GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
The forenoon of the first of April 1911.
General Mitchener is at his writing table in the War Office
opening letters. On his left is the fireplace with a fire
burning. On his right against the opposite wall is a standing
desk with an office stool. The door is in the wall behind him
half way between the table and the desk. The table is not quite
in the middle of the room: it is nearer to the hearthrug than to
the desk. There is a chair at each end of it for persons having
business with the general. There is a telephone on the table.
A VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women!
The General starts convulsively; snatches a revolver from a
drawer and listens in an agony of apprehension. Nothing happens.
He puts the revolver back ashamed; wipes his brow; and resumes
his work. He is startled afresh by the entry of an Orderly. This
Orderly is an unsoldierly slovenly discontented young man.
MITCHENER. Oh it's only you. Well?
THE ORDERLY. Another one sir. Shes chained herself.
MITCHENER. Chained herself? How? To what? Weve taken away the
railings and everything that a chain can be passed through.
THE ORDERLY. We forgot the doorscraper sir. She laid down on the
flags and got the chain through before she started hollerin. Shes
lying there now; and she says that youve got the key of the
padlock in a letter in a buff envelope and that you will see her
when you open it.
MITCHENER. Shes mad. Have the scraper dug up and let her go home
with it hanging round her neck.
THE ORDERLY. Theres a buff envelope there sir.
MITCHENER. Youre all afraid of these women (picking the letter
up). It does seem to have a key in it. (He opens the letter and
takes out a key and a note.) "Dear Mitch"--Well I'm dashed!
THE ORDERLY. Yes Sir.
MITCHENER. What do you mean by Yes Sir?
THE ORDERLY. Well you said you was dashed Sir; and you did look
if youll excuse my saying it Sir--well you looked it.
MITCHENER (who has been reading the letter and is too astonished
to attend to the Orderlys reply). This is a letter from the Prime
Minister asking me to release the woman with this key if she
padlocks herself and to have her shown up and see her at once.
THE ORDERLY (tremulously). Dont do it governor.
MITCHENER (angrily). How often have I ordered you not to address
me as governor. Remember that you are a soldier and not a vulgar
civilian. Remember also that when a man enters the army he leaves
fear behind him. Heres the key. Unlock her and show her up.
THE ORDERLY. Me unlock her! I dursent. Lord knows what she'd do
MITCHENER (pepperily rising). Obey your orders instantly Sir
and dont presume to argue. Even if she kills you it is your duty
to die for your country. Right about face. March. (The Orderly
goes out trembling.)
THE VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women! Votes for Women! Votes for
MITCHENER (mimicking her). Votes for Women! Votes for Women!
Votes for Women! (in his natural voice) Votes for children! Votes
for babies! Votes for monkeys! (He posts himself on the
hearthrug and awaits the enemy.)
THE ORDERLY (outside). In you go. (He pushes a panting Suffraget
into the room.) The person sir. (He withdraws.)
The Suffraget takes off her tailor made skirt and reveals a pair
of fashionable trousers.
MITCHENER (horrified). Stop madam. What are you doing? You must
not undress in my presence. I protest. Not even your letter from
the Prime Minister--
THE SUFFRAGET. My dear Mitchener: I AM the Prime Minister. (He
tears off his hat and cloak; throws them on the desk; and
confronts the General in the ordinary costume of a Cabinet
MITCHENER. Good heavens! Balsquith!
BALSQUITH (throwing himself into Mitchener's chair). Yes: it is
indeed Balsquith. It has come to this: that the only way that the
Prime Minister of England can get from Downing Street to the War
Office is by assuming this disguise; shrieking "VOTES for Women";
and chaining himself to your doorscraper. They were at the corner
in force. They cheered me. Bellachristina herself was there. She
shook my hand and told me to say I was a vegetarian as the diet
was better in Holloway for vegetarians.
MITCHENER. Why didnt you telephone?
BALSQUITH. They tap the telephone. Every switchboard in London is
in their hands or in those of their young men.
MITCHENER. Where on Earth did you get that dress?
BALSQUITH. I stole it from a little Exhibition got up by my wife
in Downing Street.
MITCHENER. You dont mean to say its a French dress?
BALSQUITH. Great Heavens no. My wife isnt allowed even to put on
her gloves with French chalk. Everything labelled Made in
Camberwell. She advised me to come to you. And what I have to say
must be said here to you personally in the most intimate
confidence with the most urgent persuasion. Mitchener: Sandstone
MITCHENER (amazed). Old Red resigned!
MITCHENER. But how? Why? Oh impossible! the proclamation of
martial law last Tuesday made Sandstone virtually Dictator in the
metropolis and to resign now is flat desertion.
BALSQUITH. Yes yes my dear Mitchener; I know all that as well
as you do: I argued with him until I was black in the face and he
so red about the neck that if I had gone on he would have burst.
He is furious because we have abandoned his plan.
MITCHENER. But you accepted it unconditionally.
BALSQUITH. Yes before we knew what it was. It was unworkable
MITCHENER. I dont know. Why is it unworkable?
BALSQUITH. I mean the part about drawing a cordon round
Westminster at a distance of two miles; and turning all women out
MITCHENER. A masterpiece of strategy. Let me explain. The
Suffragets are a very small body; but they are numerous enough to
be troublesome--even dangerous--when they are all concentrated in
one place--say in Parliament Square. But by making a two-mile
radius and pushing them beyond it you scatter their attack over
a circular line twelve miles long. A superb piece of tactics.
Just what Wellington would have done.
BALSQUITH. But the women wont go.
MITCHENER. Nonsense: they must go.
BALSQUITH. They wont.
MITCHENER. What does Sandstone say?
BALSQUITH. He says: Shoot them down.
MITCHENER. Of course.
BALSQUITH. Youre not serious?
MITCHENER. Im perfectly serious.
BALSQUITH. But you cant shoot them down! Women you know!
MITCHENER (straddling confidently). Yes you can. Strange as it
may seem to you as a civilian Balsquith if you point a rifle at
a woman and fire it she will drop exactly as a man drops.
BALSQUITH. But suppose your own daughters--Helen and Georgina.
MITCHENER. My daughters would not dream of disobeying the
proclamation. (As an after thought.) At least Helen wouldnt.
BALSQUITH. But Georgina?
MITCHENER. Georgina would if she knew shed be shot if she didnt.
Thats how the thing would work. Military methods are really the
most merciful in the end. You keep sending these misguided women
to Holloway and killing them slowly and inhumanely by ruining
their health; and it does no good: they go on worse than ever.
Shoot a few promptly and humanely; and there will be an end at
once of all resistance and of all the suffering that resistance
BALSQUITH. But public opinion would never stand it.
MITCHENER (walking about and laying down the law). Theres no such
thing as public opinion.
BALSQUITH. No such thing as public opinion!!
MITCHENER. Absolutely no such thing as public opinion. There are
certain persons who entertain certain opinions. Well shoot them
down. When you have shot them down there are no longer any
persons entertaining those opinions alive: consequently there is
no longer any more of the public opinion you are so much afraid
of. Grasp that fact my dear Balsquith; and you have grasped the
secret of government. Public opinion is mind. Mind is inseparable
from matter. Shoot down the matter and you kill the mind.
BALSQUITH. But hang it all--
MITCHENER (intolerantly). No I wont hang it all. It's no use
coming to me and talking about public opinion. You have put
yourself into the hands of the army; and you are committed to
military methods. And the basis of all military methods is that
when people wont do what they are told to do you shoot them
BALSQUITH. Oh yes; it's all jolly fine for you and Old Red. You
dont depend on votes for your places. What do you suppose will
happen at the next election?
MITCHENER. Have no next election. Bring in a Bill at once
repealing all the reform Acts and vesting the Government in a
properly trained magistracy responsible only to a Council of War.
It answers perfectly in India. If anyone objects shoot him down.
BALSQUITH. But none of the members of my party would be on the
Council of War. Neither should I. Do you expect us to vote for
making ourselves nobodies?
MITCHENER. You'll have to sooner or later or the Socialists
will make nobodies of the lot of you by collaring every penny you
possess. Do you suppose this damned democracy can be allowed to
go on now that the mob is beginning to take it seriously and
using its power to lay hands on property? Parliament must abolish
itself. The Irish parliament voted for its own extinction. The
English parliament will do the same if the same means are taken
to persuade it.
BALSQUITH. That would cost a lot of money.
MITCHENER. Not money necessarily. Bribe them with titles.
BALSQUITH. Do you think we dare?
MITCHENER (scornfully). Dare! Dare! What is life but daring man?
"To dare to dare and again to dare"--
WOMAN'S VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women!
Mitchener revolver in hand rushes to the door and locks it.
Balsquith hides under the table.
A shot is heard.
BALSQUITH (emerging in the greatest alarm). Good heavens you
havent given orders to fire on them have you?
MITCHENER. No; but its a sentinel's duty to fire on anyone who
persists in attempting to pass without giving the word.
BALSQUITH (wiping his brow). This military business is really
MITCHENER. Be calm Balsquith. These things must happen; they
save bloodshed in the long run believe me. Ive seen plenty of
it; and I know.
BALSQUITH. I havent; and I dont know. I wish those guns didnt
make such a devil of a noise. We must adopt Maxim's Silencer for
the army rifles if we are going to shoot women. I really couldnt
stand hearing it.
Some one outside tries to open the door and then knocks.
MITCHENER and BALSQUITH. Whats that?
MITCHENER. Whos there?
THE ORDERLY. It's only me governor. Its all right.
MITCHENER (unlocking the door and admitting the Orderly who
comes between them). What was it?
THE ORDERLY. Suffraget Sir.
BALSQUITH. Did the sentry shoot her?
THE ORDERLY. No Sir: she shot the sentry.
BALSQUITH (relieved). Oh: is that all?
MITCHENER (most indignantly). All? A civilian shoots down one of
His Majesty's soldiers on duty; and the Prime Minister of England
asks Is that all? Have you no regard for the sanctity of human
BALSQUITH (much relieved). Well getting shot is what a soldier
is for. Besides he doesnt vote.
MITCHENER. Neither do the Suffragets.
BALSQUITH. Their husbands do. (To the Orderly.) By the way did
she kill him?
THE ORDERLY. No Sir. He got a stinger on his trousers Sir; but
it didnt penetrate. He lost his temper a bit and put down his gun
and clouted her head for her. So she said he was no gentleman;
and we let her go thinking she'd had enough Sir.
MITCHENER (groaning). Clouted her head! These women are making
the army as lawless as themselves. Clouted her head indeed! A
purely civil procedure.
THE ORDERLY. Any orders Sir?
MITCHENER. No. Yes. No. Yes: send everybody who took part in this
disgraceful scene to the guardroom. No. Ill address the men on
the subject after lunch. Parade them for that purpose--full kit.
Don't grin at me Sir. Right about face. March. (The Orderly
obeys and goes out.)
BALSQUITH (taking Mitchener affectionately by the arm and walking
him persuasively to and fro). And now Mitchener will you come
to the rescue of the Government and take the command that Old Red
has thrown up?
MITCHENER. How can I? You know that the people are devoted heart
and soul to Sandstone. He is only bringing you "on the knee" as
we say in the army. Could any other living man have persuaded the
British nation to accept universal compulsory military service as
he did last year? Why even the Church refused exemption. He is
BALSQUITH. He WAS a year ago. But ever since your book of
reminiscences went into two more editions than his and the rush
for it led to the wrecking of the Times Book Club you have
become to all intents and purposes his senior. He lost ground by
saying that the wrecking was got up by the booksellers. It showed
jealousy: and the public felt it.
MITCHENER. But I cracked him up in my book--you see I could do no
less after the handsome way he cracked me up in his--and I cant
go back on it now. (Breaking loose from Balsquith.) No: its no
use Balsquith: he can dictate his terms to you.
BALSQUITH. Not a bit of it. That affair of the curate--
MITCHENER (impatiently). Oh damn that curate. Ive heard of
nothing but that wretched mutineer for a fortnight past. He is
not a curate: whilst he is serving in the army he is a private
soldier and nothing else. I really havent time to discuss him
further. Im busy. Good morning. (He sits down at his table and
takes up his letters.)
BALSQUITH (near the door). I am sorry you take that tone
Mitchener. Since you do take it let me tell you frankly that I
think Lieutenant Chubbs-Jenkinson showed a great want of
consideration for the Government in giving an unreasonable and
unpopular order and bringing compulsory military service into
disrepute. When the leader of the Labor Party appealed to me and
to the House last year not to throw away all the liberties of
Englishmen by accepting universal Compulsory military service
without insisting on full civil rights for the soldier--
BALSQUITH. --I said that no British officer would be capable of
abusing the authority with which it was absolutely necessary to
MITCHENER. Quite right.
BALSQUITH. That carried the House and carried the country--
BALSQUITH. --And the feeling was that the Labor Party were
MITCHENER. So they are.
BALSQUITH. And now comes this unmannerly young whelp Chubbs-
Jenkinson the only son of what they call a soda king and orders
a curate to lick his boots. And when the curate punches his head
you first sentence him to be shot; and then make a great show of
clemency by commuting it to a flogging. What did you expect the
curate to do?
MITCHENER (throwing down his pen and his letters and jumping up
to confront Balsquith). His duty was perfectly simple. He should
have obeyed the order; and then laid his complaint against the
officer in proper form. He would have received the fullest
BALSQUITH. What satisfaction?
MITCHENER. Chubbs-Jenkinson would have been reprimanded. In fact
he WAS reprimanded. Besides the man was thoroughly
insubordinate. You cant deny that the very first thing he did
when they took him down after flogging him was to walk up to
Chubbs-Jenkinson and break his jaw. That showed there was no use
flogging him; so now he will get two years hard labor; and serve
BALSQUITH. I bet you a guinea he wont get even a week. I bet you
another that Chubbs-Jenkinson apologizes abjectly. You evidently
havent heard the news.
MITCHENER. What news?
BALSQUITH. It turns out that the curate is well connected.
(Mitchener staggers at the shock. Speechless he contemplates
Balsquith with a wild and ghastly stare; then reels into his
chair and buries his face in his hands over the blotter.
Balsquith continues remorselessly stooping over him to rub it
in.) He has three aunts in the peerage; and Lady Richmond's one
of them; (Mitchener utters a heartrending groan) and they all
adore him. The invitations for six garden parties and fourteen
dances have been cancelled for all the subalterns in Chubbs's
regiment. Is it possible you havent heard of it?
MITCHENER. Not a word.
BALSQUITH (shaking his head). I suppose nobody dared to tell you.
(He sits down carelessly on Mitchener's right.)
MITCHENER. What an infernal young fool Chubbs-Jenkinson is not
to know the standing of his man better! Why didnt he know? It was
his business to know. He ought to be flogged.
BALSQUITH. Probably he will be by the other subalterns.
MITCHENER. I hope so. Anyhow out he goes! Out of the army! He or