Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sedition by Example XXIII: Sidney Fournier

(Being an incomplete history of the abuses perpetrated under our archaic law of sedition)

Watersider Sidney Fournier speaking to a meeting in Wellington, Sunday, January 7th, 1917:

I belong to an organisation that has for its purpose to make inoperative or to repeal an Act that has been placed on the statute book called the Conscription Act,and by the provisions of which you may be forced against your will overseas to fight to fight in the war that is now going on. The chairman has called your attention to the fact that, upon a charge of unlawful assembling, the speakers who addressed you last Sunday have either been arrested or summoned, and I think the conclusion to draw from that is, of course, that we all here are unlawful assemblers. I want to give you this fair warning of the fact that if you listen to me you are doing what the law forbids, and I think under such circumstances that law is an offensive law that we, as good honest citizens and workers, should not obey. The view of us workers is that we should be fighting the only war in which we can at least become victorious - that is, the class war, or the war between the classes of people who own and control the wealth in all the countries that are now at war and the people who labor and are exploited by the wealthy classes in all countries. The truth is this war is being forced on by conscription, because as we know they take an opportunity that will produce them more wealth and give them more opportunity of oppression, until a peace could be brough about to their advantage, as they conceive it.

The immediate objective of the anti-conscriptionists is the repeal of the Act, or to resist the Act, and in operation we approve of both methods, and by us they will be put in operation. If I should be sent to intense privacy as the result of my present action, you people will see to it that the moment shall come to us that we have not spoken in vain. I hope I have put this clearly before you , and that you will remember that those whose interests it is to prolong the war will not stop it till you stop them. We call upon New Zealand, the working class associations and their allies, to join in getting the COnscription Act repealed and rsisting its operation.

For this "audacious advocacy" of repeal, Fournier was charged with sedition under the War Regulations of 1914. he was convicted, and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment with hard labour.

(Source: Maoriland Worker, January 24, 1917).