New England Yearly Meeting Quakers on War & Taxes

In a pamphlet titled Views of the Society of Friends in Relation to Civil Government (), the New England Yearly Meeting set down its idea of the sort of relationship a Christian ought to have with Cæsar, particularly regarding war and war taxes:

The Representatives of the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends for New England, being impressed with the importance of diffusing among their own members and in the christian community correct information on some points of our faith and practice, have, believed it right for them at this time to issue this address, to the end that the principles that we have ever maintained in relation thereto, since our origin as a people, may be faithfully supported by us, and clearly understood by others.

It is a time of much excitement in civil and religious society, and we are earnestly desirous that our members may individually seek to manifest on all occasions a meek and quiet spirit, ever demeaning themselves as good citizens, prompt in the support of right order, and in all things adorning the doctrines we profess, This has at all times been the concern of our Society. Acknowledging God as the alone Supreme Ruler of the conscience, they have been ever ready cheerfully to submit to all the laws and ordinances of men that did not conflict therewith, and to contribute to the support of well-ordered civil government,

We do indeed believe that war and fighting are contrary to the Divine Will, and unlawful for us as christians — and we cannot, therefore, in any way, countenance or contribute to military operations.

We believe that, under the Government of the Prince of Peace, swords are to be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks and men are to learn war no more. The nature of the christian dispensation, in contrast with the fierce passions of man, is beautifully portrayed by the evangelical prophet — “Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” Isaiah 9:5,6,7.

When our Savior walked among men, he inculcated the principles of peace in clear and emphatic language, and by his own shining example. — “You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth — but I say to you that you resist not evil.” — “You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy — but I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven.” And in his own example, when he could hare summoned twelve legions of angels to his rescue, he quietly submitted to his persecutors, and in the end offered the intercession, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The Apostle James in allusion to this subject queries, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

Believing, then, that under the christian dispensation, which was ushered in with the annunciation of “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” we cannot in any way be engaged in war or contribute to its support every faithful member of our body has felt bound conscientiously to abstain from all participation in it; — and in our earlier existence as a people, before our principles were well understood, we were subjected to the spoiling of goods, imprisonment and much suffering, on account of our religious scruples in this respect — but we dare not in the Divine sight do otherwise than steadfastly maintain our testimony, based as it is on the precepts of Him who was emphatically the Prince of Peace, and consonant with the doctrines and practice of his apostles and early followers.

Nor can we for conscience sake agree to any commutation for military requisitions; for hereby should we be consenting to the justness and propriety of the exaction. And in this we trust that those who view this subject differently from us, will discover no disposition to screen ourselves from onerous duties, but will do us the justice to believe that it is for the answer of a pure conscience to God, which is dearer to us than our natural lives. And for the sincerity of our motives we may appeal to the history of our Society, in which no instance will be found where a consistent member has ever borne arms, or voluntarily paid a fine or tax as an equivalent; but has chosen rather patiently to suffer whatever might be inflicted upon him for the support of his religious belief.

This work can also be found in the book American Quaker War Tax Resistance.

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