it was not (then in any jingoistic point of view that they were asking the New Zealand men of the Empire to prepare for its maintenance. (Applause.) They must be prepared to regard an injury to any part of the Empire as an injury to themselves. The Empire was indissolubly interlocked one paj-t with another, and must stand or fall as one people. (Applause.) The real truth was that they were living- in tEe peace that England's banner had given them, and all that was asked of them was a preparation to defend that peace and the homes and names of those who were nearest and dearest to them. (Loud applause.) It was a question of either giving up a little time or giving up their liberty. And the young man, rich or poor, vrho Was not prepared to spend the time necessary to assisting his country to security was not worth his salt. (Loud applause.) Hector McDonald, speaking of the colonials, re marked: "Excellent soldiers as they have proved themselves to be, they would have done still more excellent work had they been disciplined." (Loud applause.) It was not so much men who could die for their country they wanted, but men "who would fight and live for their country, and knew how to do it. (Apphiuse.)"
Air T. Long (president of the Trades and Labour Council) strongly, supported the resolution, and regretted--that the young men of the city dfd -not take more interest in the movement. Mr Long then proceeded to criticise the Defence Council, and contended that the Premier ihad practically acknowledged the failure of the old Defence Council in his recent speech >vhen £c announced' that the officers -were to be sent Home for training. Voice: At the country's expense. It should be the object of statesmen to aim for tiniversal peace, went on the speaker, but he recognised that under the present conditions it was the duty of statesmen to place the defence of the country upon an adequate footing. Patriotism was a splendid and a noble quality, but who could expect much patriotism among the starving millions of the Old Country. (Cries of fcea.r, hear!) It was the duty of the statesmen of this country to make the people's lives worth living. (Hear, hear!) As to tihe volunteer movement, he came from a country that did not permit volunteers, the authorities were frightened to allow them to use the rifles. (Laughter.) But after living in this country for 14 years he felt that he owed it a great deal, and that if the necessity arose, it would be his duty to shoulder ihis gun and do his bit in defence of (his wife and home. (Applause.) The first thing vras to imbus the people with a sense of their' responsibilities. But while advocating universal training, where did the exes come in—who •was going to foot the bill? Voice: Borrow the money. (Laughter.) Mr Long: I contend that the man who should bear the biggest burden is the man who has the most to protect. (Loud applause.) •Mr. Gerald Peacocke warmly supported the resolution. But he objected to the idea of compulsion. There was a wide difference between the Continental conscript and the young man who gave a little time to become a healthier citizen and a future effective unit for the defence of hie country. He prophesied the time when compulsion would never be thought of in what was equally necessary with the compulsory education, which no one dreamed of regarding as irksome. (Applause.) England's power was the synonym for individual liberties. It was fer every man of the Empire to say with pride, ""Put the whole world's strength into one giant arm, it shall not wrench these lineal honours from us." (Loud applause.) Colonel Allen Bell, in favouring the motion, referred to our present Volunteer system as one of the rottenest and as being utterly inefficient. The Government put men without authority at the head of the Dominion's defence, which was why the defence system was bankrupt in efficiency. He would point out, however, that the officers who were going Home were originally civilians who had distinguished themselves in South Africa. They were good men, but it was necessary they should go Home to be brushed up to date; and probably in a few years it might be necessary to send them Home again. There was nothing in that, either to the men ot I the system. (Applause.) But he contended that a competent commandant should be placed at the head of the Dominion's defence, to enable the defence force to become a credit to the Dominion and to the Empire. At present nearly £250,000 a year was being spent, and the defence force numbered a handful of 19,000 out of the 250,000 males available. The money might as well be thrown into the sea. The material was good, but the system was bad. And as for the cry about the navy being all sufficient, it was not the navy that scaled the heights of Afghanistan or fought, the Battle of Waterloo. (Applause.) An efficient land force was necessary to assist the navy. (Applause.) The Mayor was now about to put the motion when a gentleman :Jse with excitement in the hody of the hall and demanded the privilege of putting an amendment. And with permission, he read a somewhat incoherent suggestion to retire the original motion for six months. He then raised his' voice for a seconder, but none fortheame, and in the subsequent turmoil another gentleman, clad as to his upper man in a frock coat, and wearing glasses, appeared on the stage. Straightway he claimed the i right of every freeborn Briton to say his say. And he began to read a lengthy denunciation of the principles of con* i scription. Out from the uproar a voice yelled frenziedly: "It is not conscription!" and another demanded "Who are you?" of the gentleman in the frock coat. In five feet odd of dignity he declined to argue either point, and proceeded with his oration, when Mr. P. Mackay rose to a point of order. "This gentleman cannot differentiate between conscription " and the remainder was lost in the general hurricane. The enemy ol conscription made another effort during a temporary calm, and had reached his third reason why the original motion should not bo carried when the chairman ruled him out of order, and put the resolution, which was carried amid enthusiasm by a large majority. The yefc undeterred amender then vo* ciferously exhorted the audience to give three cheers for something to do with peace, but the accompanying din of mingled cheers and hoots quite drowned what poetry of sentiment may have 'been in his utterance, and the meeting dispersed.
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