Leicestershire Disabled Soldiers and Sailors correspondence with the Duke of Rutland on the Mayor of Leicester £100,000 Fund.
The following correspondence forwarded to us for publication, between the Duke of Rutland and the Mayor of Leicester with reference to the £100,000 scheme for the benefit of Leicestershire disabled sailors and soldiers, will be perused with interest.
16 Arlington Street, London SW 3rd March 1917
Dear Mr Mayor, – I have carefully considered the question of making a general appeal to the county on behalf of our disabled soldiers and sailors, in consultation with a small Committee of county representatives who have been engaged in various activities connected with the war
The question has, through the extension and prolongation of the war, become an enormous one. Its increase to the present phase has, in my opinion, thrown clearer light on the principle in accordance with which it might be treated. That principle is that the care of those who have served and suffered for the State is a duty and an obligatory responsibility incumbent on the State, in that the State owes to them a provision so liberally estimated and so efficiently and courteously administered, as to leave no room for special cases of hardship and for the intervention of private benevolence.
Experience of the working of the Naval and Military War Pensions Act has already shown that such provision is possible. Local War Pensions Committees, under the Ministry of Pensions, and subject to any national or provincial schemes required for particular classes of disablement, may safely be allowed discretion to frame schemes which shall adequately provide for the welfare and comfort of men broken in the war, and for which the necessary funds should be provided from national sources.
As in all administrative machinery, certain adjustments become necessary. But the working principle, namely, national discharge of national obligations, should not be altered. It seem undesirable at the present time to take any action which will obscure the clear recognition of this principle.
The consensus of opinion was from the first opposed to the original proposal of the Naval and Military War Pensions Act, that local Committees should solicit charitable contributions to supplement Naval and Military Pensions. Municipalities, great and small, and county authorities have held firmly to the opinion that the care of disabled men and of the dependents of men killed or disabled be a national concern, and should not be made a matter of local philanthropy. The new Pensions Bill and Warrant, so far as we have been made aware of their probable contents, will finally endorse this opinion.
While I sympathise fully with the noble object for which the donations of the citizens of Leicester are invited, I feel, nevertheless, that even apart from the principle involved, remedial measures which will reach the scale of the present war should be the undertaking of the Imperial Government. Accordingly, I do not propose that the County Fund should be enlarged for this purpose until it is found necessary. The collections that were made by the Alexandra Flag Day Committee, and with which the county was happily associated, will doubtless be resumed and I hope that the county will continue to do its share in promoting the many useful objects connected with the prosecution of the war for which those collections were instituted. But I cannot regard the care of disabled soldiers and sailors as among the legitimate objects of such collections. These collections are for gifts; the care of disabled soldiers and sailors is a debt to be discharged by payment due.
For these reasons, as regards any scheme of voluntary contribution connected with the care of the disabled, I would it to be understood that no appeal is being issued by me to people of the county of Leicester.
I reserve the right to publish this letter through the Press, or otherwise – I am, dear Mr Mayor
Lord Lieutenant To his Worship the Mayor of Leicester
The Mayor’s Parlour, Town Hall, Leicester
Mayor’s Parlour, Town Hall, Leicester
8th March 1917
My Lord Duke – I am in receipt of your letter of the 3rd inst., for which I thank you, and note that the Committee of County Representatives have come to the conclusion that the question of provision for disabled sailors and soldiers is one that should devolve upon the State.
I may be permitted to state that my views are in agreement with this decision as an abstract question, but, unfortunately, experience has demonstrated that, with the very best of intentions on the part of the Government, there are so many cases that are excluded from participating in the benefits provided by their scheme, but local knowledge of the worthiness of some of them leaves no doubt as to the justice of making some provision for them.
We have to bear in mind, also, that may of the Leicester men were in quite exceptional circumstances, some having small businesses which they had to dispose of, others relinquishing situations with incomes far in excess of the allowances made by the State, and in other ways heavy sacrifices have had to be made by many, the particulars of which can only be known locally.
It has already been experienced that men who have been discharged from the Army after rendering the best services in their power, in some cases have no claim to Government pensions, and in others only to a small allowance for a limited period.
In view of all these considerations, I am not overstating the matter when I say that there is a prepondering weight of opinion in Leicester that the men who have served their King and country so magnificently, and who will in due course return more or less incapacitated to again take on their position in the ordinary tasks of industry have a distinct claim, especially upon those who have been privileged to remain at home with incomes far in excess of what they received in pre-war days.
It was a coincidence that, by the same post I received yur letter, I also received one from Sir Arthur Pearson informing me of the fact that a number of Leicester and Leicestershire men had received the benefits provided for the war-blind at St Dunstan’s. He warmly commended my scheme, and raised the query as to whether there was a prospect of a contribution from the local fund towards the cost incurred by Leicestershire men, further remarking that he felt sure no one who had any acquaintance with the work in which they were engaged at St Dunstan’s could doubt the beneficence.
Of course I very much regret that I have not the support, which the backing of your grace would have given. At the same time, I am glad to know that you regard with favour the continuance of the joint effort of the town and county in raising funds by the sale of emblems on the streets for various purposes. It will, I am sure, afford pleasure to the Leicester Committee to continue that co-operation which I believe with you has been mutually advantageous.
Thanking you for your courtesy and the kind terms in which you have conveyed your views on this important question. I have the honour, my Lord Duke, to remain, Your obedient servant
J North , Mayor_____________________
16 Arlington Street, London SW 15th March 1917
Dear Mr Mayor, – Your letter of the 8th inst. has reached me and I hasten to thank you for it.
While fully recognising your generous intentions, may I point out that if all corporate bodies had taken your view it is very doubtful whether the Government would have placed upon the nation as a whole the burden and responsibility of making adequate provision for the wounded and disabled.
If such had been the case the advantages now given by the Act to all must have varied with the prosperity of the different districts and the energy and ability of those who raised and administered local funds. This consideration distinguishes the case of Sir A Pearson’s work for the blind, which is not limited to any particular district.
Without going further into the subject, may I express to you my sincere appreciation of your courteous letter to me, and I beg to remain, dear Mr Mayor Yours truly
His Worship the Mayor of Leicester
P.S. I should add that I am sending this correspondence to the local press.