Rulers rarely ask the sovereign people whether they want to fight in wars. There is good sense in this. The sovereign people may decide, as the Australian people did in 1916 and 1917, that they do not want to compel men to go abroad to fight. Nevertheless, rulers accept responsibility from the people and this responsibility, founded on information and professed concern for the general good, includes the ,duty of taking Unpopular decisions: whether these decisions be about taxation, the imposition of traffic rules, or conscription of men for war.
But conscription of men to engage in mass slaughter of other human beings is a political question essentially different from taxation or traffic rules. It involves a threat to the life and sanity of every conscript. It may conflict with private conscience or religious principle in a far more irreducible. way than the requirement to pay taxes, however unjustly the latter may be levied or spent. Perhaps no government, or any majority which sustains it, has the moral right to compel a man to engage in killing. And by what dispensation does government compel men to serve a cause in which they do not believe, in a war they did not make? On the other hand, it seems fair that every member of the community should contribute to the common defence when the community is endangered, for it is difficult to justify the case that eligible members who refuse to risk themselves should be preserved by the sacrifices of those who volunteer. It is not surprising that when such questions were submitted to the community in 1916-17 they divided the people deeply and bitterly. ..........................