Memorialize People Who Suffer for Their Tax Resistance

Whenever the authorities arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, or seized property from Quaker war tax resisters, whatever Meeting that Quaker belonged to was sure to make note of it in their book of “Sufferings.” These ordeals “for conscience sake” were marks of honor and proofs of faith and these books were in turn the evidence of martyrdom that sanctified the Meeting.

“Friends were always careful to put their sufferings on record,” wrote Stephen B. Weeks, in Southern Quakers and Slavery. “Whatever else the Quaker might suffer, he could not bear for the shade of oblivion to come over the record of his testimonies.”

It was easier for a Quaker to exhibit fortitude in the face of government reprisal if he or she knew that this would be remembered respectfully.

Monthly Meetings press their cases

It was a common practice for Monthly Meetings to pass their records of sufferings along to be recorded also at the Quarterly Meeting level, and then finally at the Yearly Meeting.

After the American Revolution, some American Monthly Meetings used this to press for more respect for war tax resistance in the Yearly Meeting. Officially, only Quakers whose tax resistance was due to militia exemption taxes and other taxes that were explicitly and exclusively destined for war spending were to have their sufferings recorded. But some Monthly Meetings recorded sufferings for Quakers who were resisting general taxes, the bulk of which went to pay off war debt.

In , David Cooper wrote of the Rhode Island Yearly Meeting:

By a previous rule, such who paid any tax wholly for the support of war should be dealt with as offenders, but Friends were allowed to pay mixed taxes a part whereof was for civil purposes and part for war, nor were sufferings of those who declined to pay these taxes received or recorded. This subject now occasioned much debate, which resulted in a minute directing such sufferings to be recorded as their testimony against war.

In another case around the same time, the monthly meeting in Evesham, New Jersey tried to forward the sufferings of its members who had refused to pay war taxes, but their Quarterly Meeting in Salem balked at recording them and forwarding them further. This led to a great deal of debate in the Quarterly Meeting and kept war tax resistance on the front burner there — and also in the Yearly Meeting, which appointed a committee of 36 Friends who unanimously recommended that these sufferings be accepted and recorded.

NWTRCC’s lists

Ed Hedemann has been maintaining lists of American war tax resisters in the modern era who have had property seized by the IRS or have been taken to court, convicted, or jailed.

Badges awarded by the Women’s Tax Resistance League

As I mentioned the British women’s suffrage movement awarded badges to women who had been imprisoned for the cause, which is a different way of making note of and commemorating such things.

Poll Tax resisters in the United Kingdom

When local council governments in the United Kingdom tried to shame tax resisters by publishing their names in the newspapers during the Poll Tax rebellion of the Thatcher era, the newspapers who published the lists of “shame” found themselves on the receiving end of letters to the editor from resisters who were outraged that they had not made the list — and demanding that their names be included too!

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