Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and "The Process of Their Conversion"
During the first quarter of 1918, the Hon. T. M. Wilford appeared in a new role, namely, that of the censor of prison reading, and in his wisdom, concluded that "Stead's Review" must not be read by military prisoners, the reason being that it was "so depressing" and presumably not calculated to induce anti-conscriptionists to reconsider their attitude. Here follows some interesting correspondence on the subject:—
Hon. Sir James Allen, K.C.M.G.,Minister of Defence, Wellington.
Dear Sir,—A client of mine, who is serving a sentence under the Military Service Act and is now detained at Waimarino Prison Camp, has written a letter to me. Since his imprisonment, he arranged with me for the supply of certain books, magazines, and papers, including, inter alia, "Stead's Review." He now writes me a letter intimating that "Stead's Review" is not admitted to the prison, but that an Australian magazine called "Life" and matter of a kindred type is admitted. My client has not written to complain of this, but mentions it incidentally. It seems to be an extraordinary thing that "Stead's Review" should be denied admission while "Life" is admitted, and I shall be glad to hear from you the reason of this prohibition and discrimination, and whether it is likely to be continued.
—I have the honour, Sir, to remain, yours truly,
P. J. O'Regan.February 13th, 1918.
P. J. O'Regan, Esq., Barrister and Solicitor,Wellington.
Dear Sir,—I am in receipt of your letter of the 13th instant regarding the admission of the publication, "Stead's Review," to the Prison Camp at Waimarino.
In reply, I have to inform you that this is a matter which is not within the control of my Department, and would refer you to the Minister in Charge of the Prisons Department, the Hon. T. M. Wilford, who will, doubtless, be able to supply you with the necessary information.
J. Allen, Minister of Defence.26th February, 1918,
Dear Sir,—A client of mine, Mr. P. Cody, who is at present serving a sentence in the Prison Camp at Waimarino, has written to me to the effect that "Stead's Review," to which he is a subscriber, has been denied admission to the prison. He adds that another publication called "Life," and similar periodicals, are still admitted. I wrote to the Minister of Defence directly after hearing from Mr.Cody, but he has now written me to the effect that it is a matter for you. I shall be glad to hear whether "Stead's Review" has, in fact, been prohibited from admission to my client, and if so, why? Thanking you in anticipation of an early reply.
P. J. O'Regan.4th March, 1918.
P. J. O'Regan, Esq.,Wellington.
Dear Sir,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th instant, in reference to the complaint made to you by P. Cody, at present undergoing sentence at the Waimarino Prison Camp, of his not being allowed to receive "Stead's Review."
In reply, I have to inform you that the matter is receiving careful consideration.
Dear Sir,—I wrote you herein on the 4th. March last and received an acknowledgment from you dated the 5th, in which you stated that the matter was receiving consideration, but, so far, have received no further reply.
I would point out that in my first letter I asked for no consideration whatever, but simply made an inquiry whether it was correct that while "Life" and similar periodicals were allowed admission to military prisons, "Stead's Review" was denied admission. I mentioned the fact that a client of mine then imprisoned, Mr. P. Cody, had written to me to the effect that the "Review" was refused admission to him, and my object was to ascertain whether this was due to the settled policy of the Department, or whether it was due merely to inadvertence. To my inquiry no reply has yet been vouchsafed, and I beg respectfully to repeat it.
Thanking you in anticipation.
—Yours truly, P. J. O'Regan.28th May, 1918.
P. J. O'Regan' Esq.,Wellington.
Dear Sir,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th ultimo in reference to the publication, "Stead's Review."
In reply, I beg to inform you that the circulation of "Stead's Review" in the prisons has been stopped because I consider it is so depressing.
—I am, Yours truly, Thomas M. Wilford.1st June, 1918.
Dear Sir,—I duly received your letter of the 1st inst., and I note that the circulation of the "Review" in the prisons has been stopped because you consider it "so depressing." I respectfully submit that this information could have been vouchsafed to me when I wrote to you 4th March last. Under the circumstances, I am tempted to conclude that your reply dated the 5th of that month was dictated by the hope that I would not return for further information.
It will, no doubt, come in the nature of a surprise to many people that a Liberal Minister should have signalised his accession to office by preventing the circulation of a periodical so dispassionate, accurate, cultured, and influential as "Stead's Review."
In my previous communication I mentioned, incidentally, that no embargo whatever had been placed upon the circulation in the prison of "Life," an Australian publication. Doubtless the vaticinations of the Rev. Dr. Fitchett are not "so depressing," though it is submitted that in so far as the war is concerned, they are woefully inaccurate. The point, however, which concerns my client, Mr. Cody, and men of his race and religion, is that "Life" is inspired by a spirit of sustained venom and hatred of everything pertaining to Ireland and the Catholic Church, and, under the circumstances, I cannot repress a feeling of surprise at the discrimination you have seen fit to exercise. It is to the lasting credit of Mr. Stead that nothing ever appeared in his "Review" calculated to wound the patriotic or religious susceptibilities of any section of the community.
I consider the matter of such public importance that it is my intention to publish the whole of this correspondence.
—Yours truly, P. J. O'Regan.12th June, 1918.
P. J. O'Regan, Esq., Solicitor,Wellington.
Dear Mr. O'Regan,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant.
In reference to your conclusions as to my last letter to yourself, I can assure you that the same are erroneous, and such reply was not dictated by the hope suggested in yours of the 12th—I would not go misjudge you.
Your reference to "Stead's Review" and to your client, Mr. Cody, show, in my opinion, an absence of logical reasoning. If, as you say, nothing appears in Mr. Stead's "Review" calculated to wound the religious susceptibilities of any section of the community, how can you argue that any question of religion was in my mind when "Stead's Review" was being dealt with? On your own statement you are surely answered.
I still believe that "Stead's Review" is depressing, and in this time of crisis and stress, I firmly and thoroughly believe that only those page 182efforts which go to help and aid "Our King and Empire" should be encouraged. My opinion is that Stead's magazine weakens effort.
I shall certainly have no objection to your publishing this correspondence.
—I am, yours truly, Thomas M. Wilford.17th June, 1918.
Dear Sir,—I beg to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 17th inst., herein. I am glad to have your assurance that I was in error in suggesting that you could have given me at once the information I sought in my letter of March 4th last. It is hardly necessary to add that I do not suggest that you have been influenced in the slightest degree by any disregard of the religions feelings of any section of the community. I thought, and still think, however, that it is not a little remarkable that no objection should be taken to such a production as "Life," the bias of which, in the direction mentioned in my previous letter, is obvious and notorious.
Needless to say, I do not propose discussing "Stead's Review" with you. The correspondence has removed the scepticism I felt at the outset, when I was invited to believe that a Liberal Minister of the Crown had seen fit to place such a magazine as "Stead's Review" on the Index of Imperialism.
—Yours truly, P. J. O'Regan.18th June, 1918.