“The Natural Enemy of Free Government” American Sentinel 14, 40, pp. 625, 626.

MILITARY government is necessarily despotic government, and therefore necessarily contrary to the free government ordained by the first American statesman for the people of this nation.

Under military government, the citizen to whom freedom was ordained as a birthright, is brought again in subjection to the despotism that has been characteristic of Old World empires; he is no longer recognized as the independent possessor of unalienable rights, entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” but as a servant subject in all things to the will of his military master.

All that makes military government necessary, therefore, or that leads up to it, is the natural enemy of free government, of all men, and of man’s Creator.

This is made very plain in the following which [626] recently appeared, editorially, in the New York Sun, discussing “The Problem of the Volunteer and the Treasonable President“:—

“A gentleman in Orange, N. J., who had probably found his post-office box to file with seditious pamphlets from Boston or Brookline, took the trouble last week to write Atkinson. He asked that melancholy person what he, Atkinson, would have done if he were a volunteer enlisted in the United States Army and his commanding officer had ordered him to attack the Filipino insurgents.

“Atkinson promptly responded from Boston: ‘I should have refused to fight in an unjustifiable slaughter of our allies.’

“A correspondent of The Sun, at Baltimore, thereupon pointed out the circumstance that the volunteer swears upon enlistment not only ‘to serve the United States of America honestly and faithfully against all their enemies whomsoever,’ but also to ‘obey the orders of the President of United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War.’

“The punishment prescribed by the Articles of War for the line of conduct which Atkinson unblushingly declares he would adopt, in the case stated, is death.

“Now another correspondent, apparently sympathizing with Atkinson’s views of the soldier’s duty, asks us these questions:

“‘TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN—Sir: Will you be fair enough to let me reply to the article about “The Volunteer’s Oath?” If that form is correct it should be changed, as a soldier swears allegiance to the President and not to the Union. Again, even with the present oath, the signer is entitled to the supposition that the President must not, as McKinley has done, violate his oath to sustain the Constitution of the United States.

“‘When the President is guilty of treason is the volunteer bound to follow him? “‘STANLEY G. LEONARD.’

“The form of the soldier’s oath is correct as it stands. It covers both allegiance to the United States and obedience to the President and to the officers appointed by him to command the private.

“As to the hypothetical case in which the President is guilty of treason, that is a question which cannot arise and the volunteers experience. Neither the Constitution nor any law of the United States constitutes Private Atkinson or Private Leonard a tribunal to decide whether the President is guilty of treason.

“If Atkinson and Leonard, in the presence of an enemy whom they were ordered to attack, should refuse on the ground that Atkinson and Leonard were convinced, after mature reflection, that the commander-in-chief whom they had sworn to obey, had himself violated his oath of office, thus relieving them of the obligation to obey, they would be probably court-martialed and shot, with the hearty approval of all right-minded soldiers and civilians.

“On second thought, they might not be shot. The reviewing authority might look them over and decide to consign them to a lunatic asylum.”

Thus, no matter what the individual’s own convictions of right may be, he must act as another man may dictate; and if he refuses to do what he believes to be wrong, when commanded, he will be “promptly court-martialed and shot;” and this should have “the hearty approval of all right-minded soldiers and civilians.” Where does God come in under this arrangement?

Plainly, God is left out of the matter entirely; and what must be said, from a Christian point of view, of an undertaking in which God is left out? To what must it lead the nation and the individual involved in it?

And plainly, from the Christian standpoint no individual is ever justified in entering into such a God-denying and God-defying compact; he is never justified in substituting any human authority for the authority of conscience, which is the voice of God; he is never justified in divesting himself of the individuality which constitutes him a free moral agent.

From the Christian standpoint and from that of an American citizen, war, militarism, and the war spirit, are things to be shunned and protested against, always and everywhere. In the direction of militarism is the road that leads surely back to the despotism from which our fathers fled across the Atlantic to an unknown world. The road to military greatness is one upon which a nation early bids farewell to civil and religious freedom.

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