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Lloyd George: ‘Conscription may prove necessary’
For the moment, Lloyd George thinks the voluntary system is working, but the introduction of conscription, he says, has not been ruled out Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Lloyd George: ‘Conscription may prove necessary’

Manchester, 4 June 1915 - The new Minister for Munitions, David Lloyd George, has delivered a wide-ranging speech in Manchester in which he said that government would introduce conscription if it became necessary to do so.

Mr. Lloyd George said: ‘If the necessity arose I am certain that no man of any party would protest. I don’t talk about it as if it were anti-democratic. We won and saved our liberties in this land on more than one occasion by compulsory service.’

‘France saved the liberty she had won in the great revolution from the fangs of tyrannical military empires purely by compulsory service.’

Mr Lloyd George meeting with the Russian Minister for Finance, Pyotr Bark (left) and the French Finance Minister Alexandre Ribot (centre). The allies have kept the lines of communication open during the course of the war so as to maximise the liklihood they will emerge victorious. (Image: Irish Life, 19 Feb 1915. Full collection of Irish Life is available from the National Library of Ireland)

‘It has been the greatest weapon in the hands of democracy many a time for the winning and preservation of freedom.’

Absolute necessity

Mr. Lloyd George did say, however, that it would be a mistake to resort to conscription unless it were absolutely necessary and that he believed that point had yet to be reached.

He continued: ‘I think the opponents of conscription are entitled to say at the present moment that the young men of the nation have not refused to respond in sufficient numbers to the appeals made to their patriotism to fight the battles of liberty in any continent, whether Europe, Asia or Africa.’

‘They are still coming in, their numbers are far ahead of the equipment for them, and I have no reason to doubt from what I see of the rate at which they are volunteering that their numbers will keep well ahead of equipment. It would undoubtedly be a proud boast at the end of this war that without compulsion we had done something that no country in the world has ever done.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.