This Quaker poster criticizes conscription, the compulsory enrollment of persons for military service, and denounces war altogether. By claiming that, through conscription, the state has control of the collective human consciousness, which is rightfully God’s alone, the poster implies that the learnt practice of humans to destroy other humans is unvirtuous. Furthermore, the poster exposes war’s terrible nature with violent language: the use of “destroy” creates a powerful image of annihilation. Devastated by malnutrition, disease, bombing raids, and combat, the casualties of total war beg the question, “How do we end war?” For the Quaker community, the answer could be found within the creation of peaceful conditions, complete reconciliation, and abstinence from fighting—thus conquering total war with total peace. Ultimately, this poster encourages pacifism by condemning the morality of both conscription and war.
Northern Friends Peace Board and the Friends Peace Committee
SYDNEY DORMAN, “Conscription ,” Testimonies in Art & Action: Igniting Pacifism in the Face of Total War, accessed July 15, 2020, https://ds-omeka.haverford.edu/peacetestimonies/items/show/242.