Amiable patriots at the present time talk quite cheerfully of the conscription of life, but say little of the conscription of wealth, declaring quite truthfully that wealth will never win the war! Neither will men! It will take both, and all we have, too, I am afraid. Surely if the government feels that it can ask one man for his life, it need not be so diffident about asking another man for his wealth. The conscription of wealth might well begin with placing all articles of food and clothing on the free list and levying a direct tax on all land values. Then, if all profits from war-supplies were turned over to the government, there would be money enough to pay a fair allowance to our soldiers and their dependents. It does not seem fair that the soldier should bear all the sacrifices of hardship and danger, and then have the additional one of poverty for his family and the prospect of it for himself, when he comes back unfit for his former occupation. Hardship and danger for the soldier are inevitable, but poverty is not. The honest conscription of wealth would make it possible for all who serve the Empire to have an assurance of a decent living as long as they live.
If equal pay were given to every man, whether he is a private or a major, equal pensions to every soldier’s widow, and if all political preference were eliminated, as it would have to be under this system; when all service is put on the same basis and one man’s life counts as much as another’s, there would be no need of compulsion to fill the ranks of the Canadian army. We know that there never can be equality of service—the soldier will always bear the heavy burden, and no money can ever pay him for what he does; but we must not take refuge behind that statement to let him bear the burdens which belong to the people who stay at home.
Heroism is contagious. It becomes easier when every one is practicing it. What we need now, more than anything, are big, strong, heroic leaders, men of moral passion, who will show us the hard path of sacrifice, not asking us to do what they are not willing to do themselves; not pointing the way, but traveling in it; men of heroic mould who will say, “If my right eye offend me, I will pluck it out”; men who are willing to go down to political death if the country can be saved by that sacrifice. We need men at home who are as brave as the boys in the trenches, who risk their lives every day in a dozen different ways, without a trace of self-applause, who have laid all their equipment on the altar of sacrifice; who “carry on” when all seems hopeless; who stand up to death unflinchingly, and at the last, ask only, that their faces may be turned to the West!—to Canada!
We have always had plenty of amiability, but in this terrible time it will not do. Our country is calling for love.
Sing a song of the Next of Kin,
A weary, wishful, waiting rhyme,
That has no tune and has no time,
But just a way of wearing in!