Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
Sir: * * * There has been, for some weeks past, an unusual dearth here in political and diplomatic matter of interest to [Page 90] other governments, political discussions having turned almost exclusively upon internal and domestic affairs.
One of the matters which have attracted public attention here, and elicited some feeling, is a proposed amendment of the military organization seeking the abolition of the exemption from military service heretofore extended to clergymen, and requiring them to serve, as all others are now required to do, absolutely for a given length of time; the right of substitution having heretofore been abolished.
This amendment, thus affecting the clergy, is favored in the Folkething and opposed in the Landsthing—votes already taken having developed so marked a discordance of opinion that it seems probable the law can only be passed, if at all, in some modified form, to be accepted by both houses as a compromise.
The measure is advocated and urged by what is known here as the agricultural party, their representatives in the Rigsdag being sometimes familiarly spoken of as the “peasants,” and with us would be called small farmers. Indeed, peasants, properly so called, and as known in the past, can hardly be said to exist any longer in this kingdom.
Rigid as the proposed law may appear, it has its hopeful aspect, and its humane as well as its political and military significance. The exemption of the clergy from military service could only be abolished because such service being deemed onerous and unpleasant, as the duty to render it is deemed of universal obligation, the exemption is found to be a special favor and benefit, and war being both disagreeable and onerous, such favor or benefit derived from the exemption is deemed an inequality. In other words, war, if sometimes a duty, is always a hardship, and exemption from it is considered as valuable and as unequal as any other special privileges, or as the exemption from any other dangerous and disagreeable thing would be.
Thus the proposal of such a law, while bearing upon its face the appearance of a most stringent military measure, may at bottom indicate a growing distaste and disinclination for war, and may be one of the many indirect forms in which that humane aversion is now manifesting itself in many parts of the world. The character, habits, interests, and instincts of the party urging the measure here would seem to support this view as to one of its meanings. Its local political indication is made greater by the fact that the church is a government establishment, though Protestant, and the clergymen are practically commissioned government officers.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.