In , the United Kingdom began a more or less pointless and stupid war in Egypt. Of course, morons then as now rallied around the flag even for pointless wars. Legislators in particular exemplify this effect.
Somewhat distressing to British Quakers, though, was that those members of parliament who professed to be members of the Society of Friends also went along with the call to war. Here’s what The British Friend wrote about this:
The Vote for the “Sinews of War”
Surprise and disappointment is the correct definition of the feelings evoked among the friends of peace on learning that not a single Quaker M.P. has supported the veteran Henry Richard against the vote of credit on the calling out of the Reserves for the war in Egypt. And the surprise and disappointment were deepened when it was seen that two well-known and much-respected members of the Society of Friends had so far forsaken traditional principles and testimonies as to vote for the grant of £2,300,000!
It is difficult to understand how any members of our Society can support war under any circumstances — least of all, a war which, the more we know of it, the more complicated and distasteful does it appear.
After two centuries of the advocacy of peace, during which the Society of Friends has alone among professing Christians denounced war as the offspring of man’s lusts, and the work of the “great enemy of souls,” how humiliating is it to find that our representative M.P.s, from motives of expediency, and a desire not to embarrass the Government, are willing to submit to an ignominious compromise, and allow others to take our protest out of our hands!
The hands of the Society of Friends will not be clear of the blood of the Egyptians unless we disavow in some way or other any complicity in this war. How can we conscientiously pay the increased income tax when the Prime Minister has stated so distinctly the purpose for which it is required?
The beautiful exhortation of the Apostle Paul, where in Romans ⅹⅲ. he advises the early Christians to “be subject to the higher powers, and to pay tribute, for they are God’s ministers,” etc., cannot possibly be twisted into any kind of encouragement of unjust wars.
The Jews were at that time banished from Rome on account of their seditious tendencies, and it is probable that the Christians were included with them in this edict. So that Paul, knowing his letter might possibly fall into Roman hands, will be seen to have handled a difficult and delicate subject with much wisdom and dexterity; advising his Christian brethren, and also pointing out the duties of kings, governors, and magistrates at the same time.
But this payment of the war tax must be left to individual conscience. Those who are persuaded that the Government is right in taking up the cause of Tewfik will not hesitate to pay the tax without a protest. But if Henry Richard’s noble protest against non-intervention, spoken against the motion or the vote of credit, be a truthful statement of facts, this war is as unjust as either the Afghan or Zulu war.
Printed reports of this speech, as also an address by Frederic Harrison, given in the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, on [sic; actually on ], may be had on application to the secretary of the Peace Society… and it is the more desirable that these should be widely circulated, inasmuch as “the press” seems to have “entered into a conspiracy of silence” (to use Henry Richard’s own words) against any statement opposed to the present policy.
The more things change…
It was decades before Egypt regained some independence from their British occupiers.