We Will Not Cease.

Author:Perry, Paul
Position:Book review
 
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We Will Not Cease By Archibald Baxter, Eddie Tern Press, 1980, (Originally Published 1939)

This classic New Zealand book is the first person tale of what befell a far labourer when he refused conscription during World War One. The narrative is written without rancour. It is a straightforward story of a decent man who tenaciously stuck to his principles in the face of a year and half of torment and abuse. Archibald Baxter said war can !do nothing but harm to all nations; but the system was determined not to tolerate this alternative perspective. For many who travelled this path the system in the end won, but not with Baxter.

Baxter was born in 1881 in the Otago region of New Zealand. During the South African War he heard a speech by a Dunedin lawyer and Member of Parliament that turned him toward pacifism. By 1914 his rejection of war was based both on pacifist and Christian socialist principles. Although his refusal to serve was grounded in Christian teachings, he was not a member of a church that formally opposed war and hence conscientious objector status was rejected.

A wartime government in New Zealand established a national register for conscription. Six of the seven Baxter brothers stated they would refuse service in the military (the seventh was not eligible). All six were arrested. Archibald's beliefs were so well known that his arrest came before he was officially called up. He was jumped by a policeman hiding behind a hedge outside his house and taken away without even being allowed to get his things from inside.

Baxter's arrest came in February 1917, and he did not see home again until September 1918. He was shipped to the North Island and held in several prisons, both military and civilian. Throughout his ordeal the system regularly tried to get him to accept being part of the military. He always refused. The threats were many (... as soon as you get up there you'll be shot). Trickery and deception were used as well; anything to get some acquiescence out of him, but it never worked.

In July of 1917, along with a number of other objectors, he was put on a troopship bound for England and the front in Europe. Their arrival in Britain did not come until late...

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