Document 17: Excerpts from "Statement of Mrs. Harriet Connor Brown, Representing the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom," in World Disarmament: Extract from Hearings before the Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives, January 11, 1921 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1921). The Records of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section, 1919-1959, Swarthmore College Peace Collection (Microfilm, reel 33, frames 649-57).
Although the U.S. Section of WILPF took the position that working to eliminate chemical weapons as a particularly horrific form of warfare was futile because it did not address the larger question of complete disarmament, individuals within the organization often found chemical warfare particularly repugnant. In the following testimony before the House Committee on Military Affairs in 1921, Harriet Connor Brown testified on behalf of WILPF regarding her view of the excess expenditures in the military budget. In particular, she expressed her disapproval of chemical warfare, arguing that the Chemical Warfare Service should be eliminated entirely. She did not single out any other branch or function of the military.
STATEMENT OF MRS. HARRIET CONNOR BROWN, REPRESENTING
THE WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND
The CHAIRMAN. We will be glad to hear Mrs. Brown; and you may proceed without interruption. Mrs. Brown. If the members of the committee desire to ask questions when you are through they may do so.
Mrs. BROWN. Thank you. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, the public press has been complaining for some time of the extravagance in Government expenditures, but, as I see it, the press has not analyzed that great wastefulness correctly. Great emphasis has been laid on the desirability of establishing a national budget system. And about the time you passed the Army reorganization bill last spring you passed a budget bill. The impression has prevailed that a budget bureau would reduce our taxes. I think it is interesting to look into that and see what there is in it.
Now, there are two reasons for the great waste in the conduct of our Government.
First, bad administration on the part of the executive branch of the Government, and, second, extravagance on the part of the legislative branch.
The departments have squandered money and Congress has thrown it away. The departments generally are mending their ways--have been trying for some time to do so--but Congress makes no effort to correct its main extravagance.
* * * *
The result of congressional extravagance is illustrated by this chart [exhibiting chart to the committee]. I call it the "appropriation pie." It shows how the appropriation pie is divided this current year. It is an enormous, swollen, disgusting pie, to begin with, fit only for a glutton, but ordered by Congress, nevertheless, at national expense, and costing over four thousand millions of dollars. Every man, woman, and child in the country has to pay on the average $40 each for that pie. It costs the average family $200, that national pie does, and gives everybody indigestion. And the average family gets only a tiny bite of the pie, too, much as it costs them. The biggest piece, represented by that 68 per cent wedge, goes to soldiers and sailors of our past wars and their dependents. The next piece, represented by that 20 per cent area, goes to soldiers and sailors of future wars--that is, to the Army and Navy. That leaves only this little 12 per cent piece for all the rest of us nonmilitary folk.
Mr. CALDWELL. You said, I believe, that 68 per cent goes to soldiers and sailors of our past wars. That includes debts and interest and all of those things, does it not?
Mrs. BROWN. That is true. I will bring that out presently. Now, that circle [indicating chart] may be regarded, instead of a pie, as one of the dollars which you gentlemen appropriated last July for the expenses of the current year. Of the dollar, 68 per cent are spent for the expenses of past wars, 20 cents for those of future wars, leaving only 12 cents for agriculture, commerce, public works, public health, science, research, education, and all the pursuits of peace.
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A budget is a balanced statement--expenditures versus income. Let us look at our expenditures for the current year. What could a budget bureau do with that 68 per cent for the past wars? It is composed of items like pensions, war-risk insurance, compensation for disability, the vocational education of mutilated soldiers, the restoration to health of diseased soldiers, the maintenance of soldiers' homes, the return to America of the soldier dead, the interest on the war debts, and so on.
Mr. CALDWELL. Have you those figures in detail which you are presenting? If you have them in detail, you need not read them, but I suggest that you hand them to the stenographer for the record.
Mrs. BROWN. Very well.
THE CHAIRMAN. Would you advocate reducing any of those activities?
Mrs. BROWN. Indeed, I would not, as I am going to point out. These are debts of honor; they can not be repudiated; they must be paid. Our boys were gathered up from our farms and city homes, from our fields and factories, our shops, and mines, and offices. Some of them volunteered, but more of them were drafted--driven like cattle into pens, where they were instructed in the trenches. They had no choice in the matter. Over 115,000 of them perished; 50,000 died in battle; 65,000 died of wounds and disease; more have died since, and others die as the result of their experiences. The question of war was not referred to the people; there was no referendum to the people, as to whether their boys should be sent across. The declaration of war was forced through Congress without adequate debate, while we women agonized in the galleries. Most of you men had no chance to express yourselves more than four or five minutes each.
The CHAIRMAN. We have not very much time to express ourselves on any subject on the floor.
Mrs. BROWN. I commiserate you.
Now, the least we can do for those boys, to make it up to them in some faint way, is to pay their insurance to their families or descendants, nurse them and care for them in sickness, and set them on their feet if their mutilation will permit of it. No; there is very little of that 68 per cent to be spent this year for our past wars that could be saved by even the most lynx-eyed director of a budget.
Go over to the War Risk Insurance Bureau and you may see there a machine that is issuing checks to the families of these boys--pouring them out as steadily as you can count, all day long and every day in the year. Each turn of the machine means from $10 to $150 of real money. There is no way of saving that. We have to pay it.
What could a budget bureau do with that 20 per cent for future wars? Well, Congress could abolish entirely that section, and that is what we women want.
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Mrs. BROWN. Especially one thing we wish to cut out entirely, the Chemical Warfare Service. We do not want one cent given to that service. We women will not willingly endure for one minute a service which aims to perfect poison gases and poison germs destructive of innocent noncombatants, as well as fighting armies.
The second thing is for you to use your influence to secure an international conference on disarmament here in Washington this spring.
* * * *
Mr. HULL. One of your resolutions is that we abolish the Chemical Warfare Service. I am quite interested in learning from you if you understand just what that is. Of course, the Chemical Warfare Service is simply an organization which is studying chemistry, and if they are studying chemistry, that would be very useful work; would you abolish that service under those conditions?
Mrs. BROWN. No; if it is doing useful work, I would put it in the civil part of the Government; under the Bureau of Mines, for instance, or the Bureau of Chemistry, but I would not put it in the hands of a military despot.
Mr. HULL. We have no military despot in this country.
Mrs. BROWN. The Chief of the General Staff came pretty near it during the war.
Mr. HULL. Another thing is this: Is there not a wise way to use gas in warfare?
Mrs. BROWN. No.
Mr. HULL. You spoke of poison gas. Do you not know that they are trying to find a way to use gas that will make war more humane; that will simply put a man out of action for 24 hours and not hurt him? Would you do away with that?
Mrs. BROWN. Yes; I would do away with all of that.
Mr. HULL. You are anxious to have a man killed, are you?
Mrs. BROWN. You asked me a question a few moments ago. There are certain things that some people do that never on earth would they make me do.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, this is what happened in the World War--the other nations were not using poison gas--but Canadian and Belgian troops were at Vimy Ridge, and for the first time in many years this new method of killing people was brought into the battle by the Germans.
Mrs. BROWN. Well, the dastardly thing about that is that you affect people who are not of the fighting forces.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, you will have no argument with me on that. I only want to ask you a question about it.
Mrs. BROWN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. The English and the French and the Belgians and the Italians were not using that at all. But here is this other country that was using it, or commencing to use it. Now, did you think it was a mistake for England and France and Belgium and Italy to give it back to them?
Mrs. BROWN. I certainly did.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, you believe that the English should allow their soldiers to be killed, and the French should allow theirs to be killed, and make no effort to save their armies?
Mrs. MACKAYE. Mr. Kahn, do you not think we are degenerating into the technique of killing; and after all, we women certainly do not want to discuss that.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I, of course, do not want to discuss anything that you do not desire to take up. But I was trying to pursue the thing to the ultimate conclusion, and I just wanted to see what the lady had in mind. She would allow the English and the French and the Belgians and Italians, as I now understand, to make no gas attacks in defense at all, but would have allowed the Germans to continue.
Mrs. BROWN. I do not think that ever, practically, two wrongs make a right. Even if I heard that you were preparing a dose of poison for me--
The CHAIRMAN (interposing) That is the last thing in the world I would think of. [Laughter.]
Mrs. BROWN. I certainly would not prepare one for you.
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