Monday, April 25, 2005

Sedition by Example XIV: The Christchurch Second Division League

(An ongoing history of those prosecuted for ThoughtCrime under our archaic law against sedition)

Motion put to a public meeting at the Christchurch Opera House, April 28th, 1917:

"That this meeting of Christchurch citizens is of the opinion that no Second Division man should leave for camp unless the demands of the Second Division League are conceded by the government, and that a general election be held immediately"

(The Second Division referred to above is married men. The government had initially applied conscription only to the First Division of single men; furthermore, it had set military pay rates at an artificially low level, so as to discourage married men from volunteering for service. The Second Division League - a nationwide organisation of those about to be called up - wanted pay rates and allowances increased so that soldiers' families did not starve to death in their absence).

The motion was carried, with only four dissenting from the 1600 in attendance. Several days later, the proposers of the motion, a pair of watersiders named Ernest Langley and John Flood, as well as its seconder, Christchurch City Councillor and former Social Democratic party president Hiram Hunter, were prosecuted for sedition. Langley and Flood were each sentenced to six months imprisonment, and Hunter to three months. They were released after 19 days, following an enormous public outcry. The Mayor of Christchurch, who had chaired the meeting and ultimately put the motion to the vote, was not charged.

(Sources: King and Country Call: New Zealanders, Conscription and the Great war, by Paul Baker, Auckland university Press, 1988; New Zealand Herald, 9th May, 1917).