News You Can Use, Especially If You’re a Tax Resister

Some bits and pieces from here and there:


Isaac Sharpless, in A History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania (), on American Quaker war tax resistance during the American Revolution:

The opposition of the Friends… extended not only to actual participation in war, but to paying war taxes, subscribing to tests of allegiance, and supplying provisions to the army, except where the purpose was to relieve suffering and not to advance the national cause. They were very radical, and could see no distinction between taking part themselves and paying someone else to do their work. They had probably gone beyond the state wherein they could say, in the favorite words of the Quaker assemblymen of thirty years before, “While we do not, as the world is now circumstanced, condemn the use of arms by others, we are principled against bearing arms ourselves.” Their attitude, however, cannot be fully understood if we look upon them as testifying merely against war. They had always claimed, in the old English days of suffering, that they were different from most other dissenters, because under no circumstances could they plot against the king. They would suffer indefinitely rather than obey an unrighteous law, but no Quaker, no matter how outrageously he was treated, was ever in any conspiracy against the existing government. The revolutionary movement was a plot against the recognized English authority. It was not their method of resistance to tyranny, and they would not touch it or support it. When peace was declared, all their sense of unwavering allegiance was transferred to the new government, and they had no rancor stored up against its exponents, though it required years to live down the reciprocal feeling towards themselves.

Unquestionably, they were very unpopular with the mass of the people of strong American sympathies during the war, and those who controlled the political destinies of the State of Pennsylvania did nothing to shield them. On the contrary, they turned upon a number of men, who were undoubtedly honest and conscientious, the terrors of jails, fines and serious distraint of goods, for their unwillingness to take part in the revolutionary proceedings. The Meeting for Sufferings reported distraints amounting to £9,500 in . By the end of the war, the aggregate reached at least £35,000. The demand to subscribe to the test of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania was followed at first by imprisonment, which served to show that some Quakers at least were made of the same unconquerable stuff as their ancestors of a century before. Three of them were kept in Loncaster jail for fifteen months for this cause, and when finally ordered to be released they refused to pay the jailer’s fees, for they said they were convicted neither by their consciences nor by any fair trial, so they would not contribute to the expenses of the iniquitous imprisonment. They were, however, released.

The law, which filled the prisons and yet added nothing to the coffers of the government, was unsatisfactory, so it was abolished, and fines imposed to be collected by distraint. In one Quarterly Meeting (Western) over $68,000 was in this way levied , for the collections went on long after the war was over. In the Yearly Meeting could say: “The sufferings of Friends in these parts have much increased, and continue increasing in a manner which to outward prospect looks ruinous.”

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